Chemical weapons inspectors make progress in Syria

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said its team of inspectors in Syria has made "encouraging initial progress" after meetings with government officials. The team intends to begin site inspections and the disabling of equipment at production facilities within the next week, however the schedule will be determined after meeting with Syrian ...

Guus Schoonewille/AFP/Getty Images
Guus Schoonewille/AFP/Getty Images
Guus Schoonewille/AFP/Getty Images

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said its team of inspectors in Syria has made "encouraging initial progress" after meetings with government officials. The team intends to begin site inspections and the disabling of equipment at production facilities within the next week, however the schedule will be determined after meeting with Syrian experts. According to the OPCW, the team has begun working with the Syrian authorities to secure sites where the inspectors will operate. Meanwhile, fighting between the al Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Free Syrian Army's Northern Strom brigade has continued over the strategic town of Azaz, near the Turkish border. On Thursday Turkey's Parliament voted to extend a mandate for a year to deploy troops into Syria if necessary, as the neighboring conflict increasingly raises concerns over Turkey's national security. The motion, proposed by the ruling AK Party, has been widely expected to pass. In an interview with the Turkish Halk TV, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad castigated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for allowing foreign fighters to enter Syria, blaming the Turkish government for the deaths of thousands of Syrians and the destruction of Syrian infrastructure. Additionally, Assad said it is too early to say whether he will seek a third term in elections next year. Assad stated, "If I have a feeling that the Syrian people want me to be president in the coming period I will run for the post. If the answer is no, I will not run."

Headlines

The Egyptian government said it will seize Muslim Brotherhood assets as a window to appeal a ban on the group's activities expires, and it will ban or take over the Brotherhood's social services. Russia has evacuated its diplomatic personnel from Libya after authorities said they couldn't guarantee their protection following an attack on the compound in Tripoli. For the first time, Saudi Arabia canceled its speech at the U.N. General Assembly over dissatisfaction with the U.N.'s policies on Arab and Islamic issues, particularly the Syrian crisis and Palestinian statehood. Tunisia's ruling Islamist party and the opposition will begin three weeks of negotiations on Saturday in part of a deal for the government to resign, paving the way for elections. Gunmen killed two Egyptian army conscripts and injured two others in an attack on an army convoy on the road from Cairo to the Suez city of Ismailia. After two years of court petitions, Palestinian farmers from the West Bank village of Burka have returned to lands seized in the 1970s for the Israeli settlement of Homesh.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said its team of inspectors in Syria has made "encouraging initial progress" after meetings with government officials. The team intends to begin site inspections and the disabling of equipment at production facilities within the next week, however the schedule will be determined after meeting with Syrian experts. According to the OPCW, the team has begun working with the Syrian authorities to secure sites where the inspectors will operate. Meanwhile, fighting between the al Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Free Syrian Army’s Northern Strom brigade has continued over the strategic town of Azaz, near the Turkish border. On Thursday Turkey’s Parliament voted to extend a mandate for a year to deploy troops into Syria if necessary, as the neighboring conflict increasingly raises concerns over Turkey’s national security. The motion, proposed by the ruling AK Party, has been widely expected to pass. In an interview with the Turkish Halk TV, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad castigated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for allowing foreign fighters to enter Syria, blaming the Turkish government for the deaths of thousands of Syrians and the destruction of Syrian infrastructure. Additionally, Assad said it is too early to say whether he will seek a third term in elections next year. Assad stated, "If I have a feeling that the Syrian people want me to be president in the coming period I will run for the post. If the answer is no, I will not run."

Headlines

Arguments and Analysis

Rouhani is walking a political tightrope at home‘ (Geneive Abdo, Al Jazeera America)

"When President Hassan Rouhani touched down on Iranian soil after a dazzling week at the United Nations, he returned to criticism as well as cheers and applause. A crowd of demonstrators held placards and chanted the spent slogan ‘Death to America!’ The protesters included members of the Basij militia, a hard-line paramilitary organization under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The theatrics of the demonstrators reflect a much deeper conflict that is already underway in Tehran, as different factions debate whether Rouhani should have accepted a phone call from President Barack Obama, and, more important, whether Iran should trust the United States to unlock the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program. Even though Khamenei has apparently given Rouhani the authority to expedite nuclear talks, other leaders in key institutions, such as the IRGC, began this past weekend to express their disapproval. There is increasing evidence that a broader opposition to Rouhani has begun to organize to derail any further progress from his diplomatic efforts."

Can Bibi Take Yes for an Answer?‘ (Matthew Duss, The American Prospect)

"Israel clearly has legitimate concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, but in failing to even acknowledge the possibility that the shift in Iran’s could augur something real, Netanyahu gave off the petulant air of a man who refuses to take yes for an answer. Over the past years, Israeli officials have devoted a considerable amount of time to establishing that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to the world, not just to Israel. Netanyahu’s speech set that effort back. This time, there were no drawings of Wile E. Coyote bombs. There were no nuclear ducks, or insatiable crocodiles of militant Islam. There was only the clanging gong of Bibi’s bluster.

After listing off the reasons why Rohani shouldn’t be trusted (Mahmoud Abbas could make a similar list about Netanyahu), he laid down his ultimatum. ‘I want there to be no confusion on this point,’ Netanyahu said. ‘Israel will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.’

I recently noted that a key divide exists between those in foreign affairs who recognize Iran has politics and those who don’t. There are those who recognize that even though Rohani is himself a regime insider, he still must contend with more hardline critics who are hoping for him to fail, and that some amount of Western reciprocity is necessary to help him navigate those domestic currents successfully. And then there are those who think this whole debate is based on a childish fiction. Obama falls into the former camp, while Netanyahu clearly falls into the latter. ‘Netanyahu’s comments were intended for domestic consumption, and to put pressure on the international community,’ said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli analyst based in Tel Aviv. ‘He couldn’t care less about the impact inside Iran.’"

 –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

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.