The Middle East Channel

U.N. Evacuation of Homs Continues as Syrian Parties Meet Directly in Geneva

A cease-fire has been extended in Homs for three days for the United Nations and Syrian Red Crescent to evacuate more civilians. About 450 people left the besieged Old City of Homs Monday, with a total of 1,100 people estimated evacuated since Friday. According to Homs Governor Tala Barrazi, the Syrian government allowed 111 fighting-age men to leave the area Monday. However, dozens were detained and questioned, as was similarly done with 130 men and their families on Sunday. Reports conflict over whether the men have been released. Members of Homs's Alawite community have voiced anger over the U.N. mission saying aid workers are more concerned with delivering food to "armed men" than finding some 740 missing Alawites believed to have been kidnapped by rebels and held in the Old City. Talks continued Tuesday in Geneva with the opposing parties meeting face-to-face. According to U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, Monday's talks, which he held with each delegation separately, focused mainly on questions "relating to the cessation of violence and terrorism and the establishment of a transitional governing body." According to opposition spokesman Monzer Akbik, Tuesday's session centered on discussing the week's schedule, though both sides were arguing about the length and number of meetings. Meanwhile, efforts to draft a U.N. Security Council resolution to allow access for humanitarian organizations stalled Monday when representatives from Russia and China failed to show up to the meeting. Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly I. Churkin, said, "This text would not have any practical, positive impact on the situation."


Arguments and Analysis

'Convince, Coerce, or Compromise: Ennahda's Approach to Tunisia Constitution' (Monica L. Marks, Brookings Doha Center)

"Tunisia's constitution-drafting process is complete. After two years, four drafts, and serial threats to dissolve the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) in the summer of 2013, lawmakers voted on January 26, 2014 to approve Tunisia's new, post-revolutionary constitution - the first constitution freely created by a representative, democratically elected assembly anywhere in the Arabic- speaking world. While Tunisian and foreign media focused primarily on Ennahda's role in the drafting process - particularly whether the party, which holds a 41 percent plurality in the NCA, attempted to shoehorn an aggressive, Islamizing agenda into the document analysis of the process that produced this historic deal has yet to emerge. With constitution drafting having drawn to a close, the time has come to reassess Ennahda's role.

Has the party single-handedly dominated the drafting process, as its critics claim, or has it simply acted as a well-organized force for compromise? What explains the evolution of Ennahda's positions on the constitution's more controversial articles, such as efforts to include the criminalization of blasphemy and a notion of gender complementarity? This paper argues that received characterizations of Ennahda as an intensely well-organized and ideologically driven party fail to fully explain its approach to central constitutional debates. Instead, internal and external transitional challenges have shaped Ennahda's constitutional positions and led directly to the current political bargain."

'The Strategy of Egypt's Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis' (David Barnett, Atlantic Council)

"ABM [Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis], which has by now conducted dozens of attacks in North Sinai, as well as a handful in the Egyptian mainland, has largely kept its word. The group's brutal campaign in Egypt has specifically targeted Egypt's security forces, which last year toppled the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi, and has since maintained tight control of the government. To be sure, innocent civilians have been killed and wounded in some of the group's attacks. But the group has signaled that the security forces are its prey, with government installations and personnel taking the brunt of its violent campaign.

ABM's target selection provides important insight into the current strategy of this clandestine jihadist group. The ongoing political battle between the military and the Brotherhood has yielded ABM an opportunity to portray itself as defenders of Egypt's Muslims."

--Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr

STR/AFP/Getty Images


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