Top of the Agenda: Boosting Turkey's Defenses Against Syria
The United States plans to send two Patriot missile units and roughly 400 troops (NYT) to Turkey as defense against a possible Syrian missile attack. The batteries will be part of a broader push to bolster Turkey's defenses, which will also see the deployment of four other Patriot batteries--two from Germany and two from the Netherlands--all of which will be under NATO's command and scheduled to be operational by the end of January. The reports came as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Turkey on Friday (AFP), and a week after NATO approved Turkey's request for Patriot missiles to defend its border with Syria.
"But NATO nations do not have enough batteries to cover all of the sites. With tensions building with Iran and North Korea defying the United States and its Asian allies by launching a long-range rocket, American officials did not want to send more than a few Patriot batteries to Turkey, especially since it is not clear how long they will be needed," write Eric Schmitt and Michael Gordon for the New York Times.
"Considering the fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is on the outs with Chancellor Angela Merkel, it is interesting to see that there are no objections coming from Germany. Behind this silent agreement probably lies the desire of German soldiers to use the Trabzon port for withdrawal from Afghanistan," writes Nihat Ali Özcan for The Hurriyet.
"The surface-to-air missiles could technically be used to enforce a no-fly zone over northern Syria, but NATO officials have stressed that they are not gearing up for such a move, which would mark a sharp escalation in the West's involvement in Syria's conflict," writes Ernesto Londoño for the Washington Post.
North Korea Stages Mass Celebration
In Pyongyang, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans celebrated the successful launch (Yonhap) of what the international community regards as a long-range missile earlier this week. The rally comes as the country prepares to mark the first anniversary of former leader Kim Jong-il's death on December 17.
JAPAN: Japan's opposition Liberal Democratic Party looks set to win the country's general election (AsahiShinbum) on December 16 despite a support rating of only 21 percent for the party, which is regaining power from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.
Police clashed with demonstrators as opposition parties in Bangladesh's capital enforced an eight-hour general strike on Thursday (AP), demanding that the government restore an election-time caretaker administration.
PHILIPPINES: Damage caused by Typhoon Bopha to agriculture in the Philippines has reached more than $270 million, with concern rising (CNA) for the country's hardest-hit banana plantations. The Philippines is the world's third-largest banana exporter.
Russia Backtracks on Syria Statement
Russia denied the comments made by a deputy foreign minister on Thursday that said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was losing control (AlJazeera) of his country and could be overcome by rebels. The Thursday statement was widely viewed as Russia's attempt to begin positioning itself for Assad's eventual defeat.
Nigerian Minister's Mother Freed
The mother of Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been released five days after she was kidnapped (BBC), although it remains unclear if the eighty-two-year old was held for political or financial gain. Okonjo-Iweala had led a high-profile campaign to clean up corruption in Nigeria.
CFR's John Campbell discusses kidnappings and ransom in Nigeria in this blog post.
ZIMBABWE: Sharp differences among main parties over the presence of Western election observers have set Zimbabwe's Government of National Unity partners at odds (ZimbabweMail), delaying elections and the process of drafting a new constitution.
EU Juggles Risk-Sharing
European leaders agreed on Friday to a roadmap for eurozone integration, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw out a proposal (Reuters) to increase risk-sharing with a fund to help troubled eurozone states--an idea strongly backed by France. The summit comes aday after the bloc agreed on eurozone-wide banking supervision and approved long-delayed aid to Greece.
This CFR analysis delves into the unfolding of the eurozone crisis this year.
ITALY: Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that leaders of Europe's center-right parties have urged Mario Monti to run for prime minister in next year's Italian election (FT).
EU Trade Commission Accuses Argentina
The European Union trade commissioner openly accused Argentina of protectionist behavior and charged it with being the main obstacle (MercoPress) in discussions to advance a free trade agreement with Mercosur, Latin America's regional trade bloc. VENEZUELA: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez suffered bleeding (MiamiHerald) during his cancer surgery two days ago in Cuba but is now stable, although it remains unclear whether he will be able to attend his own inauguration in January.
Rice Withdraws From Consideration as Secretary of State