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July 30, 2015

Daily News Brief

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UN Syria Envoy Offers Roadmap for Peace

UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura has proposed a new roadmap (Reuters) in hopes of a breakthrough in negotiations for peace in Syria. On Wednesday, the UN invited Syria's warring parties to participate in four UN-led working groups aimed at ending the four-year civil war. Little progress has been made to implement a 2012 Geneva agreement to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria and to establish a transitional government. At least 250,000 people have died (UN News) and more than twelve million Syrians have fled since violence erupted in 2011. Separately, the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front kidnapped (Telegraph) commanders of a U.S.-trained moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria.


"The job of the UN special envoy for Syria is a uniquely onerous one. As the nominal representative of the 'international community', in the form of the UN, the envoy's fundamental task is to bring warring parties to the negotiating table to begin some sort of conversation. But in the case of Syria, where at least half a dozen nations are involved, that requires the participation of not only the major regional actors—the Saudis, Turkish, Jordanians, Qataris and Iranians—but also various world powers, including Russia, China and the United States," writes Janine di Giovanni in the Guardian.

"In order for negotiations to succeed, the United States should increase pressure on Russia and Iran to use their leverage with the regime to end the use of barrel bombs and even out the balance of power in negotiations. Failing this, the risk of 'catastrophic success' for the opposition will only increase, while the support for negotiations declines further and military victory is viewed as the best bet to remove the Assad regime," write Steven Heydemann and Annika Folkeson in the Washington Post.

"Assad's departure won't end the violence in Syria, or Iraq for that matter. ISIS without Assad will still be a factor for years to come if not longer and the complex constellation of rebel groups fighting Assad, including some linked to al-Qaida, aren't just going to lay down their arms once he's gone. But given the local carnage and global strife his rule has created, his departure from the scene would be a very welcome development, and there's more hope for it right now than there’s been in years," writes Joshua Keating in Slate.


Plane Debris Found on Indian Ocean Island

Investigators say (AP) the wing of a Boeing 777 that washed ashore on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean Wednesday likely came from Malaysia Airlines flight 370. The plane, which was transporting 239 passengers and crew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, went missing in March 2014.

CHINA: China is dredging (Inquirer) ten reefs for filling material to be used in the construction of artificial islands in disputed waters in the South China Sea, said a Philippine official on Thursday. Meanwhile, ASEAN and Chinese officials met (Viet Nam News) in Tianjin, China, on Wednesday in a bid to speed up the process for forming a maritime code of conduct in the South China Sea.

This CFR InfoGuide outlines China's maritime disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea.


India Hangs Mumbai Bomb Plotter

India hanged (WSJ) Yakub Memon on Thursday, in the country's first execution since 2013. Memon was convicted in the 1993 bombings in Mumbai that killed 257 people.

MYANMAR: Authorities freed (Irrawaddy) nearly seven thousand prisoners on Thursday, including 210 foreigners. It was unclear how many were political prisoners. Thousands of prisoners have been released since President Thein Sein took office in 2011.

This CFR Backgrounder provides background and analysis on Myanmar's political evolution.


Kuwait Uncovers Islamic State Network

Kuwait's interior ministry said on Thursday that it uncovered (AP) a network of militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State who had fought in Iraq and Syria. Last month an Islamic State attack on a Shia mosque in Kuwait killed twenty-seven people.


Regional Forces Cross Borders in Boko Haram Fight

Multinational forces from Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria may pursue suspected militants of the Boko Haram insurgency across borders (This Day), according to the spokesman for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Meanwhile, Nigeria's Air Force said that patrols and surveillance activities have successfully cut off (Premium Times) Boko Haram supply routes.

This CFR Backgrounder explores the rise of Boko Haram.

ZIMBABWE: President Robert Mugabe threatened to expel U.S. and UK envoys to Zimbabwe on Wednesday after accusing (Herald) Washington and London of sponsoring vendors to resist government orders to leave city centers.


Tsipras Threatens Election Amid Challenge From Party

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras threatened (EU Observer) to call early elections if members of his anti-austerity Syriza party continue to oppose the new bailout program that would release 86 billion euros to Greece. Syriza's central committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss internal disagreement over the bailout.

This CFR Interactive tracks developments of the Greek debt crisis.

EU: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble has proposed (FT) stripping the European Commission of some of its powers, such as legal supervision of the EU's domestic market, according to reports. Schauble suggested the creation of politically independent bodies to monitor the European treaties arguing that the European Commission has taken on greater political activity as a "European government."


U.S. Congressman Indicted on Corruption Charges

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) and four others were indicted (NYT) on racketeering charges on Wednesday and accused of misusing of hundreds of thousands of dollars from federal, charitable, and campaign funds, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

BOLIVIA: President Evo Morales said that Bolivia is ready to reestablish (LAHT) diplomatic ties with Chile, but demanded territorial access to the Pacific Ocean within five years. The countries most recently severed ties in 1987 over the coastal land dispute. Morales said that he would seek Pope Francis's mediation.


Gilmore Joins Crowded GOP Presidential Race

Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore entered (Politico) the race for the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential election on Wednesday ahead of the first Republic debate scheduled for August 6. Gilmore's announcement brings the number of GOP candidates to seventeen.

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