Russia Authorizes Airstrikes in Syria as China Calls for Peace Talks

Russia’s parliament granted President Vladimir Putin the authority to carry out military action abroad today. Russian officials framed the move as part of a stepped up counterterrorism plan that will include targeting the Islamic State, and Putin’s chief of staff told politicians in Russia’s upper house, “We are going to use only the air force.” ...


Russia’s parliament granted President Vladimir Putin the authority to carry out military action abroad today. Russian officials framed the move as part of a stepped up counterterrorism plan that will include targeting the Islamic State, and Putin’s chief of staff told politicians in Russia’s upper house, “We are going to use only the air force.” However, unconfirmed early reports of Russian airstrikes on Twitter suggest that the strikes may include other opposition groups.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for a new peace conference on Syria, urging U.N. Security Council nations to “unite and seek the opportunity to politically solve the Syrian crisis as the parties are showing more willingness to do so.” In remarks at a counterterrorism summit on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama reiterated his position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must leave power; “In Syria…defeating ISIL requires, I believe, a new leader,” Obama said. Fifty-five members of the U.S. House of Representatives posted a letter to Obama yesterday calling for inclusive peace talks on Syria.

Saudi Arabia Clarifies Hajj Stampede Death Toll

Saudi officials responded to reports that they distorted the number of deaths in a stampede in Mina during the hajj. The 1,100 deaths discussed with foreign diplomats included deaths in the crane collapse in Mecca before the pilgrimage and other incidents during the hajj in addition to the 769 people killed in the stampede, officials said. Iran has issued a fourth summons to Saudi Arabia’s lead diplomat in Tehran to discuss the deaths.

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  • Three Al-Jazeera journalists who were recently released from prison in Egypt will seek official pardons from the Egyptian government; “I still have this conviction and all of its consequences hanging over my head,” Australian journalist Peter Greste said.


  • Israeli airstrikes hit four Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip after Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepted a rocket launched from Gaza.


  • Officials from the Saudi-led intervention force in Yemen said they had intercepted an Iranian shipment of missile launchers and anti-tank weapons bound for Houthi forces off the coast of Oman.


  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to call for multilateral peace negotiations at the United Nations today and threaten to no longer honor elements of the Oslo Accords if the process remains stagnated; representatives of the Quartet nations will meet this evening in New York to discuss the stalled peace process.


  • At the United Nations yesterday, Japan announced it would contribute $1.5 billion to alleviate the refugee crisis in the Middle East, including $810 million to assist Syrian and Iraqi refugees and $750 million for peace initiatives in the Middle East and Africa.

Arguments and Analysis

Libya’s Only Viable Option” (Karim Mezran, MENASource)

“If all the Libyan factions choose to move forward together to form the unity government, that would undoubtedly be the best possible outcome. Yet even with broad agreement, the success or failure of a new transitional process would rest in part on the role of the international community to provide the GNA with massive backing and support in order to begin reversing the negative trend of violence and chaos that has taken root in post-revolutionary Libya. The proliferation of competing militias and increasing fragmentation of political and security actors means that, even under a unity government, Libya will need foreign support to help provide security for the GNA and Libya’s vital institutions. Several European countries have suggested an international peacekeeping force, an idea acknowledged even by Leon. In addition to providing security for the new government, international support must provide training for and assist in reconstructing a unified Libyan security force. Although Libya would certainly face difficult years of post-conflict reconstruction, it remains the best foreseeable conclusion to UN-led negotiations. There is no guarantee, however, that all parties will unanimously accept the final draft agreement. If rejected by either party, the deal falls through and the international community will have no best-case scenario. Without a deal, a political vacuum would reemerge, which the various militias, jihadist groups, and criminal gangs would likely fill.”


Not Likely to Go Home: Syrian Refugees and the Challenges to Turkey — and the International Community” (Elizabeth Ferris and Kemal Kirisci, Brookings Institution)

“There is clearly an urgent need to revisit the issue of burden-sharing. Enhanced levels of funding are going to be necessary and a greater effort will need to be made to meet the funding targets of the UN’s 3RP 2015-2016 budget. Greater support is needed to help Turkey integrate refugees, especially with respect to their education, access to the labor market and health needs. The EU ought to have a special interest in supporting Turkey given that a large portion of the Syrian refugees who are attempting to make their way into the EU are actually coming from Turkey. The German Minister of Development Gerd Müller’s has called for supporting countries hosting Syrian refugees in the order of billions of Euros and raises the question of how can ‘the EU prove that it is a community of values.’ He warns that ‘If we don’t solve the problems there, the problems will come to us.’ Resettlement of refugees, especially the most vulnerable, as a traditional burden-sharing method will need to be taken more seriously. As discussed in the introduction of this report, the current level of resettlement is simply inadequate. It is difficult not to wonder if today’s “EU refugee crisis” would have reached such levels if there had been a serious and credible resettlement program currently in place. Lastly, the Syrian displacement crisis reveals the weaknesses and problems associated with the current international humanitarian system. The system requires an overhaul to achieve greater cost-effectiveness and efficiency in terms of meeting the needs of victims of displacement. The fact that the next World Humanitarian Summit will be held in Turkey in May 2016 may present a good occasion to address these challenges based on lessons from the Syrian displacement crisis.”

-J. Dana Stuster


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