Morning Brief

Turkey’s Cease-Fire Set to Expire

Turkey and Russia’s leaders meet today as the clock winds down in northern Syria.

A Turkish-backed Syrian fighter sits on the side of the road south of the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria, on Oct. 18.
A Turkish-backed Syrian fighter sits on the side of the road south of the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria, on Oct. 18. BAKR ALKASEM/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The Turkish and Russian leaders meet as Turkey’s cease-fire in northern Syria is set to expire, workers join Chile’s protests in solidarity, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives up on forming a coalition in Israel.

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Clock Winds Down on Temporary Cease-Fire

The five-day cease-fire negotiated last week in Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militia in northern Syria is set to expire today, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi. Putin backs the Syrian government, and if the two leaders reach an agreement it could bring an end to the fighting. (French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday he had pushed Putin to extend the cease-fire.)

U.S. forces are still withdrawing from the region, even as the Pentagon considers keeping some forces to guard oil fields in Syria’s northeast. U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that a “little extension” to the cease-fire could be possible and again defended the withdrawal. Feeling betrayed, Kurdish residents have reacted to the U.S. retreat with anger, throwing insults and rotting fruit at their former allies.

[The U.S. plan to maintain forces near Kurdish-controlled oil fields could be a way to sell Trump on keeping a residual force in Syria, FP’s Lara Seligman and Keith Johnson report.]

Covert communication. With both Turkish and Syrian government forces deployed in the region, the two countries have set up covert channels of communication through Russia to avoid direct confrontation. (Syrian and Russian troops are deployed in two border towns in the Turkish “safe zone.”) While Turkey remains hostile to the government of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, the contacts suggest it recognizes his growing control in the country’s northeast.

On the border. Meanwhile, the Turkish offensive has already led to retaliatory strikes in border towns within Turkey—killing at least 20 Turks, Kurds, and Syrians. The conflict has reopened old wounds in Turkey’s southeast, where the majority Kurdish population has experienced decades of conflict, the New York Times reports.

What We’re Following Today

Copper miners join Chile’s protesters. Workers at the world’s largest copper mine will hold a one-day strike today in solidarity with demonstrators in Chile, and a larger group of unions has called for a general mining strike on Wednesday. The announcements come after another day of protests over economic inequality and government inadequacy, with thousands taking the streets of the capital Santiago on Monday to demand a change from Sebastián Piñera’s government. A curfew remains in place in Santiago after weekend riots.

Netanyahu steps aside? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave up his attempt to form a coalition government on Monday, over a month after the general election. The move gives the mandate to Netanyahu’s rival Benny Gantz, who will have 28 days to put together a government. But since Gantz doesn’t appear to have a clear coalition either, it would force a new election—the third since April. To avoid that, Gantz must appeal to politicians in Netanyahu’s Likud party, the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party, or—unlikely—the Arab Joint List.

Brexit deal in disarray. With just over a week before Britain is due to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, Parliament will vote today on a so-called second reading of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, though lawmakers could introduce amendments to change it—adding the requirement of a second referendum, for example. Meanwhile, the European Commission has confirmed that it would grant the delay that Johnson was forced to request over the weekend if the deal is not ratified.

Keep an Eye On

China’s surveillance state. China is rapidly expanding its cybersurveillance beyond Xinjiang, where technology is used against Muslim minorities. It is targeting so-called “key individuals”—such as paroled criminals, drug users, and religious believers—in a broader state surveillance project that affects tens of millions across China, Emile Dirks and Sarah Cook write for FP.

Disinformation in the U.S. 2020 election. Facebook has revealed that it had uncovered and removed four state-backed disinformation campaigns—three from Iran and one from Russia. While the company is increasing protections ahead of the 2020 presidential election in the United States, it’s clear that state actors could still try to shape the outcome.

Lebanon’s year of fire. The ongoing mass protests over economic crisis and corruption in Lebanon come on the heels of unprecedented wildfires. Unlike previous unrest, the current uprising cut across key sectarian and class divisions. It’s not clear whether Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s overtures and Hezbollah’s intimidation will contain the fire, Firas Maksad writes for FP.

A trade standoff over Kashmir. India’s top vegetable oil trade organization is asking its members to stop buying palm oil from Malaysia after the country’s prime minister criticized India’s move to revoke Kashmir’s special status. India is Malaysia’s third largest palm oil export market, and the boycott could be met with retaliation.

For more news and analysis on stories like this, sign up for South Asia Brief, delivered on Tuesdays.

Her Power—Women hold only 33 percent of leadership positions on average in the U.S. foreign-policy apparatus—leaving a key talent pool untapped. In the first-of-its-kind Her Power Index, FP Analytics evaluates the status and progress of women’s representation across 15 U.S. government agencies focused on foreign policy.

Odds and Ends

A former Nazi air raid shelter in Hamburg, Germany, is being converted into a “design and lifestyle” hotel by a Spanish chain, the New York Times reports. The Bunker St. Pauli is one of Germany’s largest—too big to destroy. Still, as with other Nazi-era sites, there are concerns about its use as a commercial property.

As the Vatican meeting of Amazon bishops concludes, ultra-conservative Catholic activists admitted to stealing Amazon fertility statues from a church in Rome and dumping them into the Tiber River. The artifacts have stirred up controversy since the conference began: Conservatives consider them to be pagan idols.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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