Henry Zhang: From War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Henry Zhang.
Kat Galvis: And I’m Kat Galvis. Talks with Iran regarding the state of its nuclear program resumed this week after initial discussions broke down two weeks ago. The United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom have all been involved in the negotiations process. Key issues include the amount of economic sanctions to impose on Iran, the levels of uranium purity that Iran can produce, and the questionably civilian nature of Iran’s currently enriched uranium supply.
Zhang: US Secretary of State John Kerry has suggested that the sanctions relief might be around $6 or 7 billion, which is considerably less than the $10 to 20 billion originally on the table. Sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry have reduced oil revenue by almost 60% since 2011. A bipartisan group of senators in the US, however, has promised that it will not vote on new laws regarding sanctions during the negotiation process for fear of halting discussions with Iran. While the current plan has elicited controversial responses from Israel, the talks are likely to continue in the coming days.
Galvis: The United States and Afghanistan have finalized negotiations on a bilateral security agreement that would maintain an American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troop presence in Afghanistan through 2024. This agreement also promises billions of dollars in future international assistance to Afghanistan. While the countries have concluded negotiations, the deal still needs to be approved by the Loya Jirga, an Afghan council of 2,500 village elders, academics, and officials. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has promised that he will not sign the deal without the council’s support.
Zhang: A portion of negotiations focused on whether the US would draft a formal letter apologizing for mistakes made during the war. However, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice has officially stated that no such letter made it into the final agreement. The negotiations primarily centered on the military force that would remain after 2014. Estimates of final troop forces range from 8,000 to 12,000 soldiers, and the US has insisted that it retain legal jurisdiction over American personnel in the country.
Galvis: After a breakthrough in negotiations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October, senior Afghan officials initiated peace talks with the Afghan Taliban this week. The Afghan delegation met with former Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who a spokesman for Afghanistan’s High Peace Council described as, quote, “the key to restarting peace talks with the Taliban.” Baradar was arrested in Pakistan in 2010, but the Pakistani government released him in September to help facilitate the peace deal. Many, nevertheless, doubt Baradar’s ability to negotiate with his former group. The Taliban have, however, rejected direct talks with Karzai and his government. The United States supports the peace deal in the hopes that it will prevent future chaos in Afghanistan as US troops begin to withdraw from the country.
Zhang: Leaders of the Hezbollah militant group called for a cessation of sectarian tensions in the wake of two suicide bombings of the Iranian embassy in Beirut earlier this week. In a radio address, Naim Qassem, the deputy leader of the group, stated, quote, “The solution to this confrontation begins politically…then there are security and military steps by the authorities…in addition to attempts to calm the arena and reduce the transmission of sectarian poisons.” Despite his calls for restraint, Qassem assured supporters that Hezbollah remains committed to its original goals. He echoed leader Hassan Nasrallah’s support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war and stated, quote, “this terrorist attack will not deter us from our course.”
Galvis: Four crew members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise were granted bail this week. Of the 30 members on board, one was released and 20 others were granted bail of around $61,000. The 30 activists were arrested on charges of hooliganism in September after entering Arctic waters to protest the offshore drilling practices of the Russian gas company Gazprom. Spokespeople for Greenpeace have criticized Russia’s hardline response to the protest, stating, quote, “The Arctic 30 still face absurd charges for peacefully protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic.” Though more detainees are expected to be released in coming weeks, the timeline for resolving the cases remains unclear.
Zhang: The US drone program has long exacerbated tensions between the US and Pakistan. Since Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office in June, his administration has increasingly voiced opposition to drone strikes in the, quote, “settled areas” of Pakistan. According to testimony by Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s national security advisor, the US pledged to halt drone strikes during negotiations with militant groups. This most recent attack, however, has threatened to undermine relations between the US and Pakistan, as well as the nascent peace process.
Galvis: A suspected United States drone launched a missile strike in northwest Pakistan earlier this week, killing six people and wounding five others. This incident marks only the second drone strike to occur outside of tribal regions since 2004. The attack allegedly targeted an Islamic seminary often visited by members of the Afghan Haqqani militant group, which is linked to al Qaeda. According to reports by Pakistani officials, one of the individuals killed in the strike was a deputy of Sirajuddin Haqqani, a high-ranking leader of the group, and several others were members of affiliated militant organizations.
Zhang: A truck bomb detonated in an outdoor vegetable market north of Baghdad earlier this week, killing at least 48 people and injuring dozens. The attack in the town of Sadiyah was the deadliest of several coordinated bombings at public markets and bakeries across the country. An attack earlier in the week killed seven people and wounded 19 as they prepared food for a religious ceremony for Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. Car bombs also exploded at two bakeries, killing eight and injuring 16. No groups have come forward to claim responsibility for the attacks. The bombings, however, targeted both Sunni and Shiite groups and have raised concerns that the level of sectarian violence in the country may only intensify in the coming months. According to United Nations estimates, over 5,500 people have died in Iraq over the last eight months, and recent attacks bring this month’s death toll to almost 300.
Galvis: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Nora Bailin, Caroline Batten, Amy DiPierro, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Sara Morell, Tyler Welsh, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Kat Galvis.
Zhang: And I’m Henry Zhang. Until next time, thanks for listening.