Report

Ceasefire Begins in Yemen ahead of Peace Talks

A ceasefire in Yemen’s civil war entered effect last night ahead of peace talks set to begin in a week. Both the Saudi-backed internationally-recognized government and the rebel Houthi government have pledged to uphold the truce. The arrangement appears to be holding in Sanaa and Aden, which were quiet last night, but clashes continued in ...

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A ceasefire in Yemen’s civil war entered effect last night ahead of peace talks set to begin in a week. Both the Saudi-backed internationally-recognized government and the rebel Houthi government have pledged to uphold the truce. The arrangement appears to be holding in Sanaa and Aden, which were quiet last night, but clashes continued in Taiz, where at least one person was killed and five others wounded. Both sides have accused the other of violating the ceasefire. “This truce is in its early stages, violations may occur in the beginning, but we hope the next few hours will see more discipline towards the ceasefire,” Yemen’s foreign minister Abdel Malek al-Mekhlafi cautioned.

The ceasefire “is critical, urgent and much needed. Yemen cannot afford the loss of more lives,” U.N. Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement on Monday. He will convene the parties to the conflict for peace talks in Kuwait beginning April 18.

Islamic State Recaptures Strategic Town from Rebels

The Islamic State has recaptured the strategic border town of al-Rai, just days after losing hold of it to Syrian rebel forces. The city is the Islamic State’s main point of access to Turkey. Farther south, the Islamic State executed four Druze workers abducted from a cement factory in Dumeir, Syria, but freed most of the 300 people captured last week; 30 security guards from the factory remain missing. In the city of al-Qaryatain, which was recently retaken by Assad regime forces, at least 30 Christians were executed by the Islamic State, according to the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church, who says his goal now is to re-establish an interfaith understanding in the area.

Headlines

  • Saudi Arabia’s King Salman addressed the Egyptian parliament yesterday, praising the close cooperation between the two countries and noting a new $16-billion investment fund; his speech did not mention an arrangement in which Egypt will cede its claim to two strategic islands in the Red Sea, which some Egyptian observers say violates the Egyptian constitution.

 

  • The Assad regime in Syria has released Kevin Patrick Dawes, a freelance photographer who disappeared after entering the country in 2012; U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were reportedly involved in Dawes’ release, with the Czech Republic acting as an interlocutor.

 

  • Iran has received the first components of the S-300 air-defense system from Russia, according to the Iranian government; the surface-to-air missile system was ordered in 2007 but Russia placed delivery of the system on hold in 2010 in observance of international sanctions against Iran.

 

  • The Turkish government will launch its own space agency in the next few months, according to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu; the program will focus on “satellite technology, satellite launching systems, space stations and deep space research,” and the Turkish government is looking at locations to build a launch pad.

 

  • The United Nations airdropped 26 pallets of food and humanitarian supplies to civilians in the Islamic State-besieged city of Deir al-Zor, Syria, on Sunday; according to the World Food Programme, the airdrop will provide food to some neighborhoods for the first time since March 2014.

Arguments and Analysis

The Democracy Activist Who Became a Suicide Bomber” (Robert F. Worth, Wall Street Journal)

“Reading those posts, it is hard to avoid the sense that Darrawi was projecting onto the caliphate all the hopes that he had once invested in a healed and unified Egypt. ‘How beautiful to live your life dedicated to the revival of the caliphate, how beautiful to wait for the time when you meet the prophet in paradise and tell him what you’ve done, how you’ve made his promise come true,’ he wrote at one point. Along with the constant talk of death and battle, Darrawi’s tweets include incongruous glimpses of his old life. There is a poignant entry on how much he misses his three young children, with a hint that he feels some guilt for having left them behind in Egypt. There are flashes of playfulness: ‘I entered the brigade of the Chinese in Aleppo, and saw their training. It reminded me of Ninja films.’ At one point, he wrote simply, ‘For sure, I’m not crazy’ — as if to answer an imagined voice from the past.”

 

Distract, Deceive, Destroy: Putin at War in Syria” (Maks Czuperski, Eliot Higgins, Frederic Hof, Ben Nimmo, and John E. Herbst, Atlantic Council)

“It therefore seems logical to conclude that the Russian air campaign had two main objectives: To reverse Assad’s battlefield defeats, and to destroy the capabilities of the Western-backed opposition, so that it could no longer pose the threat of creating a pro-American entity in Syria. And indeed, the results of the mission have been exactly that. Assad’s hold has been strengthened; the hold of the opposition groups closest to the West has been seriously weakened. ISIS and the Nusra Front live to fight on; but that, apparently, is beside the point. Putin has declared that his mission is accomplished, and it may well have been; but if so, then his mission could not have been to defeat ISIS.”

-J. Dana Stuster

NABIL HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

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