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October 12, 2015

Daily News Brief

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Islamic State Suspected in Turkey Bombing

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the self-proclaimed Islamic State is the prime suspect (Guardian) in the twin suicide bombings that rocked peaceful rallies of pro-Kurdish activists and civic groups in the capital of Ankara on Saturday. Official numbers say that nearly one hundred people were killed (FT) with scores of others injured. The attacks come three weeks ahead of parliamentary elections and have sparked protests (LA Times) against the government.  Separately, the Iraqi military said that air strikes killed (Reuters) a number of senior figures of the Islamic State in western Iraq, but the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was not among them. 


"The attack has further escalated the political tension in Turkey only 20 days before a re-election of key importance. Polls show that the chances of a similar outcome to the June 7 elections, which could force a coalition government, are higher than chances of Davutoglu's Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) regaining power in parliament. That would also mean that President Erdogan's hopes of changing the country’s regime into a presidential one would diminish further," writes Murat Yetkin in Hurriyet.

"As the Islamic State moves to establish affiliates in other countries it may become easier to uncover those networks, because they will have to communicate over long distances and possibly assist one another financially, officials say. If the group's brutal rampage is to be halted, more effective efforts to undermine its finances are essential. Military force can be only one element of a multipronged strategy," writes the New York Times.

"Turkey confronts many threats. Russian warplanes intervening in Syria have entered its airspace. Isis is on its borders. The war with the Kurds has reignited after reconciliation that Mr Erdogan engineered was so close. Its economy is weakening. It is suffering from purges of its security service and judiciary. There is, moreover, little sign that voters will change their June verdict and break the political gridlock. What the country desperately needs is a return to accountability and an end to incitement and polarization that opens it up to provocateurs. If not, this pivotal Nato ally and EU candidate member could really become ungovernable," writes the Financial Times.


Beijing Sets Date for Plenum

The Chinese Communist Party will hold the fifth plenum (SCMP) on October 26-29. At the meeting, party leaders are expected to draft economic and social development programs for the next five years, amid slowing GDP growth. Separately, two allies of former security tsar Zhou Yongkang were jailed for corruption (SCMP): Jiang Jiemin, former state oil giant chairman, was sentenced for sixteen years and Li Chuncheng, former Sichuan provincial party chief, was sentenced for thirteen.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the role of the Chinese Communist Party.

NORTH KOREA: In a rare speech at a military parade this weekend, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that his country was ready for war (AFP) with the United States.


Deadly NATO Helicopter Crash in Kabul

Five NATO personnel, including two UK service members, were killed (RFE/RL) and five others injured in a helicopter crash at the mission's headquarters in Kabul on Sunday. Meanwhile in Kandahar, several gunmen shot and killed (TOLO) a staff member of the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan. The Taliban's reach (NYT) in Afghanistan is at its widest since 2001, according to the UN.

The battle for Kunduz highlights the military and political challenges facing Afghanistan and U.S. mission there, says CFR's Stephen Biddle in this Interview.

NEPAL: The Nepali parliament elected (Hindu) Communist leader Khadga Prasad Oli as the nation's thirty-eight prime minister and the first under the country's new constitution. Oli secured 338 of 587 votes.


Iran Tests New Missile

Iran test fired (WSJ) a new surface-to-surface ballistic missile on Sunday, according to state media, in a move that could complicate implementation of the July deal brokered to curb Tehran's nuclear program. Meanwhile, Iranian state television reported that an Iranian court convicted (WaPo) Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian of espionage in a trial that concluded two months ago. Rezaian's sentence was not reported.

SYRIA: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army, backed by Russia air strikes, made gains (Al Jazeera) over the weekend in central Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin defended Moscow's aerial campaign, saying that its objective was to stabilize the Syrian government and create conditions for a political settlement.

CFR's Stephen Sestanovich testified before the Senate Committee on Armed Services on Russia's military action in Syria.


Ugandan Troops to Leave South Sudan

The Ugandan army confirmed on Monday that its troops will begin to leave (BBC) South Sudan as part of latest peace agreement signed in August between the South Sudanese government and armed rebels. All foreign forces were meant to have left the country by October 10.

SOUTH AFRICA: A spokesperson for the ruling African National Congress said the party wants to withdraw (News24) from the International Criminal Court, claiming that the international body had "lost its direction." 


Belarus Reelects Leader for Fifth Term

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko won (FT) his fifth successive term, extending his twenty-one year rule with 83.5 percent of the vote. EU officials had signaled that they would consider lifting EU sanctions against individuals and businesses in Belarus if Sunday's elections were deemed free and fair.


Mexico Releases File on Missing Students

Mexico's attorney general made public (AP) files on the government's investigation into the disappearance of forty-three students last year in the southwestern town of Iguala. The disappearances and the government's perceived lack of transparency in the investigation triggered protests against President Enrique Pena Nieto's government.

ARGENTINA: Argentina's Industrial Union warned (Buenos Aires Herald) against the potential negative effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the medium term for non-members. Member countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral free trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim nations, reached an outline deal last week. 

This CFR Backgrounder explores the future of U.S. trade policy.