Syrian Peace Talks Suspended
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced yesterday a three-week pause in peace talks among the parties to the Syrian civil war that had only just begun. The announcement came within hours of Riad Hijab, the head of the opposition’s High Negotiations Council, arriving in Geneva. U.N. officials said the talks were suspended ...
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced yesterday a three-week pause in peace talks among the parties to the Syrian civil war that had only just begun. The announcement came within hours of Riad Hijab, the head of the opposition’s High Negotiations Council, arriving in Geneva. U.N. officials said the talks were suspended in response to a regime offensive against opposition groups in Aleppo backed by Russian airstrikes. "I think the special envoy decided to suspend the talks because the (United Nations) did not want to be associated with the Russian escalation in Syria, which risks undermining the talks completely," an anonymous diplomat told Reuters.
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced yesterday a three-week pause in peace talks among the parties to the Syrian civil war that had only just begun. The announcement came within hours of Riad Hijab, the head of the opposition’s High Negotiations Council, arriving in Geneva. U.N. officials said the talks were suspended in response to a regime offensive against opposition groups in Aleppo backed by Russian airstrikes. “I think the special envoy decided to suspend the talks because the (United Nations) did not want to be associated with the Russian escalation in Syria, which risks undermining the talks completely,” an anonymous diplomat told Reuters.
The regime offensive is closing off access to rebel-occupied portions of the city, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting that “less than 3 km separate the regime from cutting all routes to opposition-held Aleppo.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded dismissively suggestions that the airstrikes should halt the talks, stating that they were targeting al-Qaeda affiliated groups. “I don’t see why these air strikes should be stopped,” he said.
Israeli Policewoman Killed in Attack in Jerusalem
Three Palestinian men armed with rifles, knives, and explosives attacked a policewoman near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. One policewoman was killed and another was seriously wounded. A third person also sustained injuries in the attack and was treated at the scene. The three attackers were shot and killed, and the Israeli military has closed off access to Kabatiya, the West Bank town from which they came. “As far as we can tell from the armaments, [the terrorists] planned a larger, more sophisticated attack,” Jerusalem Deputy Police Chief Avshalom Peled told reporters. “This is an escalation from what we’ve seen thus far.”
- Italian officials said last night that Giulio Regeni, a 28-year-old PhD student who was visiting Cairo and who went missing on January 25, was tortured and killed, and have called for a joint investigation.
- Two drone strikes in Yemen — one in Shabwa Province and another in Abyan Province — killed 12 suspected jihadists, including Jalal Baleedi, who is believed to have recently defected from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to become leader of the local Islamic State affiliate.
- Iranian authorities arrested Bahman Daroshafaei, a former BBC Persian journalist who had moved back to Iran and was working as a translator of political literature, yesterday morning; Iranian officials have not given a reason for his arrest.
- Iraqi officials are declining to answer questions from reporters about whether or not Iraq would accept a larger U.S. troop presence; the questions stem from recent comments from the U.S. Secretary of Defense in which he said the United States is looking to do more and cited U.S. troop levels.
- Brigadier General Adel al-Halemi, the head of security for the Yemeni province of Lahj, was wounded, along with six others, in a suicide bombing in the al-Mindara neighborhood of Aden.
Arguments and Analysis
“Death Solves All Problems: The Authoritarian Counterinsurgency Toolkit” (Daniel Byman, War on the Rocks)
“Bashar al-Assad should be losing. His regime has slaughtered civilians, turned Syria’s people against one another, politicized the country’s military, maintained a discriminatory political system, and won neither hearts nor minds. Yet he has defied skeptics and still hangs on to power. Nor is Assad the lonely dictator killing his way to victory. Algeria, China, and Egypt are confronting insurgencies and are largely trying to repress their way to success — as they have done in the past. Russia alone has confronted over 20 insurgencies in the last century and has suppressed the vast majority of them successfully. As scholar Yuri Zhukov contends, Russia’s long history suggests ‘repression works, but not in moderation.’ Scholars and policymakers, however, often wrongly assume authoritarian states will fail to defeat insurgents unless they reform and neglect the distinct ways they wage counterinsurgency. How good is the authoritarian record against insurgencies, and what tools do they use to win? Their track record is better than is generally recognized — almost as good as that of democracies, in fact. Yet to win, authoritarian regimes employ a distinct toolkit that can lead to victory, but comes with many costs and limits, ranging from their inability to use much of their military power, frequent corruption, poor military learning, and the risk that authoritarians’ heavy use of repression makes it more likely that war will break out in the future should state control weaken.”
“March to Folly 2.0: The Next Western Military Intervention in Libya” (Mattia Toaldo, European Council on Foreign Relations)
“This situation is unlikely to change unless the US, Europe and relevant Arab countries agree to reform the format of the political dialogue with the Libyans who want an agreement. Focusing on the two feuding parliaments, one based in Tobruk, the other in Tripoli, makes little sense as they represent only part of the factions and are highly dysfunctional. A broader body (perhaps a ‘shura’, a consultative council working on consensus) should be formed to include MPs who are interested in an agreement, municipalities, civil society and tribal leaders. Those who have already agreed and respected existing local ceasefires should be given a stronger role. This body could both discuss the political agreement and issue a call to arms against ISIS. In the meantime, the international community could work with the existing presidential council, ensuring that the new consensual approach allows it to move from Tunis where it currently sits to Tripoli where all the levers of power are. This would allow for a convergence (a real coalition is unlikely) of different Libyan forces in the fight against ISIS. Some of them have a more direct interest in doing so, mostly because of proximity to the ISIS-controlled area or because they have already been targeted.”
-J. Dana Stuster
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images
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