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Watch List: Oct. 9, 2017

Turkish convoy in Idlib, Islamic State caliphate breaking apart

|October 9, 2017

The items listed below represent potential emerging issues that our analysts are tracking. These can be long term or short term, but will be updated daily. If an item on our Watch List becomes critical, we will email you a full analysis explaining its significance.

Each Saturday, we will follow up our daily Watch List for each week with our conclusions on these issues.

  • Turkey: A Turkish convoy in Idlib, Syria, was reportedly escorted to its destination by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group that consists primarily of al-Qaida’s former Syria affiliate, al-Nusra Front. The two sides were fighting as recently as this weekend, but now they are reportedly discussing the entrance of Turkish forces into Idlib. How big an incursion are we talking about, and is there an understanding between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Turkey? Second, BBC reported that Turkey issued an arrest warrant for a second U.S. Consulate worker. The version of the story by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said that the worker was called to testify and that his family had been detained. In addition, Turkey and the U.S. have suspended non-immigrant visa services between the two countries. Does this signify a major break in U.S.-Turkish relations, and if so, what is the root of the issue? Their relationship seemed to be improving recently.
  • Syria: Syria’s state news agency SANA reported that Islamic State leaders are in retreat in the face of a Syrian army offensive. Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces said that they control 85 percent of Raqqa and that they will control the entire city in a few days. This is a little earlier than we forecast but not unexpected. The Islamic State caliphate appears to be breaking apart. How soon will this happen? What will fill the void in Raqqa and Deir el-Zour? What happens after IS abandons this core territory?
  • Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan is expecting mass riots ahead of its presidential election on Oct. 15. The concerns were enough that President Almazbek Atambayev canceled a trip to Russia. This could be a sign that the protests are expected to be significant enough to destabilize the country, or it could be business as usual. We need to know which it is.
  • Italy: The Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto will hold referendums Oct. 22 on gaining more autonomy. Could this trigger political instability in Italy? If Italy starts to buckle as Spain is in a political crisis, it could be indicative of a trend.
  • Philippines: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s net satisfaction rating dropped 18 points to 48 percent, according to a poll conducted by Social Weather Stations, the leading Philippine polling company. Duterte has made many enemies at home, but our position is that his high popularity protects his grip on power. Is this poll a first indicator that his standing is wavering? If so, it has major implications for U.S.-China relations and for politics in the South China Sea in general.

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