Top of the Agenda: Syrian Forces Continue Assault on Aleppo
Syrian helicopter gunships and artillery today continued a week-long military assault on opposition forces (al-Jazeera) in the country's largest city of Aleppo, even as the rebels claimed government forces had been forced to retreat. On Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt the violent crackdown on Aleppo, a day after government troops attacked a convoy carrying the head of the UN monitoring mission. Meanwhile, Syria's most senior diplomat in the UK, Khaled al-Ayoubi, resigned over the "violent and oppressive" actions of Syrian government.
"As a largely improvised guerrilla force, they have also cobbled together some strange do-it-yourself (DIY) weapons systems, designed to hurl whatever explosives are on hand back at their enemies. These weapons reflect the FSA's need for rapid movement, and they have at times proved effective in urban combat environments. Whether they will be enough for the rebels to repel the Syrian military in the battle of Aleppo, however, remains to be seen," writes Eliot Higgins for ForeignPolicy.com.
"It's just another of the many layers of friction between various elements of the FSA. There are real and serious rivalries between exiles and those inside Syria, sub-splits between those groups, deep schisms between the armed and political opposition, and among some armed groups in different areas. At the moment most of their guns are pointed in the same direction, but it's easy to predict what may happen when their common enemy falls," writes TIME's Rania Abouzeid.
Australian Police Seize $526 Million in Drugs
The Australian Federal Police last night seized up to $526 million worth of drugs smuggled into Sydney by a Hong Kong-based drug syndicate (ABC), following an eleven-month investigation that had been initiated after receiving information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Pakistan and the United States signed a new accord on transporting NATO supplies through Pakistan to Afghanistan, following Pakistan's decision to reopen supply routes earlier this month after a seven-month suspension. The new deal prohibits the transportation of arms and ammunition (ExpressTribune), except if it is equipment for the Afghan National Army.
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.
Speaking in Tunisia yesterday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said more time should be allowed for economic sanctions on Iran to work before a military strike is taken on the country's controversial nuclear program, in an apparent warning to Israel (NYT) ahead of the secretary's visit there today.
Decades of economic and diplomatic sanctions have failed to substantively alter the actions of the Iranian regime, especially regarding its nuclear program, but they remain an important tool to isolate and pressure Iran, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
Clinton Heads to Africa
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins a tour of Africa today, which will take her to Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, and South Africa, where she will meet with former president Nelson Mandela. The trip will focus on democratic and economic development (Reuters) on the continent, as well as U.S.-Africa security ties.
GUINEA-BISSAU: The UN Security Council yesterday voiced concern over reports of increased drug trafficking (BBC) in the country since a coup this past April, while condemning the military's interference in politics.
German, U.S. Finance Ministers Meet
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met yesterday on the northern German island of Sylt, where they discussed the U.S. and European economies and called for "ongoing international cooperation" to "reduce global macroeconomic imbalances" (WSJ). Geithner also met with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in Brazil today for a meeting of the South American Mercosur trade bloc, during which Venezuela will formally become a member. Chavez said joining the group would create a wider market for Venezuelan exports (AP), while allowing the country to diversify its economy.