The Middle East Channel

Kerry Meets With Zarif for Talks on Iran’s Nuclear Program

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna Thursday as world powers and Iran push to negotiate a deal over Tehran’s nuclear program ahead of the November 24 deadline. Kerry insisted there is no talk of an extension, but that discussions are focusing on "getting an agreement." ...

RONALD ZAK/AFP/Getty Images
RONALD ZAK/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna Thursday as world powers and Iran push to negotiate a deal over Tehran’s nuclear program ahead of the November 24 deadline. Kerry insisted there is no talk of an extension, but that discussions are focusing on "getting an agreement." Addressing British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond’s comments suggesting an extension may be warranted, Kerry acknowledged concerns over gaps in the negotiations but noted the parties had discussed the issues that would need to be part of a comprehensive agreement. Nonetheless, skepticism over reaching a deal by Monday is growing. Even if a deal is reached, it is likely an extension of the deadline would be necessary to finalize details and confirm acceptance of the agreement in the respective capitals. 

Syria-Iraq

Iraqi officials reported suspected Islamic State militants attacked a government building in the center of the Anbar province capital of Ramadi in part of a seemingly coordinated assault in the city and surrounding villages. On Thursday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said that some of the 1,500 additional troops slated for a mission to advise and train Iraqi security forces would begin deploying in the coming weeks, even if Congress has not yet approved funding. Additionally, Iraqi Kurdish officials are urging the United States to provide heavy weapons to assist Kurdish forces combating Islamic State militants. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appealed for "international cooperation" in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Headlines

  • Israeli forces have arrested four Palestinians the Shin Bet security agency said were plotting to assassinate Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
  • Egyptian President Sisi said pardons are being considered for three imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists, but they would only be pardoned if it is "appropriate for Egyptian national security."
  • On November 22, Bahrain will hold its first general election since the 2011 uprisings, however the opposition has committed to boycott.
  • Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu arrived in Iraq, in the first visit from a Turkish prime minister in nearly four years, to meet with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in efforts to repair relations.

Arguments and Analysis

What Will Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State Do Next in Syria?‘ (Yezid Sayigh, Al-Hayat)

"Jabhat al-Nusra’s behavior in Syria’s Hama and Idlib provinces, where it already has an extensive presence, offers the most significant indication of what it sees ahead. It knew that the moderate opposition had agreed several months ago to fight it in the future, as part of a U.S. effort to eliminate extremists and make a deal with the regime. And so its move against the U.S. and Saudi-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front and Hazm Movement, in particular, was pre-emptive. But their threat was not imminent, suggesting that Jabhat al-Nusra is preparing to deal with other eventualities. It has become the main rebel force in the northwest, and has the capability to capture the opposition’s last two border crossings to Turkey, vital for rebel training and supply, humanitarian relief flows, and the movement of opposition activists and administrators.

The threat to the moderate wing of the Syrian rebellion is real. But although the Assad regime has taken heart from their discomfit, calculating that the dual rise of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State will compel the U.S. and its core allies in the Friends of Syria coalition to deal with it, it has little cause for complacency. In fact it has become increasingly vulnerable to the Islamic State, which poses a growing threat at several strategic locations along its eastern flank."

The Egypt-Gaza Buffer: More Harm than Good for Sinai Security‘ (Zack Gold, The Institute for National Security Studies)

"The Egyptian military announced recently that it would put in place a long-planned ‘security zone’ on its eastern border, where the Sinai Peninsula abuts the Gaza Strip. Egyptian forces began evacuating eight hundred homes in Egyptian Rafah, all within 500 meters of the Gaza border, displacing an estimated ten thousand Sinai residents; the size of the proposed secured area was subsequently doubled to 1000 meters. Policymakers in Cairo believe this buffer zone will stop the infiltration of weapons and militants through tunnels from Gaza. However, unless handled skillfully, such a move could drive an already marginalized population into the arms of Sinai-based militants, further complicating Cairo’s counterinsurgency operations."

Every breath you take: the environmental consequences of Iran sanctions‘ (Nazanin Soroush and Kaveh Madani, The Guardian)

"In the case of Iran, sanctions have increased a thirst for accelerated development to expand water-resource infrastructure, generate power, and secure food and energy for Iranians. With aggressive, home-grown policies Iran has managed to evade the sanctions to an extent, while overlooking the environmental consequences.

Turning petrochemical factories into oil refineries is one example. In 2010, Iran imported 40% of its consumer fuel. When President Barack Obama introducedpenalties for selling petrol to Iran and imports fell by 75%, Iran responded by developing its own refining and producing what is today the major cause of its deadly air pollution. Reports suggest that Iran’s petrol contains ten times the level of contaminants of imported petrol and its diesel 800 times the international standard for sulphur."

Mary Casey-Baker

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