Iran and six world powers are meeting in Vienna Tuesday resuming talks over Tehran's disputed nuclear program aiming to reach a comprehensive agreement by mid-July. However, tension between western countries and Russia over events in Ukraine and Crimea's succession vote on Sunday, which overwhelmingly approved reunification with Russia, may threaten the second round of talks. Diplomats said there is little sign that the Ukraine situation will undermine attempts to broker a nuclear deal. However, if Russian President Vladimir Putin annexes Crimea, disagreements between the permanent U.N. Security Council member states may reduce pressure on Iran to make a deal. Furthermore, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he expects talks to be more difficult this week than the previous round as the two sides attempt to work out details such as the Arak heavy water reactor and levels of uranium enrichment.
U.N. human rights investigators released an update report Tuesday adding to their list of suspected war criminals from the Syrian regime and opposition groups. According to Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chairman of the inquiry, "This ‘perpetrators list,' as we call it, contains names of persons criminally responsible for hostage-taking, torture, and executions." The U.N. Commission of Inquiry says that hostilities escalated between opposition factions during the period of January 20 through March 10. The report notes that fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have "conducted mass executions of detainees" and that opposition fighters have used car and suicide bombs targeting civilian areas. Additionally, the report says government forces have increased barrel bomb attacks causing extensive civilian casualties. The list includes heads of intelligence branches and detention facilities, military commanders, and officials. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced Daniel Rubinstein will replace Robert S. Ford as special envoy for Syria. Rubinstein is a senior foreign service official who has served in Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, and Israel, among other assignments.
- An Egyptian court has convicted four policemen in connection to the deaths of 37 Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters in 2013, sentencing one to 10 years in prison.
- U.S. President Obama met with Palestinian President Abbas Monday saying achieving a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would be challenging and that they would need to take risks to move forward.
- The Daily Telegraph has alleged that a Qatari company paid nearly $2 million to former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner and his family after the Gulf state's successful bid for the 2022 World Cup.
Arguments and Analysis
'Islamist Outlaws: Saudi Arabia Takes on the Muslim Brotherhood' (William McCants, Foreign Affairs)
"Saudi Arabia's moves have provoked some unhappiness at home. Saudi Islamists, particularly the Brothers, are convinced that Morsi's overthrow was part of a Saudi plot to roll back Islamist political gains of the past three years. In defiance, they festooned their social media profiles with symbols of Brotherhood resistance and criticized their government for its complicity. The defiance has become more muted recently, after the local press reported that the government was contemplating declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. According to former members of the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood I spoke with, the 25,000 or so members of the Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia reacted to the news of the deliberations by preemptively keeping a low profile, closing some of its gatherings so as not to further stoke the government's ire. Until the Saudi government actually begins making arrests, its recent announcement is more of a shot across the Brotherhood's bow than an attempt to sink the ship.
Nevertheless, person after person I interviewed asserted that the level of Islamist anger toward the Saudi government is higher than at any time since the early 1990s. That does not mean Brotherhood leaders will move against the regime in the near term. In the 1990s as now, they have too much to lose institutionally. There is also some benefit in a wait-and-see approach, which is why Salman al-Awda, a prominent Saudi Islamist, is privately counselling his followers to wait for the regime's factions to sort things out among themselves. But the younger rank-and-file Brothers in Saudi, like those in other Brotherhood franchises outside Egypt, are starting to lose hope in peaceful political change. That frustration can lead to apathy. But it can also lead to violence -- and if it does, the Saudi government's decision to declare the group a terrorist organization will have been a self-fulfilling prophecy."
'Women's Activism and the Polio Epidemic in Syria' (Thomas McGee, Jadaliyya)
"The humanitarian virtue of the campaign to protect children on the 'other side' of the front line from the highly contagious and potentially fatal virus is clear. Beyond this, however, the initiative has also served as a powerful means of mobilizing and engaging Syrian women within a context generally perceived to be hostile to female participation. Despite playing a key role in the early stages of the Syrian uprising that began in 2011, many women found themselves side-lined in a conflict environment increasingly dominated by extremist actors.
The polio campaign offers, therefore, a new example of women's continued commitment to active and visible participation. Despite security limitations, female recruits account for at least one third of the volunteers administering the vaccination campaign across half of the country. Against all the tragedy of the present situation in the country, the campaign deserves attention as a potential model for strengthening women's engagement in Syrian society."
-- Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr
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