Top of the Agenda: Syrian Refugees Top Two Million Mark
Over two million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and more than four million are internally displaced, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (AFP) announced on Tuesday. As a potential U.S. strike on Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons near Damascus raises tensions, Russia said it detected two ballistic "objects" in the Mediterranean Sea (Reuters), which Israel later said was a joint missile test conducted with the United States. In Washington, Obama administration officials are lobbying members of Congress to grant the president authorization to use force in Syria, but Secretary of State John Kerry said the president had the right to take military action even if Congress rejects such measures (Guardian).
"The real interests at stake in Syria include stopping a humanitarian nightmare that has claimed more than 100,000 lives; frustrating the designs of Iran and its partners; reinforcing the norm that chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity; and demonstrating that what the US says is to be taken to the bank by friend and foe alike," CFR President Richard Haass writes in the Financial Times.
"The American government has concluded 'with high confidence' that some 1,429 Syrians, including at least 426 children, were killed by toxic chemicals. What is the threshold for action? NATO should be part of an international effort to sharply punish the Assad regime, which poses a clear and present danger to the alliance — and the United States should lead NATO in doing so," writes retired admiral James G. Stavridis in the New York Times.
"[The Israeli leadership] is profoundly concerned that the president has set a precedent, in seeking an authorization from Congress that he had no legal requirement to seek—and that Congress was not loudly demanding—that may complicate, delay or even rule out credible action to thwart a challenge that dwarfs Assad's chemical weapons capability: Iran's drive to nuclear weapons," writes David Horovitz in the Times of Israel.
Japan Unveils Strategy to Deal with Fukushima Leaks
Japan's government unveiled its strategy to deal with the radioactive water leaks at the Fukushima nuclear plant (Japan Times) on Tuesday. The $475 million plan includes facilities to freeze soil and filter water.
NORTH KOREA: Former NBA star Dennis Rodman returned to North Korea on Tuesday to "hang out" with its leader Kim Jong Un (AP). The trip comes days after Pyongyang rejected a visit by a U.S. envoy seeking amnesty for Kenneth Bae, a jailed American missionary.
CFR's Scott Snyder explains why it's time to expect new provocations from North Korea in this blog post.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Disclosures Reveal Expanded U.S. Surveillance in Pakistan
An Egyptian court ordered the closure of four television stations (BBC), including three Islamist channels and Al Jazeera's local network, which have been accused of sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood.
CFR's Robert Danin recaps last week's developments in the Middle East in this blog post.
South Africa's Zuma Urges Gold Wage Deal
As a mineworkers' union is set to begin a strike Tuesday evening, South African president Jacob Zuma urged laborers and employers in the gold industry to reach an agreement on wages (News24).
SWAZILAND: King Mswati III declared that his kingdom is now a "monarchial democracy" (Mail & Guardian). Africa's last absolute monarch decided to alter the country's political system after a vision he had over the weekend.