The Middle East Channel

Kerry Works to Unify Stance Ahead of Iran Nuclear Deadline

As the November 24 deadline for reaching a deal over Iran’s nuclear program approaches, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is working to ensure a unified stance with the United States’ main European and Arab allies. The United States, Britain, and France have publicly projected a common position, however officials have expressed concerns that France ...

Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images

As the November 24 deadline for reaching a deal over Iran's nuclear program approaches, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is working to ensure a unified stance with the United States' main European and Arab allies. The United States, Britain, and France have publicly projected a common position, however officials have expressed concerns that France might adopt a tougher line or that Britain might be open to an extension of negotiations. The United States has maintained there has been no discussion of an extension, however on Wednesday British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he wasn't optimistic negotiators could finalize a deal by the deadline, and that an extension may be warranted. Meanwhile, on Thursday the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, said Iran has again failed to provide explanations about suspected nuclear weapons research.

Syria-Iraq

The U.S. military reported coalition forces had conducted 24 airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq since Monday and six in Syria, as well as one targeting al Qaeda linked Khorasan Group near Harem in northwestern Syria. Five of the strikes hit near the town of Kobani, near the Turkish border. The military reported the strike near Harem "destroyed a storage facility" associated with the Khorasan Group. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the strike killed two Nusra Front fighters. Meanwhile, aid agencies have reported that thousands of Syrians who have fled the conflict have been stranded for weeks on the border with Jordan as Jordan has been increasingly turning away refugees. Amnesty International reported that about 1.38 million Syrians who have fled to Turkey are living outside of camps as government-run facilities are operating at full capacity.

As the November 24 deadline for reaching a deal over Iran’s nuclear program approaches, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is working to ensure a unified stance with the United States’ main European and Arab allies. The United States, Britain, and France have publicly projected a common position, however officials have expressed concerns that France might adopt a tougher line or that Britain might be open to an extension of negotiations. The United States has maintained there has been no discussion of an extension, however on Wednesday British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he wasn’t optimistic negotiators could finalize a deal by the deadline, and that an extension may be warranted. Meanwhile, on Thursday the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, said Iran has again failed to provide explanations about suspected nuclear weapons research.

Syria-Iraq

The U.S. military reported coalition forces had conducted 24 airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq since Monday and six in Syria, as well as one targeting al Qaeda linked Khorasan Group near Harem in northwestern Syria. Five of the strikes hit near the town of Kobani, near the Turkish border. The military reported the strike near Harem "destroyed a storage facility" associated with the Khorasan Group. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the strike killed two Nusra Front fighters. Meanwhile, aid agencies have reported that thousands of Syrians who have fled the conflict have been stranded for weeks on the border with Jordan as Jordan has been increasingly turning away refugees. Amnesty International reported that about 1.38 million Syrians who have fled to Turkey are living outside of camps as government-run facilities are operating at full capacity.

Headlines

Arguments and Analysis

U.N.’s Syria Cease-Fire Plan a Risky Gamble, but Worth It‘ (Richard Gowan, World Politics Review)

"And yet the U.N. is arguably still right to float its latest plan. It needs to reposition itself in the Syrian war after badly losing its way since the failure of Annan’s initial peace plan in 2012. Under pressure from the U.S. and other Western powers to aim for a full-scale peace deal, both Annan and Brahimi were compelled to devote their time to high-level efforts to forge an agreement with Russia over the conflict. These culminated in the utterly predictable flop of January’s Geneva peace conference.

This sort of classic big-power diplomacy might have succeeded had Moscow had either the inclination or the ability to force an end to the war. But it was clear to most observers that the entire process was badly detached from the ever-more confusing and brutal fighting on the ground in Syria. ‘In today’s messy conflicts, peace has to be built from the ground up,’ as I argued earlier this year, ‘with mediators undertaking grinding off-the-record talks with warlords before they convene on Geneva or another international center for a formal peace deal.’"

The history of the Temple Mount: Where gods collide‘ (Elon Gilad, Haaretz)

"For a spot sacred to countless billions throughout history, Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been the site of a lot of bloodshed.

When the site was first awarded sanctity cannot be known. Prehistoric peoples may have venerated pagan gods on the hilltop and the tradition continued, in changing forms. Or perhaps, it was made holy when the Jerusalem Temple was built by King Solomon, as the Bible says. We cannot even investigate when the site was first settled: Excavation is impossible both because of the holy sites now on the Mount, and the unrelenting political tensions."

Democracy Promotion: Obama’s Mixed Record‘ (Charles W. Dunne, Middle East Institute)

"The administration has been shifting its emphasis and priorities for some time. The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a State Department office originally established to focus mainly on supporting human rights and good governance, is undergoing an extensive reorganization, with up to 25 percent of its funding being moved to economic and educational initiatives. A new office within the State Department’s Near East Bureau, NEA/AC (assistance coordination), is being formed to encompass MEPI and more closely align U.S. aid to the region with policy goals, to the dismay of those who support an independent MEPI and strong pro-democracy programming. Overall assistance for democracy and governance (D&G) is decreasing. As POMED notes, in 2010, the year before the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, the United States provided $6.7 billion in foreign assistance to the Middle East and North Africa, with 73 percent of that amount allocated for military and security assistance and 7.4 percent for D&G programming. Those figures for the 2015 budget request are 76 percent for military and security assistance and 5.8 percent for D&G."

Mary Casey-Baker

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