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Hassan Ammar / AP

The U.S. is on a "collision course" with Iran and Russia in a key territory of Syria once the battle to root ISIS out of its de-facto capital, Raqqa, is complete, per Anne Barnard of the NY Times.

What we're watching: The competition to control Syrian territory post-ISIS. The province in question, Deir al-Zour, boasts oil reserves and could serve as a land bridge to connect Iran to Syria, and eventually neighboring Lebanon, Hezbollah's base. Russia just announced it will treat U.S. planes west of the Euphrates as targets, signaling it's ready to stand with the regime against the U.S. after weeks of encouraging both to avoid clashing.

  • See Axios' Lazaro Gamio's map of the conflict over time here.

Why it matters: Uprooting ISIS amid the civil war could lead to a power vacuum, and if the U.S. goes on the offensive it risks a full on confrontation with Iran — and maybe Russia and the Syrian regime — and potentially risks sparking tensions with Iraq, Qatar, and Yemen.

The eastern region is already heating up:

  • In the last few weeks the U.S. has had four direct confrontations with pro-Assad forces in eastern Syria.
  • In all three instances decisions were made by commanders in the field, indicating a lack of overarching strategic direction from D.C., per Ilan Goldenberg: "We might end up in a war with Iran with no decision taken by Trump/Mattis/Tillerson/McMaster." Foreign Policy and Just Security describe the White House and the Pentagon as fighting over strategy, leading to a current deadlock.
  • Iran and the U.S. are both bolstering forces in the area. Last Wednesday the U.S. announced it is sending a mobile missile launcher to eastern Syria, and Iran launched an attack against ISIS in Deir al-Zour over the weekend, the first time it has fired missiles into another country in three decades.
  • The U.S. shot down a Syrian fighter jet this weekend, the first time since the start of the civil war the U.S. has engaged in air-to-air combat with Syrian forces (although in a different province).
  • Boiling this down: These actions show an increasing willingness from both pro-regime and regime forces to engage in hostile acts despite U.S. warnings to stay away, and the administration's willingness to deliberately bomb pro-regime forces, breaking from usual behavior in the region.

The Pentagon told Axios "the Coalition is not seeking to claim land or conquer territory...does not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces...but is well prepared to defend itself from hostile threats."

Go deeper

Broncos and 49ers the latest NFL teams impacted by coronavirus crisis

From left, Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel during an August training session at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colorado. Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with all Denver Broncos quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: McConnell temporarily halts in-person lunches for GOP caucus.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists.
  5. Cities: Surge in cases forces San Francisco to impose curfew — Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. Sports: NFL bans in-person team activities Monday, Tuesday due to COVID-19 surge — NBA announces new coronavirus protocols.
  7. World: London police arrest more than 150 during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.

Tony Hsieh, longtime Zappos CEO, dies at 46

Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Tony Hsieh, the longtime ex-chief executive of Zappos, died on Friday after being injured in a house fire, his lawyer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 46.

The big picture: Hsieh was known for his unique approach to management, and following the 2008 recession his ongoing investment and efforts to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area.