Top of the Agenda: Lingering Violence Casts Doubt Over Syria Cease-Fire
Reports of renewed tank fire in several Syrian cities have left the international community with serious doubts about the sincerity of President Bashar al-Assad's commitment to a full cease-fire by April 12 (Reuters). The news comes just one day after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cited ongoing violence in civilian areas as an indication of the deteriorating situation, despite guarantees from Damascus that regime forces were beginning their withdrawal. Thousands of refugees have been pouring over the border into Turkey (BBC) to escape the bloodshed--some 2,300 on Wednesday alone. Analysts say the real test of the truce will come next Tuesday, the deadline by which Assad has agreed to halt the use of heavy weapons and pull forces back from population centers.
"America's hands are full with Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, with the Arab-Israeli conflict, with Bahrain, with Saudi Arabia. The last thing the United States needs is to have a full-blown conflict on the borders of Israel, Iraq, Jordan, [and] Lebanon, flaring up to an extent that it demands either airpower or troops on the ground or other forms of logistical support, which further strains U.S. capacity in the region," says Ed Husain in this CFR interview.
"The absence of the demand that Assad go is squarely due to the U.S.'s refusal to back it up with the sort of severe consequences it used to dole out: military strikes, preemptive wars and overwhelming use of force. For the U.S., at least for now, those days are over," writes Ian Bremmer for Reuters.
"[Syria's] WMDs could be smuggled into Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank or elsewhere. In the past, Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have all attempted to acquire chemical or biological weapons. In a sign of precisely how destabilizing some view this threat, Israeli officials have warned that Syria transferring chemical weapons to Hezbollah would constitute a declaration of war," writes James P. Farwell in the National Interest.
The World Next Week Podcast
Listen to CFR's Toni Johnson and Isobel Coleman discuss the Iran and P5+1 nuclear talks, the Summit of the Americas, and the trial of foreign NGO activists in Cairo.
Prospects for a resumption of talks on Iran's contentious nuclear energy program next week seemed to diminish, when the Iranians issued new objections to Istanbul as the location and rejected alternate proposals (NYT) to hold them in at least three European countries.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:Authorities temporarily detained members of a U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute as they tried to leave the country after their office was ordered closed. The NDI also was among several foreign groups raided by Egyptian authorities in December.
Tuareg Rebels Claim Independence From Mali
Tuareg rebels in northern Mali declared that they had formed an independent state of Azawad (al-Jazeera) Friday, after declaring a cease-fire following several months of conflict. Violent conflict has greatly intensified in Mali over the past week as the rebels made their way north.
MALAWI: President Bingu wa Mutharika suffered a heart attack Thursday (NYT) and was hospitalized, although the Malawian government has not yet confirmed reports of his death. His death would potentially pose a constitutional crisis, analysts say, because Mali's vice president--the successor to the presidency--was thrown out of the political party following a falling out with Mutharika.
Indonesia to Talk to Saudi Arabia About Jailed Maids
Jakarta will send a delegation to Riyadh (JakartaPost) to discuss the plight of Indonesian housemaids in Saudi Arabia, where twenty-five maids are currently on death row. Indonesia currently has a moratorium on migrant workers to the Kingdom following reports of abuse and killings.
This Backgrounder provides a profile of the Pakistani militant group India blames for some of the most severe terror attacks it has suffered in recent years.
Spain Highlights Eurozone Worries
Fresh concerns have surfaced in the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis as Spain's borrowing costs surged (WSJ) to their highest since the European Central Bank began injecting huge amounts of liquidity into the banking system.
Spain is "the object of the greatest concerns right now," says Thomas Klau of the European Council on Foreign Relations, in a new CFR interview.
BOSNIA: The capital Sarajevo today marked the twentieth anniversary of its nearly four-year siege (RFE/RL) by Bosnian Serb forces. Organizers have lined up 11,541 red chairs along the city's main street to stand for every citizen killed in the siege.
Brazil Wants BRICS to Unite on World Bank Nominee
Brazil's Finance Minister Guido Mantega said on Thursday his government wants emerging economic powers to rally around one candidate (ChicagoTribune) to head the World Bank as developing nations strive to bolster their influence at the global lender.
UNITED STATES: The Russian foreign ministry criticized the United States (CNN) on Friday for sentencing Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to twenty-five years in prison, saying the verdict against him was "baseless and biased." Last year, Bout was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles and provide material support to a terrorist organization.
Romney's VP Short List Gets Foreign Policy Scrutiny
With Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) on the short list of potential running mates for GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney, Foreign Policy's Passport blog takes a look at Ryan's stances on foreign affairs on issues ranging from China to Iran and Afghanistan.
With voters continuing to worry about unemployment, President Barack Obama signed the JOBS Act into law Thursday, giving him "one more talking point with which to try and blunt the GOP's election-year charges that he's been bad for jobs" (NPR).
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.