Six world powers resumed talks with Iran Thursday over its contested nuclear development program for the sixth round of negotiations in Vienna since February. Negotiators from Iran as well as the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia, and Britain are working to agree on a comprehensive deal ahead of the July 20 expiration of the interim accord, agreed upon in November 2013. The negotiators have been unable to overcome gaps on several issues including determining the number of centrifuges Iran will be permitted to operate, the duration of the agreement, and a timeline for the lifting of international sanctions on Iran. U.S. officials admitted an extension of the negotiations might be necessary. Additionally, senior U.S. and Iranian officials are increasing claims that they have made every effort to reach a deal apparently preparing to deflect blame if a settlement is not reached.
The Pentagon has released a statement saying the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons from the Danish ship Ark Futura to the U.S. vessel Cape Ray has been successfully completed. Over about 12 hours, 78 containers of chemical elements were transferred between the two vessels. The Cape Ray set off from Italy's port of Gioia Tauro to neutralize the materials in the Mediterranean Sea. Meanwhile, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said Syria's refugee crisis could destabilize the region unless donors provide the remaining 70 percent of the $3.74 billion needed for emergency assistance. There are currently 2.9 million registered Syrian refugees in the region, and the United Nations estimates the number will reach 3.6 million by the end of the year.
- The United States said it will tighten security at European, African, and Middle Eastern airports over concerns that al Qaeda operatives in Syria and Yemen are developing bombs that can be smuggled onto planes.
- Gazan militants and Israel exchanged rocket fire and airstrikes after riots and clashes in Jerusalem were sparked by the killing of a Palestinian teen, whose funeral is being delayed for a post-mortem examination.
- The Libyan government has declared an end to the oil crisis after reaching a deal to resume control over two remaining oil ports that had been seized by rebels.
- Saudi Arabia has deployed 30,000 troops to its border with Iraq after reports that Iraqi soldiers have withdrawn from their posts in Anbar province where ISIL-led militants have seized territory.
- An Egyptian criminal court has sentenced Abdullah Morsi, the youngest son of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, to a year in prison on drug charges.
Arguments and Analysis
'"Bad Deal" Better Than "No Deal"?' (Francois Nicoulaud, LobeLog)
"'No deal is better than bad deal:' that's the mantra that has been heard ad nauseam in the recent past and presented as self-evident of U.S. toughness in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.
But is it really so? Of course, everybody knows what 'no deal' means. It is more difficult to discern at what point a deal becomes bad, rather than good, or even average. But plenty of experts are ready to help. A bad deal, they tell us, is a deal which would allow the Iranians to produce the material necessary for a bomb in less than six months. A bad deal is a deal which would not clarify once and for all what kind of research the Iranians have been pursuing in the past for manufacturing a nuclear explosive device. A bad deal is a deal which would allow the Iranians to pursue their ballistic missile program. And so on... One ends up understanding that any deal less than perfect would amount to an unacceptably bad deal.
But such an approach goes against any diplomatic process in which compromise and give and take are key notions. It leads to the conclusion that a perfect deal is a deal which does not have to be negotiated, a deal in which the winner takes all. And indeed, there are people who believe that non-proliferation is too important a question to be submitted to any kind of compromise. It deserves only perfect deals."
'Will the Palestinian Unity Government Survive?' (Mahmoud Jaraba and Lihi Ben Shitrit, Sada)
"If Hamas's leadership is found to be behind the kidnapping and murder of the three settlers, it is likely the unity government will fall. Yet, even if it proves to be the work of local Hamas members operating without the orders of the central command, there remains many other challenges that threaten to break down the fragile unity. The government still has little presence in the Gaza Strip, and it has not integrated Hamas's Gazan civil servants into PA institutions. It has not created any strategic plan for Gaza's rehabilitation and reconstruction, reopening border crossings, or ending the siege. Nor has it taken any steps to prepare for legislative and presidential elections or to merge Fatah and Hamas governing institutions."
-- Mary Casey
JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images