Welcome back to Axios World. Tonight's global adventure is 1,676 words (6 minutes).
Fleeing from Ras al-Ain, Syria, on the border with Turkey. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images
President Trump stepped aside and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan marched forward. Over the ensuing week, a delicate balance in Syria has collapsed.
Why it matters: Alliances have been hastily redrawn, civilians have fled in panic, and the U.S. has announced a near-total withdrawal. In the balance are an increasingly fragile victory over ISIS, what's left of the U.S.-Turkey alliance, and the future of Syria and its Kurdish inhabitants.
Catch up quick...
The big picture: “Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State,” the NYT’s David Sanger writes.
Behind the scenes: This was all born from a bluff, Axios' Jonathan Swan explained today on the Pro Rata podcast.
The latest: In a statement this evening, Trump said the U.S. forces leaving Syria will remain in the region to guard against an ISIS resurgence.
What to watch: Turkey wants to force Kurdish forces from its borders and resettle Syrian refugees in the new buffer zone. Assad wants to regain control over all of Syria. The Kurds want protection from Turkey and, if possible, a degree of autonomy.
Nice to Xi you (arrival in Kathmandu). Photo: Xinhua/Gao Jie via Getty Images
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Nepal over the weekend bearing gifts: a pledge of $500 million in economic aid for the impoverished Himalayan country and a series of infrastructure deals worth billions more.
Why it matters: Phanindra Dahal of BBC Nepali, and a former Axios fellow, emails from Kathmandu that Xi's visit was "massive news" in a country at the center of a tug of war between India and China:
In other news: While in Nepal, Xi issued a warning over Hong Kong:
"Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones."
The scene tonight in Barcelona. Photo: Clara Margais/Getty Images
Spain’s supreme court today sentenced 9 Catalan politicians to between 9 and 13 years for their roles in an unauthorized 2017 independence referendum.
Zoom out: The trial of 12 separatist leaders, 3 of whom were convicted today of lesser charges, captivated Spain. The verdict comes ahead of a general election next month — the 4th in 4 years.
What’s next: Asked where the independence movement goes from here, Catalonia’s secretary for foreign affairs, Mireia Borrell Porta, says the Catalan government continues to push for dialogue with Madrid, but “right now there’s no one at the other side of the table.”
Asked why a clear "violation of fundamental rights,” in her words, hasn’t generated backlash from countries across Europe, she says:
“The European Union is a club of states and this is realpolitik. There’s been a lot of pressure from the Spanish government for leaders of other countries to treat this as an internal issue.”
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice political party. Photo: Carsten Koall/Getty Images.
1. Poland's euroskeptic Law and Justice party (PiS) ran away with Sunday’s parliamentary election, securing a narrow majority in the lower house with 44% of the vote.
2. Hungary’s opposition won a shocking victory in the Budapest mayoral race on Sunday, despite major institutional advantages for Viktor Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party.
3. A conservative law professor, Kais Saied, won a runoff for Tunisia’s presidency on Sunday with 72% of the vote.
If you've stepped foot in Oxford, you've certainly seen and have likely toured Christ Church College.
The big picture: It's the best known of the 38 constituent colleges that make up Oxford University, alma mater to 13 prime ministers and home to the Great Hall from the Harry Potter films. It has an endowment of nearly $700 million with an enrollment of around 600 students. And, the FT reports, it’s “being torn apart by an extraordinary HR dispute.”
Why it matters: “Oxford, like Cambridge, prides itself on being a federation of self-governing colleges, where academics, not bureaucrats, are in charge. The model seems to be thriving: for the past four years, Oxford has been judged the best university in the world by Times Higher Education.”
Paper and ink in Athens. Photo: Socrates Baltagiannis/picture alliance via Getty
I've had a few questions about what I read to pull together this newsletter and to otherwise stay up to speed. My answer is long, if not particularly exciting.
Spending the day learning about what's happening around the world is one of the genuine joys of this job. But with foreign and domestic news colliding messily lately and impeachment on the horizon, I've retreated back into something both nostalgic and, by necessity, entirely of the moment.
A member of the Solomon Islands Cultural Group practices before traveling to Australia for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
“Right now, I am in the center of world media. I really wanted to be world famous, but not because of such a situation.”— Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky