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February 9, 2016

Daily News Brief

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UN Warns of New Syrian Refugee Exodus Amid Aleppo Siege

Around 300,000 Syrians could lose access to humanitarian aid if government forces encircle the city of Aleppo, which could send more than 100,000 new refugees out of the city, the United Nations’ humanitarian office warned Tuesday (Reuters). The government’s recent offensive on Aleppo, bolstered by Russian airstrikes, has already sent more than 30,000 refugees to the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkish aid groups have been delivering food and supplies to the refugees, most of whom have not been allowed to cross into Turkey (AFP). Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to step up diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting around Aleppo (Al Jazeera).


“Aleppo may prove to be the Sarajevo of Syria. It is already the Munich. By which I mean that the city’s plight today — its exposure to Putin’s whims and a revived Assad’s pitiless designs — is a result of the fecklessness and purposelessness over almost five years of the Obama administration,” writes Roger Cohen for the New York Times.

“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,” writes Luke Coffey for Al Jazeera.

“Turkey and the two other nations sheltering Syrian refugees, Jordan and Lebanon, cannot be treated as little more than holding pens for migrants. The EU’s 28 nations need to demonstrate that those refugees with a genuine case for asylum will be accepted into European states,” writes the Financial Times.


Clashes Over Food Hawkers Break Out in Hong Kong

Police used pepper spray and fired warning shots to clear out a protest against authorities' crackdown on unlicensed street vendors in Hong Kong’s Mongkok district. More than ninety police officers were injured and dozens of protesters were arrested (LA Times). Members of Hong Kong’s “localist” movement, which calls for varying degrees of autonomy from Beijing, were reportedly among the protesters (SCMP).

NORTH KOREA: South Korea will work with the United States and Japan to urge the UN Security Council to adopt a “strong and effective resolution” for sanctions on North Korea (Korea Times) after Pyongyang’s long-range rocket launch this weekend. 


Report: U.S. to Send New Troops to Afghanistan

Washington will reportedly deploy hundreds of new U.S. troops to Afghanistan’s Helmand province by the end of the month to assist in the fight against the Taliban (Guardian). The troops will help local forces defend against Taliban fighters, not engage in combat, defense officials reportedly told the paper.

This CFR InfoGuide looks at the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

PAKISTAN: David Headley, the U.S. citizen who helped plot the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, testified that Pakistan’s top spy agency provided financial and military support (Express Tribune) to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the extremist group India says coordinated the attack.


Iraqi Forces Advance on Islamic State

Army, police, and counterterrorism forces recaptured territory from the self-proclaimed Islamic State that links the city of Ramadi to a major army base in western Iraq (Reuters), officials said Tuesday. 


South Africa to Rule on Zuma’s Use of State Funds

Thousands of opposition supporters marched toward South Africa’s top court ahead of an expected ruling on whether President Jacob Zuma should pay back around $23 million in state funds used to renovate his home (BBC). Zuma has offered to repay the money and the case is now focused on whether he broke the law by ignoring a report that said he "benefited unduly" from the upgrades. Zuma was previously cleared of any wrongdoing related to the use of funds.

SOMALIA: Drought and El Nino weather patterns are putting at least 58,000 children at risk of starvation in Somalia, the United Nations warned (Al Jazeera)


Train Collision Kills Eight in Germany

Two passenger trains collided in southern Germany Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring around one hundred (DW).

FRANCE: The lower house of parliament voted to enshrine procedures for declaring a national emergency in the constitution, the first part of a larger proposal to broaden authorities’ powers to combat terrorism (RFI).


Canada to End Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would halt airstrikes (NPR) in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State by February 22. Canadian troops will still be part of the international coalition fighting Islamic State militants, but would focus on training and advising local forces.

UNITED STATES: President Barack Obama is expected to release the final budget proposal of his presidency Tuesday, but Republican leaders in Congress have already indicated they would not consider his plan (WaPo).


Bloomberg Says He Is Considering a Presidential Run

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said (FT) he is considering a presidential run, confirming earlier speculation. Bloomberg would have to add his name to the ballots in early March.

Track and compare the major foreign policy positions of Bush and other candidates with CFR's new interactive, The Candidates and the World.