Top of the Agenda: U.S. Pushes to Broaden Syrian Resistance
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an overhaul of Syria's opposition, stating that the coalition should be expanded to include "those who are on the frontlines, fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom." Clinton, who was on her first official visit to Zagreb, Croatia, as secretary, specifically noted it was time to move the resistance beyond the leadership of the Syrian National Council (SNC), a prominent exile opposition group operating out of Turkey.
Analysts say Clinton's comments signify a "clear break with the SNC," voicing Washington's long-held frustration with the Sunni-dominated group's failure to forge a coherent strategy and unite disparate components of the opposition under its umbrella. The remarks come just days before Syrian opposition members (al-Jazeera) assemble in Doha, Qatar, to discuss a new leadership council.
"The Obama administration sees the new council as a potential interim government that could negotiate with both the international community and – down the line – perhaps also the Syrian regime. The SNC will have a minority stake in the new body, but some opposition leaders are still skeptical that the effort will succeed," writes Josh Rogin for Foreign Policy.
"Until now, U.S. assistance to the rebels has been mainly limited to nonlethal aid to nonviolent opposition groups, primarily communications equipment. A major obstacle to further aid is this: The main external Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has been unable to present a unified leadership through which aid could be reliably channeled – and has had much too little input from activists on the ground," writes Trudy Rubin for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
What Will Be the Top Global Hot Spots in 2013?
Each year, CFR's Center for Preventive Action asks a group of experts to rank various violent contingencies in order of their importance to U.S. national security interests. Help them create that list by telling them what international conflicts you are worried about breaking out or escalating next year. Learn more and weigh in here.
Chinese Think Tank Urges End to One-Child Policy
A government think tank has called upon leaders to start phasing out the country's one-child policy immediately (AP), and to allow two children for every family by 2015. The China Development Research Foundation is scheduled to release its final report in the coming weeks.
The federal cabinet has ratified an agreement that liberalizes the visa regime between Pakistan and India, easing travel for members of each country's business community (SANA). The move builds on ongoing efforts to improve trade and people-to-people contacts between the two countries.
SRI LANKA: Members of parliament have begun a motion to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. Reports say the move is the latest sign of tensions that have surfaced following recent judicial rulings unfavorable to the government (BBC).
Ayatollah Issues Warning on Political infighting
Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that political infighting (NYT) must end between the executive branch of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and high-ranking officials in the legislative and judicial branches, and that their public disputes would be treated as treason because it provides ammunition to "foreign media and enemies."
ISRAEL: Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a crowd in London Wednesday that Israel will not outsource its vital security interests (JerusalemPost) to anyone, even its closest allies. "All options are on the table to prevent Iran from crossing the point of no return," he said.
The British government confirmed Wednesday that it had suspended $6.4 million in development aid (NewVision) to Uganda's office of the prime minister, saying officials had stolen billions in aid from Europe meant for post-conflict recovery efforts. Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden suspended donor support funds to Uganda last week.
NIGERIA: Amnesty International said Thursday the Nigerian government was committing human rights abuses, including extrajudicial executions, in its fight against militant Islamist group Boko Haram (Reuters). The government's tactics could result in building support for Boko Haram outside its core, the report says.
Argentina's congress has approved a law to lower the eligible voting age (BBC) to sixteen, a move critics say is designed to boost the chances of President Cristina Fernandez's party in midterm elections next year. Voting will still only be mandatory for those between the ages of eighteen and seventy.