Monday Middle East Headlines

Iran Deal Closer, But No Agreement Yet
The arrival of a new week finds Iran and the P5+1 closer to a deal, but there is still no deal despite increasingly confident talk on Sunday from diplomats on both sides, reports Reuters.

“There shouldn’t be any extension,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency. “But we can continue the talks as long as necessary.”

The third self-imposed deadline to sign a pact to halt work on the Iranian program in return for sanctions relief is set to expire at midnight on Monday, and negotiators continue to haggle their way toward a fourth extension.

Some of the points that have held up the deal in recent days include Tehran’s insistence that the U.N. lift its arms embargo and any U.N. Security Council resolution green lighting the deal be constructed in a way that no longer describes Iran’s nuclear activities as illegal.

US In Talks To Base Drones In North Africa
The United States is reportedly in talks with North African countries about basing U.S. drones to monitor Islamic State activity in Libya, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Counterterrorism officials have been concerned about “blind spots” in intelligence gathering and the establishment of such a base would help eliminate that weakness.

The Perils Of Mislabeling Syria’s Revolutionaries
Labib Al Nahhas writes in The Washington Post that the failure of the Obama administration’s policy toward Syria is most glaring in the inefficient and misguided way it characterizes the country’s revolutionaries as either “extremist” or “moderate.”

Hahhas says his own group, Ahrar al-Sham, is one of the groups which has been misidentified.

“Our name means ‘Free Men of Syria.’ We consider ourselves a mainstream Sunni Islamic group that is led by Syrians and fights for Syrians. We are fighting for justice for the Syrian people. Yet we have been falsely accused of having organizational links to al-Qaeda and of espousing al-Qaeda’s ideology,” he argues.

“The moral case against Assad should have been enough to discount him as an option, but now the facts of war have made it clear that he is finished. The only remaining question is who will deliver the coup de grace: the Islamic State or the Syrian opposition. That question should prompt Washington to admit that the Islamic State’s extremist ideology can be defeated only through a homegrown Sunni alternative — with the term ‘moderate’ defined not by CIA handlers but by Syrians themselves,” Nahhas concludes.

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