The POMED Wire

Obama Gathers GCC Leaders to Discuss Iran, Regional Security

Mideast Qatar Gulf Ambassadors

Photo Credit: Aljazeera

Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will meet with President Obama to discuss U.S. security commitment to the Gulf and their concerns about a possible nuclear accord with Iran. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will not attend the meetings, citing the ”timing of the summit” and ceasefire in Yemen as  reasons for his absence. Some view the “king’s failure to attend the meeting as a sign of disappointment with what the White House was willing to offer at the summit meeting as reassurance that the United States would back its Arab allies against a rising Iran.” The meetings will reportedly discuss joint military exercises, additional arms sales, and better integrating GCC missile defense systems to counter Iranian weapons ability.  Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. represent the biggest beneficiaries of U.S. arms sales in the region, and the GCC as a whole spends significantly more on its military than Iran.

Karen DeYoung and Juliet Eilperin write that while senior Arab officials understand a mutual defense treaty “is not possible,” they still “want a firmer and more specific U.S. promise to protect them from external threats.”  Shawn Brimley, Ilan Goldberg, and Nicholas Hears argue that the U.S. should offer …

U.N.-Sponsored Syria Peace Talks Resume, Rebel Forces Make Gains

Syrian Blog Pic

Photo Credit: United Nations

The United Nations has launched another round of peace talks between parties in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Staffan de Mistura, the U.N.’s Syria envoy, said that representatives of the opposition will include ”a broad spectrum of youth, political and military actors, women, victims, civil society, diaspora, religious and community leaders and more,” but not members of the Islamic State or Jabhat al-Nusra. The talks come as rebel forces continue to find battlefield success, and as regime forces are accused of killing over 3,000 civilians in Aleppo in a new report.

Meanwhile, W.J. Hennigan and Patrick J. Mcdonnell noted that while Washington wants any proxy force it trains in Syria to focus on targeting Islamic State fighters, regional allies prefer that any proxy force center its efforts on removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. This difference has led “several Persian Gulf powers and Turkey [to] arming the Army of Conquest, an umbrella opposition group that reportedly includes an al-Qaeda affiliate and other Islamist groups as well as ‘moderate’ fighters.” Washington’s struggles to identify and equip moderate elements of the Syrian opposition have led some to conclude that the U.S. should implement a no-fly …

Questions of Cluster Munitions, Ground Troops Emerge in Yemen Fighting

Yemen Pic

Photo Credit: Reuters

Reports have emerged highlighting the possible use of cluster munitions by Saudi Arabian air forces in Yemen. Cluster munitions are prohibited under international law adopted in 2008 by over 116 nations, excluding the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.  Human Rights Watch condemned the use of this ordinance, stating, “These weapons should never be used under any circumstances. Saudi Arabia and other coalition members – and the supplier, the U.S. – are flouting the global standard that rejects cluster munitions because of their long-term threat to civilians.”

In response to the report, the State Department said, “As a matter of U.S. law and U.S. policy, the United States may only transfer cluster munitions that meet that our stringent requirements for unexploded ordnance rates, which may not exceed 1 percent. In addition, recipients of such transfers must commit that cluster munitions will only be used against clearly defined military targets and will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians. This is obviously a critical element of our policy. … [We maintain] the commitment that cluster munitions will be used only against clearly defined military targets. With regard to …

POMED Notes: House MENA Subcommittee, “Regional Impact of U.S. Policy Towards Syria and Iraq”

On Thursday, April 30th, the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled “Regional Impact of U.S. Policy Towards Iraq and Syria.” The committee invited speakers Seth G. Jones, Ph.D., Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation; General Jack Keane, USA, Retired, Chairman of the Board, Institute for the Study of War; and Tamara Cofman Wittes, Ph.D., Director, Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings to testify.

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

Mr. Jones opened his testimony by discussing the intertwined nature of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. He noted that while the Islamic State, also known as Da’ish, has recently lost ground in Tikrit, Iraq, it still maintains control of substantial territory throughout the Sunni-dominant regions in Iraq. He also stated that U.S. airstrikes in Syria have not sufficiently degraded Da’ish and that recent battlefield victories by rebel groups will benefit extremists. He concluded his opening remarks by providing three steps to consider: improving interdiction in Turkey and other neighboring states, rethinking the Syrian Train and Equip Program, and revising the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military …

Lantos Commission Discusses Global Magnitsky Act

On Tuesday, April 28, 2015 the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a briefing entitled, “Global Magnitsky 101,” to discuss H.R 624, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The bill was introduced on January 30, 2015, by Rep. Jim McGovern and Rep. Chris Smith, (R-NJ)  with the intention extend the provisions of the Magnitsky Act beyond Russia.

Rep. McGovern began this week’s briefing by telling the story of how the original Magnitsky Act came to Congress, and how the idea soon expanded to including any individual guilty of corruption or human rights abuses globally. McGovern introduced three witnesses, including Bill Browder; Kyle Parker, Senior Staff Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Daniel Calingaert, Executive Vice President of Freedom House. McGovern concluded his remarks by emphasizing that human rights defenders all over the world are targeted by individuals and entities that are rarely held accountable, and the Global Magnitsky Act is an important response.

Browder’s testimony recounted the genesis of the original Magnitsky Act. In 2005, Browder, an American businessman and founder of Hermitage Capital Managment, hired Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky to investigate large-scale corruption within the Russian government. When the Russian government …

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