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July 27, 2016

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Blast in Syrian Kurdish City Kills Dozens

Forty-four people were killed in the predominantly Kurdish Syrian city of Qamishli after a truck and motorcycle laden with explosives were detonated Wednesday (AP). The self-proclaimed Islamic State praised but did not claim the attack (NYT), which targeted a conscription center run by Kurdish police and a local defense administration (Middle East Eye). A UK-based monitoring group said the attack was the deadliest on the city in recent years (Reuters). Kurdish forces recaptured much of the province where the attack took place last year and are part of a U.S.-backed offensive to retake the Islamic State-held town of  Manbij (AP), also in northern Syria. Meanwhile, the United States has suspended more than $200 million in contracts for humanitarian aid in the country amid allegations of widespread fraud (WaPo).

ANALYSIS

"Qamishli is a center of activity for Rojava, an enclave that Kurds began carving out in 2012 early in the Syrian civil war, and of the Democratic Union Party, which has gotten arms, equipment and training from the United States, and some smaller Kurdish parties. Turkey considers the Democratic Union Party to be a front for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant group that has waged an insurgency in Turkey for decades. Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis has been intensifying in Aleppo, a large city in northwestern Syria that is divided between rebel and government forces," Hwaida Saad writes for the New York Times.

"ISIS is battling Kurdish forces, specifically the YPG militia, in the northern Syrian provinces of Hasaka and Aleppo. The Kurdish forces are fighting alongside Arab forces in what is known as the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the United States. After losing swathes of territory to Kurdish fighters in northern Syria in 2015, ISIS has targeted Qamishli, as well as the provincial capital, Hasakah city. In April, a suicide bomb killed six members of the Kurdish security forces while, in July, an ISIS suicide blast killed 16 people in Hasakah. The bomb blasts on Wednesday come as the U.S.-backed coalition and the SDF advance on ISIS in the town of Manbij, also in northeastern Syria," Jack Moore writes for Newsweek.

"Thomas Melito, a senior official at the Government Accountability Office, which issued a report this month on improving oversight of Syria aid programs, said he did not believe USAID or the State Department had 'any inkling' of how much money had been lost. The problems underscore a wider dilemma: how to deliver aid in a war zone where most fear to travel. The U.S. is the leading humanitarian donor in Syria, but most of the $5.5 billion in American aid has been distributed through the United Nations and a host of partner organizations," Louisa Loveluck writes for the Washington Post.

PACIFIC RIM

Japanese PM Outlines $265 Billion Stimulus Package

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presented a $265 billion stimulus package to boost infrastructure investments, increase agricultural exports, and attract foreign tourists (Kyodo).

MALAYSIA: An official in Malaysia's finance ministry said that the government will not protect citizens facing legal action abroad over allegations of widespread fraud in Malaysia's state wealth wealth fund (WSJ). The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit (Reuters) last week to seize assets it says were purchased with money siphoned from the public fund.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

UN Criticizes Child Labor Legislation in India

India's congress approved a bill that will allow children under age fourteen to work in family businesses (Reuters). A Unicef representative said the bill has the potential to allow "more invisible forms of child labour and exploitation" go unseen (TOI).

AFGHANISTAN: Two top Turkish generals in the country's NATO contingent in Afghanistan were detained in Dubai's airport (RFE/RL) as part of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown following a coup attempt earlier this month.

CFR's Steven A. Cook writes about Turkey's authoritarian turn in this article for the Atlantic.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Thousands of Syrian Refugees Get Work Permits in Jordan

Some twenty-three thousand Syrians in Jordan were granted work permits (AP). The permits are part of a deal with the EU that will give the country to access European markets and low-interest loans in exchange for allowing refugees to work. The move is part of European efforts to stem the tide of asylum seekers reaching its shores.

This CFR Backgrounder examines Europe's refugee crisis.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

UN: Replacing South Sudan's VP May Violate Peace Agreement

A UN spokesman said that any political appointments in South Sudan need to be "consistent" with last year's peace agreement (Sudan Tribune). The warning followed President Salva Kiir's confirmation of a new vice president after rival Riek Machar left the capital of Juba following an outbreak of violence this month (Al Jazeera).  

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker examines the civil war in South Sudan.

SOUTH AFRICA: A court ordered President Jacob Zuma to pay back $400,000 to public coffers within forty-five days (AFP) after it found he had inappropriately used public money to refurbish his home. 

CFR's John Cambpell writes in this Expert Brief about South Africa's upcoming elections.

EUROPE

Religious Leaders Condemn France Church Attack Claimed by Islamic State

Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders in France condemned (France 24) an attack on a church in northwestern France in which two assailants killed a priest and wounded four other hostages before they were shot by security forces. The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack; one attacker was a teenager who had been released from jail this year for trying to travel to Syria (Guardian).

ARMENIA: Gunmen took four medics hostage in an ongoing standoff in the capital city of Yerevan (RFE/RL); the assailants seized a police station ten days ago and demand the resignation of President Serzh Sarkisian and the release of an opposition figure. 

AMERICAS

Brazil's Suspended President Will Not Attend Opening Ceremonies in Rio

Suspended President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who led Brazil's bid to become a Summer Olympics host, will not attend the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremonies (BBC) after her onetime ally, Interim President Michel Temer, said she would sit in a stand below him. Rousseff is suspended from office as she is put on trial for impeachment charges.

CFR's Matthew Taylor writes about the turmoil expected in Brazil in August.

U.S.: A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists said that climate change and rising sea levels will put military bases on the East and Gulf Coasts at risk for tidal flooding (Reuters). The report cited four bases that could lose up to 95 percent of their land in this century.