The Middle East Channel

Iran signs IAEA agreement after failing to reach a deal with world powers

Talks between Iran and six world powers on Iran's nuclear program ended Saturday without an agreement, but the parties agreed to meet again on November 20. Several reports have emerged over the breakdown of talks on Saturday, some saying France failed to endorse the proposal insisting on restrictions on a heavy-water plant in Arak. However, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, "The French signed off on it, we signed off on it, and everybody agreed it was a fair proposal." He continued, "Iran couldn't take it at that particular moment; they weren't able to accept." At a news conference on Monday in the U.A.E., Kerry mentioned that Washington is not in a race to reach a deal, but that he hoped the parties would reach an agreement within months. After the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, "We are all on the same wavelength, and that gives us the impetus to go forward when we meet again." Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported it signed a joint statement with Iran on a technical agreement for nuclear cooperation. The "roadmap for cooperation" grants broader access for IAEA inspectors to Iran's nuclear sites, particularly the planned reactor at Arak and the Gachin uranium mine.

Syria

The main opposition Syrian National Coalition has agreed to participate in proposed international peace talks in Geneva. In a statement Monday, the western-backed umbrella organization outlined conditions for its attendance requiring a guarantee that relief agencies would be given access to deliver humanitarian assistance to areas under siege and that political prisoners, particularly women and children, would be released. Additionally, the statement reiterated demands that President Bashar al-Assad step down in any transitional government. The coalition has called for goodwill measures from the government, and on Sunday a deal was reached to ease a blockade on the rebel-held town of Qudsaya, near Damascus. However, it is unclear if this was a pointed goodwill gesture. Meanwhile, Syrian forces backed by Hezbollah fighters reportedly overtook an army base near Aleppo's airport. Opposition forces have held nearly half of Aleppo since a siege on the city in July 2012, but the base has reportedly exchanged hands three times since Friday. In northeastern Syria, fighters associated with Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) have made a string of military gains, establishing a significant geographic presence.  

Headlines

  • Thousands of foreign workers turned themselves in Sunday after clashes between police and protesting migrant laborers in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh killed at least two people.
  • Iran's Deputy Industry Minister Safdar Rahmatabadi was shot and killed Sunday in Tehran, seemingly assassinated by someone traveling along with him in his car.

Arguments and Analysis

'Jordan: surprisingly stable for the moment' (The Economist)

"Whereas ordinary Jordanians seem simply relieved that their king has kept them out of neighbouring conflicts, those troubles have driven a wedge into Jordan's political opposition. Secular groups are fiercely divided between friends and foes of Syria's embattled regime. The Muslim Brotherhood, long the most powerful opposition force in Jordan in its guise as the Islamic Action Front, has also split into warring camps, with the recent overthrow of Egypt's Brotherhood president prompting some of its Jordanian adherents to argue for a less combative approach.

In a sign of declining opposition clout, street protests against cuts in food and fuel subsidies have drawn diminishing crowds. Policy changes as well as luck have helped to blunt criticism of the king. Queen Rania, whose glamorous profile riled conservatives, has largely withdrawn from the public eye. Constitutional reforms have gone part of the way to meet reformers' demands, and high-profile anti-corruption cases have partly appeased critics of the government.

Yet the mood in the kingdom remains anxious, not merely because neighbouring troubles could still prove contagious. Further cuts in subsidies are needed to trim a perilously chronic budget deficit and some fear that, with the organised opposition in disarray, any renewed eruption of street protests would be leaderless and hard to control."

'The myth of military might in R2P choices' (Liam Mahony, OpenDemocracy)

"Decision-makers truly concerned with protecting civilians need to recognize this unconscious assumption that privileges the military option. Rather than reacting to knee-jerk pressures to do something, or to do more, policy decisions should be based on a careful context-based analysis of each particular case, and an extremely cautious assessment of reasonable expectations of consequences. This kind of assessment is necessary before military action, before economic sanctions, or any other pressure.

Those in power who order atrocities -- whether President Assad or an armed group leader in the Congo -- are most often interested in sustaining or increasing their own power. Such power is political, economic, and military and it depends on their relationships with others. A strategy to protect civilians must examine the real interests of these people, identifying all the political, economic and military relationships they have that present opportunities for leverage. From that analysis, a nuanced and more complex strategy would combine the range of tools of leverage available. These in turn would be tailored to maximize their combined impact, and the strategy would assess the projected balance of consequences with an emphasis on minimizing negative impacts on civilians."

'R2P down but not out after Libya and Syria' (Gareth Evans, OpenDemocracy)

"But while R2P may be down, it's not out, for four reasons I will spell out in turn. First, there is effectively universal consensus now about its basic principles. Second, those principles have shown their worth in real-world cases, and the Security Council has continued to invoke them, even after it divided over Libya and became paralysed on Syria. Third, there is a principled way through the dilemma now facing policymakers as to how to react to the chemical weapons atrocity in the face of likely Council vetoes. And fourth, it is possible to see how the consensus that matters most -- in the Security Council, on the hardest of cases -- could be re-created in the future. 

As to R2P's general acceptance, the best evidence for R2P lies in the statements made in successive annual General Assembly debates on the subject since 2009. No state now disagrees that every sovereign state has the responsibility, to the best of its ability, to protect its own peoples from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other major crimes against humanity and war-crimes. No state disagrees that others have the responsibility, to the best of their own ability, to assist it to do so. And no state seriously continues to challenge the principle that the wider international community should respond with timely and decisive collective action when a state is manifestly failing to meet its responsibility to protect its own people."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

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