Top of the Agenda: Syrian Forces Bombard Homs for Sixth Day
The Syrian military killed dozens of people (al-Jazeera) during the sixth day of its crackdown on anti-government protesters and opposition forces in the central city of Homs, activists said. Clashes between Syrian troops and army defectors also broke out near the border with Turkey.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the Arab League would send monitors back into Syria, and that the UN might also join the mission. The new diplomatic tract comes on the heels of Russia and China's veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad this past weekend.
"There's good reason why 55 percent of Syrians still support Assad. They prefer his (flawed) promise of security and stability to the (untested) opposition's offer of a democracy enveloped in blood. Assad's appeal is not that he offers freedom, but security. And by killing mercilessly he illustrates that he will use an iron fist to try to control Syria," writes CFR's Ed Husain at NYTimes.com.
"Even as Russia and China face growing criticism, there is noconsensus among analysts on the question of intervention in Syria. The shadow of Libya looms; some observers note that NATO went beyond the letter of the UN resolution to lead the mission for Muammar al-Qaddafi's removal and arm the opposition," explains this CFR Analysis Brief.
"Instead of going quietly, the regime and its core constituents have opted to fight, presumably believing that even if they can't win they may at least come away with some kind of a draw, at least in the sense of being present at the table holding some decisive cards when a political solution is negotiated rather than shunted aside by a transition to democratic rule," writes TIME's Tony Karon.
United States, Japan Revise Plans for Military Base
The U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to suspend a plan to build a new U.S. Marine Corps base in Okinawa (WSJ) in the face of local opposition, but will move forward with transferring thousands of marines from the current Okinawa base to Guam.
MYANMAR: Authorities allowed the ethnic Mon community (al-Jazeera) to celebrate its national holiday on Wednesday for the first time in fifteen years. The decision followed a series of political reforms implemented by the country's military-backed government.
Targeted killings have become a central component of U.S. counterterrorism operations around the globe. Despite pointed criticism over transparency and accountability issues, analysts say the controversial practice seems likely to expand in the future, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
Israel, U.S. Divided Over Iran
U.S. and Israeli officials differ over how quickly Iran may be developing its alleged nuclear weapons capability, with Israel increasingly pushing for a military strike before the Iranian program enters into a "zone of immunity" (NYT) and the United States arguing in favor of continued economic sanctions.
Greek government leaders made progress in agreeing to new austerity measures demanded by the EU in exchange for a second $170 billion bailout (DerSpiegel)--needed to avoid default ahead of a March 20 bond redemption--but failed to reach a consensus on $400 million in pension cuts.
Time is running out for the Greek government, but some German commentators argue the country has already suffered enough, saying what are needed now are measures to stimulate growth, explains this Der Spiegel report.
The U.S. government and five of the country's largest banks reached a $26 billion agreement (NYT) to provide mortgage relief to around two million U.S. homeowners who were affected by the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008.
GUATEMALA: A special United Nations investigative unit, composed of international investigators and prosecutors, said it would remain in the country for another three years to continue its successful prosecution of drug-related crimes (WSJ).
Poll Finds Americans Support Obama's Security Policies
With President Obama's reelection bid underway, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Americans strongly support some of his administration's major security policies. The poll found that 83 percent of people surveyed support the use of drones, 78 percent support the reduction of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and 70 percent favor keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention center open.