Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Sitrep - 4 Nov, 2015

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a snap election on November 1, gaining more significantly more support than it achieved in June. Rising as it did from 40% to 49%, the AKP – and by extension President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – can now govern Turkey alone.

Although the AKP narrowly won the June election, it was unable (or unwilling) to form a coalition. The November elections however are unlikely to change the direction of Turkey’s foreign and domestic policy as Mr Erdoğan continues to look south to Syria while reinvigorating Turkey’s stagnating economy. Mr Erdoğan does lack a supermajority in Turkey’s parliament, so will be stopped short of drastically transforming internal policies.

At the other edge of the Mediterranean, a Metrojet flight travelling from Egypt to Russia broke apart at 31,000 feet over the weekend, killing all 224 people on board. Initially the crash was claimed as a terror attack by the Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula, but no evidence yet supports this theory.

Russian commercial aircraft companies have a poor reputation for maintenance, as does Russia’s airforce. The crash highlights this deadly lack of funding and expertise, and potential ambivalence, for the industry’s aircraft operations. While investigators search through the rubble for clues, the possibility of a more nuanced terror attack such as a smuggled explosive device cannot be ruled out.

In Vienna recently, 17 regional and world powers gathered to discuss a negotiated end to the Syrian conflict. The notable dynamic of this second round of talks was the inclusion of Iran. This reflects the new status quo in the Middle East as Iran emerges from its cocoon of isolation following the nuclear deal with the US and Europe earlier this year.

However other countries in the region do not appreciate this new normal. But lacking any real way of changing it, those countries will have to get used to it. Russia and Iran are strategic partners in many projects as well, so a boost for Iran will circle back to being a boost for Russia too. The US is trying to balance the many competing interests in Syria, but the long-term strategy of calming the region will compel it to continue inviting Iran for future talks.

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