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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 29, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Growing Number of Syrian Refugees Flee to Jordan, Turkey

The number of Syrian refugees fleeing political unrest (NYT) to Jordan more than doubled to more than ten thousand people last week from the week prior, while refugees escaping to Turkey have reached around five thousand per day, the United Nations refugee agency said yesterday. The influx of Syrian refugees to neighboring countries comes amid a Syrian military assault on opposition strongholds in and around the capital of Damascus that has left hundreds of people dead, including many civilians. Meanwhile, a coalition of Syrian opposition activists presented a report--The Day After Project--in Berlin, outlining a democratic transition of power if President Bashar al-Assad's regime were to collapse.

Analysis

"So Iran is playing for keeps. It is ironic that while so many in the West derided the notion of a 'Shia crescent' when it was first raised by Jordan's King Abdullah, that notion is believed in Tehran--and believed to be worth killing and dying for. It is true that Iran's backing for the bloody Assad regime will increase its unpopularity in the Arab world, but Tehran's rulers must have concluded that power in Damascus is worth whatever it costs," writes CFR's Elliott Abrams on his blog Pressure Points.

"Our collective excitement at the possibility that the Assad regime will be destroyed, and the Iranian ayatollahs weakened in the process, is blurring our vision and preventing us from seeing the rise of al-Qaeda in Syria. In March of this year, jihadis mounted seven attacks against Assad. By June, they had led 66 "operations," and over half of these were on Syria's capital, Damascus," writes CFR's Ed Husain for the National Review.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Japan, North Korea Hold Talks

Japanese and North Korean government officials are meeting today at the Japanese embassy in Beijing for their first direct talks in four years (BBC). The two countries, which do not have formal diplomatic ties, are expected to discuss the return of the remains of Japanese nationals who died in the north of the Korean peninsula during WWII.

SOUTH KOREA: The government plans to develop offensive and defensive cyber warfare weaponry (Yonhap) in order to prepare for a potential cyberattack by North Korea's military, the South Korean Ministry of Defense announced today.

This CFR Crisis Guide provides a multimedia overview of the dispute between North and South Korea.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Indian Court Upholds Death Penalty for Pakistani

India's Supreme Court today upheld a death sentence for Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving member of the militant group behind the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack (TimesofIndia) that killed 166 people.

PAKISTAN: Dozens of militants today attacked an army checkpoint (AFP) in the South Waziristan tribal district, killing at least six Pakistani soldiers, according to a senior security official in Peshawar.

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.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Egypt's Morsi Visits China

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi met with this Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, in Beijing yesterday, during which Morsi secured a new line of Chinese credit (WSJ) for economic development in Egypt. Morsi's overseas trip will also include a stop in Iran for the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.

 

AFRICA

South Africa's Mines Minister Seeks to Reassure Investors

South Africa's minister of mining, Susan Shabangu, today sought to reassure foreign investors following deadly clashes between workers and police (Reuters) at some South African mines earlier this month, saying the country's legal and civic institutions would safeguard investments in the resources sector.

SOMALIA: A U.S. federal judge ordered former Somali prime minister Mohamed Ali Samantar, who lives in Virginia, to pay $21 million to seven Somali natives who claimed Samantar tortured and killed his own people (AP) when in government in the 1980s.

 

EUROPE

Deadly Attacks in Russia's Dagestan

In two separate attacks yesterday by radical Islamic separatists (NYT) in the Russian Republic of Dagestan, a woman wearing a hidden explosives belt blew herself up at the house of a Sufi scholar, killing at least seven people, while a border guard shot dead seven fellow soldiers.

RUSSIA: A court yesterday sentenced opposition activist Taisiya Osipova (LAT) to eight years in prison on drug charges. Ospiova and her supporters claim she was framed by the government.

The recent trial of a punk band in Russia reflects the Putin regime's hard-line stance on political dissent, and those views are shaping its foreign policy, says CFR's Stephen Sestanovich in this CFR Interview.

 

AMERICAS

Ecuador Ratifies Refugee Status for Belarus Dissident

Ecuador's highest court yesterday rejected an extradition request (MercoPress) for former Belarusian police investigator Aliaksandr Barankov while ratifying his political refugee status and ordering him to be released from jail immediately.

BRAZIL: The Supreme Court yesterday approved the resumption of work on the $13 billion Belo Monte dam in the Amazon (GlobalPost), which was halted earlier this month following protests by indigenous groups that say they would be displaced by the dam.

 

CAMPAIGN 2012

Romney Officially Becomes Republican Nominee

Mitt Romney officially became the Republican nominee for president (WSJ) Tuesday night at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., amid speeches aimed at getting the candidate more support from rallying women voters around him and building support for his policies. The Washington Post's Marc Fisher writes that the GOP platform adopted Tuesday at the convention shows the party is shifting to the right, particularly on fiscal issues, possibly due to the influence of rising Tea Party activists.

Details of next week's Democratic convention (NYT) are already slipping out, including plans to designate one evening as "national security night."

 

 

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