The Middle East Channel

The United States and Russia begin renewed push for peace conference on Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, joined by U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, have begun a second day of talks in Geneva over securing Syria’s chemical weapons. Kerry has described the talks as "constructive." Kerry and Lavrov plan to meet on the sidelines of the ...

PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images
PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, joined by U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, have begun a second day of talks in Geneva over securing Syria’s chemical weapons. Kerry has described the talks as "constructive." Kerry and Lavrov plan to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York in about two weeks to schedule a date for the long delayed Geneva 2 peace conference. The United Nations confirmed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad submitted an application to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. However, there are reports that an elite Syrian military unit over recent months has scattered the regime’s chemical arsenal to over 50 sites so that they will be harder to track. Meanwhile, light arms from the United States have reportedly begun reaching opposition fighters. According to Khaled al-Saleh, spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the United States began providing military assistance after confirming weapons would not flow to extremist groups. The SNC statement has come after a Washington Post report that the CIA is overseeing the transfer of arms, which will flow covertly through Turkey and Jordan. However, the CIA has declined to comment, and some U.S. sources have expressed doubt U.S. weapons are currently in the hands of the rebels. Additionally, on Thursday, Free Syrian Army head General Salim Idriss said arms deliveries had not yet reached opposition fighters. 

Headlines

  • Egypt’s military-led government has renewed the state of emergency for two months reminiscent of Mubarak-era security measures, meanwhile the detention of ousted President Morsi has been extended for 30 days.
  • A bomb hit a Sunni mosque near Baqouba, about 35 miles northeast of Iraq’s capital Baghdad, during prayers Friday killing 30 people and wounding 41 others.
  • Bulgaria is seeking to extradite two suspected Hezbollah members to try them for involvement in the 2012 suicide bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is scheduled to travel to Israel this weekend to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss peace talks with the Palestinians as well as the Syrian conflict.
  • Riot police used tear gas for a third night in efforts to break up protests in several cities across Turkey, which intensified after a 22-year-old man was killed in clashes with police in Antakya Tuesday.

Arguments and Analysis

Egypt After the Clampdown‘ (Sarah Carr, The Nation)

"Life in Egypt has mostly shrunk, politically, geographically, socially. For two long weeks, Egyptians in governorates affected by the unrest were under a curfew from 7 pm till 6 am. A frenzied scuttling began in Cairo around 5 pm, as shop shutters were banged shut and commuters began to head home. Daredevils who left too late faced the wrath of unpredictable army officers at checkpoints.

And then, from 7 pm, the terrible stillness. Curfew doesn’t suit Cairo, a city whose élan derives principally from its inhabitants and which is used to stretching and coming alive after the sun has set, in the cool of the evening. Without them there is nothing to see but the city’s decline, an ordinary face without the disguise of transformative makeup, the clear blue eyes of the river its only untouched feature.

The situation has slightly improved since the curfew was pushed back to 11 pm six days a week. Harried waiters now start the stopwatch at 9.30. But, stuck in your house for seven hours surrounded by that stillness, it is difficult not to feel trapped, to feel the walls closing in on you."

Sinai: Tipping Point or Pretext for Ouster?‘ (Sahar Aziz, Middle East Institute)

"In stark contrast to the hard-line responses of his predecessor, Morsi tasked his regime with holding meetings with tribal elders to hear complaints and their ideas for ending the bloodshed in the Sinai and Rafah. Rather than respond with force to their religious justifications for the use of violence, state officials were sent to Sinai to encourage an intellectual and jurisprudential revision of the interpretations of religious doctrine by extremists who issued fatwas to authorize killing innocent people. In November 2012, Morsi rejected outright General el-Sisi’s request to crack down on alleged terrorists in Sinai, reportedly stating, ‘I don’t want Muslims to shed the blood of fellow Muslims.’

Morsi also did what would have been unthinkable under the Mubarak regime; he ordered General el-Sisi to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in connection with the killings of 16 soldiers in Sinai. The military and internal security forces had been trained for over 60 years to view Islamists, whether the nonviolent Muslim Brotherhood or their more extremist jihadi counterparts, with deep suspicion. Indeed, many of these forces were responsible for the arrest, detention, and torture of some of the Brotherhood members who were now governing the country.

Hence it came as no surprise when el-Sisi refused to obey the president’s orders, deepening the rift between the two men — so much so that a frustrated Morsi was reported to have had to frequently remind el-Sisi of his rank as the commander in chief. In the end, Morsi’s Sinai strategy failed to stop the lucrative arms trade and moderate the extremists, but it succeeded in alienating the only stakeholder who could oust him from power: the Egyptian military."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

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