Through wargaming, the PLA aspires to achieve an edge in military competition, seeking to “design” the dynamics of and develop capabilities for future warfare.

The United States cannot stabilize—or safely deprioritize—the Middle East without first stabilizing Iraq.

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The Russian Armed Forces are applying lessons learned from their experience in Syria to shape their development into a flexible and effective global expeditionary force.

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Russia in Review: September 22 – October 5, 2021

Serbian President Alexander Vucic exploited Kosovo’s implementation of a new border crossing law to frame Kosovo Serbs as victims of ethnic discrimination and provoke a regional crisis on September 20, 2021. Kosovo’s government-imposed license plate regulations requiring Serbian cars entering Kosovo to receive temporary Kosovar license plates – a reciprocal measure of how Serbian authorities have regulated Kosovar cars entering Serbia for several years – on September 20. Kosovo ethnic Serbs blocked two border crossings with Serbia in northern Kosovo to protest this policy on September 20. Kosovar riot police deployed to the roadblocks and reportedly used tear gas against Serb protesters on September 20. Vucic decried Kosovar police uses of force against ethnic Serb protesters, claiming that Serbs in Kosovo suffered a “brutal attack.” Likely ethnic Serb protesters committed arson against a Kosovo vehicle registration office that did not cause casualties on September 25.

Russia in Review: September 1 – September 21, 2021

Russia’s ruling United Russia Party retained its majority in highly falsified parliamentary elections. The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, conducted its five-year elections from September 17-19. The Kremlin-run Central Elections Commission (CEC) reported in preliminary results on September 21 that the United Russia party won 49.8 percent of the vote, securing 324 out of 450 seats, and announced a turnout of 52 percent.[1] United Russia held 343 seats before the election.

Recent Iranian Proxy Attack in Iraqi Kurdistan Unlikely a Signal for New Escalation

The recent Iranian proxy drone attack on Erbil International Airport was likely a stand-alone event and likely does not indicate the immediate resumption of large-scale Iranian proxy attacks on US facilities in Iraq. Iranian proxy militants launched two drones targeting what Iran assessed to be an Israeli intelligence asset at Erbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 11, 2021, possibly triggering an Israeli retaliatory strike on a proxy convoy in Abu Kamal, Syria, on September 14. Iran may have approved this attack after US and Israeli political and military leaders met in recent weeks to discuss their strategies for addressing the threat Iran poses to US, Israeli, and regional security. The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 New York terrorist attacks may have influenced the timing of the attack. Iran will likely maintain its ban on large-scale attacks on US facilities in Iraq until after Iraq’s October 10 elections and possibly until the end of 2021 unless the Iran-Israel escalation cycle spills further into Iraq.

Turkey Aims to Play Stabilizing Role in Afghanistan after NATO Withdrawal

Turkey is evaluating the changing security environment and the emerging Taliban government to strike a minimal-risk balance between Ankara’s ambitions and constraints. Turkey evacuated its troops from Afghanistan on August 27 after months-long negotiations with US and Taliban representatives to retain a security role in the country after NATO’s departure. However, Turkish officials are still signaling their intent to adopt a political and security role in Afghanistan and to become the Taliban’s primary interlocutor with the West.The Turkish government will likely remain committed to playing a stabilizing role in Afghanistan—primarily through non-military channels—to promote its international standing as an influential regional power.