Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of 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!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of 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!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

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!

Secretary of State Tillerson is arriving in Turkey today, and it’s all but certain his meetings there will include discussions of the simmering tensions in Syria, including the Turkish offensive against U.S.-backed Kurds in Afrin.

Why it matters: The Afrin assault is just one of several violent clashes in recent weeks to expose the overlapping and contradictory interests coming to a head in Syria. The powers operating in the region appear to be deepening their involvements, even as ISIS has largely been beaten back.

Expand chart
Data: IHS Jane's Conflict Monitor, as of Feb. 12, 2018; Map: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

The meetings come after a week UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called this “one of the bloodiest periods of the entire conflict” in Syria.

The state of the standoff
  • Turkey is attempting to push back Kurds in western Syria.
  • Syria, along with Russia, is pushing back rebels in eastern Syria.
  • Other key players: The U.S., Iran, Israel and al-Qaeda, not to mention ISIS.
Recent events

Turkey entered the war for the first time as an overt combatant when it launched the Afrin offensive in January. The Kurdish forces, labeled terrorists by Turkey, were a crucial U.S. ally against ISIS.

That offensive has left the U.S. in a bind for several reasons:

  • The two countries are NATO allies and have both said they want Assad removed from power. But the U.S. has aligned itself with the Kurds, leaving it at odds with Turkey.
  • Turkey and Russia coordinated in the offensive, showing they’re willing to work against the U.S. in the short term even though they have divergent end goals for Syria.
  • If Turkey continues to Manbij, as is the stated objective, it raises the prospect of direct clashes with U.S. forces there.

Israeli jets attacked Syrian government and Iranian targets near Palmyra after claiming an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace.

  • An Israeli jet was shot down, apparently by the Syrian government. It's believed to be the first Israeli jet downed by enemy forces since the 1980s.
  • It is a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, raising the likelihood of military escalation.
  • Axios contributor Barak Ravid reports exclusively that Israel sent a Top Secret cable after the clashes to embassies around the world. Get the details.

The U.S. launched rare strikes against pro-Syrian government forces east of the Euphrates deconfliction line this month after what the Pentagon called an “unprovoked” assault.

  • This is raising questions about whether the U.S. forces in the region, deployed to fight ISIS, will be drawn into the civil war, per the AP.
  • The U.S reportedly killed scores of Russian mercenaries in the strikes, possibly the deadliest clash between Russians and Americans since the Cold War, per Bloomberg.

A joint Syrian and Russian air campaign killed hundreds of civilians in Eastern Ghouta and in Idlib, per the AP.

  • There are also reports from humanitarian workers on the ground that Syria’s government has launched chlorine gas attacks, Reuters reports.

Al-Qaeda linked rebels also recently downed a Russian jet, per the AP.

Talks:
  • The UN Security Council discussed the conflict on Wednesday, and Russian and U.S. diplomats there blamed one another for hampering peace, CBS reports. The UN envoy for Syria urged the powers fighting in Syria "to de-escalate immediately and unconditionally."
  • The latest meetings in Vienna and Sochi about a political future in Syria didn't produce a political solution, and in Sochi led to a walkout, per CNN.
  • Turkey, Iran, and Russia have plans to meet in the next month, potentially in Kazakhstan, to discuss Syria, per Reuters.
The bottom line:

The key players are further entrenching themselves — and one another — in the conflict. It's not at all clear what the end game is, given the violent disagreements over what an acceptable resolution looks like.

Go deeper

10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

12 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios