Violence in Syria
Some 32,000 people have been killed since March 2011 in Syria's escalating civil war. A U.N.-supported ceasefire broke down before it even began in late October, and government forces have continued shelling rebel-held areas while opposition forces continue to make incremental gains. Amid concerns that Islamist militants are hijacking the opposition movement, the United States is now pushing for a new umbrella opposition group to replace the fractious Syrian National Council. The council complains that it is losing ground to Islamist groups because of Western governments' continued refusal to supply more moderate factions with weapons.
Transition in China
The U.S. isn't the only superpower choosing it's next leader this month -- though there's a bit less suspense in China. The 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will convene on Nov. 8 -- amid unprecedented levels of security (no pigeons or ping-pong balls allowed) -- to begin the process of handing over power to the heir apparent, Xi Jinping. As with many senior Chinese leaders, Xi's background and political outlook are something of a cipher, but he will have his hands busy from day one, coping with an uncertain economic future, the aftermath of high-profile corruption scandals, and rising tensions with Japan.
The much feared break-up of the eurozone seems unlikely for the moment, thanks to signs that European leaders and the German government are willing to engage in the bond-buying measures necessary to preserve the currency union. But all is still not well in Euroland. Eurozone unemployment has hit 11.6 percent -- 25.8 percent in Spain -- and Greek workers, increasingly fed up with government austerity measures, are taking to the streets. Add to that a new wave of separatism from Catalonia to Scotland, to Flanders and fears of a looming "Brixit" from the European Union, and the drama appears unlikely to end any time soon.
Intervention in Mali
Since a March 22 military coup allowed armed groups to seized control of a territory the size of France, northern Mali has been in a state of chaos. More than 300,000 people have fled the region as Islamist militias have imposed a harsh brand of sharia law. With fears growing that the region could become a new breeding ground for international terrorism and threaten the stability of neighboring countries, calls are growing for international intervention. Representatives of the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and European Union are currently finalizing plans for an international peacekeeping force to be sent to the region, and the United States has been pressing regional governments to support the mission.
The Drone War in Yemen
U.S. counterterrorism operations in Pakistan may have gotten attention on the campaign trail -- particularly the killing of a certain terrorist mastermind -- but the covert air war in Yemen has been steadily escalating with little public notice. There have been more than 35 suspected U.S. drone strikes in Yemen this year, at one point killing 29 people in just a week. White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan has described the Yemen operations as a "model of what I think the U.S. counterterrorism community should be doing" and Yemen's new president has endorsed the program, meaning that U.S. drones are likely to continue filling Yemeni skies for the foreseeable future.