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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 13, 2014

Top of the Agenda

UN Urges Resumption of Syria Peace Talks

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the United States and Russia to help restart stalled peace talks aimed at ending Syria's civil war, which enters its fourth year this week. The conflict will be discussed at the Security Council on Thursday (Reuters). In Syria, the Assad regime is trying to absorb a public backlash by its supporters after Christian nuns who were held hostage by al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front made statements that the Nusra fighters treated them well (WSJ). Meanwhile in Iraq, the regional and sectarian implications of the war in Syria are becoming increasingly evident, as a steady stream of dead Shia fighters returns for burial in Baghdad (Guardian).

Analysis

"The regime's political goals are to remain in power, restore its control over as much of Syria as it can, and render the political opposition an irrelevant exile movement. Its military goal is to reduce the armed opposition to a manageable terrorist threat. This does not imply that the opposition has to be completely eliminated or that every inch of lost ground has to be recovered. Yet the regime has never shown any intention other than to fight, and it fights essentially everywhere in Syria. It does not negotiate with the opposition, and it does not give up on any province," writes Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"Today, Syria, as we once knew it, is gone: a third of the population is displaced, over a million homes have been destroyed, and over 100,000 people are dead. Spring is no longer a season to celebrate rebirth. It is a season to mourn the death of a country's dream. Over the past three years, the Syrian people's struggle for self-determination has been called many names. But no matter the name, revolution, uprising, civil war, proxy war, complicated conflict, one fact is clear: the world has been watching genocide in slow motion," writes Lina Sergie Attar in the New York Times.

"If power and force alone are what shape foreign policy, then so be it, in Syria as in Crimea. Let's stop wasting our time by evoking international law and principles in a world that seems so little disposed to ensuring they prevail or, worse, that cites international law as an excuse to avoid taking any humanitarian action whatsoever," writes Michael Young in Lebanon's Daily Star.

 

Pacific Rim

Chinese Data Show Economy Cooling

China's industrial output, retail sales, and investment growth weakened more than expected in the first two months of 2014, signaling difficulties for the government to hit its 7.5 percent expansion target this year (Bloomberg).

MALAYSIA: U.S. investigators suspect that the missing Malaysia Airlines plane flew for about four hours after it reached its last confirmed location, adding to the mystery of what happened on that flight (WSJ).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains in this article why the Malaysian government and its state-owned airline have been so quiet about the missing flight.

 

South and Central Asia

U.S. Judge Dismisses Indian Diplomat Case

A federal judge ruled that an Indian consular officer, whose arrest and strip-search in New York sparked a row between the United States and India, had diplomatic immunity, and dismissed the charges against her (AP).

AFGHANISTAN: The release of sixty-four prisoners by Afghan authorities is at the heart of a widening rift between Afghan authorities and the United States (Reuters).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and resiliency of the Taliban.

 

Middle East

Libyan Prime Ministers Flees Country After Ouster

Former Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan fled to Europe on Wednesday after parliament voted him out of office for failing to stop rebels from independently exporting oil from the country (al-Jazeera).

 

Africa

China Slowdown Clouds Africa’s Growth Outlook

Investors are starting to rethink their growth assumptions for many sub-Saharan African countries as a slowing Chinese economy's demand for ores, minerals, and other commodities weakens (FT).

SOUTH AFRICA: Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said his country will not be used by foreign governments to attack their dissidents, in reference to the alleged involvement of three Rwandan diplomats in an attempted assassination of a former army chief (All Africa).

 

Europe

Obama Makes Diplomatic Push on Ukraine

President Barack Obama hosted Ukraine's interim prime minister at the White House on Wednesday, where they discussed a political solution to the crisis in Crimea that would allow for more autonomy for the region if Russian troops withdraw (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the crisis in Ukraine.

UKRAINE: Muslim Tatars in Crimea, persecuted from czarist to communist eras, have organized a formal boycott of the upcoming referendum that may lead to the region's annexation to Russia (WaPo).

 

Americas

White House Withholds Documents From Senate CIA Probe

The Obama administration has withheld more than nine thousand top-secret documents related to the CIA's now-defunct detention and interrogation program that have been sought by Senate investigators for five years, according to McClatchy.

VENEZUELA: Three more people were killed in protests in Venezuela's north in clashes between demonstrators and police, bringing the total death toll in the past month to twenty-four (AFP).

 

 

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