Report

Syrian Opposition Joins Peace Talks

The Syrian opposition, represented by the High Negotiation Committee, announced this weekend that they would join proximity talks in Geneva to discuss a resolution to the country’s civil war. Seventeen delegates from the opposition joined diplomats in Geneva on Saturday, despite the Assad regime not meeting the opposition’s demand that it abide by a U.N. ...

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The Syrian opposition, represented by the High Negotiation Committee, announced this weekend that they would join proximity talks in Geneva to discuss a resolution to the country’s civil war. Seventeen delegates from the opposition joined diplomats in Geneva on Saturday, despite the Assad regime not meeting the opposition’s demand that it abide by a U.N. resolution to allow humanitarian access and halt bombardments of civilian neighborhoods. “We are going to Geneva to put to the test the seriousness of the international community in its promises to the Syrian people and to also test the seriousness of the regime in implementing its humanitarian obligations,” an opposition spokesman told reporters.

A series of three bombings targeting a Shia shine in the Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood of Damascus killed at least 70 people on Sunday. The Islamic State claimed credit for the attack. In Geneva, representatives of the Assad regime used the attack to bolster their position. “This confirms what the Syrian government has been saying over and over again about a link between terrorism and the backers and patrons of terrorism and the political groups that claim to be against terrorism,” a regime diplomat said. After the attack, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged all parties to the talks to continue working towards a diplomatic solution despite the violence and stressed the need for the regime to meet its humanitarian obligations.

Israel to Open Western Wall to Mixed-Gender Worshippers

On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet approved a plan to construct a new plaza at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where mixed-gender worshippers can gather and pray. The 15-5 vote addresses a controversy over gender segregation at the religious site that has drawn particular attention in recent years because of protests by the pro-integration organization Women of the Wall. The new plaza is expected to take a year to construct and open and will not affect the nearby al-Aqsa mosque.

Headlines

  • U.S. officials said they do not have information to corroborate a Saudi report that nine Americans were arrested by Saudi officials in a roundup of 33 terrorism suspects and do not believe the report is accurate.

 

  • Israeli troops have partially blocked access to the West Bank city of Ramallah; only residents are being allowed to enter and only humanitarian cases are allowed to leave after a shooting at a security checkpoint on Sunday.

 

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is traveling in Latin America, having departed on Saturday with stops in Peru, Ecuador, and Chile, with plans to discuss international issues and business ties.

 

  • A well-known Salafi cleric in Yemen, Samahan Abdel-Aziz, or “Sheikh Rawi,” was abducted and quickly murdered in Aden on Sunday, shortly after delivering a speech that sharply criticized al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State’s Yemeni affiliate.

 

  • The U.S. Treasury Department added two Lebanese men to its sanctions list last Thursday for funneling money to Hezbollah-affiliated businesses and individuals; Mohamad Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine are believed to have laundered money for the terrorist organization through a business, Trade Point International.

Arguments and Analysis

Possible War Crimes by Shia Militia” (Human Rights Watch)

“Deliberate killing of civilians and looting and unjustified destruction of civilian property when committed in the context of an armed conflict are serious violations of international humanitarian law, which is applicable to all parties fighting in Iraq, and may amount to war crimes. By formally including, on April 7, 2015, the Popular Mobilization Forces among the state forces, the Iraqi government has assumed ultimate responsibility for their actions. Abbas, a Sunni resident of Muqdadiya, who like others Human Rights Watch interviewed is not identified by his real name for his protection, said, ‘I know the militiaman [name withheld] and others who roam our streets. They are from the area. ISIS may have been behind the café bombing, but the attacks on Sunni houses, mosques, and people in our area was the League of the Righteous.’”

 

Iran, Terrorism, and Nonproliferation after the Nuclear Deal” (Radha Iyengar and Rebecca Friedman Lissner, War on the Rocks)

“As Iran re-enters global markets, the Obama administration needs a strategy that accounts for the deal’s potentially adverse implications for U.S. counterterrorism policy as well as its advantages for nonproliferation policy. Although the strategy exemplified by the JCPOA correctly prioritizes counter-proliferation over counterterrorism, a successful U.S. regional strategy in the Middle East requires that Washington confront this tradeoff head-on. The Obama administration should develop policies that can capitalize on the nonproliferation success while also mitigating the heightened risks of terrorism. In particular, given the risks associated with direct military action against Iran, the United States could expand its use of counter-threat finance tools to better contain Iranian support for terrorism.”

-J. Dana Stuster

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

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