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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 26, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Chemical Weapon Use Suspected in Syria

UK prime minister David Cameron (BBC) said there was "limited but growing" evidence that Syrian government troops had used chemical weapons in the civil war, dovetailing with a White House announcement Thursday that U.S. intelligence agencies believed with "varying degrees of confidence" (al-Jazeera) that Syria had used the nerve agent sarin. Cameron agreed with the U.S. warning that the use of such weapons would be a "red line" for possible intervention, although Washington has insisted on definitive proof before taking action. Syrian officials denied the allegations (AP), saying the regime had no need for them.


"Foreign capitals and Capitol Hill will be watching to see if Obama makes good on that threat. If he doesn't, he risks undermining his credibility and U.S. power and influence as a result. That will make it harder to deal not just with Syria but with Iran and North Korea. Tough talk and inaction seldom yield good results," writes CFR's James Lindsay.

"There is no room for equivocation or power politics if the Assads make the leap to chemical weapons. The risks – for Syria, the Middle East and internationally – are too potentially devastating," writes an editorial for the Financial Times.

"Iraq is said to have used sarin 25 years ago in an attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja during the Iran-Iraq war. More recently, the agent was used in the 1994 attack by a religious cult on riders of the Tokyo subway system," write Phil Stewart and David Alexander for Reuters.



Hollande Visits Beijing

France's president Francois Hollande arrived in China (Deutschewelle) on Friday with a large trade delegation to boost economic ties with Asia's largest economy. France, burdened by a hefty 26 billion euro trade deficit with China, accounts for just 1.3 percent of Beijing's foreign trade.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea said it would withdraw (Yonhap) all of its workers from the jointly run Kaesong industrial complex in North Korea after Pyongyang rejected offers for dialogue.

This CFR Crisis Guide provides an interactive multimedia explanation of the dispute between North and South Korea.



Musharraf Put Under House Arrest

A Pakistani court ordered a three-day house arrest for former military ruler Pervez Musharraf over the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto (al-Jazeera). Musharraf is accused of conspiracy to murder Bhutto, who died in a gun and suicide attack in December 2007.

INDIA: India's Supreme Court said Friday that it will continue to probe the case (WSJ) of two Italian marines accused of murdering two Indian fishermen--a development that is likely to deepen the diplomatic dispute between India and Italy.



PKK to Withdraw From Turkey in May

Senior leaders of Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party announced in a much-anticipated statement that its rebels will begin withdrawing (Hurriyet) from the country on May 8, moving to northern Iraq after three decades of fighting that claimed around 40,000 lives.

This CFR Invisible Armies Insurgency Tracker presents a visual database of insurgencies from 1775 to 2012.



UN Approves Mali Peacekeeping Force

The UN Security Council approved the creation of a 12,600-strong peacekeeping force (TAP) in Mali starting on July 1. The move was initiated by France, which intervened in January to drive out Islamist militants from Mali's northern desert region.

SOMALIA: Somalia's deputy chief prosecutor (BBC) was shot dead in Mogadishu shortly after the UK reopened its embassy in the city. He is the most senior official to be killed in Mogadishu since a new government took office last year.



Spain, France Hit Unemployment Highs

Unemployment in Spain and France rose to record highs (Guardian) as government spending cuts and weak consumer confidence have forced employers to trim their workforces. Spain now has 6.2 million unemployed, while in France that figure reached a record 3.2 million in March.

SERBIA: Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic apologized for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre (Reuters) in Bosnia, marking a sharp change of tone that could aid reconciliation with Bosnia.



Bolivia, Chile Battle Sea Sovereignty

The next leader of the World Trade Organization will likely come for the first time from Latin America (FT), with Herminio Blanco of Mexico and Roberto Azevêdo of Brazil edging out candidates from New Zealand, Indonesia, and South Korea to be the next head of the trade group.

VENEZUELA: Venezuela detained Timothy Hallet Tracy, an American filmmaker, on charges of "creating violence" at the behest of the U.S. government (NPR).



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