A Russian jet ventured into Turkish airspace and was escorted out of the country by Turkish F-16s, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Turkish officials summoned Russia’s envoy in Ankara and warned that the “Russian Federation will be responsible for any undesired incident that may occur.” The Turkish response is indicative of the frustration among many regional powers with the Russian escalation in Syria. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said last week that if Russian efforts maintain Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on power, Saudi Arabia would support military options “which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power.” Analysts have interpreted this to mean greater support to rebel groups, including extremists. The British government also expressed its displeasure with Russia’s actions, saying that it would not support a U.N. resolution on counterterrorism in Syria proposed by Russia.
Officials in Egypt have been supportive of the Russian intervention, making it an outlier in the Arab world. “Russia’s entrance, given its potential and capabilities, is something we see is going to have an effect on limiting terrorism in Syria and eradicating it,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Saturday. In an interview with Syrian state news agency SANA, Assad praised the Russian escalation, saying “We pin great hope on this coalition now, and on these international changes.” Assad also vowed to stay in office for the purpose of “destroying terrorism. “Political ideas can be implemented later,” he said.
Israeli Government Limits Access to Old City amid Fears of New Intifada
On Saturday, a Palestinian man stabbed two people to death in Jerusalem’s Old City before being shot and killed. The stabbings are the latest incident in an uptick in Palestinian-Israeli tensions. With fears of a third intifada mounting, the Israeli government has closed access to the Old City to Palestinians who do not live there and are not allowing Palestinian men under 50 years old to visit the al-Aqsa mosque.
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- Iran’s Supreme National Security Council issued a review of the nuclear agreement reached with the P5+1 in July, concluding the inspections regime could compromise military secrets but that the deal should be implemented.
- The Islamic State destroyed another archaeological site in the ancient city of Palmyra, the “Arch of Triumph” monument, according to Syria’s antiquities chief.
- Thousands of mourners attended funeral services in Tehran for Iranian pilgrims killed in a stampede during the hajj; 464 Iranians were killed in the disaster.
- Spanish and Moroccan officials arrested 10 people on charges of recruiting for the Islamic State.
- At the United Nations last week, member states pressured the warring rival governments in Libya to accept a peace agreement and form a unity government.
Arguments and Analysis
“The Hajj tragedy sparks a firestorm for the Saudi crown prince and new frictions with Iran” (Bruce Riedel, Markaz)
“The prince’s agents caught him in August, when he landed in Beirut from a flight from Tehran. Mughassil was planning to attend a son’s wedding in Lebanon — but instead, he was whisked off to Riyadh, where the Ministry of Interior has been debriefing him since. According to Saudi sources, Mughassil is a wealth of information on Iranian intelligence activities, both historic and contemporary. Snatching Mughassil was a major coup for MBN [Muhammad bin Nayef] and a big loss for Tehran…The Saudi-Iranian confrontation is getting hotter than it has been in many years. The Hajj incident is going to be an open wound for months to come. Riyadh and Tehran are at loggerheads in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen. The two regional powers are in a deadly embrace.”
“Ahrar al-Sham’s Revisionist Jihadism” (Sam Heller, War on the Rocks)
“War-torn Syria has become a battleground for competing ideologies as much as rival militias. The ultra-extremist Salafi-jihadism of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been the loudest and most visible of these ideological contenders, but Syria has also seen the birth of a revisionist trend within Islamist militancy. This trend has emerged as a reaction to the worst excesses of Salafi-jihadism and has been championed by the rebels in Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyyah (the Islamic Movement of the Freemen of al-Sham, usually just called Ahrar al-Sham). Ahrar al-Sham has by now emerged as not just a populist revolutionary force and the most powerful non-ISIL rebel faction in Syria, but also the vanguard of a revisionist school that is contesting the nature of the jihadist movement.”
-J. Dana Stuster
Sgt. Jason W. Gamble/U.S. Air Force/Getty Images