Arab and Western officials have begun a meeting in London on Tuesday with Syrian opposition representatives in efforts to encourage a "united position" and convince the opposition to participate in Geneva II talks. The U.S. State Department has said the emergence of the al Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is jeopardizing efforts for a negotiated resolution to the Syrian conflict. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, "The longer this conflict goes on, the more sectarian it becomes." Additionally, he stressed the importance of a moderate opposition, "because if they don’t have a role, then all the Syrian people have got left is a choice between Assad and extremists." The main opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, is expected to decide on November 1 whether it will attend the proposed Geneva peace conference, although the largest faction within the coalition said it would not participate. The opposition has insisted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down. In an interview on Monday, Assad said he didn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t run for a third term in the 2014 elections. Additionally, Assad expressed doubt over the U.S. and Russian peace conference saying the "factors are not yet in place" for the initiative to be successful. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, though Assad had made recent gains, it did not assure him a place in a new Syrian government.
- A report issued by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch claims U.S. drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan may have broken international human rights law.
- Polls opened across Israel Tuesday for municipal elections with races in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Elad, and Tel Aviv gaining attention, though Palestinians are expected to largely boycott.
- Israeli forces killed Palestinian Islamic Jihad member Mohammed Assi, wanted for suspected involvement in a 2012 Tel Aviv bus bombing.
- Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief said he plans to reduce cooperation with the United States to arm and train Syrian opposition forces in protest of U.S. Middle East policy.
- A Qatari court has upheld a 15-year prison sentence for poet Mohammed al-Ajami who was found guilty of insulting the emir and anti-government incitement.
- The EU has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey in November after a three-year hiatus.
Arguments and Analysis
‘Saudi Arabia and the UN Why the snub?‘ (The Economist – Pomegranate Blog)
"King Abdullah, now 89, is known for his occasional bursts of frank impatience. Frustration has been building in the kingdom for months, not to say years, over the perceived unreliability of its main ally for the past seven decades, the United States. But two recent straws have broken the camel’s back. The Obama administration’s sudden rapprochement with Iran — a country the Saudis see as a hostile Shia power and their historical rival — risks unravelling years of patient Saudi efforts at sustaining an anti-Iranian front. And America’s shying away from military action to punish the Assad regime in Syria for its use of chemical weapons against civilians represents a possibly fatal fumble for the anti-regime team that Saudi Arabia strongly backs. Not only did the pro-rebel allies lose a golden opportunity to deliver a death-blow to Mr Assad, as the Saudis see it. American cowardice has legitimised the narrative of al-Qaeda-style radicals, who now threaten to take over the whole of the armed opposition force whose moderate wing the Saudis have assiduously — and expensively — cultivated.
The decision to reject Security Council membership may not simply reflect an angry fit of kingly pique, however. Saudi Arabia has always preferred closed-doors diplomacy to open forums. A seat on the UN council would have risked exposing, repeatedly and in full public view, the widening policy gap between the kingdom and its closest ally. This would not only represent a break with tradition, but could amount to a strategic mistake that could prove difficult to correct. As if the secretive Saudis needed reminding of the perils of greater scrutiny, deliberations at another UN body, the Human Rights Council, on October 21st, singled out the kingdom for criticism. Two leading watchdog groups, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, submitted excoriating reports, noting the country’s failure to address discrimination against women and religious minorities, and persecution of dissidents."
‘On the Ground With Syria’s News Smugglers‘ (Matthew Shaer, The New Republic)
"In September, the United Nations released a report confirming that surface-to-surface rockets carrying sarin gas had indeed struck Ghouta. But it was the shaky, fuzzy videos — carried by almost every Western news channel — that captured the world’s attention. Never before have we been so dependent on courageous citizens, rather than professional journalists, for what we know about a war. The motives of these amateur reporters, though, are varied and complex and often difficult to discern.
Syria is now the most dangerous country in the world for reporters: According to the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, at least 114 journalists have died there since the spring of 2011. Among the dead are seasoned correspondents like the American Marie Colvin, who was killed in Homs in 2012, and freelancers like the Frenchman Olivier Voisin, who was wounded in February near Idlib and later died in Turkey. Meanwhile, 16 foreign journalists are officially missing, along with an untold number of fixers and translators. Because of voluntary media blackouts — enforced to avoid encouraging would-be kidnappers — the real number is almost certainly higher.
As the conflict continues, Syria is becoming more dangerous still. By one estimate, there are now more than 1,000 rebel groups operating in the country, some secular and some — such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS — decidedly jihadist. Regime forces have pushed back the rebels in key areas, and the Free Syrian Army, or FSA, is often unable to protect reporters as it once did, or ensure safe passage through rebel-held areas."
–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber
Yochi Dreazen is a Managing Editor for News at Foreign Policy. He is also writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security. His book about military suicide was published by Random House's Crown division in 2014.
Prior to joining Foreign Policy, Dreazen was a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the senior national security correspondent for National Journal. He began his career at the Wall Street Journal and spent 11 years at the newspaper, most recently as its military correspondent. He was born in Chicago, and later attended the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he edited the award-winning daily campus newspaper and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999 with degrees in History and English. He was hired by the Wall Street Journal immediately after graduation. Dreazen arrived in Iraq in April 2003 with the Fourth Infantry Division, and spent the next two years living in Baghdad as the Wall Street Journal's main Iraq correspondent.
Dreazen has made more than 12 lengthy trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and has spent a total of nearly four years on the ground in the two countries, mostly doing front-line combat embeds. He has reported from more than 20 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, China, Israel, Japan, Turkey, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, Dreazen received the Military Reporters & Editors association’s top award for domestic military reporting in a large publication for a series of articles about military suicide and the psychological traumas impacting veterans of the two long wars. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Smithsonian, Tablet and the New Republic and he appears regularly on TV and radio programs such as NPR's Diane Rehm Show and PBS' Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. Dreazen gives frequent lectures about journalism, the wars and current events to both civilian and military audiences.
Dreazen lives in Washington with his wife, Annie Rosenzweig Dreazen, and their beloved Golden Retriever, Charlie.| The Cable |
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| Report |