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Analysts, diplomats raise doubts over Moscow-facilitated Syria chemical weapons bargain

Posted by Albert Gersh - September 10, 2013

  • Analysts, diplomats raise doubts over Moscow-facilitated Syria chemical weapons bargain 
  • Rouhani: Iran "will not give up one iota" of nuclear rights
  • Day of sectarian violence rocks Iraq amid government efforts to stem Sunni insurgent violence
  • WSJ: Movement to draft Egypt general as president highlights popular backing for military 

What we’re watching today:

  • Confusion swirled throughout the day as to the nature and scope of a series of Russian-facilitated deals designed to defuse the international crisis triggered by what is widely suspected to be the use of chemical weapons by the Bashar al-Assad regime. NBC News reported that by day's end Damascus "appeared poised to accept the Russian proposal for Syria to hand over chemical weapons" and to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. In what Washington Post foreign affairs writer Jackson Diehl called a flat-out trap, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that any Syrian proposal be accompanied by a U.S. commitment not to use force against the Assad regime, with which Moscow is allied. It is unclear whether Washington would be willing to issue such a guarantee. Foreign Policy noted that Assad has dozens of movable facilities, and that "the U.S. intelligence community would have a hard time knowing where more than a fraction of the sites were at any one time. Reuters emphasized that in addition to the normal problems that inspectors face when confronting dictatorial regimes - the Iraqis, for instance, "lied through their teeth" according to non-proliferation expert Amy Smithson - it "would be difficult" to protect arms inspectors. Moreover fears that negotiations could be used by the regime to stall for time have been broadly aired, including by officials from the Syrian opposition, Gulf states, and Israel. Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled Al-Khalifa instead called on the United Nations to take what he referred to as "necessary deterrent measures" against the regime, echoing calls made on Monday by Saudi officials urging the international community to "assume its humanitarian responsibility to rescue the Syrian people."
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared Tuesday that Tehran "will not give up one iota" of its nuclear rights, deploying rhetoric that AFP described as "echoing his hardline predecessor" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The statements come a day after the chief of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog (IAEA) emphasized that it was "essential and urgent" for Tehran to address international concerns surrounding its atomic program. A recent IAEA report called specific attention to Iran's efforts to lock in advanced uranium enrichment technology, to bring online its plutonium reactor, and to destroy evidence of work possibly related to the development of nuclear weapons. Rouhani's response to the IAEA's call for greater transparency is in line with a similar statements made by an advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last month, to the effect that the revolutionary-era cleric's government will follow "the same trend strategically as the former government" of Ahmadinejad. It comes alongside Rouhanis's vocal support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime, and may heighten skepticism regarding the new president's self-described moderation.
  • A series of bombings and shootings in Iraq killed at least 24 people today, deepening fears that ongoing government efforts to stymie Sunni terror groups had failed - per the Associated Press - "to have dented the insurgents' ability to stage attacks at a high place." At least seven police officers were among today's victims. The deadliest attack took place south of Baghdad when gunmen shot and killed six people preparing the body of a Sunni man ahead of his funeral. Coordinated car bombs targeted multiple Shiite-majority areas, prompting suspicions that Al Qaeda forces were behind the bombings. More than 4,000 people have been killed in Iraq since summer began and approximately 800 Iraqis were killed in August alone. Analysts have expressed explicit concerns that Iraq may slide into "the scale sectarian slaughter" of 2006-07.
  • A grenade attack on a military checkpoint in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula Monday left one soldier dead and two others injured, as insurgents sought to push back against an ongoing, widespread campaign by the army to uproot jihadist infrastructure in the increasingly anarchic territory. Scores of security officials have been killed in recent clashes across Egypt, with jihadists targeting both the army and institutions of the interim army-backed government. Leaders of the mass movement that called for the removal of Egypt's former president Mohammed Morsi have been targeted for assassination, as have government officials. The military's efforts to dampen the violence have long enjoyed widespread popular backing, and a Wall Street Journal article published this morning outlined that "a movement to nominate Gen. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi as Egypt's next president is gaining pace" as a signal of "Egyptians' yearning for stability and order."

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