1) After new investigations into a plane crash killing hundreds of Russian tourists, authorities believe there is a high likelihood that the crash resulted from a terrorist attack. Investigators say the crash looks like the result of a bomb and that ISIS chatter around the incident adds more certainty to an ISIS-led or ISIS-inspired attack. ISIS claims the attack is retaliation for the Russian military campaign in Syria. Russia originally denied a terrorist attack brought down the plane but has since evacuated their citizens from Egypt.
1) In continued attempts to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria, Russia seems to be shifting its stance. Previously implying that airstrikes were to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power, Moscow officials now say that propping up Assad is not a priority. Russia has even proposed a meeting including members of the Syrian opposition in Moscow. This is a step away from the position of Iran, who fully supports Assad’s leadership. Iran has recently threatened to leave the Syrian talks, mostly over disagreements with rival Saudi Arabia.
1) Despite predictions for a major loss, Turkey’s ruling AKP party, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won this past weekend’s elections. The party fell just short of a 50% majority (the current count is 49%). This is a huge change from June’s elections when the AKP could not manage to secure a government which forced the new polls. In the past few months, a major terrorist attack in Turkey, rising conflict with the Kurdish minority and renewed violence on the border with Syria could all contribute to the election of the “stabilizing” ruling party.
1) World leaders are headed to Vienna, Austria to discuss Syria’s conflict and seek a political solution. Even though Iran has been asked to attend such an event for the first time, the Syrian opposition and members of the moederate rebellion were not invited. Sec. of State John Kerry will attend the two day meeting and plans to stick to the U.S. demands for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave power (despite pressures from Russia).
1) Russia’s campaign in Syria has taken on diplomatic and military complexities. The government acknowledged the first death of a Russia soldier in their mission (originally the military claimed he committed suicide). Meanwhile, U.S. forces, who have not opted to partner with Russia, will continue their own air strikes on ISIS, inside Syria. Russia has also opted for an attempt at a political resolution to the crisis in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad says initiatives discussed with Moscow could only happen after the end of terrorism. Russia says they also approached Syrian rebels like the Free Syrian Army, which those groups have denied.
1) Weeks of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, mostly near shared holy sites, has led to the deaths of dozens of people. Now rocket fire from Gaza has struck the southern part of the country. No injuries were reported, but Israel returned fire on Monday, targeting Hamas. While no deaths have been reported from the strikes, a 19-year-old young man was killed in clashes with Israeli police in the West Bank.
1) The U.S. is conducting military drills with the Philippines this week. The drill, the third in the region so far this year, in conjunction with increased air surveillance missions, are seen as a signal to China. The U.S. has been showing a stronger military commitment to allies in the region with territorial disputes against China in the South China Sea. New reports say the U.S. is considering using the Navy to directly confront China over its unilateral actions on the waters.
1) General John Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, admitted today that an American airship did mistakenly fire on a Doctors without Borders hospital and that the command came from the U.S. military. While the order originated with the U.S. chain of command, Campbell said to the Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. forces would never purposefully target a hospital. Additionally, suicide bombers attacked an intelligence center in the capital of Kabul. The Taliban has taken credit for the bombing.
1) NATO has denounced Russia’s violation of Turkish airspace. A Russian plane, part of the air campaign against ISIS in Syria, crossed over the border into Turkey. Russia has also received criticism of the campaign in general which Western military experts say focuses not just on ISIS but other moderate rebel groups. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says this will escalate the conflict in Syria.
1) Russia and the U.S. have stepped up talks concerning Syria on the sidelines of the UN summit. Russia has been increasing its military presence in Syria to “fight ISIS.” Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the two parties agree to a few basic points on the conflict in Syria: that the country needs to be united, secular, and that ISIS must be stopped. Areas of disagreement remain over the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After talks, President Vladimir Putin announced he would not send in ground troops, but would consider airstrikes. He added that Russia would cooperate with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.