Top of the Agenda: UN Chief Condemns Sudanese Air Raids
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned Sudanese air raids on South Sudan and called on the neighboring countries to engage in dialogue, amid an escalating conflict over the countries' shared oil-rich border area (al-Jazeera). However, SudanesePresident Omar al-Bashir rejected negotiations with the South yesterday, saying "our talks with them were with guns and bullets." Meanwhile, on a visit to China, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir told Chinese PresidentHu Jintao that Sudan had declared war on South Sudan. China, an ally with significant interests in both Sudans, called on the two sides to exercise "calm and restraint" (Reuters).
"Many had hoped mutual dependence on the oil industry that underpinned both economies would deter such conflict--the landlocked South took most of the crude output but needs pipes across Sudan to export it. But disputes over transit payments, the border, and other issues have halted almost all of the combined production, meaning that incentive to cooperate has all but vanished," explains this Reuters analysis.
"International response has been equally indecisive in the face of Khartoum's campaign of ethnic annihilation by means of starvation in northern border states, a campaign that has been underway in the Nuba Mountains for over ten months and in Blue Nile for almost eight months. Khartoum's campaign is a ghastly reprise of the genocidal assault on the Nuba in the 1990s," writes Eric Reeves for the Sudan Tribune.
North Korea Preparing Nuclear Test
North Korea is planning to conduct a third nuclear test, a senior North Korean source reportedly told Reuters. The news comes on the heels of a failed rocket launch earlier this month that set back North Korean relations with the United States and thewider international community.
CHINA: Former officials from Wukan--where villagers protested for months over corruption and land grabs last year--have been punished by Chinese authorities, with two expelled from the Communist Party (BBC).
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.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan officials barred a U.S. congressman (LAT) from visiting the country with a congressional delegation last week, apparently over his continued criticism of President Hamid Karzai.
Syrian Troops Attack Hama
Syrian forces attacked the western city of Hama on Monday, killing twenty-eight civilians (al-Jazeera), according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. UN military observers--deployed to implement a fragile eleven-day-old cease-fire--visited areas of unrest near the capital of Damascus, even as the United States and the EU imposed new sanctions.
EGYPT: The Insurance and Social Affairs Ministry rejected the registration applications of eight U.S. non-profit groups (NYT), including the Carter Center, because they would allegedly violate Egyptian sovereignty.
Funding Shortage for Sahel Food Crisis
Aid agencies are being hindered by a multi-million dollar funding gap (AFP) that has limited many from alleviating an ongoing food crisis in the Sahel region of northern Africa, a coalition of agencies said yesterday. Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger are most at risk, according to the UN.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his cabinet resigned Monday after failing to win parliamentary backing (WSJ) over new austerity measures to reign in the country's budget deficit, amid a larger eurozone-wide debate over the best way to tackle the ongoing sovereign debt crisis.
The eurozone, once seen as a crowning achievement in the decades-long path of European integration, is buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
UNITED KINGDOM: Former News International chairman James Murdoch is testifying before a British enquiry into media ethics (Telegraph) over his role in the News of the World phone hacking scandal. Murdoch insists he was given "consistent" assurances by senior executives that phone hacking was not taking place.
Pentagon Suspends Security Clearances Over Prostitution Scandal
The U.S. Defense Department suspended the security clearances of some of the eleven military officers (NYT) embroiled in a prostitution scandal--centered around a number of U.S. Secret Service agents--that took place in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of President Barack Obama's visit there for an economic summit nearly two weeks ago.
In a press conference (Politico) at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania with Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney came out in favor of extending low interest rates on student loans in an appeal to young voters, many of whom are facing economic uncertainty.
Romney also touched on immigration (CNN) and Rubio's version of the DREAM Act, saying that he is looking at Rubio's proposal. The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented young people in the United States. There is debate about whether Romney has political space to support a proposal considered by the Republican base to be "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants.