Syria Talks Marked by Saudi-Iranian Tension

Syria Talks Marked by Saudi-Iranian Tension

After a series of informal meetings yesterday, official talks on the Syrian civil war began today in Vienna. Seventeen countries, the European Union, and the United Nations are participating in the discussions, but representatives from the Assad regime and Syrian opposition were not invited. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was “hopeful” the talks could reach a breakthrough, but noted that “it is very difficult.” Experts are concerned that the talks could be derailed by animosity between the Saudi and Iranian delegations; it is the first time Iran has been invited to participate in international talks on Syria. “If they’re not serious, we will also know and stop wasting time with them,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said this week.

The need for a resolution to the war was underscored by reports this morning that Syrian government forces had fired a dozen missiles into a marketplace in Douma, killing at least 40 people and wounding more than 100 others.

Syrian Activists Found Beheaded in Turkey

Two Syrian citizen journalists and anti-Islamic State activists were found beheaded in Sanliurfa, a town in southeastern Turkey. One of the two men has been identified as Ibrahim Abd al Qader, a member of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, an organization that documents and publicizes Islamic State atrocities. Islamic State-affiliated Twitter accounts have claimed responsibility for the killings.

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  • A rare tropical cyclone is expected to hit the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula this weekend, dropping as much as eight times the amount of rain Yemen and Oman usually see in a year.


  • Israeli security forces are implementing new checkpoints and security checks in the city of Hebron to limit Palestinian access to certain districts of the city in response to several attempted attacks there.


  • German-born Islamic State member Denis Cuspert, better known as the rapper Deso Dogg, was killed in a U.S. airstrike near Raqqa; Cuspert joined the Islamic State in 2012 and appeared in several propaganda videos.


  • Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, was detained by Iranian authorities earlier this month and is being held at Evin Prison.


  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he is “shamed as a member of this European leadership” because of their handling of the migrant crisis; 40 people are dead or missing after their boat fell apart while trying to transit from Morocco to Spain.

Arguments and Analysis

Rethinking Yemen’s Security: Why Stabilizing Yemen Must Start in Aden” (Nadwa Al-Dawsari, Project on Middle East Democracy)

“In Yemen, where regional powers are deeply enmeshed in the crisis, national agendas are fiercely contested, the military remains splintered, and the central government has little control or legitimacy, solutions need to start small and empower local actors to build peace from the bottom up. The major southern port city of Aden, which serves as the de facto capital for the Yemeni government while the Houthis remain in control of the capital city of Sanaa, is a crucial place to begin such an approach. In late July, after four months of clashes, southern resistance and pro-government Yemeni army forces, backed by Arab coalition forces with heavy weapons, aerial bombing, and other battlefield assistance, pushed out Houthi and Saleh’s forces from Aden and from key southern governorates. In July, Yemeni Vice President and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah promised Aden’s residents the swift return of governance, security, and reconstruction. But instead, local leaders have been marginalized, formal security institutions are not functioning, and the situation is deteriorating dangerously.”


Why I’ve made my home at a kibbutz near Gaza, on the verge of hell” (Amir Tibon, Times of Israel)

“Even though Israel is allowing hundreds of trucks full of cement to enter into Gaza every day, the reconstruction process has been very slow so far. Countries that promised to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to Gaza, have so far kept the money in the bank. Gaza today is just as miserable as it was last year. And despite constant rumors about secret negotiations between Israel and Hamas, supposedly held in order to avoid the next round, it seems that so far, no understandings have been reached between the two sides. ‘For us, a new war would mean that all the hard work we did over the last year would go to waste,’ Itai Maoz told me. ‘To prevent such a war, we need to find a way to improve the situation on the other side of the border as well. If we don’t do that, the next disaster is just a matter of time.’ The events of the last few weeks have made this warning even more relevant. In fact, it might even be too late: when lies and incitement are spreading fire in Jerusalem and the West Bank, it’s very hard to keep it from eventually reaching Gaza. Today, when I Iook at Shajaiya from the fields of Nahal Oz, almost a year after moving here, the debate over who won the last war, suddenly feels meaningless. If another war breaks out tomorrow, everyone will lose — once again.”


Correction, Oct. 30, 2015: Siamak Namazi is not a co-founder of the National Iranian American Council. An earlier version of this brief mistakenly said he was.

-J. Dana Stuster