The POMED Wire

Syrian Delegates Meet in Moscow; U.S. Cuts Off Covert Aid

From January 26-28,  _72409406_7240940532 members of various opposition groups and six members of the official Syrian delegation met in Moscow, under the moderation of Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar JaafariMajid Habbo described the talks as “trying to create an atmosphere of trust, between all sides, including the regime…” However, the National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition group, refused to attend the talks,  with Monzer Akbik stating that the talks were “an initiative to reinvent the Assad regime in another form,” adding that Russia wasn’t an honest broker for peace given its support for the Assad regime. When asked about the talks,  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,  said, “I wouldn’t say I’m pessimistic. I would say we have hope, in every action.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also met the delegation on the January 28, after his Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov promised the meeting as a reward if “the atmosphere is constructive.” The talks wrapped up on Thursday, with Vitaly Naumkin summarizing the conference as creating a platform for future talks, but made no attempt to address disputed issues, such as the fate of Assad. All attendees agreed to hold further talks at an undetermined date.

Meanwhile, …

Pentagon Begins Talks with Houthis as Factions Form “Salvation Government”

The Pentagon opened talks with the Houthi rebels on Wednesday.  A Pentagon spokesman stated that ”given the political uncertainty, it’s fair to say that U.S. government officials are in communication with various parties in Yemen about what is a very fluid and complex political situation.”  As discussion between the U.S. and political entities within Yemen unfolded, the Houthi’s captured a military base previously used by the U.S. in 2012 to train counterterrorism forces on Thursday.  Meanwhile, various political factions within Yemen formed a “salvation government” on Monday, leading one observer to state that  ”[This] very limited violence shows one thing: The people, the government, the military do not want to fight. They want to reach a solution.”

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported ”Several journalists have been attacked, detained, or their equipment seized in Sana’a in recent days, while at least one journalist has been reported missing” and called for ”all sides in Yemen to respect the civilian status of journalists and allow the media to work safely and freely during this critical juncture.” On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also noted the Yemeni government’s failure ”to ensure justice for past human rights violations” as well as implement …

POMED Notes – Freedom in the World 2015

On Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Freedom House unveiled the latest edition of Freedom House’s annual report, Freedom in the World 2015, entitled “Discarding Democracy: Return to the Iron Fist,” and hosted a panel to discuss the report’s findings. The panel was moderated by Wilson Center Public Policy Scholar, Jill Dougherty, and included Arch Puddington, Vice President of Research at Freedom House and the report’s author; Tamara Wittes, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution; and James Mann, author-in-residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and former foreign correspondent and columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

For full notes, continue reading or click here for a PDF.

Arch Puddington opened the discussion by prefacing the report’s results as more “gloom” than “doom.” For the ninth consecutive year, the report showed an overall decline in global political rights and civil liberties. Mr. Puddington pointed out that the economies of countries with democratic deficits were either doing worse than before or have stagnated over the past year.  He highlighted three trends: an upsurge in terrorism, a movement towards “modern authoritarianism” in which regimes find nuanced, political …

POMED Notes — Iran Nuclear Negotiations After the Second Extension: Where Are They Going?

On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing entitled “Iran Nuclear Negotiations After the Second Extension: Where Are They Going?” Witnesses included the Honorable Eric S. Edelman, Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; Mr. John Hannah, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Mr. Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; and the Honorable Robert Einhorn, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Program of The Brookings Institution.

For the full notes, continue reading or click here for the PDF.

Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) opened by expressing frustration with the delay in using the proper leverage to get “the type of deal that we thought was verifiable.” He expressed concern a final agreement would free Iran of sanctions, leave it as a threshold nuclear state, and contain limits that would eventually expire. Lamenting an apparent stalemate in negotiations that were already on their second – soon to be third – extension, Royce accused Iran of continuing to advance its nuclear program in violation of “the spirit of the interim agreement” and duplicitously making a power play to …

Libya Peace Talks Resume; al-Hassi Claims U.S. Partnership

Peace talks resumed in Geneva on Monday with UNSMIL Head Bernardino Leon noting that the participants “have a very clear determination to reach an agreement, to pacify the country and to overcome the crisis…There is a very constructive spirit.”  This week’s talks are structured in two tracks: a “main political track” to form a unity government, and a second track that will bring together local and municipal councils “to discuss confidence building measures and ways to implement them.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan al-Saghir was kidnapped on Sunday from a hotel in Bayda and released on Monday. The Tobruk-based government has launched an inquiry into the incident. On Tuesday, nine people were killed in an attack at the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, which the Islamic State (IS) has reportedly claimed responsibility for on social media. Omar Khadrawi, head of Tripoli’s Central Security Directorate, rebuked this claim, saying the attackers were part of “Quaddafi’s revolutionary guard and…specialist assassination squads” who carried out to the attack to “damage Tripoli’s reputation of quiet, peace, and security.” France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. issued a joint-statement “strongly condemn[ing]” the attack and called on all parties to “engage seriously” …

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