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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 22, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: UN Security Council Supports Syria Peace Plan

The UN Security Council on Wednesday backed a joint UN-Arab League Syrian peace effort (al-Jazeera) being led by special envoy Kofi Annan. Annan's peace plan calls for the Syrian government and opposition groups to engage in dialogue, while allowing for a "daily two-hour humanitarian pause" for the delivery of medical and other aid. The Security Council's statement of support "sent a clear message to Syria to end all violence," said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

However, the opposition Syrian National Council said the statement would only give the Syrian government more space to continue its deadly year-long crackdown on anti-government activists and rebel forces. Syrian security forces attacked the central city of Homs (NYT) on Wednesday, while forces battled with rebels outside the capital of Damascus.

Analysis

"Washington is helping shape a more coherent political opposition. But U.S. policymakers must keep clearly in mind that the regime has its supporters in all walks of life and across Syria's religious communities. Over the last 40 years, the Assad family built a reputation for safeguarding the country's minorities and for providing a predictable (if repressed) life for Syrians. Its policies have created both resistance to change and inertia," writes Richard W. Murphy for Foreign Affairs.

It is hard to break Assad's hold without breaking Syria. The toughest pressure on Syria so far--sanctions--reveals the economic fragility of the Syrian state. As intended, the sanctions have devastated the economy and raised pressure on the regime. The currency has collapsed and capital has fled the country," writes Daniel Byman for Foreign Affairs.

"Still more extreme than the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda jihadists, smuggled in from neighboring countries, also appear to have entered the battle in recent months, and to have been responsible for a number of suicide bombings of government targets. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over the leadership of al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden's death, has called for a global jihad against the Syrian regime," writes Patrick Seale for Foreign Affairs.

 

PACIFIC RIM

South Korea in Ballistic Missile Agreement With U.S.

South Korea expects to reach a deal with the United States allowing Seoul to possess or develop longer-range ballistic missiles for "defense against North Korean attacks" (Yonhap), President Lee Myung-bak said, days before hosting an international nuclear security summit.

CHINA: The country's social media services have begun blocking searches for Bo Xilai (WSJ), who was ousted as Chongqing party secretary last week, fueling popular speculation of a power struggle in the Communist Party leadership.

As China faces growing internal and external calls for economic and political reforms, expert Minxin Pei looks at the political transition under way and discusses prospects for change in this CFR Interview.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Afghan Military to Be Subsidized for a Decade

The international community, led by the United States and Europe, will subsidize the Afghan military by more than $4 billion per year for a decade (AFP) after NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, President Hamid Karzai said. Western officials insisted a final agreement had not yet been reached.

This CFR Timeline examines the events that precipitated the U.S. war in Afghanistan as well as the history of the war.

PAKISTAN: The Islamabad High Court ordered that Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law (ExpressTribune), Zakaria al-Sadah, be allowed to visit his sister, who is in Pakistani custody.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Libya at Odds With ICC Over Captives

Libya's interim government has resisted handing over to the International Criminal Court former leader Muammar al-Qaddafi's son and brother-in-law (NYT)--both key players in the Qaddafi regime--and has insisted on trying the defendants on Libyan soil.

 

AFRICA

Mali Soldiers Topple President in Coup

Malian soldiers ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure (al-Jazeera) and seized power in a coup today, suspending the country's constitution. The mutinous soldiers criticized the president's apparent inability to quell an uprising by Tuaregs in the north of the country.

SUDAN: Khartoum accused Juba of aiding rebels (Reuters) in an attack in Sudan's South Kordofan border state, two weeks before leaders from Sudan and South Sudan are set to meet over oil and border disputes.

 

EUROPE

French Murder Suspect Dead After Day-Long Standoff

French police stormed the Toulouse apartment of a suspected murderer with self-proclaimed ties to al-Qaeda after a thirty-hour standoff, at which point he jumped off a balcony and died (NYT). The suspect, Mohammed Merah, is accused of killing three students and an adult at a Jewish school earlier this week, and murdering three French soldiers in separate incidents last week.

GREECE: Prime Minister Lucas Papademos selected former banker Filippos Sachinidis as his new finance minister (Guardian), after Evangelos Venizelos stepped down to head the Socialist Pasok party ahead of parliamentary elections.

 

AMERICAS

Colombian Soldiers Kill FARC Rebels

Colombian forces launched a joint air force and army operation (al-Jazeera) in eastern Arauca province, killing at least thirty-nine members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, or FARC rebels. The attack came days before the rebels are set to release ten hostages.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) are Colombia's two predominant rebel groups. While both have been depleted in recent years, they remain destabilizing forces, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

FALKLAND ISLANDS: The UK's Prince William returned to Britain (BBC) after a deployment to the Falklands that ignited a diplomatic row between the UK and Argentina over the sovereignty of the islands--a British overseas territory--just ahead of the thirty-year anniversary of the Falklands War.

 

Campaign 2012

Many Voters Support Keystone Pipeline, According to Poll

A new Gallup poll shows "a solid majority" of voters think the U.S. government should approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans are almost twice as likely as Democrats to want the government to approve the oil pipeline.

On Fox News, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich continued his criticism of President Obama's energy policy and called for an "American energy policy" that would allow independence from Mideast oil. Rick Santorum made his own energy pitch in Louisiana Wednesday, arguing the current White House energy policy (NOLA) has slowed down oil and gas production. Obama, on a two-day trip covering four states (NYT), sought to demonstrate his own support for domestic oil and gas production while assailing critics for attacking his clean energy push.

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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