Top of the Agenda: France Recognizes Syria's New Opposition
On Tuesday, France became the first Western country to formally recognize (AP) Syria's newly formed opposition coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. While six Gulf Arab States have also recognized the coalition, the United States, the European Union, and the Arab League have so far stopped short of giving it formal recognition. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced an additional $30 million of humanitarian aid to Syria (Guardian), bringing the total U.S. contribution to $200 million. Speaking in Australia, Clinton hailed the formation of Syria's new opposition coalition as an important step, and said the additional $30 million would aid access to food inside Syria and for refugees who have fled to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
"The [French] president's remarks on reconsidering arms deliveries need to be treated with caution. Nothing will happen quickly, not least because France is bound by an EU embargo on arms deliveries to all sides in the Syrian conflict. Still the president did say that with the coalition now officially recognised, the question of arms could be re-opened - and that will be seized on by the opposition as an important advance," writes Hugh Schofield for the BBC.
"Western governments are discussing mostly non-lethal assistance which they expect will become more effective if channelled centrally through the national coalition. It remains to be seen, moreover, if Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two main weapons suppliers, will now unify their efforts instead of favoring different rebel groups. To be sure, Syria's opposition will have to prove that the new national coalition can be an inclusive and effective platform. But that will not be enough," writes Roula Khalaf for the Financial Times.
"How the new coalition's message of moderation will translate on the often chaotic Syrian battlefield remains opaque. There is no central command among the scores of anti-Assad militias. Several militant groups, some with purported links to Al Qaeda, have formed fighting units," write Patrick J. McDonnell and Rima Marrouch for the Los Angeles Times.
China Wraps Up National Party Congress
China's Eighteenth Party Congress formally closed on Wednesday and is scheduled to meet Thursday to endorse a new Politburo Standing Committee, the party's most powerful group of leaders. In a sign of initiative against corruption (WSJ), the CCP appointed Vice Premier Wang Qishan, an economic and financial policy heavyweight, to the party's antigraft body.
JAPAN: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Wednesday that he is prepared to dissolve the parliament (JapanTimes) by Friday and hold elections as early as next month if the opposition camp agrees to support an electoral reform bill.
This CFR blog post discusses how Japan's next election will be won.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Sri Lanka Denies Intimidation of UN
In a leaked United Nations report, the Sri Lankan government denied allegations that it intimidated UN staff (BBC) at the end of its civil war in late 2008, when the UN withdrew its personnel from the war zone. The final months of the war saw hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians trapped in the territory held by the Tamil Tigers.
Jordanian teachers went on strike (NYT) Wednesday over a government decision to lift fuel subsidies that would trigger a 54 percent hike in cooking and heating gas. The reduction is a bid to reduce a gaping budget deficit and net a $2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.
CFR's Robert M. Danin explains why Jordan is not a regional domino in this First Take.
African Union Backs Mali Intervention
The African Union endorsed a plan late Tuesday to send 3,300 soldiers to Mali, and called on the United Nations Security Council to authorize the deployment (AP) for an initial period of one year. The West African bloc ECOWAS agreed on the plan, which aims to free northern Mali from Islamist extremists, on Sunday.
IVORY COAST: Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara dissolved his government (Reuters) on Wednesday ahead of a planned government reshuffle, although it was not clear when a new government would be named.
Anti-Austerity Protests Sweep Europe
Workers across the European Union staged a series of protests and strikes (FT) against rising unemployment in one of the biggest shows of opposition to austerity measures. Roughly forty unions in twenty-three countries were slated take part in a day of solidarity.
RUSSIA: A controversial new law expanding Russia's definition of treason (UPI) took effect Wednesday, despite President Vladimir Putin's promise to review it.
UN Condemns U.S. Embargo on Cuba
The UN General Assembly on Tuesday passed a new resolution condemning the commercial, economic, and financial embargo the United States has imposed on Cuba for the past fifty years. The Cuban foreign minister slammed the "persistent tightening" (LAHT)of the embargo during President Barack Obama's first term.
COLOMBIA: Formal peace talks (MiamiHerald) between the Colombian government and FARC, the nation's largest guerrilla group, have been postponed from Thursday to next week. The peace agenda includes topics like land reform, agricultural development, land rights, and distribution.
Senate Republicans Prefer Kerry for Secretary of State
Based on interviews conducted yesterday, Senate Republicans would choose Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) over United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State for President Obama's second term, reports Politico.
President Obama's national security team has "hit turbulence," as he will need to replace CIA Director David Petraeus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and possibly commanding general in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen and top terrorism adviser John Brennan, reports Politico.