Top of the Agenda: Forty Thousand Flee Syrian Town, UN Says
Around forty thousand people have fled a town in eastern Syria (Reuters) following three days of fighting between government troops and opposition forces, the UN World Food Program said today. The Syrian opposition reportedly captured the town, al-Shaddadeh, yesterday following clashes that left thirty rebels and a hundred government soldiers dead. The opposition claimed to be in almost complete control of the northeastern oil-producing province of Hasaka (NYT) after allegedly shooting down three Syrian Air Force warplanes. Nearly 2.5 million Syrians have been displaced since the conflict began nearly two years ago.
"The problem is that, increasingly, death tolls are used as political tools to scene-set for western-backed 'humanitarian interventions' in the Middle East and north Africa and – more broadly – against the kinds of negotiated political settlements that could actually reduce or stop the killing," writes Sharmine Narwani for the Guardian.
"The rebels in the Free Syrian Army don't doubt that they will drive President Bashar al-Assad from power--eventually--but they have no idea what will happen afterward: Democracy? An Islamic republic? An Islamic dictatorship? The fighters I met on a recent visit here were unable to articulate any long-term political vision," writes J. Malcolm Garcia for the New York Times.
"It's difficult to produce a single example in modern history of a strategy of arming rebels actually succeeding. Meanwhile, there are plenty of examples of the overt or covert provision of arms to a rebel group prolonging and intensifying conflicts, and lots of cases of rebel groups happily taking our money and guns to 'fight communists' (or whatever) and then doing whatever they like with them. That doesn't mean that such a strategy couldn't work in Syria, but history is most definitely not on its side," writes Marc Lynch for Foreign Policy.
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Obama, Abe Seek Tough UNSC Resolution on North Korea
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama agreed Thursday to seek a new UN Security Council resolution authorizing tougher sanctions against North Korea (JapanTimes), in response to Pyongyang's latest nuclear test.
PAKISTAN: The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, rejected an offer for peace talks (Dawn) with the country's main political parties following a conference led by the Awami National Party, the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country with this CFR Crisis Guide.
U.S. Urges Iran to Release Opposition Leaders
The United States officially called on Iran to release from house arrest two of the country's main political opposition leaders (WSJ), Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been detained by security forces for two years. The move was considered a policy shift by the Obama administration ahead of upcoming national elections in Iran.
ISRAEL: The man known as Israel's Prisoner X (NYT), identified yesterday by Australian media as Australian-Israeli Ben Zygier, may have been involved in the assassination of a Hamas leader in 2010, Kuwaiti opposition newspaper Al Jarida reported Thursday.
South Africa Charges Olympian With Murder
The South African government is set to charge Olympian Oscar Pistorius (M&G) with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day. Steenkamp was found dead at Pistorius's home near Pretoria yesterday.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Political insecurity has caused the price of corn and other staples to double, portending a severe food crisis (Reuters) this year in Central African Republic, the UN World Food Program said today.
'Currency War' on G20 Agenda
Finance ministers of the G20 group of nations are set to convene in Moscow amid rising concerns that major trading powers may be heading toward a "currency war" (BBC). Japan's controversial monetary easing program is expected to dominate the two-day meeting.
Earlier this week, a panel of experts at CFR, including CFR's Stewart Patrick, discussed how international institutions like the G20 can work together to tackle problems in global governance.
Ecuador's Correa Expected to Win Reelection
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is expected to win reelection on Sunday, positioning him to succeed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as the most powerful populist leader (MercoPress) in Latin America.
UNITED STATES: A disabled Carnival cruise ship (CNN) docked in Alabama's Port of Mobile last night after drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for days following a fire. More than four thousand passengers were left without electricity and functioning toilets.