Report

Russia Pushes for March Ceasefire in Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Munich today to discuss ways to revive peace talks for Syria. Russia has reportedly floated a ceasefire to begin in March, but U.S. officials are resisting the delay and nothing has been agreed. Members of the U.N. Security Council met privately ...

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Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Munich today to discuss ways to revive peace talks for Syria. Russia has reportedly floated a ceasefire to begin in March, but U.S. officials are resisting the delay and nothing has been agreed. Members of the U.N. Security Council met privately on Wednesday to urge Russia to halt its bombing campaign immediately. U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura has set February 25 has the target date for the talks that broke down in Geneva to resume. Kurdish groups hope to be part of those talks despite pressure from Saudi Arabia to exclude them. Yesterday, the International Union of Kurdish Public Associations, a Syrian Kurdish separatist group, opened office in Moscow to facilitate their push to be allowed to participate.

As the Russian-backed offensive continues, some routes for humanitarian aid to Aleppo have been cut off, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been trying to deliver water to besieged residents because the city’s water system has stopped working. A new report by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research concluded that 470,000 people — 11.5% of Syria’s population — have been killed by the war.

NATO to Deploy Ships to Stem Refugee Smuggling

NATO announced today that it will send ships to participate in naval efforts to intercept criminal networks smuggling migrants and refugees into Europe. The plan is expected to involve coordination with existing efforts by the Greek and Turkish coast guards. In a speech in Ankara today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke about his growing alarm over the latest influx of refugees and threatened to send new arrivals to Europe. “We do not have the word ‘idiot’ written on our foreheads. We will be patient but we will do what we have to. Don’t think that the planes and the buses are there for nothing. We will do the necessary,” he said.

Headlines

  • The World Health Organization was able to deliver critical medical supplies to hospitals in Taiz, Yemen, after months of the city being blocked by stalemated fighting; three districts of the city remain inaccessible, WHO officials said.

 

  • Saudi construction companies are having difficulty paying employees as the Saudi government has slowed payment for projects, an indicator of the economic strain of low oil prices on the Saudi economy; Gulf nations are considering taxes to alleviate fiscal pressure, starting with a 3-5 percent value-added tax to be implemented by 2018.

 

  • Poland will join the coalition to fight the Islamic State in exchange for NATO shifting greater military resources to eastern Europe, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said, though he did not discuss Poland’s role in the coalition.

 

  • Approximately 70 people were injured when a train traveling to Cairo derailed south of the capital in Beni Suef.

 

  • The United Arab Emirates has appointed Ohood Al Roumi as the country’s “minister of state for happiness,” a new cabinet position; the goal of the new minister will be to “align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction,” Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said.

Arguments and Analysis

In Libya, No Unity without Security” (Alice Hunt Friend and Anthony Bell, War on the Rocks)

“Yet it is in Europe’s and Washington’s interests to help the Libyans build centralized security institutions loyal to a unity government. The best way forward is for Libya’s international partners to strike a careful balance between diplomatic pressure and security assistance. Such an approach would coax the parties into cooperative security relationships while reducing their mutual vulnerabilities. The controversial Libyan army, if it is buttressed with assistance and a plan for cross-faction integration, could still serve as the foundation of a politically unifying national security force. This could be done through phased integration of certain militias into the Libyan army and the gradual disarmament of others. For instance, the army could pledge to remain outside of certain cities and localities such as Misrata, which are capable of securing themselves with their own forces. For these guarantees, select Misratan militias that want to fight the Islamic State, like the 166 Brigade, could be incorporated into the Libyan army and provided materiel and intelligence assistance. Other militias could be induced to gradually disarm by being allowed to maintain defensive capabilities like small arms and other weaponry, while transferring items like tanks and technicals used to project power outside of their home cities and towns.”

 

Yemen: Is Peace Possible?” (International Crisis Group)

“National-level power sharing has also become more complex. There are two governments: one in Sanaa run by the Huthis, one in Aden, internationally recognised and associated with President Hadi. Neither is effective or representative; both will try to keep maximum authority in any transitional arrangement. The security sector will be one of the knottiest problems. In the past, the army’s main internal rift was between the forces of Saleh and Mohsen; today, it must take into account Huthis and the Southern Resistance, who have integrated their fighters into competing parts of the military they each control. Multiple militias must be disarmed and demobilised. Sectarianism, historically not a conflict driver or mobilising frame for violence, is now widespread. Revenge issues, ever-present in the past, have increased exponentially. Tribally based vendettas will outlast the conflict.”

-J. Dana Stuster

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