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August 24, 2016

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Turkey Begins Major Offensive in Syria as Biden Arrives in Ankara

Turkey sent tanks, warplanes, and special operations forces into a border region of Syria on Wednesday as part of the U.S.-led coalition's push to force the self-proclaimed Islamic State from the town of Jarablus. The operation marks Turkey's largest military operation to date in the Syrian conflict (NYT) and comes as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Ankara (Hurriyet) to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Turkey ordered residents of the Turkish town of Karkamis, which borders Syria's Jarablus, to evacuate ahead of the offensive (BBC). A spokesman for Syria's Kurdish YPG militia, a major U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State, called (Reuters) Turkey's offensive "blatant aggression in Syrian internal affairs."

ANALYSIS

"The offensive on the city of Jarabulus began hours before Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was set to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara to discuss tensions raised by the failed coup in Turkey last month. The joint operation in Syria seemed intended to send a message that the countries are still cooperating in the fight against the militant group," Ceylan Yeginsu writes for the New York Times.

"With relations between Washington and Ankara at their most acrimonious in years, Mr Biden will publicly reassure Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the US authorities will examine as quickly as possible the extradition request for Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based cleric who the Turkish president claims was behind the coup. At the same time, Mr Biden will privately express American concern at the sweeping crackdown of his opponents that Mr Erdogan has instigated since the coup attempt on July 15," Geoff Dyer and Mehul Srivastava write for the Financial Times.

"These days, however, the U.S. and Turkey see eye to eye on very little. The two countries are at odds over Syria and the urgency of removing Syrian President Bashar Assad; over support for Syrian Kurds who, in contrast to the Turks, have proved to be reliable U.S. partners in the fight against Islamic State; over the territorial sovereignty of Iraq; and over continuing sanctions on Iran. Though American officials privately acknowledge that Mr. Erdogan is 'erratic,' they have given the Turkish leader extraordinary leverage over U.S. policy," CFR's Steven A. Cook and Michael J. Koplow write for the Wall Street Journal

PACIFIC RIM

Two Bombs Explode Near Hotel in Southern Thailand

One person was killed and thirty wounded when two bombs exploded in the Thai coastal town of Pattani (Guardian). The ruling junta said the attack was not related to a series of bombings in tourist areas earlier this month (Reuters).  

NORTH KOREA: North Korea fired a submarine-launched missile on Wednesday that traveled about 300 miles toward Japan (Reuters), according to the South Korean military.  

This CFR Global Conflict tracker follows recent developments in the North Korea weapons crisis.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Indian Border Forces Occupy Schools in Kashmir

India deployed the paramilitary Border Security Force to India-controlled Kashmir for the first time in twelve years (Reuters). Approximately 2,600 personnel set up inside school buildings (Indian Express) in Srinagar. The deployment follows more than six weeks of unrest in the region, which has left more than sixty people dead, following the death of a popular militant leader.

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker discusses the history of the disputed Kashmir region.

TAJIKISTAN: The wife and son of imprisoned Tajik opposition leader Muhammadali Hayit have been missing since plainclothes men took them from their homes, according to relatives (RFE/RL).

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

UN Expects 1.2 Million Displaced in Anti-ISIS Mosul Offensive

Up to 1.2 million Iraqis may be displaced (NYT) in an offensive to retake the city of Mosul from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, according to a UN spokesman. Also in Iraq, a new investigative report (Reuters) says that more Sunni men were tortured, detained, and abused by Shia militias during the U.S.-backed recapture of Fallujah than U.S. officials have publicly reported.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Kerry in Nigeria: Better Governance Can Curb Extremism

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that it is up to governments to offer citizens alternatives to joining terror organizations during a visit to Nigeria to discuss corruption and security (VOA). "There is nothing more demoralizing, more destructive, more disempowering to a citizen than the belief that the system is rigged against them," Kerry said.

ZIMBABWE: Dozens of political figures who have fallen out of favor with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe have had their farms seized, according to a new report (NYT)

EUROPE

Magnitude-6.2 Quake Kills Dozens in Central Italy

At least thirty-eight people died in central Italy following an earthquake early Wednesday (NYT). About forty earthquakes were registered in a three-hour period.

EU: An Italian admiral at the head of the EU anti-human smuggling operation Sophia signed a training deal (EU Observer) with the Libyan coast guard of the UN-backed Government of National Accord. The EU will begin a training program for Libyan coast guards aboard an EU vessel stationed in international waters.  

This CFR Backgrounder examines Europe's migrant crisis.

AMERICAS

Venezuelan Public Servants Who Signed Referendum Petition Could Be Dismissed

A spokesman for the governing party in Venezuela said that President Nicolas Maduro gave heads of national ministries forty-eight hours to dismiss (BBC) public servants who had signed a petition calling for a recall referendum that could remove him from office.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Venezuela's political and economic crisis.

COLOMBIA: An announcement on the Colombian government's peace deal with rebels for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is expected Wednesday evening (Miami Herald), after which such a deal will be signed in the Colombian capital with visiting dignitaries.  

CFR's Matthew Taylor discusses Colombia's peace plebiscite in this blog post.