Russia Suspends Airstrikes Against Syrian Rebel Groups

The Russian government announced yesterday that it would temporarily suspend airstrikes against Jabhat al-Nusra to allow other Syrian rebel groups to distance themselves from the organization. The move comes a week after Russia proposed joint airstrikes with the United States targeting rebel groups that violate the partial ceasefire; the United States refused the proposal, which ...

GettyImages-515910864
GettyImages-515910864

The Russian government announced yesterday that it would temporarily suspend airstrikes against Jabhat al-Nusra to allow other Syrian rebel groups to distance themselves from the organization. The move comes a week after Russia proposed joint airstrikes with the United States targeting rebel groups that violate the partial ceasefire; the United States refused the proposal, which would have initiated strikes yesterday. A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said the reprieve was granted after rebels agreed to halt “provocative” attacks against Assad regime targets, but senior rebel leaders disputed this, saying rebel groups are not in contact with Russian forces. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with foreign ministers from the Gulf states today in Moscow to discuss the situation in Syria. In particular, the role of rebel groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam, which participate in the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee but which Russia considers terrorist groups, was expected to be a subject of discussion.

Shia Cleric Discourages Attacks on Civilians Trapped in Fallujah

Just 800 people have managed to flee Fallujah since the Iraqi government began its assault on the Islamic State-occupied city on May 22, according to the United Nations. Approximately 50,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in the Sunni-majority city. Responding to concerns that the role of Shia militias could inflame sectarian tension, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shia authority in Iraq, issued a statement urging Shia fighters in Fallujah to show restraint and to not kill civilians. In Baghdad, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on political protesters to postpone their weekly Friday rally to allow Iraqi security forces to focus on the Fallujah offensive.

The Russian government announced yesterday that it would temporarily suspend airstrikes against Jabhat al-Nusra to allow other Syrian rebel groups to distance themselves from the organization. The move comes a week after Russia proposed joint airstrikes with the United States targeting rebel groups that violate the partial ceasefire; the United States refused the proposal, which would have initiated strikes yesterday. A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said the reprieve was granted after rebels agreed to halt “provocative” attacks against Assad regime targets, but senior rebel leaders disputed this, saying rebel groups are not in contact with Russian forces. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with foreign ministers from the Gulf states today in Moscow to discuss the situation in Syria. In particular, the role of rebel groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam, which participate in the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee but which Russia considers terrorist groups, was expected to be a subject of discussion.

Shia Cleric Discourages Attacks on Civilians Trapped in Fallujah

Just 800 people have managed to flee Fallujah since the Iraqi government began its assault on the Islamic State-occupied city on May 22, according to the United Nations. Approximately 50,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in the Sunni-majority city. Responding to concerns that the role of Shia militias could inflame sectarian tension, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shia authority in Iraq, issued a statement urging Shia fighters in Fallujah to show restraint and to not kill civilians. In Baghdad, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on political protesters to postpone their weekly Friday rally to allow Iraqi security forces to focus on the Fallujah offensive.

Headlines

  • Iranian oil output has nearly returned to normal levels, raising expectations that it might be more willing to negotiate with Saudi Arabia about capping production at an OPEC summit next week, though rising oil prices have reduced the urgency for efforts to manage oil prices and analysts expect no new decisions to come out of the meeting.

 

  • An airstrike by the Saudi-led intervention force in Yemen killed 11 people, including four children, when it flattened a family home adjacent to a building with suspected militants in el-Mahala, in Lahj province.

 

  • A Coptic church in Egypt says a Muslim mob ransacked a Christian community and burned down seven homes last week in Minya after rumors spread that a local Christian man had an affair with a Muslim woman; police responded to the violence after two hours and arrested six people.

 

  • Israeli jets carried out airstrikes against two Hamas targets in southern Gaza in response to rockets fired into Israeli territory by the militant group Ajnad Beit al-Maqdis.

 

  • A French vessel equipped with special equipment designed for maritime wreckage detection will join the search for EgyptAir Flight 804’s flight recorders today at the request of the Egyptian government.

Arguments and Analysis

Navigating Gulf Waters After the Iran Nuclear Deal” (Melissa Dalton, Center for Strategic and International Studies)

“The dialogue that fostered the JCPOA now provides potential for U.S.-Iranian communication on other U.S. policy priorities. High-level U.S. officials may now pick up the phone and make routine calls to their Iranian counterparts — an option unavailable only a few years ago. This new phase of dialogue brings new opportunities, but it also poses risks that the United States must manage carefully. For more than three decades, Iran has relied on its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to secure its interests in the Gulf by using a combination of proxies and asymmetric capabilities in neighboring states and regions with majority Shi’ite populations to promote its interests and marginalize political forces that could undermine its foreign policy agenda. This agenda — an amalgam of geopolitical and sectarian interests — has become more significant in light of the intensifying rivalry with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Iranian-Saudi friction across the region, particularly in the Gulf, will not only continue to shape Gulf security, but will pose new challenges for U.S. policy in the region in the post-JCPOA period.”

 

Yemen: Stemming the Rise of a Chaos State” (Peter Salisbury, Chatham House)

“In the case of Yemen, the groups taking part in the civil war are routinely oversimplified into ‘pro-Hadi’ and ‘pro-Houthi’ camps. The reality is that most Yemenis do not support either the president or the northern rebels; rather, they are part of much smaller groups with their own identity, ideology, grievances and political goals, from secessionists in the south to Salafists in Taiz and Aden and tribal leaders in the north. Maintaining the illusion that either Hadi or the Houthi–Saleh alliance is representative of, or has control over these groups would be a dangerous folly. There is a growing consensus among Yemen analysts and researchers that the transitional process of 2012–14 failed because of exactly such a gap in policy-makers’ understanding of Yemen, and because of the mismatch between the needs of the Yemeni people and the priorities of the transition’s foreign sponsors. Along with the Yemeni elites, the UN and the member states of the UN Security Council focused on political power-balancing at the elite level, reinforcing the power of these elites while ignoring local dynamics and historically marginalized groups such as the Houthis and southern separatists, and paying little more than lip service to addressing the collapse in services and standards of living.”

-J. Dana Stuster

SERGEI VENYAVSKY/AFP/Getty Images

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