Sectarian Fights In Middle East – And Washington
Following the execution of more than 40 alleged terrorists by the Saudi Arabian government, including a prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, Iran responded by condemning the action and attacking the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Conversely, Saudi Arabia responded to the response by withdrawing its diplomats and severing ties. That move kicked off a taking of sides by other nations in the region along a sectarian divide of Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims.
“The divide in Washington, DC was no less sectarian, writes Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl. While the Obama administration avoided any sign of condemning Iran’s actions out of fear of endangering their deal over the regime’s nuclear program, Republicans got behind Saudi Arabia,” says Diehl.
That partisanship may be expected given the history of Obama’s relations with Congress, but it is not helpful.
“What’s missing from the Republican rhetoric and Obama’s maneuvering is any sense of fundamental and long-term U.S. interests in the Middle East or how they might be pursued amid the sectarian maelstrom. Rather than picking among Sunni or Shiite dictators, Americans should be asking what needs to change in the region for stabilization and modernization to be possible — and what forces might advance it,” he asserts.
Catalan Parliament Elects Pro-Secessionist Leader
The newly-elected leader of the Spanish region of Catalonia pledged to his supporters to continue on a path towards unilateral secession after a vote of the Catalan parliament.
The Catalan parliament elected Carles Puigdemont as regional president and he vowed to make Catalonia an independent nation within 18 months, which is certain to complicate efforts to keep Spain united.
Socialist Popular Party Deputy Secretary Fernando Martínez Maillo called on his party to for a government to defend the unity of Spain, which some view as a roundabout way to secure power.
Aid Convoy Heads To Syria, But May Be Too Late
An aid convoy headed for a besieged Syrian town of Madaya, a pro-rebel town located about 15 miles from Damascus, where as many as 42,000 are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations.
The convoy did arrive near the town on Monday, but only has enough supplies to last for one month.
UN officials termed the situation on the ground as “ghastly” and also raised concerns about deteriorating situations in two nearby Shiite villages.
The delivery of aid was permitted after an agreement — brokered last week with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — was reached. A similar deal was made last summer, but only one food convoy has reached the town since last October, The Washington Post reports.