Report

Cautious Optimism for Syria Ceasefire ahead of Resumption of Talks

Representatives of the nations participating in the International Syrian Support Group met yesterday to assess the state of the ceasefire, the third such meeting this week. U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura remains cautiously optimistic about the reduction in violence ahead of proximity talks set to resume next week. Though he caveated his ...

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Representatives of the nations participating in the International Syrian Support Group met yesterday to assess the state of the ceasefire, the third such meeting this week. U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura remains cautiously optimistic about the reduction in violence ahead of proximity talks set to resume next week. Though he caveated his remarks by saying that “we have to admit…there are still a number of places where fighting has continued,” he said yesterday that “progress has been visible.” Veteran diplomat Jan Egeland, who is advising on the provision of humanitarian aid, said that assistance has reached 115,000 Syrians over the last two weeks.

Syria is recovering today from a nationwide blackout that knocked out internet and power in every province, according to reports from Syrian state media. The Syrian electricity minister said power is coming back online and is expected to be operating at previous capacity by midnight. The cause of the outage is unknown.

Two Islamic State Hostages Freed in Libya

Two Italian civilians who were being held hostage by the Islamic State in Libya are free today. Local Libyan security forces in Sabratha said the men were freed in raids conducted against Islamic State hideouts, but other reports have suggested that a partial ransom was paid to secure the men’s release. The men have been held hostage since being captured from a compound owned by the energy company Eni last year; two others were also held captive but were killed in a firefight earlier this week.

Headlines

  • A drone strike killed four suspected al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants as they drove on a road in Shabwa Province, Yemen; AQAP propaganda pamphlets were blown out of the car and found on the road after the strike.

 

  • Denmark will vote next month on a proposal to expand its operations against the Islamic State to include strikes against targets in Syria, in addition to the targets it currently strikes in Iraq; political parties have already expressed their support for expanding participation in the air campaign.

 

  • Two Turkish police officers were killed today and 35 others were wounded in the town of Nusaybin, in southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border, when a car bomb was detonated by Kurdish rebels.

 

  • Under a new agreement, Europe will help invest in the Jordanian commercial and manufacturing sectors and give preferential treatment to Jordanian imports in an effort to employ as many as 200,000 Syrian refugees.

 

  • A Turkish court sentenced two Syrian men involved in the death of Syrian refugee toddler Aylan Kurdi to more than four years in prison; the men were convicted of smuggling people to Europe but were acquitted on the charge of causing death by conscious neglect.

Arguments and Analysis

Netanyahu and IDF Are Split on the Iran Nuclear Deal” (Leore Ben-Chorin, National Interest)

“An underlying assumption of many in the security establishment is that a nuclear-armed Iran is presently the only existential threat to Israel and therefore must take priority. Because the Iranian nuclear deal diminishes the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, at least for the near-term, many think it presents Israel with opportunities despite some associated risks. The most recent former IDF head, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz, stated that the deal will allow Israel to ‘build defensive and offensive capabilities that will be used as deterrents,’ while former military intelligence head, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, has written that the deal ‘buys Israel time to develop clandestine as well as overt thwarting capabilities for the long term.’ The security establishment seems confident it will be able to manage the negative repercussions of the deal, which include the strengthening of Hezbollah — what Lt. Gen. Eisenkot considers the ‘major military challenge currently facing Israel.’ The governing coalition seems to see things differently. The underlying assumption of Netanyahu and other politicians is that Iran’s ability to maintain its nuclear infrastructure and continue its destabilizing regional activities eclipses the importance of delaying a nuclear-capable Iran.”

 

Shifting U.S. interests in the Middle East” (Daniel Byman, Markaz)

“This counterterrorism emphasis meshes with U.S. domestic politics. Polls indicate an American public still suspicious of U.S. leadership in the Middle East (and the world at large), but also increasingly in favor of strong action against the Islamic State. So any administration has a political incentive — and a political reality — to be chary of intervention or heavy involvement in the Middle East, aside from counterterrorism. As I’ve argued elsewhere, such a counterterrorism focus is a mistake — even if our primary goal is fighting terrorism. The source of terrorism in the Middle East is linked to civil wars, poor governance, the unresolved Palestinian issue, and numerous other problems. A narrow focus on counterterrorism also risks jeopardizing other interests, such as the ones above, that may resume their traditional importance in the long-term.”

-J. Dana Stuster

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

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