International disarmament experts arrive in Syria

A team of 20 international disarmament experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Syria Tuesday. The OPCW is slated to impound, dismantle, remove, or destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal by mid-2014. The advanced team will lay the groundwork meeting with Syrian officials ahead of field inspections. A second team ...

STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

A team of 20 international disarmament experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Syria Tuesday. The OPCW is slated to impound, dismantle, remove, or destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal by mid-2014. The advanced team will lay the groundwork meeting with Syrian officials ahead of field inspections. A second team is of 20 inspectors is expected to arrive in Syria next week to begin dismantling equipment used to assemble chemical weapons. This is the first time the OPCW has been requested to destroy a chemical weapons stockpile during a running civil war. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said that of the 19 sites the Syrian government declared to the OPCW in September, seven are in combat zones. Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Moallem claimed Western countries provided chemical weapons for the Syrian opposition that were used in an attack on August 21. Additionally, he said "foreign terrorists from more than 83 countries" are killing Syrian soldiers and civilians. Speaking to the BBC, Moallem confirmed that Syria would comply with the OPCW to relinquish its chemical arms. He also stated that peace talks are vital for Syria, but that a conference in Geneva "cannot succeed" if countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar continue financing and supporting the rebels. On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed doubt that Western countries would be able to get Syrian opposition representatives to the table in time for a mid-November start of peace talks. Lavrov's comments came shortly after U.N. and Arab League Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said the November date is not certain due to divisions within the rebel forces.

Headlines

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has announced a reform package including measures for increased Kurdish language rights, however it is criticized for not going far enough, particularly with freedom of expression. Meeting with U.S. President Obama Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seemed to reluctantly accept the recent U.S. outreach to Iran but pushed to increase sanctions if Iran continues its nuclear program. Amid a return to negotiations on the nuclear development program, Iranian leaders are for the first time acknowledging the severe effects of international sanctions on the Iranian economy. Israeli forces shot two Palestinian men, killing one, on the Gaza border saying the men were trying to damage a barrier, posing an "imminent danger." Al Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has claimed responsibility for a wave of car bombings Monday across Baghdad that killed an estimated 55 people.

A team of 20 international disarmament experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Syria Tuesday. The OPCW is slated to impound, dismantle, remove, or destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal by mid-2014. The advanced team will lay the groundwork meeting with Syrian officials ahead of field inspections. A second team is of 20 inspectors is expected to arrive in Syria next week to begin dismantling equipment used to assemble chemical weapons. This is the first time the OPCW has been requested to destroy a chemical weapons stockpile during a running civil war. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said that of the 19 sites the Syrian government declared to the OPCW in September, seven are in combat zones. Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Moallem claimed Western countries provided chemical weapons for the Syrian opposition that were used in an attack on August 21. Additionally, he said "foreign terrorists from more than 83 countries" are killing Syrian soldiers and civilians. Speaking to the BBC, Moallem confirmed that Syria would comply with the OPCW to relinquish its chemical arms. He also stated that peace talks are vital for Syria, but that a conference in Geneva "cannot succeed" if countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar continue financing and supporting the rebels. On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed doubt that Western countries would be able to get Syrian opposition representatives to the table in time for a mid-November start of peace talks. Lavrov’s comments came shortly after U.N. and Arab League Envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said the November date is not certain due to divisions within the rebel forces.

Headlines

  • Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has announced a reform package including measures for increased Kurdish language rights, however it is criticized for not going far enough, particularly with freedom of expression.
  • Meeting with U.S. President Obama Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seemed to reluctantly accept the recent U.S. outreach to Iran but pushed to increase sanctions if Iran continues its nuclear program.
  • Amid a return to negotiations on the nuclear development program, Iranian leaders are for the first time acknowledging the severe effects of international sanctions on the Iranian economy.
  • Israeli forces shot two Palestinian men, killing one, on the Gaza border saying the men were trying to damage a barrier, posing an "imminent danger."
  • Al Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has claimed responsibility for a wave of car bombings Monday across Baghdad that killed an estimated 55 people.

Arguments and Analysis

Kuwait’s Endless Elections: The Opposition in Retreat‘ (Michael Herb, POMED)

"In fact that the Kuwaiti political system is only partially democratic is not a serious obstacle to relations with the United States, and it should not be. Kuwait’s 1962 constitution is very flexible and gives citizens a mechanism through which to demand more democracy. Citizens can vote for MPs who will push for greater Assembly control over the executive. Kuwait will democratize if and when a stable majority in the National Assembly is permitted to form a government, and this can be accomplished within the bounds of the 1962 constitution.

The SNTV electoral system is not a move forward, and the unilateral imposition of the system by the emir was unfortunate. But it is within the bounds of the 1962 constitution, and it is not an insuperable obstacle to further democratization: what is really needed for more democratization to occur is for the opposition to convince the Kuwaiti electorate that party government will be good for Kuwait. The United States has every reason to want Kuwait to continue to make progress on reform. A stable future for the other Gulf monarchies cannot be built indefinitely on undiluted authoritarianism, and Kuwait is the model in the Gulf of the promise, and peril, of expanded political participation."

Iran Opens its Fist‘ (Gary Sick, New York Review of Books – Blog)

"In the next few weeks, there will be a barrage of assertions by international officials and commentators that the Iranian offer is a sham and should be rejected. Some of those comments will come from Israel and from the US Congress, but there will be others from Saudi Arabia and the Arab monarchies, all of whom fear a US-Iranian rapprochement as a threat to their own narrow interests.

The history of US relations with Iran is littered with missed opportunities, almost always rejected for misguided domestic reasons on the part of either Iran or the United States. While it is regrettable that the current discussions are starting ten years late, both presidents seem to recognize that they are now urgent. The dramatic change in tone is an important first step and was unthinkable before this year’s Iranian election. But words are no longer sufficient. Both sides are preparing their presentations for the first serious negotiation of the new era in Geneva just two weeks from now. We shall see."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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