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February 12, 2016

Daily News Brief

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U.S., Russia Agree to 'Cessation of Hostilities' in Syria

Editor's Note: There will be no Daily Brief on Monday. The DB will resume on Tuesday, February 16.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on Friday a plan to allow the delivery of aid to besieged Syrian towns and a "cessation of hostilities" (FT) to begin within a week. The United States and Russia will co-chair (AP) a new working group on humanitarian aid in Syria and a cease-fire task force under the auspices of the UN. The agreement outlined a tem partial pause (NYT) in the conflict, but not a formal cease-fire, and failed to end Russian air strikes. Separately, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned (Al Jazeera) that the deployment for foreign troops to Syria could lead to world war. 


"The international community should think seriously about how the war is changing the face of Syria, and what this means for the world. If the conflict continues as it is today – and it is far from certain that the Munich agreement can be implemented – Syria will head to a future of extremism and long-term unrest that will have global repercussions," writes Lina Khatib in the Guardian.

"Russia's intervention in Syria should not be viewed in isolation. The capture of Aleppo means that Moscow will have many more bargaining chips when it comes to dealing with the West over issues such as Ukraine or Georgia. For the Kremlin, pressing issues such as ending the economic sanctions over Ukraine, getting the West to turn a blind eye to the annexation of Crimea, or stopping NATO bases in Eastern Europe can be directly linked to a ceasefire in Syria," writes Luke Coffey in Al Jazeera.

"[The fall of Aleppo] would be a tremendous loss for the U.S. and its traditional allies: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan. It’s already been extremely costly for most of those allies, but it would be a defeat [in the face of] the Russian-Iranian intervention in Syria. This would also be a huge loss for the United States vis-à-vis Russia in its Middle East policy, certainly. And because of the flow of refugees as a result of this, if they go northward to Europe, then you would see a migrant crisis in Europe that could lead to far-right governments coming to power which are much more friendly to Russia than they are to the United States," says Andrew Tabler in an interview with the Atlantic.

Weekly Podcast

Weekly Podcast

This week James Lindsay and Robert McMahon look ahead to the Central African Republic presidential runoff, the U.S.-ASEAN summit, and an Eastern European leaders' meeting on the migrant crisis.



Obama Hosts ASEAN Summit

U.S. President Barack Obama will host (VOA) leaders from member states of the Associations of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a special two-day summit in Rancho Mirage, California, Monday and Tuesday. China's assertive behavior in the South China Sea and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are expected to top the agenda.

This CFR InfoGuide provides background and analysis on China's maritime disputes.

SOUTH KOREA: Seoul cut power (Yonhap) and water supplies to the Kaesong industrial park, a jointly run zone which had been a symbol for cooperation between North and South Korea. On Thursday, the North expelled South Korean workers, froze assets, and brought the park under military control, a day after the South halted operations at the complex. South Korea suspended its activities at Kaesong in response to the North's recent nuclear and missile tests.


Pakistan Arrests Scores of Militants

Pakistani authorities announced on Friday that law enforcement agencies had broken up a network of militants in Karachi, arresting (Daily Times) more than ninety-seven militants, including members of al-Qaeda's South Asia branch, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and the Taliban in Pakistan.

This CFR InfoGuide explores the two Talibans.

AFGHANISTAN: The United States has upped its air strikes (RFE/RL) in Afghanistan against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, according to a U.S. military spokesman. The Obama administration eased the rules for targeting militants in Afghanistan who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in January amid concerns over the group's growing reach.  


Suspected Militants Kill Police in Yemen

Masked assailants believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda attacked a police outpost (AFP) in Yemen's southern port city of Aden, killing five police officers. More than 6,100 people have died in the conflict in Yemen since last March, according to the UN. Militants linked to al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State have taken advantage of the fight between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels to expand their presence.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the ongoing crisis in Yemen. 


South Sudan's Kiir Reappoints Rival as Vice President

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir reappointed (Sudan Tribune) rival Riek Machar, chairman of an armed opposition group, as vice president on Thursday in a bid to implement a peace deal that would end more than two years of civil conflict.

RWANDA: The government said Friday that it is seeking to relocate (BBC) Burundian refugees to third countries, amid accusations that it has backed rebels looking to destabilize neighboring Burundi. An estimated 70,000 people have fled to Rwanda amid political violence in Burundi.


Erdogan Threatens to Send Refugees to EU

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized (DW) Western policy on migrants in a speech in Ankara on Thursday and threatened to send millions of refugees to EU member states. The statement came as NATO agreed to deploy vessels to stem migrant smuggling in the Aegean Sea. Turkey is hosting around 2.7 million refugees, and said Friday that 100,000 people are in refugee camps (AFP) inside Syria near the Turkish border. Erdogan said that number could reach 600,000 if the siege on Aleppo continues. Last year Ankara pledged to halt the flow (Guardian) of migrants in exchange for an aid package, a reopening of its bid to join the EU, and lifting of visa requirements for Turkish nationals.

This CFR Backgrounder tracks Europe's deepening migration crisis.

EU: UK Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to lay out his EU membership reform plans (Guardian) in an address in Hamburg, Germany, ahead of a summit with EU leaders next week. The UK's Conservative Party was elected on the promise of holding a referendum on the country's EU membership by the end of 2017.


Brazil Confirms Third Zika-Related Death

Heath officials confirmed (WaPo) the death of a woman infected with the Zika virus on Thursday, the country's third adult fatality linked to the virus. Her official cause of death was pneumonia. Brazilian authorities also said they are in the process of developing a vaccine for the Zika virus which would be available for testing in a year and ready for mass production within two to three years. The World Health Organization said Friday that trials (WSJ) for a Zika vaccine are eighteen months away.

This CFR Backgrounder examines how the Zika virus spreads and efforts to combat it.

LATIN AMERICA: Chinese financing to the region boomed in 2015 with loans (LAHT) totaling $29 billion, up from $10 billion in 2014, according to a U.S.-based think tank's annual report. Brazil was the top recipient of Chinese loans, followed by Venezuela and Ecuador.


Sanders Backs Plans to Boost NATO in Eastern Europe

Sen. Bernie Sanders said at Thursday's Democratic debate that he supports the Obama administration’s plans to boost NATO presence in Eastern Europe.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during the debate that the Syria cease-fire agreement between the U.S. and Russia must be “implemented more quickly” than the week-long delay that Moscow is seeking.

Track and compare the major foreign policy positions of Clinton, Sanders and other candidates with CFR’s new interactive, The Candidates and the World