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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 29, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Syrian Prime Minister Survives Bomb Attack

Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki survived an assassination attempt (Reuters) on his convoy in Damascus on Monday. Six people were killed in the blast in the latest in a series of rebel attacks on government targets, including a December bombing that wounded Assad's interior minister. Observers say Halki wields little power, but that the incident (AFP) was a blow to the regime and highlighted the rebels' growing ability to target Assad's authority in the war that has cost more than 70,000 lives.


"Possible military choices range from limited one-off missile strikes from ships - one of the less complicated scenarios - to bolder operations like carving out no-fly safe zones. One of the most politically unpalatable possibilities envisions sending tens of thousands of U.S. forces to help secure Syrian chemical weapons," write Phil Stewart and Peter Apps for Reuters.

"Those who view the Geneva document as a road map written in stone are missing this vital point. Some who oppose the regime argue that Assad has no place in a managed transition. Others, including some who believe only in a military solution and want to scuttle a diplomatic option that includes the regime, maintain the opposite. In such hands, the Geneva text threatens to become less an avenue to progress than a diplomatic dead end—and a weapon in the hands of one antagonist or the other," writes Geoffrey Aronson for al-Monitor.

"The dilemma for Obama is that his reasons for not intervening in Syria remain sound. As Iraq and Afghanistan attest, it is easier to get into war than to get out, and nation building is easier said than done. The American public is weary of foreign interventions, and Washington has no shortage of other foreign policy problems demanding its attention," writes CFR's James Lindsay.



Abe Visits Kremlin

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe arrived Sunday in Moscow (KyodoNews), where he and Russian president Vladimir Putin are expected to revive stalled territorial talks and strengthen economic ties. The trip marks first official visit to Russia by a Japanese prime minister in ten years.

CHINA: Police arrested more suspects (AP) linked to a clash that killed twenty-one in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, home to millions of Turkic Muslim Uighurs.



More Pre-Election Violence Hits Pakistan

A suicide bomb attack killed at least eight (Dawn) in Peshawar on Monday morning, including the son of a former Afghan minister. One of the suspects in custody was an alleged member of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militant organization.

Former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker and CFR Senior Fellow Daniel Markey discuss the upcoming elections in Pakistan and the violence that has preceded it in this Conference Call series.

AFGHANISTAN: The CIA paid tens of millions of dollars (NYT), often transported in bags, to the offices of Afghan president Hamid Karzai for more than a decade, the New York Times reported.

CFR's Stephen Biddle talks about Afghanistan's looming security test in this interview.



More Car Bombs Strike in Iraq

Five car bombs exploded in predominantly Shia districts in central and southern Iraq, killing twenty civilians in the latest string of sectarian violence in the country. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shia-led government has been the target of rising Sunni anger (al-Jazeera).



ICC Judge Withdraws From Kenya Case

Judge Christine van den Wyngaert resigned from hearing the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the International Criminal Court after questioning the conduct of the prosecution (CapitalFM), which she alleged failed to disclose evidence that could be used in his defense.

NIGERIA: Islamist militant group Boko Haram was paid more than $3 million before releasing a French family of seven. France and Cameroon deny paying a ransom (BBC).



Italy's Letta Faces Confidence Vote

New Italian prime minister Enrico Letta faces a confidence vote in parliament (Reuters) on Monday that will test the solidity of his coalition government in the months ahead. The vote comes after a gun attack by an unemployed man outside the prime minister's office in Rome.

GREECE: Greece's parliament approved another package (FT) of fiscal and structural reforms, including controversial measures like civil servant layoffs and minimum wage reduction, in exchange for bailout money.



Obama to Visit Mexico

U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Mexico this week amid signs that Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto is becoming wary of the level of U.S. involvement in its security affairs (LAT). Nieto is expected to focus on less sensitive issues like the economy.

This three-part CFR timeline looks at the history of U.S.-Mexico relations from Mexican independence to the present.

ARGENTINA: Argentina made a diplomatic push in the Caribbean (MercoPress) after attending the fifth Caribbean states leaders' summit in Haiti with a major delegation.



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