While Washington was reeling from the news that senior American leaders hid from the Congress and the president the exact numbers of American troops in Syria “in a shell game,” the Syrian government was putting on an elaborate show in Damascus for its refugees from the bloody civil war to return.  

The Syrian and Russian governments are calling for the more than six million refugees who were displaced by the country’s civil war to come home. Both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who spoke during a conference call, said it was time for refugees to return home and rebuild Syria. 

Putin stated that many areas of the largely shattered country are now enjoying peace. He added that “international terrorism has been almost wiped out and return to civilian life should begin gradually.”

Russia, a key supporter of the Assad regime, aided the Syrian government with a large-scale bombing campaign. Many in the West and in Syria claim that the campaign indiscriminately targeted the civilian population.