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April 28, 2016

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Deadly Airstrike on Aleppo Hospital as Cease-Fire Frays

Airstrikes on a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo killed at least twenty-seven people, including patients and three doctors (Reuters). The UN's Syria envoy Staffan da Mistura said on Thursday he planned to host a new round of peace talks next month (Middle East Eye) and appealed to the United States and Russia to intervene to end hostilities. Mistura warned of losing "the window of opportunity to reverse the negative downward spiral" after a sixty-day-old cease-fire "hangs by a thread" (AP). Mistura said the cease-fire had sharply reduced fighting in March but that renewed attacks put the deal at grave risk.

ANALYSIS

"The vulnerability of the Syrian people is compounded by a health system at the breaking point. Almost half of Syria’s ambulances have been destroyed; more than one-third of its hospitals no longer function; and the flow of pharmaceutical imports has slowed to a trickle, with none reaching rebel-held zones. Moreover, local pharmaceutical production has collapsed; Syria now meets less than 10% of domestic demand, down from 90% before the conflict. This breakdown is not just an unfortunate side effect of the crisis; Syrian medical facilities have come under direct, seemingly deliberate attack. Physicians for Human Rights recorded 16 attacks on hospitals last October alone in a total of 346 attacks on 246 health facilities, while Doctors without Borders has condemned so-called double-tap tactics, in which aerial bombings of high-density civilian centers are followed by strikes on the nearest hospitals, removing emergency care for the injured. Even small clinics have been bombed by state-controlled forces," writes Debarati Guha-Sapir in Project Syndicate.

"One of the main aims of the 'cessation of hostilities' was to allow humanitarian aid to besieged areas. However, the UN and NGOs have said the regime is blocking access, delaying convoys, removing medical equipment and forbidding evacuations, violating international law and worsening the humanitarian crisis. On March 31, Jan Egeland - the UN-appointed chairman of a task force on humanitarian aid - said Damascus had become less responsive to requests for aid convoys than it was immediately after world powers agreed on the 'cessation of hostilities' in early February. The previous day, senior UN official Stephen O'Brien described the situation in regime-besieged areas - 'mere minutes' drive away from UN warehouses in Damascus' - as dreadful," writes Sharif Nashashibi for Al Jazeera.

"The U.S. response to this renewed carnage has been to point out, weakly, that not every part of Syria has returned to all-out war. 'More Syrian people are living better lives as a result of the cessation than they were before,' State Department spokesman John Kirby declared Monday. Unfortunately, such rhetoric appears to be all the United States has to offer. Since President Obama refuses to take steps such as creating a safe zone for refugees or stepping up aid to the rebels, the United States lacks leverage over the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian and Iranian allies," writes the Washington Post.

PACIFIC RIM

North Korea Missile Test Appears to Fail

North Korea attempted to launch an intermediate-range ballistic missile Thursday, but it crashed shortly after its launch, according to the South Korean military (Korea Times). The latest test follows a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Saturday, a space rocket launch in February, and a January nuclear test (Reuters).

CHINA: China's legislature passed a law that will require foreign NGOs to partner with a Chinese government-controlled agency and to report to police (AFP).

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

U.S. to Release Report on MSF Kunduz Hospital Air Strike

The Pentagon will release an internal investigation about the failings that led to the U.S. strike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in northern Afghanistan last year that killed forty-two civilians (Guardian). The declassification of the report could happen as early as this week.

INDIA: Border authorities installed a dozen "laser walls" to detect intruders on the Punjab province frontier with Pakistan on terrain deemed too treacherous for barbed wire (TOI). The move follows a January attack on India's Pathankot airbase. India alleges the attackers had crossed the border from Pakistan (Dawn).

CFR's Alyssa Ayres' writes that Washington can help India-Pakistan relations by "unequivocally" pressuring Pakistan to end support for terrorist organizations.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

U.S., UK Military Leaders: Islamic State Finances Crippled

The UK's defense ministry said that the self-proclaimed Islamic State is increasingly resorting to extortion and fines as air strikes and recapture of their territories are taking a toll on the caliphate's finances (Guardian). A U.S. air force leader also said the group's recruitment of new foreign fighters had declined dramatically (Middle East Eye).

This CFR Backgrounder discusses the origins of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Nigeria Discusses EU Migrant Return Deal for Aid

Seeking to replicate a refugee deal that the EU made with Turkey, European officials have held discussions with Nigeria over a proposed readmission agreement to repatriate Nigerian migrants in return for aid (FT). The deal would be the EU's first major migration agreement with a sub-Saharan African country.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Europe's migrant crisis.

SOUTH SUDAN: The United States warned it would consider sanctions or an arms embargo on South Sudan's leaders if they fail to cooperate in a new unity government (Al Jazeera).

EUROPE

Austria's Lower House Passes Strict Refugee Law

Legislation expected to be passed by Austria's upper house and implemented as soon as June would allow law enforcement to reject asylum seekers at the country's borders and prevent those granted asylum from requesting reunification with their families for three years (Guardian). In a speech to the Austrian parliament, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was concerned about restrictive refugee policies in Europe that "negatively affect the obligation of member states under international humanitarian law and European law."

TURKEY: Fifteen people have been detained (Hurriyet) after a female suicide bomber injured twenty-three people at a historic mosque in northwestern Turkey.

AMERICAS

IMF: Brazil Retains 'Amazing' Ability to Attract Foreign Investors

A regional official from the International Monetary Fund predicted Brazil's economy would shrink 3.8 percent this year, but said the country was still seeing an "amazing" level (FT) of foreign direct investment amid a political and economic crisis. The country's FDI inflows rose from $13.1 billion in the first quarter of 2015 to $17 billion in the first quarter of this year.

CFR's Shannon O'Neil analyzes the prospect of President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment and its implications for the Brazilian economy in this conference call.

VENEZUELA: A leader in Venezuela's opposition said a recall vote to oust President Nicolas Maduro could take place as soon as November (LAHT). Maduro's opponents need to collect 200,000 signatures from voters to initiate a recall.

CAMPAIGN 2016

Trump Promises to Rebuild U.S. Military

Republican front-runner Donald Trump promised (Time) he would rebuild the U.S. military in a speech offering his broadest views yet on foreign policy.