What we're watching: The Czarmaker of Syria

Syria's new kingmaker – As a shaky US-brokered Turkish ceasefire in northern Syria entered its final hours on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on a plan for northern Syria. Russia will now work with Turkey to ensure the removal of Kurdish forces from the 22-mile deep "safe zone" that Turkey won in its negotiation with the (departing) US five days ago. This is a big win for Putin, who, by virtue of his backing for Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, is now the decisive figure in what happens in the region. Turkey also continues to make out pretty well, as we've written recently. But it is a huge loss for the perpetually luckless Kurds, who will be forced to leave a huge swathe of their homeland. They will also now need to depend chiefly on Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin. Whether that's better or worse than relying on the fickle United States remains to be seen.


Rising chances of a UK election – Boris Johnson has his Brexit deal. Sort of. In a landmark vote on Tuesday, the House of Commons voted 329-299 in favor of the UK prime minister's EU withdrawal agreement on its second reading in Parliament. In classic Brexit fashion, that's not the end of the story. Parliament also rejected the PM's plan to ram through a final vote by Friday, all but scuppering Johnson's bid to ensure that the UK exits the EU on October 31 as promised. With the EU indicating it will extend the Brexit deadline yet again, possibly through the end of January, Johnson now faces a fateful choice: He can accept the delay and try to get the final bill passed after Parliament has had time to scrutinize it. Or he could roll the dice and call a snap election. The latter option could be a tempting gamble for Johnson: it would allow him to campaign as the man standing up to pro-Remain MPs who are bent on thwarting the will of the people on Brexit, try to win a clear endorsement from voters for his deal, and take advantage of Jeremy Corbyn's weakness as Labour leader to try to secure a stronger governing mandate for the next five years. So, Boris, you feeling lucky?

Bibi out, Gantz in—Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu has failed to form a government for the second time this year, and President Reuven Rivlin will now tap his rival, the Blue and White party's Benny Gantz, to take a shot at forming a majority coalition in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Gantz will have 28 days to pull it off. If he can't – and his path to a majority is very difficult – Israelis could soon head to their third election in just 12 months, a scenario most are loath to contemplate. One alternative to that would be a unity government in which Gantz and Netanyahu share power. But Gantz is firm: he says he won't serve with the Likud party so long as Netanyahu, who's facing corruption charges, is at its helm.

What We're Ignoring:

Mauricio Macri's crowd size – On Sunday, Argentines go to the polls for a first round of presidential voting, and incumbent President Mauricio Macri is a huge underdog in the race against Peronist party leader Alberto Fernandez. Still, last weekend about 300,000 people turned out for a Macri rally in Buenos Aires. We are ignoring this last gasp of momentum for Macri, because although he still has the support of many urban voters frightened by the idea of a return to power of left-populist Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the opposition candidate for vice president, the nationwide vote is still likely to be decided by economic conditions across the country. Those are bad, and don't appear to be improving.

Last week, in Fulton, WI, together with election officials from the state of Wisconsin and the election technology company VotingWorks, Microsoft piloted ElectionGuard in an actual election for the first time.

As voters in Fulton cast ballots in a primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates, the official count was tallied using paper ballots as usual. However, ElectionGuard also provided an encrypted digital tally of the vote that enabled voters to confirm their votes have been counted and not altered. The pilot is one step in a deliberate and careful process to get ElectionGuard right before it's used more broadly across the country.

Read more about the process at Microsoft On The Issues.

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing. A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its "technological sovereignty" by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.

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Communal violence in Delhi: Over the past few days, India's capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades. This week's surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India's Muslims and the law's Hindu nationalist defenders. Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday. We're watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government responds – Delhi's police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.

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Ian Bremmer's perspective on what's happening in geopolitics:

What are the takeaways from President Trump's visit to India?

No trade deal, in part because Modi is less popular and he's less willing to focus on economic liberalization. It's about nationalism right now. Hard to get that done. But the India US defense relationship continues to get more robust. In part, those are concerns about China and Russia.

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27,000: The Emir of Qatar has decreed a $27,000 fine and up to five years in prison for anyone who publishes, posts, or repost content that aims to "harm the national interest" or "stir up public opinion." No word on whether the Doha-based Al-Jazeera network, long a ferocious and incisive critic of other Arab governments, will be held to the same standard.

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