Ceasefire under Threat as Syria Peace Talks Resume
Though peace talks in Geneva formally resume today, the ceasefire in Syria is under growing strain and government officials fear it could collapse. The Assad regime held parliamentary elections today in government-held areas, which voters said were a show of support for the regime. The elections have been dismissed by opposition groups, and the opposition ...
Though peace talks in Geneva formally resume today, the ceasefire in Syria is under growing strain and government officials fear it could collapse. The Assad regime held parliamentary elections today in government-held areas, which voters said were a show of support for the regime. The elections have been dismissed by opposition groups, and the opposition High Negotiations Council’s lead negotiator said they were “theater for the sake of procrastination, theater through which the regime is trying to give itself a little legitimacy.” Assad regime negotiators will join the peace talks in Geneva on Friday. Despite the elections and the growing strain on the ceasefire, opposition groups say they remain committed to the talks and negotiating a political transition.
The talks come amid increased fighting between government forces and rebel groups in Aleppo. Both the French and Iranian governments expressed concern about the violence, though the Iranian government blamed “armed groups” and the French blamed the regime for risking the collapse of the ceasefire. Some fear it may already be too late to salvage the truce. “On the ground the truce does not exist,” a Syrian government official told Reuters. Iran has sent reinforcements to Syria from its regular army, four of whom were reported killed in fighting earlier this week; previously Iran has mostly sent members of its Revolutionary Guard Corps to Syria. The United States is also preparing for the collapse of the ceasefire. The CIA is said to be discussing plans to provide partnered rebel groups in Syria with advanced weaponry, including anti-aircraft weapons systems, if the truce collapses.
Italian Foreign Minister Visits Libyan Unity Government in Tripoli
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni traveled to Tripoli, Libya, yesterday to meet with Libyan unity government Prime Minister Fayez Seraj. The two men met at the naval base where the unity government has established itself as it continues to try to build support in Tripoli, but Gentiloni said the Italian government is looking to reopen its diplomatic offices in the city. In Tunis, the United Nations Development Programme announced the launch of a new “Stabilization Facility” plan to assist the unity government. Libya’s Tobruk-based parliament will meet in “coming weeks” to vote on a resolution of approval for the unity government.
- The United States is attacking the Islamic State with “cyber bombs,” according to U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, who said that “right now it sucks to be ISIL”; the terrorist organization, which released a new issue of its Dabiq online magazine today, has lost 25,000 fighters and millions of dollars to U.S. strikes in recent months.
- Police in Jordan closed the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition party, in Amman today; the police did not give a reason for the closure but were reportedly acting on the orders of the governor of Amman.
- Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi defended his decision to cede control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in televised remarks today, claiming that they had always belonged to Saudi Arabia and that Egypt had just been protecting them at the kingdom’s request since 1950.
- Sultan Qaboos bin Said returned home to Oman yesterday after a brief trip to Germany for medical tests; the 75-year-old ruler previously spent eight months there for medical treatment in 2014 and 2015, leading to rumors he was being treated for cancer.
- Seif Eddin Mustafa, the Egyptian man who hijacked an EgyptAir flight and diverted it to Cyprus, is seeking asylum and says he fears he will be persecuted for his political beliefs; the government of Cyprus, which is considering the request, previously said it would extradite Mustafa to Egypt.
Arguments and Analysis
“Why Iraqis living under the Islamic State fear their liberators” (Munqith al-Dagher and Karl Kaltenthaler, Monkey Cage)
“The primary takeaway from this survey data is that Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiite perceive a very different process of defeating the Islamic State taking place. While both Sunnis and Shiites overwhelming oppose the Islamic State’s presence in Iraq, Shiites are largely not concerned about who is fighting — while Sunnis are concerned. Sunnis largely expect to be treated unfairly — and even abused — when the Islamic State is gone. Time will tell if this sense of threat to the Sunni Iraqis’ collective identity will dissipate. If this sense of Sunni distrust toward the Iraqi government and its allies does not wane, it will be very difficult to rebuild a unified, functioning Iraq.”
“What the Yemen ceasefire means for the Gulf, the anti-ISIS campaign, and U.S. security” (Bruce Riedel, Markaz)
“Any enduring political settlement will require power sharing between the Houthis and the Saudi-backed Hadi government. It will also need to find a place for former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his family and supporters. A massive reconstruction effort will be necessary and can only be paid for by the Saudis and Emiratis. The United States has been quietly pushing the Saudis to end the war for several months, even as Washington provides critical intelligence and logistical aid to the coalition. Obama needs to press King Salman and his Gulf Cooperation Council counterparts to stop the fighting for good when he visits Riyadh later this month. He can assure the Saudis that Washington is opposed to an Iranian role in Yemen and note that U.S. and allied naval ships have thwarted several recent Iranian efforts to smuggle arms to the Houthis. The war has diverted attention and resources from the struggle with ISIS and allowed the growth of AQAP for too long.”
-J. Dana Stuster
GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images