Negotiators from Iran and the P5+1 have officially extended talks in Vienna and are now looking at July 7 as a soft deadline as they close in on a nuclear agreement that would curtail and monitor Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions. The date was chosen to allow U.S. diplomats time to transmit the agreement to Congress to allow 30 days of review.
Negotiators are reportedly making progress on issues that have been sticking points for months. In particular, Iran is receiving assurances on the pace of sanctions relief, and the P5+1 is resolving issues related to inspections of sensitive nuclear sites. The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency will visit Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Thursday to discuss inspections.
Sinai Militants Launch Coordinated Attacks after Sisi Promises Crackdown
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he would move to enact new laws to crack down on terrorism and provide tougher sentencing after a car bombing killed the country’s top prosecutor. Meanwhile, militants in the Sinai staged at least six attacks on military checkpoints on Wednesday, killing 30 Egyptian soldiers.
- The Islamic State beheaded two women for witchcraft and launched a new attack to try to reclaim Tal Abyad, a strategic town on the Turkish border it lost to Kurdish rebels two weeks ago.
- Seifeddine Rezgui, the gunman in last Friday’s attack on tourists at a beach in Sousse, Tunisia, received training in Libya at the same time as the gunmen in the attack on the Bardo art museum, according to Tunisia’s secretary of state.
- More than 1,000 prisoners escaped from a prison in Taiz, Yemen, possibly including members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; Houthi fighters and local militia forces have blamed each other for the jailbreak.
- Israel and Jordan are reportedly discussing plans to allow greater access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for non-Muslims.
- The Italian government has arrested 10 people in multiple cities on charges of planning to travel to fight in Syria.
Arguments and Analysis
“POMED Responds to Resumption of Arms Sales to Bahrain” (Project on Middle East Democracy)
“This decision to resume long-held sales is counterproductive and not in the interest of the United States. Furthermore, the damage done by the decision is only exacerbated by the accompanying public statement, which inaccurately gives credit to the Bahraini government for ‘meaningful progress on human rights reform and reconciliation.’ In fact, the political and security situations in Bahrain have continued to deteriorate, there has been no progress at all toward political reconciliation, and the Government of Bahrain has refused to implement the kind of meaningful reform desperately needed in the country. Before today, this reality had been acknowledged by the U.S. administration. The State Department’s Human Rights Report — released only last week — paints a bleak picture, expressing serious concerns with the lack of reform and limitations on the rights to free expression, assembly, association, and religion.”
“Egypt’s Evolving Salafi Bloc: Puritanism and Pragmatism in an Unstable Region” (Jacob Olidort, Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
“The current internal debate among nonviolent Salafi groups in Egypt can be set in a broader, longer-standing regional context. As ideological cousins to ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, these communities are understandably concerned about increased government scrutiny of their activities, as happened following the September 11 attacks, when they were lumped alongside Salafi-jihadists as threats to stability and sources of terrorism because of their shared theological views with al-Qaeda. In Jordan, for example, home to a jihadist hub in Zarqa, heightened concern about jihadism inspired a slew of writings and conferences by members of the nonviolent Salafi community in which they sought to distinguish themselves from jihadists and demonstrate how Salafism is integral to Jordanian society and history. Indeed, such leaders were so prolific that they gained the reputation from local jihadists of being the king’s pawns. In the Egyptian context, this partnership is achieved today through representation in parliament. Political parties, anathema to the principles of Salafism — since, by definition, they did not exist during the time of the Prophet Muhammad and are therefore, according to traditional Salafi doctrine, forbidden — became rebranded by Egyptian Salafists as a way to market their views.”
-J. Dana Stuster
CARLOS BARRIA/AFP/Getty Images