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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 10, 2012

Top of the Agenda

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.

Analysis

"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 World Next Week Podcast

Listen to CFR's James Lindsay and Robert McMahon discuss President Obama's 2013 budget, Xi Jinping's visit to Washington, and the one-year anniversary of Mubarak's ouster.

 

PACIFIC RIM

China Warns of 'Trust Deficit' With U.S.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said a "trust deficit" was undermining relations between China and the United States (WSJ), five days ahead of a visit to Washington by Xi Jinping, who is expected to become China's top leader later this year.

An undervalued Chinese yuan remains a contributing factor in the U.S.-China trade imbalance, one of a number of contentious issues between Beijing and Washington, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

MALAYSIA: Hamza Kashgari, a Saudi blogger who allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad (al-Jazeera) on Twitter, was detained in Kuala Lumpur after apparently fleeing Saudi Arabia following calls for his execution. Malaysian police said his arrest was part of an Interpol operation.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Pakistan's Supreme Court Rejects Gilani Appeal

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.

 

MIDDLE EAST

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.

Another year of struggle is to be expected in Egypt, as the country's future rests with two familiar powers playing very unfamiliar roles: the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, writes CFR's Steven A. Cook at CNN.com.

 

AFRICA

Somalia's al-Shabaab Joins al-Qaeda

Ahmed Abdi Godane, leader of the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab, released a joint video with al-Qaeda in which he "pledged obedience" to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri (BBC). Al-Shabaab's merger with al-Qaeda comes as it faces stepped-up efforts by African Union, Ethiopian, and Kenyan forces.

This CFR Backgrounder provides a profile of the al-Shabaab Islamist militant organization based in southern Somalia.

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.

 

EUROPE

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.

 

AMERICAS

Army Officer Contradicts U.S. Military on Afghanistan

U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis accused the U.S. military of misleading the public (al-Jazeera) on its progress in Afghanistan, creating new fodder for some members of Congress. During his time in Afghanistan, Davis witnessed an "absence of success on virtually every level," he wrote in the Armed Forces Journal.

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.

 

Campaign 2012

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.

Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.

 

 

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