Syrian Factions Prepare for New Round of Diplomacy
With the “cessation of hostilities” continuing to tamp down violence in Syria, the Assad regime will attend U.N.-brokered proximity talks in Geneva starting on March 14. The opposition High Negotiations Committee’s comments about attending the talks have been ambiguous; yesterday, a spokesman for the committee said they would attend the talks and arrive in Geneva ...
With the “cessation of hostilities” continuing to tamp down violence in Syria, the Assad regime will attend U.N.-brokered proximity talks in Geneva starting on March 14. The opposition High Negotiations Committee’s comments about attending the talks have been ambiguous; yesterday, a spokesman for the committee said they would attend the talks and arrive in Geneva on Friday, March 11, but Riad Hijab, the head of the committee said today that their participation is not guaranteed. “The HNC will assess the situation in the coming days and we will take the appropriate decision,” he said. U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura had previously set March 9 as the target date for resuming talks. Humanitarian aid continues to be delivered during the reduction in violence, and on Monday Russia offered the use of its military facilities to assist in aid delivery.
Jabhat al-Nusra, which is not a party to the ceasefire, has continued pushing on some fronts in recent days. Working with other rebel groups, they recently captured a series of hilltops at al-Eis, south of Aleppo, from pro-regime forces. They have also cracked down on public expression, threatening to shoot civilian demonstrators protesting against the Assad regime.
Obama Administration Discussing Last Push on Peace Process
The Obama administration is reportedly discussing options to re-engage with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process before leaving office, according to the Wall Street Journal. Potential measures being discussed include a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for compromise from both sides — a tactic the United States has previously vetoed — or a presidential speech on the issue with an accompanying statement from the Middle East Quartet. Yesterday, Israeli officials said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not address the annuals AIPAC conference in person later this month because the White House could not schedule a meeting with Netanyahu, while the White House said its invitation to Netanyahu was declined.
- Iran has reportedly test-launched several medium-range missiles this morning, though footage of at least one of the launches shown on state television appears to be of a launch from October 2015; the United States issued new sanctions against Iran in response to that test, saying it violated a U.N. Security Council resolution barring work on nuclear-capable missiles.
- Saudi Arabia is under pressure from foreign diplomats to pay foreign workers, many of whom have had their wages suspended for months since the Saudi government slowed payment for construction projects to respond to low oil prices; some workers have staged public demonstrations despite them being illegal in Saudi Arabia.
- The United Nations and European Union criticized Turkey’s seizure of opposition paper Zaman in comments yesterday; both organizations called on Turkey to respect critical freedoms of the press, expression, and assembly.
- In addition to the massacre of 16 staff at a nursing home in Aden on Friday, an Indian priest is now believed to have been abducted by the gunmen in the attack, according to Missionaries of Charity, the organization that runs the nursing home.
- A 50-year-old woman from East Jerusalem drew a knife and attempted to stab two Israeli police officers in Jerusalem’s old city; she was shot and killed and no others were hurt.
Arguments and Analysis
“The imminent critical threats to the Yemeni riyal and government institutions” (Mansour Rageh, Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies)
“In whatever post-conflict scenario eventually prevails in Yemen, the domestic currency and the institutions of state will be essential to the rebuilding process. To date, both have persevered despite the enormous pressure of a vicious civil war and foreign bombing campaign. The Central Bank of Yemen’s actions have successfully protected the value of the Yemeni riyal against the American dollar — essential in a country that imports 90% of its food requirements — while the central government, which even at the best of times held tenuous authority over large swathes of the country, has managed to keep the structures of its institutions intact by operating them at a minimum capacity. None of the local, regional and international stakeholders in Yemen have in interest in seeing the currency or state institutions collapse — the only potential beneficiaries of the chaos that would follow such a collapse would be Al Qaeda or other extremist groups. Due to the intensity and length of the conflict, however, both the Yemeni riyal and government operations now face imminent, critical threats to their continuity. For stakeholders, preserving Yemen’s currency and state structures now will save the enormous expense and effort of resurrecting them later. More importantly and more immediately, it will help stave off incredible suffering for millions of people in Yemen.”
“Libya: Military Intervention Would Only Strengthen the Islamic State” (Patrick Haimzadeh, Jadaliyya)
“A new military intervention making short shrift of Libyan sovereignty — whether or not it would be in response to a future government of national union — is very likely to raise more problems than it seeks to resolve. Although a few Libyan voices are calling for foreign intervention, the vast majority of the people are against any foreign operation on their territory, whether conducted by the Western powers or by Arab countries. By banishing the prospect of a defeat of IS by strictly Libyan forces, a foreign intervention would discredit any government of national unity since it would be seen as a puppet of the West. It would also fuel the resentment felt by many Libyans. Although not particularly hostile to the West, they are nonetheless not unresponsive to arguments put forth by the most radical politicians of both Eastern and Western Libya, who spread various conspiracy theories, the most popular claiming that IS itself is a new way the West has found to interfere in the Arab world. A new international military intervention in Libya will therefore not contribute to any lasting solution that responds to the political and social reasons for the presence of IS in that country. This must require first and foremost the rebuilding of a legitimate Libyan state, including as many of the local military and political forces as possible.”
-J. Dana Stuster
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images