Report

Kerry Manages Expectations for Syrian Ceasefire

With a “cessation of hostilities” set to begin this weekend, diplomats and military leaders are managing expectations. “I’m not going to say this process is sure to work because I don’t know,” Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, acknowledging that Russia and Assad regime forces might be using diplomacy ...

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With a “cessation of hostilities” set to begin this weekend, diplomats and military leaders are managing expectations. “I’m not going to say this process is sure to work because I don’t know,” Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, acknowledging that Russia and Assad regime forces might be using diplomacy to stall. The United States has “No illusions. Eyes open,” Kerry said. That concern has reportedly been echoed by U.S. military leaders, who have pressed the White House to increase support for Syrian rebel groups that have been hit the hardest by Russia’s air campaign. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised speech today that he supports a ceasefire in principle but is concerned that the terms of the agreement will benefit Russia and the Assad regime.

Egyptian Courts to Grant Zawahiri Parole, Recognize Mistake in Toddler’s Sentencing

Citing his poor health, a court in Cairo will allow Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of al-Qaeda leader Aymen al-Zawahiri, out on parole pending his trial for being a member of a terrorist group. Mohamed al-Zawahiri was arrested in 2013 on suspicion of running an al-Qaeda cell; he was acquitted last October but still stands accused of being a member of the organization, as well as trying to overthrow the Egyptian government and inciting radicalism. In a separate Egyptian legal story, the Egyptian military said it had made a mistake sentencing a three-year-old boy to life in prison at a group trial for three murders. Official statements about how the mix-up occurred remain vague, but suggest that the police meant to arrest someone else with a similar name.

Headlines

  • The Libyan affiliate of the Islamic State stormed a security headquarters in the city of Sabratha and beheaded 12 officials there before being forced out by local forces this morning.

 

  • Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain issued travel warnings for their citizens in Lebanon yesterday, urging them to leave the country; the alert comes amid heightened tensions after Saudi Arabia froze a $3 billion military aid package last week because the Lebanese government did not condemn an attack on the Saudi embassy in Iran.

 

  • Speaking ahead of parliamentary elections this Friday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on voters to resist the perception of a “false dichotomy” among the candidates and said he hopes for a “a strong and faithful parliament that is aware of its duties and is not intimidated by the United States.”

 

  • Israeli soldiers opened fire on a Palestinian assailant armed with a knife near the Gush Etzion settlements in the West Bank, wounding the Palestinian man and accidentally killing the Israeli man he was trying to stab.

 

  • The Turkish military reportedly killed nine Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in an attack helicopter assault on a PKK position in Sirnak Province near the Turkey-Syria border.

Arguments and Analysis

Libya and the West: Intervention without a cause?” (Karim Mezran and Arturo Varvelli, MENASource)

“Until recently, reaching agreement among Libyan factions was considered a prerequisite to any foreign-led military action in the country. The latest incursions, however, coupled with bellicose declarations by some Western officials, suggest that the West has decided to prioritize its counterterrorism strategy, choosing to bomb the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) even without a formal request from a legitimate Libyan government. Clearly the issue is more political than legal. Armed foreign intervention without the approval, if not the direct request, of a new legitimate Libyan government could jeopardize fragile hopes for peace in a country still struggling to rebuild its political order by encouraging Islamist groups to further coalesce under the ISIS banner. Such attacks increase the scope for potential recruitment and create the opportunity for a new propaganda drive, which could increase the as-yet limited threat ISIS in Libya represents.”

 

The Kingdom and the Caliphate: Duel of the Islamic States” (Cole Bunzel, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

“The contest between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State is not a close one. There is no sense of alarm in Saudi Arabia itself, where the Islamic State’s violent campaign focusing on Shia and government targets has gained only limited ground. The ruling Saudi family seems to regard the Islamic State as only a nuisance, not a fundamental threat. Only in a future where the Islamic State has gained enormous new resources and territorial holdings would the threat be considered more severe. But the struggle between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State is also a contest for the soul of Wahhabism, and on this front the jihadis have made strides. Over the past few decades, the jihadi-Salafi movement has increasingly billed itself as the rightful heir to the Wahhabi tradition and has appropriated its textual resources. The Islamic State in some sense represents the culmination of this effort — a Wahhabi state as radical and sectarian as the original Saudi-Wahhabi state, though departing from it in certain ways. It is thus truer today than ever, as Western analysts have argued for years, that the Wahhabi form of Islam is a crucial component of jihadism.”

-J. Dana Stuster

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