Searching for smart, safe news you can TRUST?

Support safe, smart, REAL journalism. Sign up for our Axios AM & PM newsletters and get smarter, faster.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Searching for smart, safe news you can TRUST?

Support safe, smart, REAL journalism. Sign up for our Axios AM & PM newsletters and get smarter, faster.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Putin an Iranian president Rouhani meet in Turkey. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned last week that all foreign forces would ultimately have to leave Syria — and his foreign ministry hastened to clarify that this specifically included Iranian troops and their proxies in Hezbollah. Tehran promptly reminded the world that “no one can tell us to leave Syria.”

Why it matters: Russia and Iran have both backed Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, and their support is a major reason he’s clung to power through seven years of war. But as the Syrian conflict grinds down, the post-war winds might begin to blow against Iran.

For one thing, clashes between Israel and Iranian forces located in Syria have grown recently, raising the prospect of a serious conflict between the Jewish state and the Islamic Republic.  

From Putin’s perspective, it would be a shame for ongoing Israel-Iran tensions to further destabilize a perfectly good Kremlin client state right in the heart of the Middle East.

From the perspective of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who met with Putin a couple weeks ago — a cold peace with a Russian-backed Assad is probably perfectly acceptable (Israel was entirely pragmatic in dealing with Assad’s father), provided that Iranian forces are squeezed out of Syria.

And as Damascus sees it, a stable border with Israel and the protection and support of a distant patron in Moscow may be preferable to the more destabilizing long-term presence of Iranian forces who, some analysts say, Syria’s own military brass doesn’t want around anyway.

The bottom line: The big loser here, of course, would be Iran, which has put thousands of its best troops — and Hezbollah proxies — on the line to save Bashar al-Assad’s neck. You can bet that Iranian hardliners — confronted with the collapse of the Iran deal and a more hostile US policy generally — won’t accept being pushed out of a Syrian peace easily. The bloody kaleidoscope of external influence in Syria’s civil war may be about to take a fresh turn.

Sign up for Signal, a twice-weekly newsletter from GZERO Media, a Eurasia Group company, and follow @saosasha on Twitter.

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

7 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.