Report

Yemen Peace Talks Begin in Switzerland

Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi agreed to a ceasefire yesterday as peace talks began in Switzerland. Saudi military officials also announced they would also suspend their air campaign against the Houthis for a week. U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he hopes to extend ...

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Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi agreed to a ceasefire yesterday as peace talks began in Switzerland. Saudi military officials also announced they would also suspend their air campaign against the Houthis for a week. U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he hopes to extend the ceasefire indefinitely. A previous attempt to hold peace talks collapsed in June before the parties event met. “It’s definitely positive, but this situation is extremely precarious,” an anonymous diplomat told the New York Times. “I think there is a will to make progress that we didn’t see in June.”

Fighting continued until the announcement of the ceasefire, and Saudi Arabia reported 20 violations of the true in the first hour of its implementation. In the hours before the ceasefire, a Houthi rocket attack struck a command post near Taiz, killing dozens of troops participating in the Saudi-led intervention coalition. Airstrikes on targets in northern Yemen, a Houthi stronghold, killed at least 15 people.

Saudi Arabia Announces International Counterterrorism Force

Saudi officials announced today the formation of a 34-nation coalition to fight terrorism. The force will be based in Riyadh and include contributions from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations, Egypt, and Turkey, among others. All the participating countries belong to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and at least 10 other Muslim-majority countries have expressed interest in joining the force. Iran, Syria, and Iraq are not part of the coalition. The goal of the force will be to address “the Islamic world’s problem with terrorism and will be a partner in the worldwide fight against this scourge” Saudi Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said at a press conference.

Headlines

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Moscow today to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin; Kerry said he hopes to make “real progress” on resolving U.S. and Russian differences on Syria during his trip.

 

  • The Islamic State is shifting its operations in Libya toward capturing oil wells, according to French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, possibly expanding from its base of control in Sirte to Ajdabiyah.

 

  • Amnesty International is calling on the Egyptian government to release a 14-year-old boy who says he was sexually abused while detained and tortured to confess that he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is in Turkey on the first stop of a trip to several Middle East countries to build greater support for the military campaign against the Islamic State; in particular, he asked Turkey to be vigilant about Islamic State operations along the Turkey-Syria border.

 

  • After meeting with foreign ministers from EU member states, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the European Union would proceed with plans to require labels on products originating from the West Bank despite Israel’s severing some diplomatic ties with the EU in protest.

Arguments and Analysis

Iran After the Nuclear Deal” (International Crisis Group)

“Rouhani has encountered difficulties in other spheres. He was forced to freeze priorities behind which he could not generate sufficient consensus, including social and political liberalisation. But his economic agenda, aimed at stimulating growth after several years of recession, is likely to move forward, even though it damages entrenched interests that have profited under the sanctions regime. Everything suggests Rouhani will continue with a prudent approach, and change is likely to be arduous, slow and modest. Though the U.S. and its European allies might nudge him to move faster, there is no way to speed the reform process and many ways to undermine it. Seeking to empower republicans – touted in certain quarters as a potential by-product of the nuclear deal – will not work, as many theocrats view that tactic as a stalking horse for regime change. This does not mean giving Tehran carte blanche, domestically or regionally, but issues of concern will need to be addressed judiciously, taking account of Tehran’s legitimate concerns no less than its adversaries’.”

 

Yemen’s Protracted Conflict is about the South’s Independence” (Khaled Al-Abbadi)

“Houthis are meeting resistance in some Sunni areas in Taiz and Marib, at the border between North and South Yemen. These areas are indeed a mix between those who welcome a Houthi ‘populist’ revolt (therefore blaming their misfortunes on the Gulf) and those who are skeptical of North-North’s tribal stranglehold on power (and blaming this entire conflict on the Houthis and Saleh). Those areas reflect a mix of North and South Yemeni cultures. The ‘civil war’ is effectively happening there, where a community is truly divided. Everywhere else in Yemen, people know where their alliances are. It is no surprise that the conflict is stuck there and may stay there while North and South Yemen move on. In fact in the 20th century, most conflicts between North and South Yemen have actually boiled down to that area. If anything, the current conflict lines are more a product of history than anything else.”

-J. Dana Stuster

ABDULLAH AL-QADRY/AFP/Getty Images

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