SYRIA: The showboat the United States has made of Syrian peace talks in Geneva began to sink before it ever sailed. Direct talks with the Syrian government are cancelled for today, and the Assad regime is threatening to walk out tomorrow. The United States vetoed a belated invitation to Iran to attend talks (kind of like denying the Palestinians a seat at the table for peace negotiations with Israel) but does want to bring in Saudi-financed rebel groups.
As the conflict destabilizes the region, and increasingly is a war of outsiders—or Saudi Arabia vs. Iran—“Washington must finally face the hard choice: Either compromise with Iran, or decisively support and arm the rebels.”
A new analysis of chemical weapons fired in Damascus last summer undercuts the U.S. claim they came from government positions.
I’ll be attending a special first-ever gathering of Syrian church leaders next week in Washington. The Heritage Foundation presentation will be available to watch online.
IRAN: Trouble lies ahead in making Iran’s agreement to reduce nuclear activities permanent. Key weapons expert David Albright says Iran must reduce its number of centrifuges (from 20,000 to 4,000)—while Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tells CNN, “We did not agree to dismantle anything.”
SOUTH SUDAN: A ceasefire in South Sudan’s internal conflict will give some space to assess the violence that has forced half a million residents to scatter since late December.
GLOBAL HEALTH: A devastating toll from disease outbreaks is growing, thanks in part to the anti-vaccine movement in the United States.
WEEKEND READ: This week marks the anniversary of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s disappearance in 2002. But confessed killer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who also confessed to planning 9/11 attacks along with the 1993 World Trade Center attack, has never been charged by U.S. authorities for Pearl’s gruesome murder. Pearl's Wall Street Journal colleague and long-time friend Asra Nomani writes of her personal and professional odyssey to track down Pearl’s kidnappers and killers. I rarely say anything is a “must-read” but I'm saying it now. This is a brave personal story and also some significant investigative reporting. It’s worth considering why still the United States has not brought Mohammed to justice.