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December 1, 2015

Daily News Brief

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Germany Approves Military Mandate in Syria

The German cabinet approved plans (Reuters) for the country to join the military campaign against self-proclaimed Islamic State militants in Syria, agreeing to send reconnaissance jets, refueling aircraft, and up to 1,200 soldiers to the region (DW). The government said the move, which will be up for parliament vote as early as Wednesday, would not include air strikes or combat missions in Syria. The move follows French President Francois Hollande’s appeal for an escalation of the international military effort against the militants (BBC), and is expected to garner enough parliamentary support to pass.


“The German government seems to be coming to the conclusion that the only way to fight the ‘Islamic State’ (IS or ISIS) is to join an alliance with Bashar al-Assad, though at the same time maintaining the insistence that the Syrian president - who continues to barrel-bomb his own people - must go,” writes Ben Knight for DW.

“Most recently, after the devastating attacks in Paris on November 13, which the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, later claimed as its handiwork, Merkel declared resolutely, ‘Freedom is stronger than terror,’ and she pledged to join the French government in rooting out the attackers. In short, as could be expected from someone who is sympathetic to the European project, Merkel responded to the tragedy in Paris with a call for greater solidarity between Europe and its allies,” write Claire Greenstein and Brandon Tensley for Foreign Affairs.

“Meanwhile, in a civil war that became a proxy war - fought using Syrian blood, Syrian lives - military escalation brings its own momentum, as each power does what it takes to secure its own proxy and interests. Given this deadly, cynical dimension, there is no logic in bringing yet another country's firepower into the fray, especially as it’s likely to push a political solution to this nightmarish war even further away,” writes Rachel Shabi for Al Jazeera. 


Nuclear Officials to Meet on North Korea

The chief nuclear envoys of the United States, Japan, and South Korea are slated to meet this week in Washington (IBT) following reports that North Korea conducted a failed submarine-launched ballistic missile test.

CHINA: The International Monetary Fund approved the addition (Bloomberg) of the Chinese yuan to its basket of reserve currencies, or Special Drawing Rights basket, marking the first change in the SDR’s currency composition since 1999.

CFR's Robert Kahn discusses China's symbolic currency win in this new blog post.


India, France Launch Solar Alliance

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande launched an international solar alliance (Guardian) of more than 120 countries at the Paris COP21 climate summit. Delhi is expected to invest an initial $30 million in launching the alliance’s headquarters in India, and the alliance aims to raise $400 million from membership fees and international agencies.

CFR's Michael A. Levi discusses five things to watch at the Paris talks in this Expert Brief.

PAKISTAN: The leaders of India and Pakistan met on the sidelines (Dawn) of the COP21 climate conference in Paris, marking a slight warming of relations three months after official talks broke down amid escalating diplomatic tensions and cross-border violence.


Lebanon Conducts Prisoner Swap

Syria's al-Nusra Front freed sixteen Lebanese security officers as part of a long-awaited prisoner swap (Al Jazeera). The deal was brokered by Qatari mediators, and saw the release of thirteen prisoners held by Lebanon.

SYRIA: Turkey challenged Russia to prove its claim (BBC) that Ankara had shot down a Russian jet in a bid to protect its oil trade with the self-proclaimed Islamic State, further inflaming already strained diplomatic relations.

Turkey is unlikely to fall out with Russia, but the incident may sidetrack the effort to build a better international response to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, writes CFR President Richard N. Haass in this op-ed.


Former PM Wins Burkina Faso Election

Former prime minister Roch Marc Kabore was declared the winner (France24) in Burkina Faso’s presidential election, becoming the country’s first new leader in decades. Kabore had served under President Blaise Compaore, who was outsed by an uprising last October after twenty-seven years in power.

ZIMBABWE: Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Zimbabwe on Tuesday on a two-day visit that is expected to produce infrastructure funding and investment deals (Reuters) between the two countries. The trip marks the first visit by a Chinese leader since 1996.


UK to Vote on Syria Airstrikes

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is slated to ask his cabinet to vote on Wednesday (Guardian) on whether to extend the country's airstrikes against the self-proclaimed Islamic State targets in Syria. Cameron has said he supports increased military activity against the group.


Colombia Kills Senior ELN Leader

Colombia's security forces said they killed a senior figure of the National Liberation Army rebel group in a clash (BBC) in Santander province. The government has been holding exploratory talks with the armed group about starting peace negotiations.

PERU: U.S. activist Lori Berenson will return home (AP) to the United States from Peru nearly twenty years after she was jailed for aiding leftist rebels in the country. She had been sentenced under terrorism charges for assisting the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.