Top of the Agenda: Bombings in Aleppo; Syrian Forces Continue Homs Crackdown
Car bombings targeting Syrian military and police targets in Aleppo killed 25 people and wounded 175 (NYT), Syrian state television reported, while blaming "terrorists" for the attacks. A spokesman for the opposition Free Syrian Army denied involvement, suggesting the government orchestrated the explosions to distract from its continued crackdown in Homs. For the past week, Syrian troops have sustained a deadly assault on anti-government protesters and opposition forces in that central city, as the international community has struggled to issue a unified condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"It is quite clear that the Syrian people want the regime ended, for many reasons: They hate the oppression, the murders, the torture, the alliances with Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, and the domination by the minority Alawite sect. Assad's campaign of murder, which many observers thought was bound to succeed if he just killed enough unarmed demonstrators, is failing," writes CFR's Elliott Abrams at the NationalReview.com.
"Washington should adopt a realistic, albeit distasteful, strategy that seeks to steadily defuse the conflict rather than watch it explode in everyone's face. And that means dealing with Mr. Assad," writes Nicholas Noe in the New York Times.
"We must stop pretending about NATO or the Arab League intervening and accept that it is not 'international intervention,' but U.S. military intervention that is being sought in yet another Muslim-majority country. The Muslim dimension is important because the lessons of Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan are that, invariably, intervention leads to occupation, which leads to varying degrees of Islamist radicalization," writes CFR's Ed Husain at CNN.com.
The Pakistani Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani over contempt of court charges (Dawn). Gilani, accused of failing to reopen a corruption investigation targeting President Asif Ali Zardari, is expected to appear in court on February 13.
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.
MALDIVES: UN special envoy Oscar Fernandez-Taranco (Haveeru) arrived in Male for three days of meetings with government, opposition, and civil society leaders, days after of anti-government protests and an alleged coup forced former president Mohamed Nasheed to resign.
Egypt's Brotherhood Calls on Military to Step Down
The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that holds sway in Egypt's democratically elected parliament, called on the country's interim military rulers to hand over power to a coalition government (NYT). The decision comes a year after longtime Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak was forced from power in a popular uprising.
GUINEA: A government minister, Colonel Moussa Tiegboro Camara, was charged for his role in a 2009 massacre of protesters (AFP) demonstrating against the country's then-ruling military junta.
Greek Leaders Agree to Austerity Plan
Greece's top political leaders agreed to implement fresh austerity measures mandated by the EU and IMF in exchange for a new $170 billion bailout package (WSJ), but eurozone finance ministers said the Greek parliament would have to approve the budget before they would sign off on the deal.
Even as Greek leaders agree to new austerity measures, the IMF is calling on Greece's official creditors to take losses on its bond holdings. Analysts and policymakers increasingly question the wisdom of EU-mandated austerity measures at the expense of growth, explains this CFR Analysis Brief.
ITALY: U.S. President Barack Obama praised Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti's economic reform agenda (VOA) during a meeting at the White House. Monti is on a two-day visit to Washington and New York to drum up investment for his debt-laden country.
Army Officer Contradicts U.S. Military on Afghanistan
MEXICO: The army said it seized 15 tons of methamphetamine (BBC) at a ranch in the western Jalisco state. Production of the drug is on the rise, and large quantities are smuggled to the United States. No arrests were made.
Since 2006, the Mexican government has been in embroiled in a bloody drug war, which has failed to significantly curb trafficking. This CFR Backgrounder looks at Mexico's eradication efforts, along with U.S. policy options for one of its most important regional allies.
Obama Announces Mortgage Settlement
President Obama announced a $25 billion settlement (Reuters) between forty-nine states and the country's five largest mortgage lenders Thursday in a bid to boost the country's economic recovery. The agreement requires the banks to reduce some loans and refinance mortgages for underwater borrowers, and comes as the country continues to struggle from a housing crisis that has been a drag on the U.S. economy.
As Obama seeks reelection, the deal could help show that he is willing to be tough on banks. Politico notes that the foreclosures issue is expected to affect his chances in five major swing states: Michigan, California, Florida, Ohio, and Nevada, all of which have some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.