A Russian commercial jet carrying 224 people crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday shortly after taking off from Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, killing all aboard. Based on data recovered from the plane and the crash’s debris field, investigators have concluded the plane broke up at an altitude of 31,000 feet. The Islamic State’s local affiliate, Sinai Province, promptly claimed credit for the attack, but experts have noted that it lacks the sophisticated weaponry necessary to attack an aircraft at such high altitude. Several airlines, including Air France, Lufthansa-KLM, Qatar Airways, and Emirates, have said their flights will avoid airspace over the Sinai as a precaution. Officials from Metrojet, the airline operating the crashed flight, have denied that the crash was caused by malfunctioning equipment or pilot error.
Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party Wins in Turkish Elections
Turkey’s snap elections yesterday resulted in a decisive victory for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). Yesterday’s elections were scheduled when the AKP could not form a governing coalition after elections this spring. The AKP won 317 of 550 parliamentary seats, giving it a legislative majority and putting it close to the 330 vote threshold necessary for constitutional reforms, which have been part of Erdogan’s political agenda.
Correction: Oct. 30’s Middle East Daily mistakenly said Siamak Namazi was a co-founder of the National Iranian American Council. He is not a co-founder.
- The United States announced on Friday that it will deploy up to 50 special operations forces to Syria to coordinate with Kurdish and Syrian rebel forces fighting the Islamic State.
- U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said Sunday that he hopes to convene peace talks between the parties in Yemen’s civil war by mid-November.
- The Islamic State seized the town of Mahin, in Homs province, from Assad regime forces and is now advancing towards the majority-Christian town of Sadad.
- Iran has begun the process of decommissioning centrifuges at its nuclear facilities in accordance with the agreement reached in July, according to the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
- A court in Kuwait sentenced five men to 10 years in prison for collectively raising $1.3 million for the Islamic State; two others were acquitted.
Arguments and Analysis
“Oman: the outlier” (Ana Echague, FRIDE)
“In terms of foreign policy, Sultan Qaboos’ studied neutrality might be difficult to maintain in the face of a changing regional context. Muscat’s balancing act between the US, Iran and the GCC might become untenable. For one thing, the GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have become increasingly aggressive in response to regional instability and the challenge posed by Iran’s advances. Since the Arab uprisings, Saudi Arabia has intervened, along with other Gulf states, in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, and has closed ranks against Iran. It has rebuffed efforts by the Iranian president and foreign minister to visit Riyadh and has undermined efforts initiated by Oman and taken up by Qatar to organise a summit with the foreign ministers of Iran and the GCC. Under such a scenario, non-alignment may come to be viewed as antagonism rather than neutrality, and Oman may feel pressure from the other GCC states to fall in line. US stated aspirations for a smaller footprint in the region and its deference to Gulf allies on regional matters will only further this dynamic. It is security cooperation with the West that has enabled Oman’s independence from both Iran and Saudi Arabia. That said, with Western backing, Muscat might still be able to render some useful mediating services.”
“The Syria Talks in Vienna: The Beginning of the End?” (Lord Michael Williams of Baglan, Chatham House)
“Moreover President Obama, with little more than a year left in office, may well see the Vienna meeting as the best chance to push forward a peace agreement on the conflict that has most blighted his Administration’s period in office. For Iran the meeting represents its first appearance in international discussions on Syria, confirming its rising regional power with a long sought diplomatic breakthrough. Its dynamic Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has built excellent relations with key counterparts like the German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier.”
-J. Dana Stuster
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