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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 26, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: U.S., British Militaries Prep for Strikes on Syria

Hamid Khatib/Courtesy Reuters  

Hamid Khatib/Courtesy Reuters

Britain's Royal Navy is preparing to join U.S. forces in a possible campaign of cruise missile strikes on Syrian military and government targets (Telegraph) in response to alleged chemical weapons use by the Assad regime last week that killed hundreds of civilians. U.S. president Barack Obama spoke to his counterparts in the UK and France over the weekend about addressing the use of the taboo weapon, and Washington rebuffed Syria's agreement to allow a UN team to inspect the site where chemical weapons were reportedly used, saying it was "too late to be credible" (WSJ). Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said that the accusations were an "insult to common sense" and warned the United States that if it were to intervene in Syria, it would fail just as it had in wars from "Vietnam and up to the present day" (NYT).

Analysis

"Maintaining a stalemate [in Syria] should be America's objective. And the only possible method for achieving this is to arm the rebels when it seems that Mr. Assad's forces are ascendant and to stop supplying the rebels if they actually seem to be winning," writes Edward N. Luttwak in the New York Times.

"After last week—described by Mr. Obama as 'a big event of grave concern'—the world will be watching to see if it is indeed true there are no limits. Because, if there are none for Mr. Assad, then there will be none for tyrants elsewhere who learn this lesson of international impunity and emulate his depravity," writes David Gartner in the Financial Times.

"Whatever the case, the alleged use of WMDs in Syria must not be made a pretext for illegal intervention. There is no basis in international law for drawing 'red lines'—as U.S. President Barack Obama has done—the crossing of which would permit the unilateral use of force without U.N. Security Council authorization," writes the Hindu in an editorial.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Philippines Protests Corruption

Tens of thousands of Filipinos protested in Manila on Monday against corruption, targeting a development fund (AP) that allows lawmakers to allocate government money for projects in their districts. A government audit found that $141 million had been released to questionable aid groups and ghost projects.

INDONESIA: The United States agreed to sell a fleet (Bloomberg) of eight Apache helicopters to the Indonesian Army in a deal valued at as much as $500 million. Washington will provide training for operations in Southeast Asia.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Karzai Asks Sharif for Aid in Peace Process

On a visit to Islamabad, Afghan president Hamid Karzai asked Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif to collaborate (RFE) on opportunities for peace talks with Taliban militants. The visit is Karzai's first since Sharif took office in June and called for a new policy of noninterference in Afghan affairs.

CFR's Daniel Markey outlines a new drone deal for Pakistan in this Foreign Affairs article.

INDIA: South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, will visit India (TimesOfIndia) on Monday for two days in a bid to bolster economic ties, particularly those in agricultural and food security.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Palestinians Killed in Clash with Israel

Three Palestinians were shot and killed (Haaretz) Monday during clashes with Israeli Border Police, who reportedly sought to arrest a terror suspect in a refugee camp near Jerusalem. The incident brings the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank to thirteen this year.

 

AFRICA

Ghana Awaits Ruling on Election

After more than fifty days of deliberation, Ghana's supreme court said it will announce (FT) by Thursday its verdict on opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo's challenge of the December presidential election. John Dramani Mahama claimed victory in what Akufo-Addo claims was a flawed process.

ZIMBABWE: Former Zimbabwean minister Kumbirai Kangai, a close ally of President Robert Mugabe and a leader in the fight to end British rule, died Saturday (AFP).

In this blog post, CFR's John Campbell and Emily Mellgard discuss Zimbabwe's prospects as Mugabe embarks on a seventh five-year term.

 

EUROPE

Snowden Disclosures Strain U.S.-German Ties

German magazine Der Spiegel on Sunday published a report, citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, that the United States had tapped video conferences of the EU's mission to the UN. The reports have put a significant strain (NYT) on bilateral relations.

ITALY: Italy's center-left party said it would not accept (Reuters) any "blackmail" from Silvio Berlusconi's center-right party, its coalition partner, which threatened to collapse the government if he is ejected from parliament.

 

AMERICAS

CIA Aided Saddam Hussein's Chemical Attacks, Report Says

The U.S. government was aware of nerve gas attacks by Iraq during its war with Iran and aided Saddam Hussein's regime in identifying the location of Iranian troops, a new report says (FP). Iraq used mustard gas and sarin in early 1988.

In this interview, CFR's Gregory Koblentz discusses allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria.

CUBA: Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden got stuck (Reuters) at a Moscow airport because Cuba, under pressure from Washington, refused him entry into Havana, according to a Russian newspaper.

 

 

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