Report

U.S. and Russia Reach Deal to Restore Ceasefire in Syria

The United States and Russia have reportedly reached an agreement to restore a nationwide ceasefire in Syria after weeks of negotiations and intense conflict, particularly in Aleppo. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the agreement will involve closer U.S. and Russian communication to determine where the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, which are ...

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The United States and Russia have reportedly reached an agreement to restore a nationwide ceasefire in Syria after weeks of negotiations and intense conflict, particularly in Aleppo. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the agreement will involve closer U.S. and Russian communication to determine where the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, which are not parties to the ceasefire, are operating and can be targeted. Kerry stressed that this is a diplomatic accord, “words on a piece of paper,” and that it would be up to the actors on the ground to implement the truce. The restoration of the ceasefire could clear the way for the resumption of U.N.-backed peace talks, which “should take place next week,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters.

It is unclear if the Assad regime will implement the arrangement and some rebel groups said that they would abide by the deal but doubted the government would as well. On Monday, the regime said it would extend a temporary ceasefire in Aleppo by another two days.

Yemen Peace Talks Resume but Ceasefire at Risk

Though the warring parties in the Yemeni civil war resumed direct negotiations in Kuwait yesterday, the country’s tenuous ceasefire frayed further. Airstrikes targeting a military base in Amran province, Yemen, killed at least 10 rebels and wounded 15 others on Monday. Houthi forces responded by firing a missile at a military base in Saudi Arabia, but Saudi officials say the missile was intercepted by their air defense system. In a statement reported by Saudi state media, the Saudi-led military coalition announced “that it will continue to maintain the cessation of hostilities.” In Kuwait, U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed convened three working groups after a two-day interruption of negotiations. “There is no doubt that we are at a true crossroads. We are either moving towards peace or going back to square one,” he said.

Headlines

  • Abu Wahib, a senior Islamic State commander who appeared in execution videos and spent time in U.S. detention and Iraqi prisons, was killed in an airstrike last week in Rutba, Iraq, according to U.S. officials.

 

  • A coalition of Egyptian tourism agencies will pay $140,000 each to three of the families of the eight Mexican tourists who were killed in an Egyptian military strike in September 2015; the coalition, which says it is independent of the Egyptian government, is also negotiating with the five other families.

 

  • At least 13 people were killed when a car bomb exploded today in a Shiite neighborhood in Baqouba, Iraq, the capital of Diyala province; the Islamic State claimed credit for the attack and said it was targeting a Shiite mosque.

 

  • Two masked Palestinian assailants stabbed two elderly women in Jerusalem before fleeing the scene to an adjacent East Jerusalem neighborhood where they were caught by police; the two women have been hospitalized but are expected to survive.

 

  • Iran has announced its intention to pursue international legal action against the United States to recover $2 billion in frozen assets that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision determined could be paid out to families of victims of Iranian-supported terrorism in accordance with a law passed by Congress.

Arguments and Analysis

Machine Politics in Lebanon’s Alleyways” (Sima Ghaddar, Century Foundation)

“In principle, the Future Movement’s constituents desire a strong traditional state. In practice, the Future Movement’s political bosses (known colloquially as zaims) subordinate financial, economic, and social development to party loyalty and communal identity. If the state’s governing bodies are not in harmony with the governing zaims, then citizens suffer neglect until their many bickering bosses resolve their differences. When “quorum is complete,” the boss’s political interests still take precedence. The mechanics of the Hariri dynasty in its home city of Sidon show how a dysfunctional national order is built block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, political broker by political broker — and explain how the entire country of Lebanon remains under the control of a small number of powerful families, and why it is so difficult for new entrants to compete independently, even at the municipal level.”

 

Muqtada al-Sadr’s Changing Role in an Unchanging Iraq” (Nabeel Khoury, MENASource)

“Just prior to sending his followers into the Green Zone, Sadr reportedly traveled to Beirut to consult with Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General — who is respected by Iraqi Shia leaders. Sadr has not been shy in expressing his admiration of Nasrallah, describing himself once as “the striking hand of Hezbollah in Iraq.” Sadr’s recent speech was also replete with Qur’anic references, likely thrown in to reflect his improved religious scholarship gained from recent studies in Iran, and a Nasrallah-style delivery, down to hand gestures and an emphasis on the interests of those he represents rather than on any personal ambition of his own. Nasrallah’s influence could be positive or negative, depending on how Sadr chooses to use it. The former’s pragmatism could induce the latter to be satisfied exercising influence from behind the scenes without seeking to assume power directly. He has said in his recent speech, as well as on previous occasions, that he seeks only to influence government rather than replace it. While all signs thus far indicate a commitment to a nonviolent movement, it remains to be seen whether the relatively young and passionate Muqtada al-Sadr has accumulated enough political wisdom in recent years to exert his influence on Baghdad’s power elite peacefully or, if in a rush to cash in on his popularity, he might precipitate a violent confrontation in an already tense and complex Iraqi environment.”

-J. Dana Stuster

PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

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