Weekly Roundup: Jan. 13-17, 2014

ahmed abd el-fatah.jpg

(Photo: Ahmed Abd El-Fatah | Flickr)

Syrian Opposition Proposes Ceasefire As Geneva Peace Conferences Approaches

  • Syrian government proposed a ceasefire with rebel forces and expressed willingness for an exchange of detainee lists, in order to “pave the way for a possible prisoner exchange”. The ceasefire, issued on Friday, appears to be an effort at imparting good faith in anticipation of the an upcoming conference aimed at ending the three year civil war.
  • Opposition forces are debating attending the conference, scheduled to begin Wednesday in Geneva, and are wary of its success with “90-95 different groups” scheduled to attend.
  • Hopefuls claim that, while the conference will likely not lead to a complete peace, it has potential to improve humanitarian access to Syrian civilians and result in small scale regional ceasefires.

Egypt Constitutional Referendum Put to Vote, Early Results Point to Approval

  • Voting on the draft constitution proposed by the interim government began Tuesday and has continued throughout this week. Major newspapers cite voter turnout at 37%, and predict over 90% approval for the constitution.
  • The high approval rating likely indicates “more a reflection of the fact that those opposed to the constitution, including the Brotherhood, boycotted the poll, rather than an indication of a tidal wave of enthusiasm for the document”, and Islamists were highly underrepresented in the drafting of the constitution itself.
  • Nevertheless, General al Sisi will likely interpret the high voter approval as legitimacy for his interim government and as grounds to run for Egypt’s presidency.

Iran Nuclear Deal to Go Into Effect Monday

  • The P5 + 1 countries signed a deal to go into effect January 20 to control Iran’s nuclear program. The interim agreement stipulates that Iran halt its uranium production at 20% levels and downgrade its current highly enriched uranium to lower levels. The deal is not final, and gives the nations six months to reach a permanent agreement.
  • The interim agreement is far from stable, as US Congress is currently debating a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran if the nation violates the deal. In turn, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi claimed this week that “we can reverse the deal in again to 20 percent enrichment in less than one day and we can convert the [nuclear] material again.

Tuesday Marks Tunisian Revolution Three Year Anniversary

  • January 14th marked the three year anniversary of the overthrow President Zine el Abidine ben Ali in Tunisia, the first of many ousts of long-standing leaders that have taken place in the Middle East over the past three years.
  • Tunisians took to the streets to celebrate the advances toward self-determination and democracy since the ouster of ben Ali and to recognize the inherent difficulties of a democratic transition that they have endured throughout the process.
  • Tunisia has achieved a peaceful government under the Nadha party and is soon expected to pass a constitution that combines elements of sharia law with those of a secular state.

Special Tribunal for Lebanon Set to Begin this Week

  • The Special Tribunal for Lebanon will begin this week in the Hague in order to investigate the assassination of Lebanese leaders including, notably, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The murders took place over nine years ago and the Tribunal marks the first time that terrorism charges are being tried at an international court.
  • Five men linked to Hezbollah are being tried for the assassinations, which politicizes the Tribunal along sectarian lines. Lebanon is highly charged regarding the issue, and supporters of the Tribunal hope to find some justice amid the bloody period of the nation’s recent history.