5 Top Reads

Our Top Weekend Reads

Suspected white phosphorus attacks in Syria, sanctions take their toll on Chinese firms, and Britain debates Boris Johnson’s new Brexit deal.

Turkish soldiers and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters gather.
Turkish soldiers and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters gather on the northern outskirts of the Syrian city of Manbij near the Turkish border on Oct. 14. ZEIN AL-RIFAI/AFP via Getty Images

This week, nine days into Turkey’s campaign against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, fighting continued in spite of a U.S.-brokered cease-fire.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reached an agreement on Brexit with the European Union and is now heading toward a tough battle in Parliament, where the deal is expected to be challenged by both the troubled Labour Party and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party.

Meanwhile, U.S. sanctions targeting China’s crackdown on Uighur Muslims are starting to take their toll.

Here are Foreign Policy’s top weekend reads.


A woman covers her face as she stands along the side of a road near the Syrian Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain along the border with Turkey on Oct. 16. DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

1. Turkish Proxies Appear to Be Using White Phosphorus in Syria

Mounting evidence suggests that Turkish-backed forces are using ammunition loaded with white phosphorus, a dangerous chemical that could maim and kill on contact with human flesh. As the Turkish offensive continues despite this week’s attempted cease-fire, these acts could constitute a war crime, Foreign Policy’s Lara Seligman reports.


A park in Xinjiang.

A park where a Uighur cemetery used to be located in Kuqa in China’s western region of Xinjiang on Sept. 13.Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

2. Xinjiang Backlash Is Hitting Chinese Firms Hard

Recent U.S. sanctions on companies involved with China’s detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang are already taking effect and could lead to a series of spiraling measures, Charles Rollett writes.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker address reporters in Brussels on Oct. 17.Sean Gallup/Getty Images

3. Here’s What Boris Johnson’s New Brexit Deal Would Mean for Britain and Ireland

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new Brexit agreement with the European Union is likely to face stiff opposition in Parliament. Its passage could reignite tensions in Ireland and even rekindle prospects of Irish reunification, Foreign Policy’s Dan Haverty writes.


Women wave a Lebanese national flag and Lebanese Shiite movement flags in front of portraits of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Women wave a Lebanese national flag and Lebanese Shiite movement flags in front of portraits of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil on Aug. 13, 2016.MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images

4. Iran’s Proxies Are More Powerful Than Ever

The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has failed to deter it from training, harboring, and financing proxy terrorist groups around the world, Ariane Tabatabai and Colin P. Clarke write.


An election campaign poster for President Bashar al-Assad.

A picture taken on May 18, 2014, in the Syrian capital of Damascus shows an election campaign poster bearing a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad. LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

5. Assad Is Now Syria’s Best-Case Scenario

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a ruthless dictator, but his rule is also Syria’s best-case scenario going forward, Stephen M. Walt writes.

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