Iran Invited to New Round of Syria Talks

Iran has been invited to participate in a new round of diplomatic talks aimed at resolving Syria’s civil war, according to U.S. officials. The meetings are set to begin in Vienna on Thursday. The Russian government, which extended the invitation to Tehran, has been coordinating with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in advance of the ...

GettyImages-484301174
GettyImages-484301174

Iran has been invited to participate in a new round of diplomatic talks aimed at resolving Syria’s civil war, according to U.S. officials. The meetings are set to begin in Vienna on Thursday. The Russian government, which extended the invitation to Tehran, has been coordinating with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in advance of the talks. On Monday, Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf Bin Alawi visited Damascus to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Omani government said the trip was planned with input from the United States, Russia, Iran, and the Gulf States.

Iran has been invited to participate in a new round of diplomatic talks aimed at resolving Syria’s civil war, according to U.S. officials. The meetings are set to begin in Vienna on Thursday. The Russian government, which extended the invitation to Tehran, has been coordinating with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in advance of the talks. On Monday, Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf Bin Alawi visited Damascus to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Omani government said the trip was planned with input from the United States, Russia, Iran, and the Gulf States.

Despite the preparations for this new round of diplomacy, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said yesterday the United States is considering escalating its military role in Iraq and Syria. Russian officials acknowledged its first military casualty in Syria. The death was reported as a suicide, but the soldier’s family disputes this and is demanding a second autopsy.

Airstrikes Hit Medicins Sans Frontieres Hospital in Yemen

Airstrikes on Monday night hit a Medecins Sans Frontieres-administered hospital in Saada province, Yemen. MSF said the strikes had been conducted by the Saudi-led intervention force, but a Saudi official denied that Saudi jets were operating over Saada at the time.

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Headlines

  • With new parliamentary elections on Sunday, Turkish authorities raided the offices of 22 media companies owned by Koza Ipek Holding, which is affiliated with a Justice and Development Party rival, the Gulenist movement.

 

  • A helicopter transporting two senior officers affiliated with Libya’s Tripoli-based government was shot down west of Tripoli while transporting salaries; at least 14 people were killed.

 

  • A candidate in Egypt’s Salafi Nour Party, Mahmoud Abdel-Hamid, was dragged from his car and severely beaten; the attack comes days after another Nour Party candidate was killed by assailants on a motorcycle.

 

  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has decided to extend a state of emergency in the Sinai Peninsula first imposed a year ago to allow security forces greater freedom to operate against extremist groups.

 

  • The prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani, replaced four cabinet officials who were suspended from their offices earlier this month, consolidating the control of his party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, over the government.

Arguments and Analysis

Russia returns as al Qaeda and the Islamic State’s ‘Far Enemy’” (Clint Watts, Foreign Policy Research Institute)

“Al Qaeda’s ‘Far Enemy’ logic for singularly focusing on the United States has proven both wrong over the long-term and counterproductive to the terrorist group. In the months before and after Bin Laden’s death, the U.S. let North African and Middle Eastern dictators fall to Arab Spring uprisings. Until the rise of the Islamic State (IS), al Qaeda’s jihadi spawn, the U.S. refused to intervene in Syria–one of the bloodiest and most protracted civil wars in recent history. U.S. inaction in Syria, rather than meddling, has provided what little lifeblood al Qaeda clings to in its most important affiliate Jabhat al Nusra. Jihad’s real ‘Far Enemy’ in Syria for many years has been Iran and now Russia. For several years, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces have helped Syria hold the line against a band of rebel groups to include Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State. Last month, Russia moved from the shadows and into the forefront with their military build up. The Russians talk of targeting terrorists, but the pattern of their airstrikes speaks otherwise. Most sorties have aimed their missiles at Syrian rebel groups including Jabhat al Nusra leaving the Islamic State mostly to the American-led coalition. Today, Russia, far more than the U.S., has returned to be jihad’s ‘Far Enemy.’”

 

How Yemen’s United Nations mediation could avoid failing again (but probably won’t)” (Peter Salisbury, Monkey Cage)

“Producing a peace deal will require a Herculean effort from the U.N. envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. But that is nothing compared to the work that will be needed to produce a settlement that is acceptable not just to the Houthis, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and its GCC backers, but also to the many local groups that have taken the fight to the Houthis since the war began. As I recently argued in a paper for the British charity Saferworld, a key factor in derailing the political transition set in motion by Ahmed’s predecessor Jamal Benomar was that, while it was marketed as a transformative and inclusive process, little more than lip service was paid to addressing the needs and grievances of Yemenis who had not been part of the Saleh regime. Ahmed cannot afford to ignore the importance of these groups or he stands to be plagued by the same problems that ultimately derailed the transition. The deal brokered by Benomar to end fighting in Yemen in 2011 saw Saleh relinquish power but was unable to prevent the collapse of the subsequent political transition process when Houthis — hitherto seen as a relatively marginal player in Yemen’s power struggles — entered Sanaa in September 2014.”

-J. Dana Stuster

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

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