U.S. President Barack Obama made a rare threat to veto legislation after a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran if an interim nuclear agreement fails. Despite pressure from the Obama administration, on Thursday a group of 26 republican and democratic senators filed a bill, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, targeting Iran's oil exports and penalizing its engineering, mining, and construction industries. Additionally, it would give the senate a voice in any final nuclear agreement with Iran. The sanctions would not take effect before the end of the six-month term of the interim deal. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the "action is unnecessary" and could "disrupt the opportunity here for a diplomatic resolution." Additionally, Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor, said, "We just can't have new sanctions during this period." One of the bill's main supporters, Senator Robert Menedez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement, "Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table, and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith."
U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has begun meetings in Geneva with U.S. and Russian officials planning for a second international peace conference on Syria. Meetings will later include other U.N. Security Council representatives, as well as senior diplomats from the European Union, Arab League, and Syria's neighbors -- Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Officials have yet to determine whether Iran and Saudi Arabia will be invited to participate in the conference, and Syrian opposition members have not yet formed a delegation. The talks are scheduled to start on January 22 in the Swiss town of Montreux, and then move to Geneva. Meanwhile, Russia has rejected a proposed U.N. Security Council statement condemning Syrian regime airstrikes that has come as government warplanes bombard the northern city of Aleppo for the fifth day. According to Doctors Without Borders, at least 189 people have been killed and another 879 wounded in the city since December 15. Opposition activists have accused the government of dropping barrel bombs on Aleppo and the surrounding villages. France claimed the indiscriminate government airstrikes constitute war crimes and the United States said it was very disappointed that a Security Council statement expressing "our collective outrage" was blocked.
- Eight people detained in a major corruption investigation in Turkey, denounced by Prime Minister Erdogan, were formally arrested Friday on bribery charges.
- Security forces stormed the offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights late Wednesday in what appears to be an expanding government crackdown.
- A double bombing at a sheep market north of Baghdad killed six people Friday a day after several suicide attacks targeting Shiite pilgrims in Iraq killed at least 36 people.
Arguments and Analysis
'Stability through Change: Toward a New Political Economy in Jordan' (Faysal Itani, Atlantic Council)
"Although it appears Jordan has survived the Arab uprisings thus far, all is not well in the Hashemite Kingdom. Over the past twenty years, its political economy has changed profoundly, putting pressure on the foundations of regime stability. The state in Jordan has been retreating from many citizens' economic lives, shrinking its circle of privilege and patronage, and leaving the population to fend for itself in a dysfunctional economy. Worryingly, the segment of the population most affected is the monarchy's base, which sees the Palestinian-Jordanian population as benefiting from the new status quo. Today, Jordan is also coping with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, many of whom may remain in the country long term. Yet the real danger to the monarchy's stability is not the immediate cost of refugee care but the alienation of its traditional power base.
Currently, the bloodshed that followed a peaceful uprising in Syria is helping contain the Jordanian people's appetite for political change. Rather than use this to scare its public into accepting an unsustainable status quo, the regime ought to use this breathing space to take the political risks associated with transforming its institutions and reimagining its relationship with its citizens.
The brewing crisis in Jordan calls for political creativity and boldness that the monarchy and its allies have yet to show. Simply put, Jordan needs a new social contract if it is to survive economically and politically. If it succeeds, it may present a much-needed transition model for other Arab countries. If it fails -- or fails to try -- the monarchy may well survive and muddle on, but only until its economic and political problems begin to fuel serious civil unrest."
--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber
The Mideast Channel wishes you a happy and safe holiday season. The brief will resume on January 2, 2014.