• Jordan
    Growing Stress on Jordan
    In 2013, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Contingency Planning Memorandum "Political Instability in Jordan" warned that the biggest threat to the stability of the Hashemite Kingdom stemmed from local grievances eroding the regime's core tribal base of support. Although economic privation, the slow pace of reform, and a widespread perception of corruption remain significant sources of popular frustration in Jordan, the palace has since vitiated its most potent tribal and Islamist domestic political opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood. But as the risk of domestic unrest has diminished, the potential for spillover from the Syrian conflict has grown, posing an increasing threat to Jordan. New Concerns Jordan has a long tradition of providing sanctuary for refugees, but the kingdom has reached the saturation point. Syrian refugees in Jordan—currently around 1.4 million—constitute a significant source of instability in the kingdom. Only half are registered with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and less than 10 percent live in formal refugee camps; the majority are spread throughout the country. The refugees—13 percent of Jordan's population—are a major burden on Jordan's weak economy. In 2015, the costs of hosting refugees were equivalent to 17.5 percent of the country's budget and a significant contributor to Jordan's $2 billion deficit. Moreover, Jordan's economy has little room to accommodate the refugees. Its unemployment rate is 12 percent, and its youth joblessness is 30 percent. Refugees competing for scarce jobs could fuel further social tension. Security in Jordan is also a growing concern. Although the military is effective in preventing infiltrations and policing the frontier, including periodic skirmishes with Syrian militants and smugglers, there are signs that some refugees are influenced by the ideology of the self-proclaimed Islamic State or Salafi Islam. An estimated three thousand Jordanians are reported to be fighting in Syria. Terrorist-related incidents, alleged Islamic State sleeper cells, and arrests also appear to be on the rise. Toward the end of 2015, Amman shifted policy to stem the flow of refugees, stranding more than fifteen thousand Syrians along the border. The government has also been working to establish a "safe zone" on the Syrian side of the frontier, providing humanitarian and security assistance to local militias with an eye toward establishing an area where refugees can live in relative safety from both Bashar al-Assad's regime and the Islamic State. However, an expanded Russian or regime campaign in southern Syria could spark a mass migration toward Jordan's border that would be difficult to stave off. Policy Implications Jordan's stability is a high priority for the United States. It is a main partner in fighting the Islamic State, in confronting Iranian expansionism, and in supporting a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Jordan's quiet cooperation with its treaty partner, Israel, is a plus for U.S. regional interests. Domestic instability in Jordan—especially turmoil that threatens the leadership status quo—would endanger these important U.S. interests. Mounting pressures on Jordan's meager resources from refugees—as well as corresponding austerity measures—could feed destabilizing anti-regime sentiment. Although Islamic State–inspired terrorist attacks in the kingdom would likely produce a rally-around-the-flag effect, security incidents could further damage an already strained economy. Any further flow of refugees could tip the scales, triggering a crisis—potentially from malcontents among the refugee population and/or from disaffected Jordanians. Recommendations Since 2011, the United States has provided almost $700 million in humanitarian support for refugees in Jordan. Washington has also increased its security and economic commitments to Amman, signing a Memorandum of Understanding in February 2015 to increase baseline annual assistance from $660 million to $1 billion per year from 2015 to 2017, including funds to cover the financing cost of additional loan guarantees. Jordan has received billions in budgetary support for infrastructure projects from Gulf states and hundreds of millions from the United Nations to support refugees. Although U.S. military and economic assistance is vital, Jordan's expenses related to hosting refugees and securing the border outstrip what it is receiving. Likewise, U.S.-supported loan guarantees may alleviate Jordan's immediate cash crush, but will do little to create permanent jobs or mitigate ongoing economic and security challenges posed by the refugees, many of whom may not return home for many years, if ever. Washington should take the following proactive steps to help insulate Jordan from the potentially destabilizing impact of spillover from Syria: Increase humanitarian assistance. If a net increase of several hundred million dollars in refugee support funds is not politically feasible, Washington could consider a more rational and equitable allocation of its $533 million in refugee support allocated to Syrian refugees in other Middle Eastern countries. Washington should press European and Arab allies (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait) to add an annual budget support component of $1 billion to its existing infrastructure investment projects in the kingdom. Support employment for Syrian refugees. High unemployment, insufficient job creation, and controlled immigration appear to be driving the migration of Syrian men to Europe. To entice Syrians to remain in the region, if not in Syria itself, it will be necessary to provide a degree of economic opportunity. Washington should encourage European states—in particular, Germany—to invest in job creation initiatives in Jordan, once Jordan provides a larger number of Syrian refugees with work permits. Local refugee employment was identified as a European priority during the February 2016 Syria donor conference in London.  Increase defense and intelligence cooperation. Intelligence sharing and security cooperation between Washington and Amman is already exceptionally strong. To further strengthen the relationship and improve Jordan's intelligence-gathering capabilities over southern Syria, the Barack Obama administration should provide the kingdom with an advanced armed- and surveillance-drone capability. Establish a real safe zone. Although Jordan has implemented some under-the-radar efforts to support communities on the Syrian side of the border, those efforts lack the imprimatur and staying power of a fully supported humanitarian safe zone, where U.S.-led coalition forces provide security for the shelter and feeding of internally displaced Syrians. Establishing such a zone with partners in the counter–Islamic State coalition would serve both U.S. strategic interests in safeguarding Jordan and humanitarian concerns by protecting civilians. 
  • Global
    The World Next Week: February 18, 2016
    Twin elections are held in Iran; the next U.S. presidential nomination events take place; and Jordan's King Abdullah visits the White House.
  • Turkey
    Winter Storm Reading
    Snow- and Middle East–themed reading for this weekend's winter storm.
  • Terrorism and Counterterrorism
    Weekend Reading: Ramlat Bulaq, Bedouin Poetry, and the Islamic State vs. Israel
    Omnia Khalil reviews the struggles of everyday life in the Cairene neighborhood of Ramlat Bulaq. William Tamplin takes a look at Jordan’s most popular Bedouin poet and his use of verse to express Arab political arguments. Dana Hadra argues that the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s threats against Israel are empty.
  • Egypt
    Weekend Reading: Sisi Speaks, Libya’s Copts, and Vengeance in Jordan
    Read Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s full interview with Der Spiegel. Ishak Ibrahim takes a closer look at the threats facing Coptic Christians in Libya. Sara Obeidat argues that war is not the best way for Jordan to exact vengeance for Moaz al-Kasasbeh.
  • United States
    This Week: Egypt Seeks Nukes, ISIS Gets Escalation, and U.S.-Iran Shun Extensions
    Significant Developments Egypt. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced an agreement to jointly build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant on Tuesday during Putin’s first visit to Egypt in over ten years. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that, “[the United States] support[s] peaceful nuclear power programs as long as obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which Egypt is a signatory… are fully met.” Meanwhile, an Egyptian court ordered the release of the two remaining Al Jazeera journalists in custody today. The announcement followed the publication this week of a previously undisclosed opinion by Egypt’s highest appeals court criticizing the journalists’ earlier conviction as baseless. Egyptian-born Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was ordered to pay the equivalent of $33,000 as a condition for being released on bail, while Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian national, was released on bail on his own recognizance. ISIS. The White House confirmed on Tuesday the death of Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who had been held hostage by ISIS. A spokesman for ISIS claimed that Jordanian airstrikes in Syria last week were responsible for her death, though officials in Washington and Amman said the cause of death was unclear. Jordan continued to ramp up its airstrikes against ISIS in retaliation for the killing of its pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, last week. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates launched its first airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria since December after being notified by United States Central Command officials that additional rescue helicopters had been deployed to Erbil, Iraq, to be closer to the zone of combat. Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met on the sidelines of the annual international security conference in Munich this weekend but did not reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Kerry told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that it will be “impossible” to extend nuclear negotiations with Iran beyond June 30 if the “outlines of the agreement” and a political framework have not been agreed on in the next few weeks. Zarif echoed Kerry’s sentiments, announcing on Sunday from Munich that Iran also prefers to avoid an extension of the talks. Zarif said that “sanctions are a liability; you need to get rid of them if you want a solution…We need to seize this opportunity. It may not be repeated.” U.S. Foreign Policy Israel. Prominent Democrats including Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Patrick Leahy, and members of the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses were joined today by almost half of the Jewish Democrats in Congress in announcing that they will not attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled March 3 address to Congress. President Barack Obama on Monday defended his decision not to meet with Netanyahu during the upcoming Washington visit, saying it was “important for [the United States] to maintain these protocols, because the U.S.-Israeli relationship is not about a particular party.” Netanyahu responded by saying his decision to speak to Congress about Iran’s nuclear program is not because he “seeks confrontation with the president, but [is in order to] fulfill [his] obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of [Israel].” ISIS. President Barack Obama proposed legislation to Congress yesterday that would grant the administration a three-year Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to fight ISIS. Obama’s proposal would allow the deployment of ground troops for Special Operation commandos and rescue missions but would not authorize U.S. soldiers to conduct “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” The legislation would also repeal the 2002 war authorization that gave former president George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq. However, the proposed legislation would not affect the separate 2001 AUMF authorizing military operations against al-Qaeda following the September 11 attacks. The administration currently uses those authorities to justify U.S. efforts to combat ISIS. Meanwhile, in preparation for an anticipated spring offensive to retake Mosul, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters backed by coalition airstrikes retook three strategic corridors into the city on Monday. According to a commander of the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, “this most recent Peshmerga operation is yet another example of how Daesh can be defeated militarily using a combination of well-led and capable ground forces.” Elsewhere Yemen. The United States closed its embassy in Yemen on Tuesday in the wake of the Yemeni government collapsing after a coup by Houthi militants last Friday. Other Western countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and France followed, announcing they would also close their embassies. U.S. officials cited security concerns as the reason for the embassy closure. Many obsevers, however, saw the U.S. move as an effort to put political pressure on Yemen’s new Houthi-led interim government to negotiate a power-sharing agreement, noting that embassy remained open during more volatile times in Yemen’s capital. That sentiment was echoed by a Yemeni Foreign Ministry official, who stated that “the closure does not necessarily mean the security situation is bad, but it could mean the foreign missions want to exercise or put more pressure on the Houthis.” UN Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar warned last night that Yemen was “on the brink of a civil war.” Tunisia. Tunisian authorities on Monday arrested over thirty extremists who were allegedly planning attacks on civilian and military sites in Tunisia. According to Mohammad Ali Aroui, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, the militants planned to target the Interior Ministry and two National Guard posts. He added that many of those arrested had travelled to Syria to fight. Libya. UN peace talks resumed yesterday in Ghadames near the Algerian border, led by UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon. UN officials said yesterday’s talks aimed to secure a deal on a unified government, a ceasefire, and on removing armed militias from Libya’s main cities. Meanwhile, Libyan special forces announced Monday that they had retaken Benghazi’s main military base from Islamist fighters. The special forces are backed by troops led by Heneral Khalifa Haftar, who supports the internationally recognized parliament, led by exiled Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni. Bahrain. Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) announced on Monday that it decided to suspend the activities of a new Saudi news channel, Alarab, hours after it went on the air on February 1. The IAA cited “technical and administrative reasons” for the suspension, but it also accused Alarab of failing to “take account of efforts aimed at stemming the tide of extremism and terrorism throughout the region and the world.”Alarab had interviewed Khalil Marzook, the deputy leader of the Shia opposition party al-Wefaq, which is openly critical of the Bahraini regime before its activities were suspended.    
  • United States
    This Week: Jordan’s ISIS Battle and Egypt’s Crackdown
    Significant Developments Jordan-ISIS. King Abdullah returned to a warm welcome in Jordan today after cutting short his visit to Washington yesterday. Abdullah’s move followed the release by ISIS of a video yesterday depicting captured Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned to death in a cage. Crowds gathered to express support for the Jordanian king’s decision to swiftly execute Sajida al-Rishawi, a failed suicide bomber on death row, and Ziad al-Karbouli, a former top lieutenant of Al Qaeda in Iraq, in retaliation for al-Kasasbeh’s death. Meanwhile, the New York Times reported today that the United Arab Emirates, a crucial regional ally in the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS, suspended airstrikes in December after news of al-Kasasbeh’s capture broke, over concerns for the safety of its own pilots. The United Arab Emirates reportedly demanded that the Pentagon improve its search-and-rescue efforts and base its missions in northern Iraq instead of Kuawit to be closer to the field of battle The UAE, one of the first counties to join the coalition, will not resume operations until these changes are implemented. See my take on the implications of ISIS’ brutal killing of al-Kasasbeh in my blog post from yesterday. Egypt. An Egyptian court sentenced a prominent activist, Ahmed Douma, and 229 other Egyptians to life in prison today. Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird announced yesterday that imprisoned Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy would be released “imminently” after the dual national agreed to renounce his Egyptian citizenship to speed up proceedings. Baird’s announcement follows the Sunday release of Australian Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste. Al-Jazeera promised on Monday “not to leave” behind producer Baher Mohammed, the third incarcerated Al-Jazeera journalist. The three were arrested in December 2013 for illegally aiding the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s ousted president Mohammad Morsi will be tried on February 15 on new charges of espionage. He is accused of “handing over to Qatari intelligence documents linked to national security in exchange for one million dollars,” according to a statement from the prosecution. Morsi could face the death penalty if found guilty. An Egyptian court upheld death sentences against 183 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood on Monday for killing eleven police officers and two civilians during protests in 2013. The United Nations called the verdict “unprecedented in recent history” and said that the expedited trials failed to follow due process. U.S. Foreign Policy Diplomatic budget for 2016. President Obama is seeking $50.3 billion in spending for the State Department and USAID to spend in 2016. This figure represents a 9 percent increase in funds compared with the 2015 fiscal year. Of the $50.3 billion, Obama plans to allocate $3.5 billion to support regional partners in the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS, to provide humanitarian assistance, and to strengthen the moderate Syrian opposition. $1.1 billion of the requested budget is to be allocated to support diplomatic engagements in Iraq. An extra $4.8 billion has been requested to increase the protection for diplomats worldwide. The Benghazi Accountability Board, established in the wake of the 2012 killing of U.S. officials in Libya, recommended these security upgrades. While We Were Looking Elsewhere Palestine. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for an “immediate investigation” on Monday into a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad published on Sunday by the West Bank-based newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida. According to one of the newspaper’s editors, the cartoonist, Muhammad Sabaaneh, and the editor in chief of the paper were suspended yesterday. Sabaaneh denied that the cartoon was meant to represent the prophet, arguing that it aimed to depict a “symbolic figure for Islam and the Muslim’s role in spreading light and love for all humanity.” Abbas joined world leaders to march in favor of freedom of expression in Paris last month during a mass rally commemorating the attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Yemen. UN-mediated peace talks appear likely to fail after Yemen’s main political parties withdrew from the negotiations on Monday. This comes after Houthi rebels issued a three day ultimatum on Sunday stipulating that if the rival political parties failed to reach an agreement by Wednesday, the Houthis would completely take over the government. The Houthi rebels also demanded that fighters from their militia be integrated into the Yemeni army and police force as a precondition for talks. Tunisia. Tunisia’s prime minister-designate, Habib Essid, announced a new coalition cabinet yesterday after the first government he nominated was rejected for being all-secular by Ennahda, the main Islamist party and the second largest party in Parliament. The new cabinet includes a minister and three state secretaries from Ennahda. The proposed government will be put before parliament for a vote of confidence today. Iran. The Iranian parliament is examining a bill aiming “to protect the nuclear rights and achievements of Iranian people.” The bill would oblige the Iranian government to immediately stop implementing the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action if the U.S. Congress approves new sanctions against Iran. The Iranian bill also calls for an increase in Iran’s enrichment program and building of a heavy water reactor at Arak, two actions limited under the current deal. President Barack Obama has pledged to veto Congress’ proposed legislation for new sanctions, which would in theory keep the Iranian bill from being passed. It is unclear when the Iranian parliament will vote on the proposed legislation. UN- Israel. The United Nations Human Rights Council announced yesterday that New York Supreme Court justice Mary McGowan Davis will replace William Schabas as chairperson of the panel commissioned last August to investigate whether war crimes were committed in the latest Gaza conflict. Schabas resigned from the commission on Monday to avoid becoming “an obstacle and distraction” to the work of the panel after Israel accused him of “a blatant conflict of interest.” Israel had formally complained to the UN Human Rights Council last week over paid consulting work Schabas had done for the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 2012. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called yesterday for the Gaza inquiry to be terminated once news of Schabas’ resignation broke. Jordan-Israel. Jordan announced on Monday the return to Israel of its ambassador, Walid Obeidat, three months after he was recalled in protest of clashes at the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif. A Jordanian government spokesman said that Jordan had seen “significant improvements” in the access to the mosque that Muslim worshippers were granted on Fridays, and that there had been better coordination on tourist visits between the Israeli authorities and the Islamic authorities who administer the site under Jordanian supervision. Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Jordan’s decision.
  • United States
    Jordan’s ISIS Challenge
    Today’s news and images of ISIS burning Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh to death in a cage comes just days after the group decapitated a second Japanese hostage. Such horrific murders provoke, shock, and dismay, which is their goal. By combining medieval brutality with twenty-first century social media, ISIS seeks the largest possible amount of attention for itself and its distorted variant of religio-messianism. Such incidents require a more vigorous military, as well as messaging, response. The United States can intensify the role it has been playing in leading the coalition. But it is incumbent on senior religious figures indigenous to the Muslim world to counter ISIS’ narrative. Holding Kasasbeh hostage had helped provoke a limited backlash against Jordan’s participation in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. Prior to the news of his murder, some of Kasasbeh’s Bararsheh tribesmen protested in Amman againstKing Abdullah and his decision to participate in the anti-ISIS campaign. Such demonstrations, particularly amongst tribesmen, are unusual in Jordan. In its barbaric killing of Kasasbeh, ISIS hopes to drive an even greater wedge between Jordan’s Hashemite rulers and the small but not insignificant number of Jordanians sympathetic to ISIS, or at least opposed to Jordan’s fight against it. With Jordan now hosting over half a million Syrian refugees, there is considerable unease and conflict fatigue in the Hashemite kingdom. Employing their media savvy, ISIS released the images of Kasasbeh’s murder the same day as King Abdullah’s visit to Washington, even though the Jordanian pilot had apparently been murdered a month ago, according to sources in Amman. ISIS no doubt wanted to drive home the image of the Western-backed Abdullah being received in the capital of the coalition’s leader. Not wanting to play into this narrative, King Abdullah immediately cut short his visit to return back home. Upon return, he will likely rally the vast majority of Jordanians outraged by the murder of their pilot and take strong measures against incarcerated accused terrorists. ISIS knows and expects that. But ISIS nonetheless hopes its defiant gruesome murder of Jordan’s pilot, like the beheadings of other ISIS prisoners, will make some Jordanians question their country’s military support of the U.S.-led coalition and suggest that its participation is not worth the cost. ISIS calculates that provoking anguish and anger amongst its enemies will help generate new friends and recruits, or at least weaken the resolve of its adversaries. King Abdullah will doubtlessly try to prove this notion mistaken. ISIS is seeking to project an image of itself as fierce. Such tactics could successfully distract attention from the significant battlefield setback that ISIS has just suffered at the hands of Kurdish fighters in Kobani and elsewhere. Yet ISIS’ projections of fierceness are not just a contrivance. ISIS’ capture and control of Mosul and large chunks of Syrian and Iraqi territory last June demonstrate the very real military power at its disposal. But it adds, as an ideological force multiplier, its brand of Islamist ideology. That ISIS poses an ideological threat well beyond the battlefield suggests that the U.S.-led coalition’s reliance largely on air-power is too limited. Sure, determined Kurdish fighters were successful in countering ISIS on the ground in Kobani with coalition support, but only after a protracted and deadly fight. Similar fighters prepared to challenge ISIS on the ground in Iraq and Syria appear sorely lacking. But the ugly murder of Moaz al-Kasasbeh demonstrates that the anti-ISIS coalition needs a robust strategy to battle the Islamist forces on the ideological as well as the military battlefield.
  • United States
    This Week: Hezbollah Attack, ISIS Rollback, and Jordan Hostage Standoff
    Israel-Lebanon. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said today that Israel had received reports via the UN indicating Hezbollah does not plan further military strikes following its attack yesterday that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven others. The IDF struck Hezbollah operational positions in Lebanon in retaliation. Spain’s ambassador to the UN blamed Israel for the death of a Spanish soldier, on detail to UNIFIL, who was killed in the crossfire. An IDF spokesperson described the events yesterday as “a severe escalation on our northern border” while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for the attack. Hezbollah officials hinted that yesterday’s attack came in retaliation for a suspected Israeli airstrike ten days ago that killed an Iranian general and a top Hezbollah official, Jihad Mughniyeh, in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. ISIS. Syrian Kurdish forces backed by Iraqi Kurdish “peshmerga” and U.S.-led coalition airstrikes successfully regained control of the northern Syrian town of Kobani from ISIS on Monday. The victory follows a four month long battle for the town that left over 1,300 dead. Syrian Kurdish forces reported that they were now moving “to liberate villages to the east and the south.” The United States Central Command confirmed on Monday that around ninety percent of Kobani was now controlled by anti-ISIS forces. Jordan. Jordan yesterday called upon ISIS to release its downed air force pilot, Muath al-Kasaesbeh, along with Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist held hostage by ISIS. Jordan offered to release Sajida al-Rishawi, who is on death row in Jordan for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack that killed 60 people, in exchange. Protests erupted al-Kasaesbeh’s hometown of Karak, some of them critical of Jordan for participating in the anti-ISIS coalition. Al-Kasaesbeh’s father appealed to King Abdullah to facilitate his son’s release. Al-Kasaesbeh has been held by ISIS since December when his jet crashed in Syria during a bombing mission against the group. The Japanese government, a major Jordanian donor, has pressed the Jordanian government to help bring about the early release of the Japanese hostage. U.S. Foreign Policy Saudi Arabia. President Barack Obama cut short his state visit to India on Tuesday and traveled to Saudi Arabia to offer condolences following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. The president led a large bipartisan delegation representing former and current officials, including two former secretaries of state and four former national security advisors. Obama was received by the new Saudi monarch, King Salman, in his first official meeting with a visiting foreign dignitary as the custodian of the holy places. Iran. Senator Robert Menendez announced on Tuesday that he and other Senate Democrats would postpone their support for the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 in the Senate until March 24, 2015. The bill, which was introduced this week and is co-authored by Senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk, would impose new sanctions on Iran if the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries fail to establish a comprehensive political framework by June 30, 2015. The proposed bill would provide the president with the power to waive the sanctions on a monthly basis after June 30. President Obama had previously threatened to veto the bill, saying it would risk severely jeopardizing the ongoing nuclear negotiation talks with Iran. Yemen. The first drone strike launched by the CIA on Monday since the resignation of Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi killed three suspected al-Qaeda fighters. The strike was a clear message from the United States that it would continue its counterterrorism efforts there, despite last week’s resignation of the U.S.-backed president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. At a news conference in New Delhi on Sunday, President Obama said his administration would “continue to go after high-value targets inside of Yemen … and maintain the pressure that’s required to keep the American people safe.” While We Were Looking Elsewhere Eighteen demonstrators were killed, and hundreds more arrested, last weekend by security forces in protests marking the fourth anniversary of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Hundreds of protestors attended the subsequent funeral of one of those killed, Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a noted poet and activist who was a supporter of President Sisi. Egypt’s interior minister declared today that an investigation into Sabbagh’s death has been opened, and promised to prosecute any members of the security forces who are found responsible. Meanwhile, Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, the sons of ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, were released Monday after 18 months in prison. The two sons await retrial on corruption charges. Libya.The United Nations Mission for Libya (UNSMIL) announced today that the country’s two rival governments, backed by armed militias, have “agreed in principle” to move the peace negotiations to Libya, after another round of talks were held in Geneva on Monday. Meanwhile, a group calling itself Islamic State-Tripoli Province claimed responsibility Tuesday for the attack on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli. The suicide attack killed nine people, including an American security contractor, David Berry. Bahrain. The trial for Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of the Bahraini opposition group, Al Wefaq, started yesterday at Bahrain’s Higher Criminal Court. Salman, was arrested by the Bahraini authorities on December 28, 2014, for “promoting the overthrow and change of the political regime by force” and for inciting disobedience and hatred in public statements. Salman denied all charges. His arrest sparked almost daily protests amongst the Shiite community in Bahrain, and was condemned by the United States, Iran, and international human rights groups. Yemen. Houthi leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi blamed southern separatists for the current political impasse in a televised national address on Tuesday. An emergency session of Parliament, meant to address President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s resignation last Friday, failed to convene. Al-Houthi claimed that “this country is for all of us and can fit all of us,” and proposed new talks. On Tuesday the southern parliamentary bloc called on the the United Nations and the Gulf Cooperation Council to allow the south to exercise self-determination through an UN supervised referendum.