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July 3, 2015

Daily News Brief

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Syrian Rebels Launch Offensive on Aleppo

Hardline Syrian opposition rebels, including the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, led a major joint offensive (Reuters) in a bid to take the city of Aleppo on Thursday. Government forces conducted a series of air strikes to repel (BBC) the assault, reportedly resulting in many casualties. Turkey sent troops and equipment to reinforce (France 24) its border with Syria following the clashes in Aleppo, but Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said there were no plans for an incursion. Separately, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday that a U.S. drone strike (AP) in Syria last month killed Tariq al-Harzi, a senior militant of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.


"Syria is going through de facto partition, but the lines will keep shifting and areas will change hands, for many weeks to come. The regime will retreat, but it will defend its red lines vigorously and tenaciously," writes Osama Al Sharif in Gulf News.

"However much Syria fragments, its ultimate fate could depend on the regional contest between Shi'ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, analysts say, meaning the war could go on for years. For now, the most hardline strain of Sunni jihadism, Islamic State, controls eastern Syria and much of western Iraq, and incites its followers to commit attacks such as last Friday's attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia. At the same time, Shi'ite Iran is trying to consolidate another stronghold on the Syrian Mediterranean alongside its Hezbollah bastion in Lebanon," writes Samia Nakhoul at Reuters.

"The regime has been enduring difficult times, since Jaish al-Fatah—a joint force comprised of a number of opposition forces such as Ahrar al-Sham, al-Sham Legion and Jabhat al-Nusra—spread its control over wide swaths of land in Idlib province March 18, from the city of Aleppo to Ariha, Jisr al-Shughur and the Mastouma military base. Jaish al-Fatah's fast advance and the arrival of the rebels to the Syrian coast, which is the regime's main stronghold and primary human resources' reservoir, puts the regime at risk," writes Mohammed al-Khatieb in Al-Monitor.


Chinese Stocks Tumble Despite Government Lifelines

Chinese stocks continued to slide (FT) on Friday with the Shanghai Composite index falling 12.1 percent for the week, its third consecutive week of double-digit drops. Government authorities opened an investigation (BBC) into possible market manipulation on Thursday, despite measures taken Beijing in a bid to stop a market crash.

SOUTH KOREA: The government announced a $19.6 billion stimulus package (Korea Times) on Friday to offset South Korea's sluggish economy, the fallout from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, and a drought. The package requires parliamentary approval.


World Bank: India Becomes $2 Trillion Economy

India became a $2 trillion economy (Hindu) in 2014, and per capita yearly income grew to $1,610, according to data released by the World Bank. India's economy took sixty years to reach the $1 trillion-mark, but added the second trillion in just seven.

PAKISTAN: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is scheduled to visit (Dawn) Norway on July 7 to participate in the Oslo Summit on Education for Development. Sharif's visit will be the first by a Pakistani leader to Norway in over a decade.


Drone Strike Kills Four Militants in Yemen

A U.S. drone strike in southeastern Yemen killed (AFP) four suspected al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants, according to a local official. Drone strikes have killed thirteen militants in Yemen over the past ten days.

This CFR Backgrounder tracks the rise of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.


Boko Haram Attacks Rock Nigeria's Borno State

Twin suicide bombs (Reuters) killed at least ten people along a highway in northeastern Nigeria's Borno State. Suspected Boko Haram gunmen killed (Premium Times) at least 145 villagers in separate attacks this week. 

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the Boko Haram insurgency.

BURUNDI: The UN said Burundi's parliamentary elections this week were held in a climate that was "not conducive (AFP) for free, credible and inclusive elections," in a preliminary report published on Friday. Six people were killed in clashes between police and opposition activists the capital of Bujumbura this week as voters await the election results.


Greek Court to Rule on Referendum

Greece's highest administrative court, the Council of State, is expected to rule (Guardian) on the legality of a referendum on EU bailout terms slated for Sunday, amid concerns that the vote fails to meet democratic standards. Meanwhile, authorities cut (Telegraph) the daily withdrawal allowance from 60 to 50 euros as bank reserves dropped to 500 million euros. The IMF said on Thursday that Greece needs 30 percent of its debt written off (EU Observer) and a $50 billion package over the next three years in order to stay afloat.

This CFR Interactive chronicles the Greek debt crisis.

FRANCE: President Francois Hollande rejected (France 24) Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's request for asylum Friday. Assange, wanted for questioning over sexual assault charges in Sweden, has lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 2012.


BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Gulf Oil Spill

Oil giant BP agreed to pay (WaPo) $18.7 billion in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The settlement is the largest environmental fine imposed against a corporation.

COLOMBIA: Eight people were injured after two blasts (LAHT) hit pension fund offices in Colombia's capital of Bogota on Thursday. Authorities suspect that the rebel group FARC was responsible for the attack. Separately, the UN said that 200,000 people face a "critical situation" (Colombia Reports) as guerrilla violence in and around the southwestern port of Tumaco has increased. 

This CFR Backgrounder explores Colombia's rebel groups.


Webb Enters Presidential Race

Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D–VA) launched (Politico) his run for the Democratic Party nomination for the 2016 presidential elections on Thursday. Webb is the fifth Democratic candidate to enter the race. 

CFR's regularly updated guide to the 2016 presidential campaign features select foreign policy speeches, op-eds, and interviews with the candidates.