- Russia seeks support at SCO meetings; bloc's final statement indicates reservations.
- Protests continue in Thailand; government promises no violence.
- Chinese firm signs first Iraq oil contract since U.S. invasion.
- Mugabe to defy MDC and appoint cabinet independently.
Russia opened the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Central and East Asian security bloc, by seeking a broad support base for Russian military operations in Georgia's breakaway provinces. Russia's RIA Novosti news service reports President Dmitri Medvedev is seeking to counter warnings from the United States and western Europe that Russia faces "international isolation" over its military operations. Speaking at the summit, Medvedev hailed "united" support from the SCO countries, including China, calling it a "serious signal" to the West (al-Jazeera).
Yet the final statement released by the SCO following today's meetings paints a picture that isn't nearly so straightforward, and the Financial Times reports the group's statement seems at odds with Medvedev's prior assertions of unity. The article quotes the statement, which has yet to be released on the SCO's website, as saying: "The SCO states express grave concern in connection with the recent tensions around the South Ossetian issue and urge the sides to solve existing problems peacefully, through dialogue, and to make efforts facilitating reconciliation and talks."
RFE/RL notes that the bloc has traditionally supported Russia in its military efforts in its own breakaway republic, Chechnya--and has also supported Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek operations against Islamic militants in the late 1990s--but says the current operations in Georgia's breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia could prove more politically radioactive.
- A new CFR.org Daily Analysis questions whether Russia may attempt to strengthen regional groups like the SCO in an effort to counter Western influence.
- This Backgrounder profiles the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) was named the Democratic Party's official presidential nominee (Reuters) Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention. He will officially accept the nomination tonight.
Former President Bill Clinton addressed the convention Wednesday evening, praising Obama as showing "a clear grasp of foreign policy and national security challenges and a firm commitment to rebuild our badly strained military."
Vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) promised that he and Obama will "hold Russia accountable for its actions and we will help the people of Georgia rebuild." He also said Obama was "right" in calling for additional troops in Afghanistan and for a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. CFR.org Executive Editor Michael Moran talks with Biden's co-author of a plan to federalize Iraq, CFR President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb, about possible Iraq policy in an Obama-Biden administration.
A CFR hosted panel of foreign policy heavyweights Wednesday explored the immense challenges facing the next president, from globalization to the Middle East.
CFR will host several panel discussions on foreign policy issues at next week's Republican National Convention in Minnesota.
Iraqi officials signed a major oil deal (al-Jazeera) with China's state-run oil firm CNPC, which al-Jazeera calls the first such contract Iraq has signed with a foreign firm since the U.S. invasion in 2003.
BAGHDAD: The Middle East Times reports on a series of microgrants the United States has issued to entrepreneurs in Baghdad to try to rebuild the city.
EXTRADITIONS: The New York Times reports that the U.S. military is increasingly handing over foreign fighters it imprisons in Iraq and Afghanistan to the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other countries.
Thailand's prime minister and Bangkok's police chief each issued statements saying they would not use violence (Bangkok Post) to disperse demonstrators in the capital city. The protests have surrounded the prime minister's residence and blocked traffic in many Bangkok streets.
CHINA: The state-run news outlet Xinhua reports on fears of a post-Olympic economic downturn in Beijing and other Chinese cities.
S.KOREA: The Korea Times reports that South Korea has become a net debtor for the first time in eight years and says rapid recent debt growth could pose problems for the economy.
The Washington Post reports violence and protests have continued throughout the disputed Kashmir region dividing Pakistan and India. It says the unrest poses a political problem for the Indian government, which thus far has attempted to quell violence using an indefinite curfew.
AFGHANISTAN: The BBC reports that Afghan troops have taken over command of security operations in Kabul, but says the move is largely symbolic and won't affect day-to-day operations.
PAKISTAN: Dawn reports that fresh fighting has broken out in southern Waziristan, and that government forces have killed 23 Taliban fighters.
News reports from Zimbabwe indicate that President Robert Mugabe intends to defy (Mail & Guardian) members of the opposition MDC party, with whom he had been engaged in power-sharing talks, and independently name a new Zimbabwean cabinet.
KENYA: A special commission appointed by Kenya's government has released a report detailing how the country's senior government ministers reacted in the wake of last year's disputed election. The report notes, among other things, that some senior officials actively planned and promoted violence (Daily Nation).
NIGERIA: With rumors swirling that Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua might be in poor health, government officials announced that a delay in Yar'Adua's return from a trip to Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with health concerns (Vanguard).
The Miami Herald reports a series of visits and communiqués might indicate that Russia seeks to use revived ties with Cuba to rattle Washington.
MEXICO: The Los Angeles Times reports Mexico is planning a major new port at Baja that will focus on U.S.-Mexican trade.
FOOD: The International Herald Tribune reports that soaring food prices have prompted opposite reactions from the governments of Brazil and Argentina—with Brazil seeking to use new windfalls to boost its economic prospects, and Argentina increasingly hoarding surplus supplies.
Agence-France Presse reports that French leaders hinted that EU officials might seek to impose economic sanctions on Russia. The EU holds a special summit September 1 on the Georgia crisis.
French and British officials have also raised concern (EU Observer) about potentially hostile Russian actions in Ukraine and Moldova.
In Thursday's roundup: Hillary Clinton's speech to the Democratic convention; Mikheil Saakashvili calls for support; and Fukuyama's age of the autocrat.
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