Highlighting progress, world powers and Iran schedule next round of talks

Officials highlighted progress after two days of talks between six world powers and Iran on its nuclear development program. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton issued a rare joint statement saying the parties held "substantive and forward looking negotiations." Ashton said they were "their most detailed talks ever" ...

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Officials highlighted progress after two days of talks between six world powers and Iran on its nuclear development program. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton issued a rare joint statement saying the parties held "substantive and forward looking negotiations." Ashton said they were "their most detailed talks ever" on the nuclear program. The next round of talks have been scheduled for November 7 and 8, however nuclear, scientific, and sanctions experts from the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany as well as Iran will meet prior to the talks. While many officials expressed optimism, the parties are still far from agreeing on a deal and what the "end state" of Iran's nuclear program should be. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, "There is no reason to break into applause; things could have worked out better." 

Syria

A team of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it is confident it will meet its deadlines for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. OPCW political advisor to the director general, Mali Ellahi, said, "We are on track. The team is confident, the morale is high, and cooperation from the Syrian authorities has been forthcoming." According to Ellahi, the inspectors have visited 11 of the more than 20 sites listed by the Syrian government. However, a number of explosions and attacks near the Damascus hotel where the team is staying have raised concerns, although it is unclear if the inspectors have been targeted. Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, speaking from Moscow on Thursday, said international peace talks in Geneva on the Syrian conflict could take place between November 23 and 24, though those dates have not been confirmed. The United States has been working to get the opposition Syrian National Coalition to agree to participate in a peace conference though it has maintained it would not attend. Several rebel factions announced they were breaking from the main opposition group in a video posted online Wednesday, which could deal a further blow to the U.S. and Russian-led peace efforts. Meanwhile, fighting has calmed in the northern city of Aleppo a day after opposition fighters reportedly attacked a government-held prison. Additionally, the Turkish army opened fire on rebel forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant on Tuesday after a mortar round from the Syrian border town of Azaz landed across the border near a Turkish army post.

Officials highlighted progress after two days of talks between six world powers and Iran on its nuclear development program. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton issued a rare joint statement saying the parties held "substantive and forward looking negotiations." Ashton said they were "their most detailed talks ever" on the nuclear program. The next round of talks have been scheduled for November 7 and 8, however nuclear, scientific, and sanctions experts from the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany as well as Iran will meet prior to the talks. While many officials expressed optimism, the parties are still far from agreeing on a deal and what the "end state" of Iran’s nuclear program should be. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, "There is no reason to break into applause; things could have worked out better." 

Syria

A team of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it is confident it will meet its deadlines for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. OPCW political advisor to the director general, Mali Ellahi, said, "We are on track. The team is confident, the morale is high, and cooperation from the Syrian authorities has been forthcoming." According to Ellahi, the inspectors have visited 11 of the more than 20 sites listed by the Syrian government. However, a number of explosions and attacks near the Damascus hotel where the team is staying have raised concerns, although it is unclear if the inspectors have been targeted. Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, speaking from Moscow on Thursday, said international peace talks in Geneva on the Syrian conflict could take place between November 23 and 24, though those dates have not been confirmed. The United States has been working to get the opposition Syrian National Coalition to agree to participate in a peace conference though it has maintained it would not attend. Several rebel factions announced they were breaking from the main opposition group in a video posted online Wednesday, which could deal a further blow to the U.S. and Russian-led peace efforts. Meanwhile, fighting has calmed in the northern city of Aleppo a day after opposition fighters reportedly attacked a government-held prison. Additionally, the Turkish army opened fire on rebel forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant on Tuesday after a mortar round from the Syrian border town of Azaz landed across the border near a Turkish army post.

Headlines

  • A suicide truck bomber struck a northern Iraqi village early Thursday killing at least 15 members of the country’s Shabak ethnic minority.
  • According to a Washington Post report, Turkey has intentionally leaked to Tehran the identities of up to 10 Iranians working for Israel’s Mossad.
  • Amnesty International has released a report finding Egyptian authorities have been unlawfully detaining and deporting Syrian refugees, with conditions worsening since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi.
  • A study conducted by U.S., Canadian, and Iraqi researchers estimates that 461,000 people died from war-related causes in Iraq between 2003 and the U.S. withdrawal in 2011.

Arguments and Analysis

Egypt: Reductio Ad Absurdum’ (Steven Cook, From the Potomac to the Euphrates – CFR Blog)

"Outsiders tend to underestimate the deep psychological impact that the last almost three years have had on Egyptians.  Not long after the exhilaration of Mubarak’s exit, Egyptians confronted the complexities of their reality.  What followed is now a well-worn story of disappointment, tragedy, more disappointment, some more exhilaration, and despair.  There are, of course, Egyptians who are looking forward to better days now that the Muslim Brotherhood experiment has been short-circuited.  Still, the uncertainty and violence have taken a toll.  For good reason, Egypt is a country collectively on-edge. Although it has avoided the general depravity that characterizes Syria — with perhaps the exception of the Sinai — the delegitimizing and dehumanizing discourse that is now common in Egyptian debates about the future makes the search, conducted mostly by outsiders, for negotiation and consensus fanciful.  Egypt has reached the stage where, despite a roadmap for reconstituting an electoral political order, the goal remains for one group or another to impose its political will on the others, just as it has been since February 2011.

It is pretty clear that whichever group has the support of the military is more than likely to win this battle.  Guns matter, but so do ideas, which is why Egypt is so profoundly depressing these days.  Instead of creative solutions for a country whose problems are piling up, people seem to want to pound each other into the ground.  The rejoinder to this observation among a seemingly large number of Egyptians is, ‘Well, we need to pound people into the ground before we can get on with fixing the country.’ This can’t end well."

To Be a Syrian Refugee in Egypt‘ (Ursula Lindsey, Latitude BlogNYT)

"While it was in power, the Muslim Brotherhood espoused the Syrian uprising against Bashar al-Assad, opening Egypt to Syrian refugees. President Mohamed Morsi announced Egypt’s support for the insurgents at a rally during which preachers called for jihad in Syria. In Sixth of October, Syrian families were housed for free in cheap apartments run by a Brotherhood-connected preacher.

But then the refugees became enmeshed in the Brotherhood’s downfall. The Egyptian media began depicting all Syrians as fifth columnists and terrorists bent on bringing their country’s violence to Egypt. One notorious TV presenter threatened to tear down their homes if they stood with the Brothers.

It is easy to blame outsiders and pick on the weak in times of discord. In Egypt’s no-holds-barred fight between the army and the Brotherhood, each side has attacked what it sees as the other’s most vulnerable supporters: The Islamists have targeted Christians in the south; anti-Brotherhood crowds have vandalized Syrian businesses in the town of Damietta.

Egypt has now closed its borders to Syrians. Several thousands of them have already made the perilous journey out, by boat toward Italy. Having fled one conflict, they have become collateral damage in another."

–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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