1) The U.S. and Russia have come to a decision on a ceasefire for Syria, which will include all warring parties except the two largest terrorist blocks, Al-Nursa and ISIS. Previous agreements to stop violence and provide aid have failed to stay in place. Sec. of State John Kerry said if the current deal fails to hold, it will be “too late” for Syria. The U.N. released a new report blaming all sides in the multi-faceted conflict for escalating war crimes.
1) On Sunday, four American members of the press were arrested in Bahrain, while covering protests marking the anniversary of Bahrain’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Family members now report that on Tuesday, Bahrain released Anna Day and her camera crew after being interrogated. They have left Bahrain. The government claims the four participated in an illegal gathering.
1) In Egypt, thousands of doctors in Cairo turned out to protest after reports circulated that two doctors at a hospital in the capital had been beaten by police. It is not clear why the doctors were targeted, but it could be because they treated or sympathized with dissenters in opposition to former military leader President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. Sisi has kept a tight reign on public demonstrations.
1) The UN Security Council is pushing Russia to end its air campaign against “militants” in Aleppo, Syria on behalf of the Syrian government. More than 50,000 Syrians have fled and over 500 are reported dead. It is estimated more than 300,000 people are still trapped in Aleppo and most water supplies to civilians left in the city have been cut. The International Red Cross has managed to provide some aid to those fleeing, but Turkey has not yet opened its borders to allow the new wave of refugees to enter.
1) After an entire week’s delay, Syrian opposition finally in Geneva for UN-run peace talks, despite a suicide attack by ISIS over the weekend which killed over 40 people. The UN hopes to find agreements on humanitarian aid and prisoner exchanges, but any progress, no matter how small, will be a victory at this point.
1) Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called for a new “Reset” with the West, erasing the previous U.S. Reset on Russian relations under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009. Lavrov made clear that the reset would take place on Moscow’s terms and would ignore many contentious issues with the U.S. such as the invasion of Ukraine, the takeover of Crimea and the war in Syria. Lavrov also claimed Clinton wanted the former reset to fail.
1) ISIS has claimed a suicide attack in Homs, Syria, which killed at least 24 people. The double explosion, caused by a jihadist wearing a suicide vest and a car bomb, wounded more than 100 people in the government-controlled city. The bombing is another example of continued violence in Syria despite the UN’s announcement of peace talks rescheduled for Friday.
1) Plans for a Russia/US-brokered peace talk for both sides of the Syria conflict is facing delays. The next round of talks should have started today. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected clarification on the process within the next day or two. The UN is running the talks but Russia promised to bring Assad’s government to the table, even though they continue their offensive advance inside the war-ravaged country, ignoring a ceasefire deal. The U.S., championing the side of the Syrian rebels, has run into problems choosing an appropriate spokesperson to represent the interests of the opposition. Some anti-Assad Syrians feel the U.S. is not fully supporting them.
1) Business and financial leaders are meeting this week for the 2016 Davos World Economic Forum held in Switzerland. As China’s economy slumps and the first weeks of 2016 markets are down, the outlook from the annual event is gloomy. A number of international financial leaders have used the event to push their country’s political agenda. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has made pleas for a reduction in austerity for Greece and Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif spoke out against both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.