Report

U.N. Announces Yemen Peace Talks as Ship Crisis Averted

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the United Nations will host peace talks on the conflict in Yemen in Geneva starting May 28. Unlike previous proposals to hold talks in Riyadh, diplomats will meet in a neutral city. The goal of the talks will be to “restore momentum towards a Yemeni-led political transition process,” ...

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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the United Nations will host peace talks on the conflict in Yemen in Geneva starting May 28. Unlike previous proposals to hold talks in Riyadh, diplomats will meet in a neutral city. The goal of the talks will be to “restore momentum towards a Yemeni-led political transition process,” Ban said, and he urged parties to the conflict to participate “in good faith and without preconditions.” That has already been complicated by the reactions of both exiled Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government and the leadership of the Houthi movement. Hadi’s Foreign Minister Riad Yassin complained about the short notice and the country’s U.N. ambassador said the president might not attend in person. In a speech yesterday, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said he wouldn’t participate unless the parties agree to abide by a power sharing agreement set up last September.

Off the Yemeni coast, Iran defused tensions over a ship of humanitarian aid yesterday when Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian announced it would allow the ship to be inspected by the United Nations in Djibouti before continuing on to Hodeida. The cargo ship was at times escorted by two Iranian warships and there were concerns it would try to break the Saudi blockade of Yemen’s coast.

Islamic State Captures Palmyra

Islamic State fighters have captured the city of Palmyra and its ancient ruins according to reports and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syria’s general director of antiquities and museums said many of the historic site’s statues and artifacts were moved away from the city as the Islamic State approached, “but there are some things that cannot be moved…how will we move the temples, the graveyards?” With the fall of Palmyra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told reporters that the Islamic State now controls 36,000 square miles in Syria, more than half the country.

Headlines

  • The United States released a new trove of documents found at Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad safehouse in 2011, including the contents of his bookshelf and correspondence in which he proposed opening an office in Iran.

 

  • A new audio recording purportedly released by the Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate encourages militants to target Egyptian judges.

 

  • The United States is finalizing plans to sell nearly $2 billion in weapons — including bombs and missiles to Israel and helicopters to Saudi Arabia; the deal is seen as a security assurance amid nuclear negotiations with Iran.

 

  • High-profile sponsors of FIFA and the World Cup issued statements pressuring FIFA to take a harder line with Qatar with regard to labor rights and working conditions as the Gulf nation prepares for the 2022 soccer tournament.

 

  • The Egyptian government has sworn in a new justice minister known for his criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups; the previous minister resigned after making elitist comments on a television program.

Arguments and Analysis

The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2016: Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa” (Stephen McInerney and Cole Bockenfeld, Project on Middle East Democracy)

“As the U.S. government has increasingly focused on partnering with repressive authoritarian regimes in the fight against the Islamic State, the ability of the United States to effectively support democracy, governance, and human rights in the region has diminished. The U.S. is even less willing to undertake any measures opposed by authoritarian U.S. allies in the region and has less energy and resources to devote to issues beyond the military and security realm. Although the current overall trajectory of the United States on issues of democracy and governance in the region is not encouraging, there are nonetheless some positive signs that can be built on in the future, including an overdue increase in aid to support Tunisia’s transition, as well as a number of steps to regularize assistance mechanisms to adapt to changes underway since 2011.”

Syria: The Imperative of Protecting Civilians” (Frederic C. Hof, Atlantic Council)

“To put the matter succinctly, the willingness of the Obama administration to make do with moralistic rhetoric about Assad regime war crimes and crimes against humanity has led it to an astounding analytical conclusion: he who has authorized acts of mass homicide on a daily basis — Bashar al-Assad — ought not be removed from power too quickly lest Islamist rebels take Damascus and conduct massacres in communities involuntarily implicated by regime criminality. The barrel bombing, starvation sieges, chemical attacks, and door-to-door atrocities have been so widespread, so intense, and so unopposed by a hollowed-out West that now the specter of additional mass atrocities — perhaps genocide — transcending Arab Sunni Muslims presents itself.”

 

-J. Dana Stuster

MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

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