Editor's Note: There will be no Daily Brief on Monday, February 20. The DBwillresume on Tuesday, February 21.
The UN General Assembly approved a non-binding resolution (Guardian) calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Russia and China--both of which vetoed a Security Council resolution last week--voted against the measure, which was put forward by the Arab League. The resolution also called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special envoy to Syria. In the wake of the UN vote, Syrian troops continued a nearly two-week crackdown (BBC) on anti-government protesters and opposition forces in the central city of Homs.
"The Russian and Chinese veto of a regime change resolution over Syria at the Security Council has left western leaders exploring other options to the Libya model. But all of them rule out any political settlement between the government and armed opposition in Syria and are designed to ratchet up the conflict and tension in the wider region," writes Kevin Ovenden in the Guardian.
"Although there is still no consensus among the Syrian opposition, their Arab and Western supporters, and Russia and China on the political transition in Syria, Moscow may just see here the opportunity to frame the international response to the Syrian crisis on its own terms," writes Salman Shaikh at the Daily Beast.
"Historically, the Soviet Union--now Russia--and the Chinese have basically held that the United Nations should not authorize any action internal to any single country. This began as an attitude developed out of the general sense that the world was hostile to both governments," says William H. Luers in this CFR Interview.
The World Next Week Podcast
Listen to CFR's James Lindsay and Robert McMahon discuss Iran's visit from UN nuclear officials, a Friends of Syria meeting, and the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in Mexico.
Xi Arrives in Los Angeles
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday for the last leg of a five-day U.S. tour. Xi visited the Port of Los Angeles, a critical hub for U.S.-China trade, as he encouraged "continued economic cooperation" (WSJ) between the two countries.
As Xi Jinping visits the United States, CFR's Elizabeth C. Economy says in this CFR Interview that Washington must address the trust deficit with Beijing as its top policy priority.
Pakistan Denies Supporting Militants in Afghanistan
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari insisted today that Pakistan's armed forces were not involved "directly or indirectly" in supporting Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan, but admitted that some private Pakistanis could be involved. Zardari's remarks came at a trilateral regional summit (Dawn) in Islamabad with his Iranian and Afghan counterparts.
Pakistan has emerged as a terrorist sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants that threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as the region, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
MALDIVES: President Mohammed Waheed Hassan and ousted president Mohamed Nasheed agreed to hold early elections (NYT) in an effort to resolve a political dispute that saw Nasheed forced from power earlier this month.
Egypt Threatens U.S. Over Israel Treaty
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which holds a majority in the country's new parliament, threatened to review its 1979 peace treaty with Israel if the United States decided to cut off aid (NYT) in the wake of a politically-motivated criminal investigation into U.S. pro-democracy groups operating in Egypt.
Zanu-PF, the party of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, lashed out at the EU over its decision to maintain an arms embargo and a freeze on development aid (Reuters). A party spokesman accused the EU of trying to force Mugabe from power, while calling the sanctions "illegal and racist."
NIGERIA: A U.S. federal court sentenced Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (BBC), an alleged al-Qaeda operative accused of attempting to bomb a U.S.-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009, to life in prison without parole.
German President Resigns
German President Christian Wulff resigned from office after prosecutors, investigating allegations he took kickbacks as a state governor (DerSpiegel), said they would move to have parliament lift Wulff's immunity. The development is a political blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
FRANCE: President Nicolas Sarkozy is hosting UK Prime Minister David Cameron in Paris for the annual Franco-British summit (Guardian). The leaders are expected to discuss bilateral deals to develop civil nuclear power and unmanned drones, while also addressing the festering political situation in Syria.
Panetta Says Iran Undecided on Nuclear Weapons
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress that while Iran is continuing uranium enrichment efforts as part of its nuclear program, intelligence does not suggest that the country has made a decision to "proceed with developing a nuclear weapon" (al-Jazeera). His testimony comes as Iran announced new advances in producing nuclear fuels.
Romney Lays Out Vision for U.S.-China Relationship
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Thursday laying out a vision for dealing with China in the economic, military, and human rights arenas. Romney said he would designate China as a currency manipulator on his first day of his presidency unless China "changes its ways."