Report

Assad, Rebels Agree to Ceasefire to Begin on Saturday

The Assad regime and opposition High Negotiation Committee (HNC) have agreed to abide by a “cessation of hostilities,” announced yesterday by the United States and Russia, that is scheduled to take effect on Saturday, February 27. The plan is designed to halt the conflict between most factions, but allows for continued strikes targeting U.N.-designated terrorist ...

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The Assad regime and opposition High Negotiation Committee (HNC) have agreed to abide by a “cessation of hostilities,” announced yesterday by the United States and Russia, that is scheduled to take effect on Saturday, February 27. The plan is designed to halt the conflict between most factions, but allows for continued strikes targeting U.N.-designated terrorist groups, including the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. In a statement released by the HNC last night, opposition leaders said they are “committed to the success of the international efforts dedicated to ending Syrian bloodshed” and called on the regime to allow humanitarian access to besieged towns.

Russian airstrikes have continued to target rebel-held areas of Aleppo, bombarding their last remaining access points to the city. Skeptics of the forthcoming ceasefire are concerned that Russian airstrikes targeting rebel groups will continue under the justification that Nusra fighters are intermingled with members of more moderate groups. With the news of the ceasefire, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu downplayed rumors of a Turkish-Saudi intervention in Syria, saying it is “not on the agenda” and that any intervention would involve coordination with the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State. The United States has also increased the tempo of its airstrikes against the Islamic State in recent days, carrying out dozens of strikes over the weekend in support of the Syrian Democratic Forces rebel coalition.

Iranian Media Fundraise to Reinvigorate Call to Assassinate Author

Twenty-seven years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini first issued a fatwa calling for the death of The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, Iranian media have recently raised $600,000 to add to the bounty for Rushdie’s assassination. The fundraising drive was reported by Iran’s state-run Fars news agency. Last year, Iran withdrew from participating in a book fair in Frankfurt when Rushdie was announced as a speaker.

Headlines

  • Fighters from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have joined pro-government forces backed by the United Arab Emirates in the battle to take Taiz from Houthi militia, according to the BBC.

 

  • Speaking to the country’s parliament today, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu claimed that the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia was receiving orders from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and that the two groups had coordinated the deadly bombing of buses carrying soldiers in Ankara last week.

 

  • Siamak Namazi, a businessman with dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship who was arrested in Iran in October, has been denied access to his lawyer during his imprisonment, according to his family.

 

  • Mohammed al-Qeq, a Hamas activist being held in administrative detention without charge or trial by Israel, has surpassed previous records for hunger strikes and, at 89 days without food or treatment, is in “uncharted medical territory.”

 

  • Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi will give a speech in Houston, Texas, today in which he is expected to discuss a proposal for reductions on oil output to drive up prices if other countries, notably Russia, agree to take similar measures.

Arguments and Analysis

The Moral Hazard of the Fight against the Islamic State in Iraq” (Craig Whiteside, War on the Rocks)

“What struck me about [Iraqi government special representative Basam Ridha] al-Hussaini’s answers was not his deft deflection of questions about Iranian influence over certain elements in the PMU, but his thorough description of the vetting of new members. Al-Hussaini contrasted current efforts with the recruitment of the Sunni Awakening by the United States and Iraq in 2006-7. Then, the United States was fine with recruiting ‘outlaws’ who had fought and killed Americans and Iraqis; now, the process includes a judicial review to prevent ‘outlaws’ and ‘terrorists’ from joining while allowing those innocent of past crimes to become members of the PMU. Since ‘outlaws’ and ‘terrorists’ uniformly describe Sunni groups in common Iraqi parlance, it could be safe to assume that the bar will be higher for former Sunni Awakening members and resistance fighters than it would be for former members of the unofficially government-sanctioned Shia militias, many of whom were never vetted when the PMU was originally formed around them in 2014.”

 

Another Casualty of ISIS: Study Abroad” (David Millar, Overt Action)

“But the Middle East and North Africa — the area containing most of the world’s Muslim-majority nations — represent barely 2% of the total. And even this statistic is deceiving, because the single most popular Middle Eastern destination is Israel. There’s nothing wrong with studying in Israel, of course, but last year the tiny country hosted more Americans than all the Muslim-majority Middle Eastern nations combined. True, Jordan and the UAE get a substantial number, but 11 out of the remaining 15 Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and North Africa had fewer than 30 American students each. That’s .0001%, if you’re counting. Why does this matter for intelligence? Because a crucial part of doing the job is providing context for understanding what’s going on in the world. We can have the best HUMINT, SIGINT, and IMINT in the world, but as an analyst if you can’t bring a sense of cultural context to what you’re seeing, you can’t help the policymaker see what’s really going on.”

-J. Dana Stuster

GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images

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