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A Syrian Kurdish woman waves the flag of the Democratic Union Party during a demonstration against Turkish threats in Syria near the Turkish border. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. military from northern Syria — abandoning the Kurds to what many believe will be slaughter at the hands of Turkey — is shaking the already fragile situation with Republicans who have been defending him.

Why it matters: Key senators who Trump counts on to have his back on impeachment and make the case for him on TV — chiefly, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio — are horrified by the withdrawal and have attacked the president's move in strategic and moral terms. Trump did not read them in on his decision, and they're reacting furiously just when he may need them most. 

  • Rubio tweeted this stark condemnation: "We degraded ISIS using Kurd's [sic] as the ground force. Now we have abandoned them & they face annihilation at the hands of the Turkish military. ISIS could now be reinvigorated when 1000's of jailed fighters break out when the Kurdish guards are forced to leave to go fight Turkey."
  • Graham went on Trump's favorite morning show, "Fox & Friends," to express his horror: "This to me is just unnerving to its core. To say to the American people that ISIS has been destroyed in Syria is just not true."
  • Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also tweeted: "We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend"

Another Republican lawmaker tells Axios that while it's in Trump's strategic interest to improve U.S.-Turkey relations that slid during Barack Obama's presidency, there could be significant global security risks if tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and refugees in detention camps guarded by Kurdish forces get out.

  • It's not clear what happens to the camps if Turkey attacks the Kurds and the situation could become a "sh*tshow," the lawmaker said.
  • "This could be a real problem for [Trump]," said a former senior administration official. "It's adding to the sense of what the f--- is going on?"

Behind the scenes: Trump's top advisers have at various times during the first two and a half years of his presidency gone to the mat to keep him engaged in Syria in order to support Kurds who carried the weight of fighting on the ground — and to keep ISIS at bay.

  • Former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned over Trump's desire to leave Syria. 
  • Others, including former national security adviser John Bolton and previous national security officials, fought passionately for the U.S. military to honor its commitment to allies who have sacrificed many more lives than the U.S. in the fight against ISIS, according to sources with direct knowledge.
  • Two former senior officials told Axios they were horrified and sickened when they heard of Trump's decision. Previously, one said that "the president listened to the arguments, weighed them" and ultimately decided to stay the course.
  • "I don't know if this is a function of nobody being around who stands up to him," a former senior administration official said. "I don't understand it. There's the tragedy of giving up on your allies. And it doesn't bode well for standing up to Iran. You think the Iranians don't see this and realize the U.S. won't stand up to them on their next entanglement?"

Go deeper: Republican allies blast Trump's Syria withdrawal decision

Go deeper

45 mins ago - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: America looks for the exits after a year of COVID

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

A year after the coronavirus abruptly shut down much of the country, Americans are watching for a clear signal of when the pandemic will be over — and most won't be ready to ditch the masks and social distancing until they get it, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: The poll found that more Americans are expecting the outbreak to be over sooner rather than later, as vaccinations ramp up throughout the country — but that very few are ready to end the precautions that have upended their lives.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
45 mins ago - Health

Many vulnerable Americans have received the coronavirus vaccine

Data: CDC, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than two-thirds of Americans 75 and older have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, as have more than half of those 65-74, per CDC data.

Why it matters: Any future surge in cases almost certainly wouldn't be as deadly as previous waves, because older people are the most likely to die from the virus.

3 hours ago - World

Report: "Clear evidence" China is committing genocide against Uyghurs

The scene in 2019 of a site believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, north of Kashgar in China's northwestern Xinjiang region. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese authorities have breached "each and every act prohibited" under the UN Genocide Convention over the treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's Xinjiang province, an independent report published Tuesday alleges.

Why it matters: D.C. think-tank the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, which released the report, said in a statement the conclusions by dozens of experts in war crimes, human rights and international law are "clear and convincing": The ruling Chinese Communist Party bears responsibility.