The P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union) has been engaged in serious and substantive negotiations with Iran with the goal of reaching a verifiable diplomatic resolution that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia, having largely abandoned hope that the United States will spearhead international efforts to topple the Assad regime, is embarking on a major new effort to train Syrian rebel forces. And according to three sources with knowledge of the program, Riyadh has enlisted the help of Pakistani instructors to do it.
The United States and Russia reached an agreement on Thursday on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at ridding Syria of its chemical weapons arsenal.
The militant Islamist group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was formed in January 2009 through a union of the Saudi and Yemeni branches of al-Qaeda. Jihadist antecedents in the region date to the early 1990s, when thousands of mujahedeen returned to Yemen after fighting the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. Analysts rate the Yemen-based group as the most lethal Qaeda franchise, carrying out a domestic insurgency while maintaining its sights on striking Western targets. As the ranks of so-called "al-Qaeda central" in Pakistan have thinned, the umbrella organization's core may shift to Yemen. In August 2013, indications of an AQAP-sponsored plot led to the closure of more than two dozen U.S. diplomatic facilities across the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia.
It's already time to start planning for what happens if the Middle East peace talks fall apart.
A week is a long time in the diplomatic efforts surrounding the Syrian conflict. Just when it looked as though key elements were coalescing towards convening a US-UK-Russia-sponsored conference to negotiate a way out of the political deadlock, events on the ground took over again. Rather than an aberration, “events” have in fact been a constant of what is better characterised as a game of diplomatic catch-up, in which the main players on the chessboard have been firmly rooted in Syria, and now the wider region, for over two years.
Israeli-Turkish relations are likely to feature prominently during Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Washington, DC. Turkish and Israeli officials are engaged in talks to work out Israeli compensation to the families killed and injured during the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident. These talks are part of a U.S.-brokered rapprochement between the two countries, which began with an official apology by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Erdoğan in late March for “any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury” aboard the Mavi Marmara. This hasn’t been an easy exercise; a major challenge for Turkey comes from finding a balance between the domestic debate over the lifting of the blockade of Gaza and Turkey’s own compensation issues for the Kurdish population on the one hand and Turkey’s pressing national security needs against the deteriorating situation in Syria on the other.
During his recent visit to Israel, President Barack Obama pulled off a major breakthrough in relations between Israel and Turkey. After forging very close ties during the 1990s, Jerusalem and Ankara have of late gone their separate ways. The estrangement peaked as a result of Israel’s 2010 interdiction of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli operation resulted in the death of nine activists on board the vessel. The Turkish government was incensed, and an Istanbul court went on to indict four Israeli commanders allegedly responsible for the mission.
Al Qaeda’s franchise in Syria, just one year old, is now the fastest-growing al Qaeda front in the world, attracting fighters from across the Islamic world. Jabhat al Nusra, translated variously as the Victory Front or the Support Front for the Syrian People, was founded in January 2012, almost a year after the first demonstrations against the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad. It was created with the assistance of the al Qaeda franchise in Iraq that was formed nearly a decade ago during the American invasion. The Iraqi base provided a safe haven for setting up the front in Syria and still provides sanctuary for the Syrian group to this day.
Egypt is in the midst of a very serious crisis, says CFR's Steven A. Cook, who points to President Morsi's recent decision to declare a "state of emergency in the Suez cities of Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia, and in Cairo, which has been basically ignored." He says "these are worrying signs of a breakdown in social cohesion," and notes that Defense Minister Abdel Fattah El Sisi has threatened to intervene. Cook says, "the military is obviously concerned about this situation, and has at least contemplated what it might do in the event that the situation in Egypt really does get out of control." He adds that Egypt's economy is in "terrible" shape, with tourists staying away and virtually no foreign investment coming into the country. Yet despite these developments, he is doubtful that Morsi will accept a bid for a coalition government.
The state of press freedom in Turkey is a stain on Ankara’s democratic reputation, economic standing, and diplomatic position. Despite domestic and international criticism of the imprisonment and prosecution of journalists in Turkey and of the flawed Turkish legal system, the government has not responded decisively. There are profound political, economic, and ethical reasons for Turkey to improve its record on press freedom.
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