Report

Diplomats Meet in Vienna for Syria Talks

Talks in Vienna to discuss resolving the Syrian civil war begin today. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is leading a delegation to the talks — it is the first time that Iran has been invited to participate in negotiations on Syria, a move that has drawn ire from Syrian rebel groups. The United States, Russia, ...

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Talks in Vienna to discuss resolving the Syrian civil war begin today. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is leading a delegation to the talks — it is the first time that Iran has been invited to participate in negotiations on Syria, a move that has drawn ire from Syrian rebel groups. The United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, among others, are also participating in the talks. The Assad regime and Syrian rebel groups are not part of the Vienna discussions.

In a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace delivered shortly before departing for Vienna, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the “challenge that we face in Syria today is nothing less than to chart a course out of hell.” Kerry stressed the importance of a political solution to the civil war for U.S. counterterrorism efforts. “At the end of the day, nothing would do more to bolster the fight against Daesh than a political transition that sidelines Assad so that we can unite more of the country against extremism,” he said.

Saudi Arabia Drops Arms to Allies in Yemen but Optimistic about Ending War

Saudi Arabia airdropped weapons to Yemeni ground forces in Taiz yesterday, continuing its assault on Houthi rebel forces. But Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir expressed optimism about ending the war, telling reporters, “One of the indications that the campaign is nearing its end is the fact that … Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis are accepting U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 and entering into talks the U.N. on that basis.” Yemeni officials say they will request accession to the Gulf Cooperation Council after the war, Al-Arabiya reports.

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Headlines

  • Financial pressures in the Iraqi government have officials delaying planned weapons deals in order to prioritize hiring 10,000 more paramilitary forces to fight the Islamic State.

 

  • Islamic extremists threw a bomb from a motorcycle at the campus of the University of Aden, damaging the College of Commerce and Economics; militants had previously threatened the school for not enforcing gender segregation in classes.

 

  • Two more knife attacks occurred in Hebron, leaving one Israel Defense Force soldier wounded and the two assailants dead; there have been five stabbing incidents in Hebron this week alone.

 

  • Iranian poets Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Musavi have been sentenced to 99 lashes for shaking hands with the opposite sex and lengthy prison terms for “insulting the state,” according to a new U.N. report.

 

  • Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for making comments deemed insulting to Islam, has been awarded the European parliament’s Sakharov freedom of thought prize; Badawi was also awarded the Pen Pinter Prize for free speech earlier this month.

Arguments and Analysis

Do Syrian refugees pose a terrorism threat?” (Daniel L. Byman, Markaz)

“If the refugees are treated as a short-term humanitarian problem rather than as a long-term integration challenge, then we are likely to see this problem worsen. Radicals will be among those who provide the religious, educational, and social support for the refugees — creating a problem where none existed. Indeed, the refugees need a comprehensive and long-term package that includes political rights, educational support, and economic assistance as well as immediate humanitarian aid, particularly if they are admitted in large numbers. If they cannot be integrated into local communities, then they risk perpetuating, or even exacerbating, the tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Europe. Despite their current gratitude for sanctuary in Europe, over time the refugees may be disenfranchised and become alienated. We’ve seen this movie before, where anger and disaffection fester, creating ‘suspect communities’ that do not cooperate with law enforcement and security agencies and allow terrorists to recruit and operate with little interference.”

 

Saudi-Egyptian Relations at the Crossroads” (Fahad Nazer, Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington)

“However, the mutual push toward warmer Egyptian-Saudi ties is not taking place in a vacuum. There are several significant policy differences between them, for example regarding Syria and Yemen, which the two countries must finesse in order to remain close. And Saudi Arabia, in particular, is developing a new and more assertive regional profile and proactive security doctrine that adds an additional context to relations with Egypt. Riyadh’s unprecedented military operation against the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen and its publicly acknowledged participation in U.S.-led airstrikes against strongholds of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, are a stark departure from Saudi Arabia’s traditional security and foreign policy postures that favored behind-the-scenes diplomacy and accommodation.”

-J. Dana Stuster

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