– UN panel head prepares for Syria gas attacks probe
– UN envoy urges Syria ceasefires
– Iran says may quit Syria talks over spat with Saudi; Russia trying for talks in Moscow
– Turkey detains fifty-seven linked to Gulen
– Turkish jets strike Kurdish targets in northern Iraq
– Iraq parliament bars Abadi government from passing reforms unilaterally

UN panel head prepares for Syria gas attacks probe
A UN panel will soon begin work on identifying those responsible for deadly gas attacks in Syria, but the head of the investigation says it will be difficult to come up with a complete list of perpetrators. Disarmament expert Virginia Gamba heads the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), approved by the Security Council in August after evidence surfaced of chlorine gas attacks on three Syrian villages last year. The starting point for the international investigation are three fact-finding missions from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that concluded that chlorine was probably used as a weapon on the opposition-held villages, killing thirteen people. The OPCW followed its mandate and did not assign blame for the attacks in Idlib and Hama provinces. The panel has been asked to dig deeper to not only identify the perpetrators of the attacks, but also identify their co-conspirators, organizers, financial backers, and sponsors. [AFP, 11/3/2015]

UN envoy urges Syria ceasefires
UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura briefed the Syrian leadership in Damascus on the outcome of last week’s international talks in Vienna, reportedly pushing President Bashar al-Assad to accept a ceasefire. “What we need is also some facts on the ground, some ceasefires, some reductions of violence,” de Mistura said in Damascus before leaving the country. “That would make a big difference, to give a feeling to the Syrian people that the Vienna atmosphere is producing effects to them.” De Mistura met with and briefed Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and UN and EU representatives and on the outcome of talks held last Friday between seventeen nations aimed at ending the bloodshed in Syria. Neither the Syrian government nor the Syrian opposition received an invitation to the table. Another round of international talks is expected to take place in mid-November. [AFP, 11/3/2015]

Iran says may quit Syria talks over spat with Saudi; Russia trying for talks in Moscow
Iran said on Monday it would quit Syria peace talks if it found them unconstructive, citing the “negative role” of Saudi Arabia, in the latest spat between the regional rivals that jeopardizes efforts to ease turmoil across the Middle East. Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said that Iran would not participate if the talks were “not fruitful.” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Iran of attempting to smuggle weapons to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and meddling in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, something he said was “driving the negativity” in Iran-Saudi relationship. Meanwhile, a senior Russian diplomat says Moscow will host a round of talks between Syrian officials and opposition leaders next week. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian news agencies on Tuesday that the Syrian government has agreed to participate, but that it is unclear which opposition groups might come. He did not give a specific date for the proposed talks. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss attempts to start a dialogue between Damascus and the Syrian opposition, Moscow’s Foreign Ministry said. [AP, Reuters, 11/3/2015]

Turkey detains fifty-seven linked to Gulen
On Tuesday, Turkish police have carried out dawn raids in eighteen provinces, detaining fifty-seven people, including senior police officers and bureaucrats, allegedly linked to President Tayyip Erdogan’s foe Fethullah Gulen, widening a campaign against the exiled US-based Muslim cleric. The raids come two days after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which Erdogan founded, won a resounding victory in an election that restored its single-party rule. [AP, Reuters, 11/3/2015]

Turkish jets strike Kurdish targets in northern Iraq
The Turkish military announced on Tuesday that Turkish jets carried out raids on suspected Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq. The air strikes hit shelters, underground bunkers, and weapon emplacements belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in six locations, including the PKK’s base in the Qandil Mountains, on Monday. Inside Turkey, authorities declared a curfew in certain parts of the mainly Kurdish town of Silvan, where security forces clashed with PKK rebels. At least two militants were killed. Monday’s air strikes come after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) captured more than 49 percent of the vote on Sunday, regaining a parliamentary majority it lost in June. [AP, Anadolu Agency, 11/3/2015]

Iraq parliament bars Abadi government from passing reforms unilaterally
Iraq’s parliament voted unanimously on Monday to bar the government from passing important reforms without its approval, amid discontent over Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s leadership style. The chamber acted after Abadi unilaterally enacted reforms in August that it deemed a violation of the constitution including his dismissal of the vice presidents, deputy prime ministers, and cuts to salaries of government employees. An Iraqi lawmaker said, “Parliament rejects any parties, including the government, overlooking its authorities. The resolution was passed unanimously and it dictates that any decision needs the approval of parliament.” [Reuters, 11/2/2015]