Top of the Agenda: Deadly Explosions Hit Central Aleppo
At least twenty-five people are dead and more than seventy wounded after a series of bombings on Wednesday (AlJazeera) struck the main square of the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub and largest city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggested the attacks may have been suicide bombings, which have been common across Syria, particularly in Damascus, but have rarely been seen in Aleppo. Rebel fighters launched a new offensive (BBC) last week in an attempt to seize more districts in their weeks-long fight for control of the city, while reports surfaced that President Bashar al-Assad had ordered tens of thousands more troops to Aleppo from Hama.
"I believe that military intervention by the West, in anything close to the scale of that which occurred in Libya, would possibly cause more damage, chaos, and instability than not. Everyone is trying to insulate this so it doesn't spill over across into Lebanon or Iraq or elsewhere, or draw in the Israelis or the Turks, which may be impossible in the end, but I think everyone wants to prevent this from turning into a regional, or even an international, conflict," says David W. Lesch in this CFR interview.
"Hastening an end to the slaughter in Syria as we did in Libya, a far less significant and promising country, would provide a great boost to America's friends in the region. If we cannot summon the will for this, or even a no-flight-zone like the one that protected Iraq's Kurds from Saddam Hussein, we must at least arm the Syrian rebels modestly, provide them with medical supplies and funds for food and fuel, and ensure that communications and intelligence support gets down to the level where the fighting is done. Covert, deniable drone and missile strikes would be both effective and justified," writes Bartle Breese Bull for The New York Times.
"It is not too late for the United States to shift course. First, we can and should directly and openly provide robust assistance to the armed opposition, including weapons, intelligence and training… We know there are risks associated with deepening our involvement in the profoundly complex and vicious conflict in Syria. But inaction carries even greater risks for the United States — in lives lost, strategic opportunities squandered and values compromised. By continuing to sit on the sidelines of a battle that will help determine the future of the Middle East, we are jeopardizing both our national security interests and our moral standing in the world," write U.S. senators John McCain, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham in the Washington Post.
China Banks Withdraw From IMF Events in Tokyo
Chinese banks, including The Bank of Communications and possibly China Construction Bank, have pulled out of events (AFP) linked to annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Japan next week, despite IMF chief Christine Lagarde's remarks to Japanese reporters on Wednesday that cooperation was too important for the territorial spat.
TAIWAN: The White House and State Department officials announced on Tuesday visa-free travel for Taiwanese citizens looking to visit the United States, saying the waiver program is consistent (VOA) with close relationship shared with Taiwan.
Kuldeep Singh Brar, the Indian general who led the 1984 raid on Sikhism's holiest shrine, was stabbed in an attempted murder (BBC) on Sunday night in London. Brar, a Sikh, helped coordinate Operation Bluestar, aimed at removing armed Sikh militants fighting for an independent homeland of Khalistan.
Iran Closes Main Bazaar After Currency Tumble
Iran's economy minister said on Wednesday that the country is working to shrink and eventually eliminate (Reuters) the free market in its tumbling rial currency, which plunged to a record low against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday, losing about a third of its value in a week.
Blasts Rock Somali Port City
Bombs were heard Tuesday in Somalia's southern port city of Kismayo, the last stronghold of the al-Shabaab group, a day after Somali and African Union forces took full control of the city (Shabelle) with a four-day offensive against the militant organization.
RWANDA: The United States on Monday called on Rwanda to publicly denounce (Reuters) the M23 rebels seizing swathes of eastern Congo, after growing frustration with Kigali's alleged role in its neighbor's conflict.
In this CFR blog post, John Campbell discusses Rwanda and its ties to the ongoing tragedy in Eastern Congo.
EU Preps for Single Market Act II
The European Commission has advanced new proposals for its Single Market Act II (BBC), which would foster mobility of citizens and businesses across borders and make it easier to gain access to finance across the twenty-seven-nation area. It follows the first Single Market Act, which was adopted in April last year.
GEORGIA: The European Union hailed the parliamentary vote (European Voice)in Georgia that saw billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili beat out incumbent president Mikheil Saakashvili in the first democratic transfer of power in post-Soviet history.
RUSSIA: Russia's Foreign Ministry said that it hopes Monday's parliamentary election in Georgia will help normalize relations (VOA) between the two countries.
This CFR video discusses Russia, its neighbors, and the future of post-Cold War Europe.
Venezuelan Candidate Pledges Distance From Iran
Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Tuesday he would support Colombia's peace talks with FARC rebels, due to start this month in Oslo, and distance himself from Iran (MercoPress) should he defeat President Hugo Chávez in an increasingly tight race culminating in Sunday's election.
LATIN AMERICA: The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean released a report forecasting slower growth (BBC) for Latin America, primarily due to weaker growth in Argentina and Brazil.
UNITED STATES: A U.S. border agent was killed and another wounded in a shooting incident early Tuesday near the Mexican border in Arizona (LAT). Mexican authorities have detained two people in connection with the shooting.
U.S. Voters Favor Immigration Legalization Over Deportation in New Poll
In a CNN/ORC International poll released yesterday, the majority of U.S. voters surveyed said that U.S. immigration policy should focus on finding a way to legalize undocumented immigrants instead of deporting them and trying to seal off the borders.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the United States and Russia must do more to strengthen their relationship, saying that the 'reset' President Obama called for in 2008 "cannot last forever" (Reuters).