Rival factions in Yemen have agreed to create a new legislative body, the People’s Transitional Council, U.N. mediator Jamal Benomar announced Friday.
- 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>
Rival factions in Yemen have agreed to create a new legislative body, the People’s Transitional Council, U.N. mediator Jamal Benomar announced Friday. Under the plan, Yemen’s old 301-member house of representatives, predominantly consisting of members of the former ruling party, will stay in place. However, the new transitional council will replace the traditional upper house. While the number of representatives has not been specified, they will include Yemenis from traditionally unrepresented sectors, including the South, as well as women and youth. Though the deal fell short of a comprehensive agreement, after multiple sessions of dialogue it is the first major step toward reconciliation since the takeover of power by the Houthi movement, and Benomar characterized it as a breakthrough toward a final deal.
A joint Iraqi and Kurdish military force comprised of between 20,000 and 25,000 troops is preparing for an operation to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State militants. A senior military official from the U.S. Central Command discussed the operation in a news briefing Thursday, during which he said the aim was for the operation to begin between April and May. He also noted that Mosul was being held by between 1,000 and 2,000 Islamic State fighters. Also on Thursday, a U.S. official said the United States and Turkey signed an agreement to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition fighters. According to the deal, Turkey and the United States will provide an equal number of trainers, and Turkey will provide one of four training facilities. According to the United States, the goal is for the fighters to counter Islamic State militants, however, Turkish officials indicated they could also target Syrian government forces.
- Three car bombs in the eastern Libyan city of Qubbah killed up to 40 people Friday.
- The United States and Britain have rejected a proposal to lift an arms embargo on Libya saying the country first needs a national unity government.
- As U.S. and Iranian negotiators head to Geneva to resume nuclear talks, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Thursday that Iran is still withholding information on suspected nuclear weapons work.
Arguments and Analysis
‘Yemen and the Saudi-Iranian ‘Cold War’’ (Peter Salisbury, Chatham House)
“Yemeni and Western officials believe that Iran’s ties with anti-establishment groups in Yemen go beyond the Houthis, repeatedly claiming that Tehran has close ties with leading members of Al Hirak al-Janoubi, or the Southern Movement, a coalition of secessionist groups that want to split Yemen down pre-unification lines. Regional security officials have similarly worried about the impact that southern secession would have on maritime security in the Indian Ocean, and what increased Iranian influence in southern Yemen would mean for a stretch of water that is crucial to Gulf trade. None the less, to characterize either group as a true ‘proxy’ of Iran that shares Tehran’s wider goals is to oversimplify the relationships involved – and overstate the degree to which such claims can be substantiated.
The bigger issue for Saudi Arabia and the United States in the short and medium term will be how to achieve a working relationship with a key power broker in a strategically important country that is unlikely to feel the need to serve their interests in the way that past regimes in Sana’a have – but which will require the financial backing of its much wealthier neighbours, above all Riyadh, to prevent its economic collapse, leveraging fears of an influx of economic migrants into the Gulf states.”
‘Hamas Nears the Breaking Point’ (Benedetta Berti and Zack Gold, Foreign Affairs)
“Since the end of the summer 2014 Gaza war, Egypt has increased the political and economic pressure on Hamas. The moves are in line with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s crackdown on Islamist opposition at home. After all, Hamas originally grew out of the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Egyptian government claims that the broader group is part of a well-organized international conspiracy against Egypt and that destroying it is an existential necessity. Egypt’s Gaza policy must be viewed through this lens: to neutralize the Brotherhood at home, it aims to undermine the group’s potential allies elsewhere, including by breaking Hamas’s hold of Gaza.”
— Mary Casey-Baker
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images