"No talks unless he shaves off his beard"

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MENAroundupMENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Mid
 
January 18 · Issue #23 · View online
MENAroundup

MENAroundup
MENA Roundup is a weekly publication containing insightful articles on politics in the Middle East, focussing on Syria and Iraq. lars@menaroundup.com

Key developments
  • Syria’s armed opposition will attend the talks in Astana with Jaysh al Islam’s Mohammad Alloush leading the negotiations. UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari will head the regime’s delegation. Their relationship is not characterized by personal respect, to put it mildly: Back in March 2016, both attended the talks in Geneva - without speaking directly, though. Al-Jaafari said that he would not speak to this “terrorist” unless he “apologises and also shaves off his beard”. Alloush, who was the High Negotiation Committee’s chief negotiator, resigned two months later because of the lack of progress. 
  • Major armed groups support the delegation to Astana. However, there is no open approval from Ahrar al-Sham.
  • Israeli airstrikes hit the Mazzeh airbase, close to the Presidential Palace in Damascus. As usual, the Israelis did not comment on the issue.
  • The Islamic State split the government-held enclave of Deir ez-Zor into two separate parts. The strategically important airport is now encircled. The Russian and Syrian airforces reportedly launched more than 100 attacks in order to push the jihadists back. However, the success apparently has been limited and the situation is serious. 
  • A planned deal for the Barada Valley collapsed before it even started after the chief negotiator was shot. It is not clear who is responsible. Fighting resumed. Meanwhile, Damascenes suffer water shortages.

Articles worth reading
Aleppo's forgotten revolutionaries
Iran repopulates Syria with Shia Muslims to help tighten regime's control
The Fifth Corps and the State of the Syrian Army
Why 2017 is the year Sisi will sink
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