Daily News Brief

April 24, 2008

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • Israel, Syria reportedly mull peace deal.
  • Heavy fighting in Sri Lanka.
  • A possible end to Fed rate cuts.
  • Petraeus tapped for CentCom post.

TOP OF THE AGENDA: Considering the Golan

News reports say Israeli officials are considering a peace deal with Syria that could include Israel ceding control of the Golan Heights region. A Syrian cabinet minister said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert raised the idea in talks with Turkey -- and the Financial Times notes, Israeli officials did not deny the reports, though neither would Olmert's spokesperson explicitly comment on them.

The Jerusalem Post says any such deal would have to include Syria ending support for Hamas and Hezbollah, distancing itself from Iran, and ousting Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal from Damascus.

The Israeli paper Haaretz noted mixed opinion about the prospects for such a deal within Israel's government and that the United States would have to play a major role as an intermediary between Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad. More details could surface following weekend meetings between Assad and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Al-Jazeera quotes an Israeli official saying Olmert's position -- which in the past has included a demand to retain control of a small strip of land on the Sea of Galilee to maintain control of water supplies -- has not changed.

A new CFR.org interactive Crisis Guide on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict includes in-depth discussion of the history of the Golan Heights, which Israel gained control of during the 1967 war and then annexed in 1981.

MIDDLE EAST: Syria Strike Video

New details have emerged surrounding Israeli air strikes on Syria last September. The Washington Post reports a video revealed Syria to be attempting to build a nuclear reactor similar to one which produces plutonium for North Korea's nuclear arsenal.

Centcom: Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, was tapped to head Centcom, the U.S. strategic command in the Middle East (AP).

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the massive new U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which will open next month, and says it has some Iraqis "seeing red."

PACIFIC RIM: Chinese Stock Rescue

Beijing announced it would cut a stock stamp tax by two-thirds to try to bolster jittery equity markets (Xinhua). A recent Daily Analysis looks at the steep losses Chinese markets have suffered in recent months, which well outstrip losses in the United States.

Myanmar: The Economist says a May 10 referendum on Myanmar's new constitution is a vote the country's people "cannot win."

SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA: Sri Lanka Fighting

The Hindu reports fighting in Sri Lanka between military and Tamil Tiger rebels has brought the heaviest casualties in months, with over fifty rebels and nearly forty government soldiers killed.

Afghanistan: Longstanding efforts to crack down on Afghan opium production have been given an unexpected boost by food shortages, which have encouraged farmers to venture into growing other crops (FT).

Pakistan: Dawn reports on a peace agreement recently finalized between Pakistan's government and warring Mehsuds in South Waziristan.

AFRICA: Africa and Zimbabwe

Business Day looks at calls from South Africa's ANC party Chairman Jacob Zuma for African leaders to send a pan-African mission to Zimbabwe to force an end to a political standoff over election results.

The BBC surveys internal press coverage of Zimbabwe's electoral aftermath, noting that the country's biggest paper (which is government run) has maintained a position consistently attacking the opposition MDC party.

Burundi: The UN-funded news service IRIN reports on renewed shelling in Bujumbura, Burundi.

AMERICAS: Fed Rate Cuts

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Federal Reserve is likely to cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter point when it meets this week, but that the Fed may freeze cuts after that.

Food Prices: The leaders of four Latin American countries, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba, agreed on a $100 million joint agricultural scheme to combat rising food prices (BBC).

CAMPAIGN 2008: Petraeus and the Presidency

TIME takes a look at the promotion of the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and the intersection with the presidential campaign. To begin with, Democratic candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), who have called for a major troop withdrawal from Iraq, will need to vote in the coming weeks on Petraeus' promotion to head Centcom, the U.S. strategic command for the Middle East region. His presence will also raise questions about the long-term prospects for the surge strategy in Iraq as well as counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan.

The presumptive Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), praised the promotion of Petraeus and urged quick Senate confirmation. (WashPost)

EUROPE: Farmland Surges in Value

The Financial Times looks at the impact food price spikes have had on the market for farmland in Europe, noting that what was once seen as a declining industry has been revitalized and the value of agricultural properties have hit record highs.

France-NATO: World Politics Review examines France's motives for possibly rejoining NATO, arguing that President Nicolas Sarkozy seems more interested in building a militarily strong European Union than responding to U.S. pressure.

OPINION ROUNDUP

In Thursday’s roundup: Tsvangirai on Mbeki, The Fed's Interest Rate Dilemma, and Hillary's Comeback.

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