Top of the Agenda: Syria Forms New Opposition Leadership
Syria's fractious opposition formed a new leadership (AFP) in the effort to unite against President Bashar al-Assad, electing moderate cleric Mouaz al-Khatib as leader after four days of marathon talks in Qatar. The Syrian National Council, the dominant opposition umbrella group widely viewed as divided and ineffective, will control twenty-two of the sixty seats on the National Coalition's leadership council. While al-Khatib flew to Cairo to seek the Arab League's blessing for the new assembly, Western nations, Qatar, and Turkey welcomed the news (BBC) after weeks of pressure on the Syrian opposition to form a cohesive body that could provide financial and military aid.
"The west, too, has an interest in the next stage. As host in Doha, Qatar assumes its role as a key regional player. But in narrowly channelling its financial support through groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar is stamping an Islamist mark on the post-Assad era before it is legitimately earned. The effort to help Syria's opposition find a common voice has to remain international. This will give Syrians of all creeds the best hope for a stable future," writes a Financial Times editorial.
"The administration took an important step by reaching out directly to fighters on the front lines — sidestepping the Syrian National Council, a fractured group comprised mostly of exiles and academics based in Turkey. The move signaled that any credible alternative to Assad must include representation from those who are making the greatest sacrifices now, including members of Syrian minority groups who are dying in large numbers to bring down the regime," writes a Boston Globe editorial.
"U.S. diplomatic muscle is important but probably not decisive. How far representatives of those on the ground in Syria will be able to participate is still unclear. But the stakes are enormous. Post-Assad chaos in Syria could spread to engulf the whole region. An effective Syrian opposition on its own will not prevent this. But it is a vital element if such a scenario is to be avoided," writes Jonathan Marcus for the BBC.
Hu Jintao to Step Down as Military Chief
The South China Morning Post reported that China's outgoing President Hu Jintao will relinquish his position as military chief at the end of the Eighteenth National Party Congress, which concludes on Wednesday. Hu will also step down as party chief and as president in March.
JAPAN: Japan's economy contracted in the third quarter as gross domestic product (JapanTimes) shrank by 0.9 percent, or an annualized 3.5 percent from the previous period, putting the country in a mild recession.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Karzai Calls for Indian Investment in Afghanistan
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for increased Indian investments (TimesofIndia) in Afghanistan at the start of his four-day visit to the country, where he is expected to meet business leaders to lure investment. India's cabinet on Thursday cleared $100 million inaid for small developmental projects in Afghanistan.
MYANMAR: A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck central Myanmar andkilled at least eleven people (Reuters) Sunday, collapsing a bridge and gold mines. U.S. President Barack Obama is set to visit the country next week.
IDF, U.S. Army Launch Mass Joint Drill
The Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. Army launched four Patriot missiles into the Mediterranean Sea on Monday as part of a three-week joint military exercise (Haaretz), considered the largest ever by the two countries, meant to simulate a Mideast war with U.S. intervention.
CFR President Richard Haass discusses Israel, Iran and the military option in this interview.
African Leaders Agree to Send Troops to Mali
West African leaders agreed at an emergency summit meeting on Sunday to send a 3,300-strong force of soldiers to Mali in an effort to wrest control (AFP) of the north from Islamist extremists as international fears grew over the risks they pose to the region. The plan needs final approval from the UN Security Council.
ZIMBABWE: Evidence emerged that at least $2 billion worth of diamonds were stolen (AP) from Zimbabwe's eastern diamond fields and have gone to President Robert Mugabe's ruling circle, international gem dealers, and criminals.
Polish Police Clash With Right-Wing Protestors
Police in Warsaw clashed with right-wing extremists on Sunday at a parade for Poland's national holiday, marking the second year thatindependence day celebrations have degenerated into violence (WarsawBusinessJournal). The incident saw 130 people detained and underlined the gulf between the government and hardline nationalists.
AUSTRIA: Austria's deputy chancellor threatened to veto a deal (Reuters) on the European Union's long-term budget if the country does not get its rebate or if certain subsidies are cut. The EU convenes later this month to discuss the bloc's 1 trillion euro spending plan for 2014-2020.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa to Run Again
Ecuadorean left-wing President Rafael Correa announced in Quito that he will run for a third term (BBC) in February's elections. Correa, who is facing a divided and weakened opposition, has been in power since 2007 and already been reelected once.
BRAZIL: At least twenty people were killed (MercoPress) over the weekend in Sao Paulo in a spate of violence the city police attribute to narcotics gangs fighting for control of the city's favelas.
Sens. Schumer and Graham to Restart Immigration Talks
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced Sunday that he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will be restarting talks on comprehensive immigration reform and will propose a plan that will "introduce high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security cards to help employers weed out illegal immigrants, strengthening border security, a temporary worker plan, and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the United States," reports Politico.
Echoing House Speaker John Boehner, Senior Republican Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said that he is optimistic that a deal can be reached (Reuters) to avoid the fiscal cliff, saying, "There is a way of getting there on the revenue side. The real question is: can we come to terms on the entitlement side?"