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Civilians in the Syrian Kurdish border town of Ras al-Ain mourn those killed in Turkish attacks. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. "didn't try" to stop the "catastrophic" Turkish invasion of northern Syria last month, according to a sharply critical internal memo sent by a top U.S. diplomat and obtained by the New York Times.

Why it matters: The diplomat, deputy U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition William Roebuck, said the U.S. had abandoned its Kurdish allies to a Turkish onslaught that involved "war crimes and ethnic cleansing." Those concerns have been widespread in the Pentagon and State Department but not stated publicly by senior officials. Roebuck sent the memo on Oct. 31 to the U.S. envoy for Syria policy, James Jeffrey, and to more than 40 other officials who work on Syria issues.

Key excerpts:

  • “Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria, spearheaded by armed Islamist groups on its payroll, represents ... what can only be described as war crimes and ethnic cleansing.”
  • “One day when the diplomatic history is written people will wonder what happened here and why officials didn’t do more to stop it or at least speak out more forcefully to blame Turkey for its behavior: an unprovoked military operation that has killed some 200 civilians, left well over 100,000 people (and counting) newly displaced and homeless because of its military operation.”
  • "The decision to stay is a good one, even if the ‘protection of the oil’ rationale plays into toxic Middle Eastern conspiracy theories that will need to be lanced with careful, sustained messaging reinforcing the truism that Syria’s oil is Syria’s and for the benefit of the Syrian people."

What to watch: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will visit the White House on Nov 13.

Go deeper: Baghdadi raid depended on international ties Trump has spurned

Go deeper

29 mins ago - World

Iran's nuclear dilemma: Ramp up now or wait for Biden

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The world is waiting to see whether Iran will strike back at Israel or the U.S. over the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran's military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Senior Iranian officials have stressed that Iran will take revenge against the perpetrators, but also respond by continuing Fakhrizadeh’s legacy — the nuclear program. The key question is whether Iran will accelerate that work now, or wait to see what President-elect Biden puts on the table.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine that's found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

3 hours ago - World

Biden says he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.