U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met Wednesday in Geneva for intensive discussions ahead of a new round of nuclear negotiations set to begin Jan. 15.
- By Mary Casey-Baker<p> Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p>
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met Wednesday in Geneva for intensive discussions ahead of a new round of nuclear negotiations set to begin Jan. 15. Kerry and Zarif expressed hope that they could accelerate the negotiation process. However, U.S. lawmakers are moving ahead with a plan to impose additional sanctions on Iran, despite concerns it could derail negotiations. As the parties gathered in Geneva, Iran’s judiciary indicted U.S.-Iranian journalist, Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, who has been imprisoned since July. Iran’s state news agency reported Rezaian’s case was being referred to a Revolutionary Court, though it did not release a trial date nor list the charges against the journalist. While meeting with Zarif, Kerry brought up Rezaian, as well as other Americans detained in Iran. Earlier, Zarif said “This is a judicial matter, so we will have to wait for the judiciary to move forward.”
Activists reported that Syrian opposition fighters and local government officials have agreed on a 10-day truce beginning Thursday in the last rebel-controlled district of the city of Homs. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has released a report on the declining living conditions of Syrian refugees in Jordan. Amid U.S.-led airstrikes and resistance by Kurdish forces, Islamic State militants are losing control of the Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) near the Turkish border. Besides Kobani, U.S. defense officials have acknowledged that Islamic State militants have gained ground in Syria, despite U.S. airstrikes. Though the U.S.-led campaign has been focused more on Iraq, where the Islamic State has lost momentum, Iraqis are criticizing the coalition effort saying it is insufficient and too slow.
- The United States has transferred five Yemeni men from the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to Oman and Estonia.
- A 12-year-old boy was shot dead Wednesday, the sixth person to be killed in recent unrest in the predominantly Kurdish town of Cizre in southeast Turkey.
Arguments and Analysis
‘Libya: On the Brink’ (Giancarlo Lima, American Security Project)
“The United Nations special envoy to Libya recently issued a dire warning that Libya is nearing a ‘point of no return.’ The UN is currently working to mediate between the factions on the ground who are clashing over who should rightfully govern the country. Further complicating matters is the 6 November Supreme Court ruling declaring the internationally recognized government as unconstitutional. The ousted government of al-Thinni has of course denied the ruling by declaring that the Supreme Court, based in Tripoli, was pressured into making such a decision. In the eyes of the parties involved, neither side has the legitimacy to govern.
In order to begin constructing an inclusive and legitimate government the security conditions must be resolved. The first step to this would be the agreement of a ceasefire so all parties involved can have productive negotiations. The goal is to have a peaceful end to hostilities so a national reconciliation can begin and a clear path for Libya’s future can be charted. Currently, Libyan civilians are caught amongst the fighting which has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands of casualties.”
‘Egypt’s deep state gets back to business’ (Ahmed Aboulenein, GlobalPost)
“A series of networks led by the military and including other security forces, the judiciary, senior bureaucrats and powerful businesses has always ruled Egypt. These elements, known as the “deep state,” predate Mubarak himself. The deep state barely faltered during Morsi’s brief tenure in power, with the former president preferring to placate the deep state rather than face it.
Mubarak once sat atop the deep state, balancing the factions and sometimes playing them against each other to secure his rule. Now that balance is all but gone, with the military reigning supreme and the rest accepting their roles as followers.”
‘Middle East Turns Back Clock as Remnants of Old Regimes Rise Again’ (Yaroslav Trofimov, The Wall Street Journal)
“Egypt’s new authorities have since imprisoned tens of thousands of political foes and imposed new restrictions on protesting, the media, nongovernmental organizations and human-rights groups.
Elsewhere in the region, an outright Saudi military intervention choked the Arab Spring in Bahrain.
And in still-democratic Tunisia, the only relative bright spot, voters in December elected as president the 88-year-old former speaker of the ousted dictatorship’s rubber-stamp parliament. He promptly named another senior former regime figure as prime minister.”
— Mary Casey-Baker
RICK WILKING/AFP/Getty Images