The parties to the civil war in Yemen have agreed to implement a ceasefire in the run-up to peace talks set to begin next week. The arrangement was brokered in talks in Sanaa overseen by U.N. Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The de-escalation comes after a particularly bloody weekend in which 57 people were killed. Half of those died in fighting between Houthi and loyalist forces in Taiz, which has been an active front in the war for months. Other deadly clashes were reported in Shabwa, and two pro-government troops were killed in an ambush that has been attributed to the Islamic State. Saudi Arabia announced last week that it would be winding down its intervention in Yemen.
Manhunt in Turkey after Islamic State Bombing in Istanbul
A suicide bomber killed four people — one Iranian and three Israeli citizens — on a popular commercial street in Istanbul on Saturday. The bomber has been identified as Mehmet Ozturk, a Turkish man from the Turkey-Syria border town of Gaziantep, who is believed to have been working with the Islamic State. The Islamic State is also believed to be responsible for another attack in January targeting tourists in Istanbul. Turkish officials said that five people have been arrested in connection to the bombing and that a manhunt is on for three others believed to be planning more attacks.
- A U.S. Marine, Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, was killed by rocket fire from the Islamic State while providing force protection for U.S. military advisors in Makhmour, southeast of Mosul, Iraq; Cardin is the second U.S. combat death in the fight against the Islamic State.
- Russian officials are calling for an urgent meeting with U.S. diplomats to discuss the rules of engagement to enforce the ceasefire in Syria and said they would begin responding unilaterally to violations with military force tomorrow without clarification.
- After interrogating Salah Abdelsalam, who participated in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, officials in Brussels say the Islamic State’s network in Europe is larger than they realized and that individuals trained in Syria are exploiting the refugee crisis to gain entry to Europe and plot attacks.
- Vice President Joe Biden addressed the annual AIPAC convention yesterday; in his remarks he criticized both Israeli and Palestinian intransigence on the peace process, singling out Mahmoud Abbas’ failure to condemn the recent spate of violence and Israel’s expansion of settlements for criticism.
- Seventeen Yemeni Jews have been evacuated from the country in an effort organized by the Jewish Agency and U.S. State Department, bringing the number of Jews evacuated from Yemen in recent years to more than 200; approximately 50 Jews remain in Yemen and declined to be evacuated.
Arguments and Analysis
“Denying the obvious in Egypt” (Brian Whitaker, al-Bab)
“The regime has also been engaging in some rather transparent diversionary tactics which, again, don’t look like the actions of an innocent party. In an interview with the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, Sisi tried to equate Regeni’s hideous death with the case of Adel Moawwad, a 53-year-old Egyptian chef whose family reported him missing in Italy last October. Although Italian police have so far failed to trace Moawwad, it’s unclear whether any crime has been committed and there is certainly no reason to suppose he has been abducted and tortured. Nevertheless, the Egyptians have been using this to ‘neutralise’ Italy’s demands for cooperation over Regeni by making demands of their own for cooperation over Moawwad. In a similar vein, regime supporters have been attacking the European parliament after it passed a resolution calling for ‘a swift, transparent and impartial joint investigation into the case of Mr Regeni in accordance with international obligations, and for every effort to be made to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice as soon as possible’.”
“The CIA Just Declassified the Document that Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion” (Jason Leopold, Vice)
“For the first time, the public can now read the hastily drafted CIA document that led Congress to pass a joint resolution authorizing the use of military force in Iraq, a costly war launched March 20, 2003 that was predicated on ‘disarming’ Iraq of its (non-existent) WMD, overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and ‘freeing’ the Iraqi people. A report issued by the government funded think-tank RAND Corporation last December titled ‘Blinders, Blunders and Wars’ said the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ‘contained several qualifiers that were dropped…. As the draft NIE went up the intelligence chain of command, the conclusions were treated increasingly definitively.’ An example of that: According to the newly declassified NIE, the intelligence community concluded that Iraq ‘probably has renovated a [vaccine] production plant’ to manufacture biological weapons ‘but we are unable to determine whether [biological weapons] agent research has resumed.’ The NIE also said Hussein did not have ‘sufficient material’ to manufacture any nuclear weapons and ‘the information we have on Iraqi nuclear personnel does not appear consistent with a coherent effort to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.’”
-J. Dana Stuster
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images