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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 7, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Kerry Meets Putin on Syria Crisis

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bid to bridge the two countries' divide over the Syria conflict (BBC). The meeting occurs amid growing concern over regional escalation of Syria's civil war. A spokesperson for a Damascus-based Palestinian group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has given clearance (AP) to prepare missiles to attack Israel following reported Israeli airstrikes on the Syrian capital over the weekend. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the air raids, which reportedly killed more than forty people, were "unacceptable" (Hurriyet).


"I expect that the most [Kerry] can achieve is that the Russians will perhaps not be so strident about the Americans and their allies taking actions. Probably the best [the United States] can hope for is that [Russia] will do nothing actively to help Assad against any American and Western action," expert Mark Katz tells Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

"It is questionable whether Israel would actually benefit from U.S. military intervention in Syria, either strategically or in light of the inevitable accusation that Israel 'pushed' the U.S. into action. In fact, an American military intervention might just expand the theater of operations and pull Israel into a war it doesn't want, rather than the other way around," writes Alon Pinkas for Haaretz.

"They demonstrate the Israeli Air Force's ability to hit targets well inside Syria, but they could be the first of many - a regular pattern of attacks that at any moment could risk provoking Syria, along with Hezbollah, into a regional war. The nightmare of a major spill-over of the Syria crisis would have become a reality," writes Jonathan Marcus for the BBC.



North Korea Moves Missiles

North Korea moved two missiles from launch sites on the country's eastern coast (AFP), signaling lowered tensions after worries that Pyongyang was ready to test the weapons. Tokyo and Seoul had stepped up missile defense systems, while Washington deployed two destroyers to thwart a launch.

CHINA: A Pentagon report said for the first time that China had targeted U.S. government computers as part of a cyber espionage campaign (BBC). China called the report "groundless."

Zachary Goldman discusses Washington's secret weapon against Chinese hackers in this Foreign Affairs article.



More Election Violence in Pakistan

Twenty-six people were killed after a blast hit an election rally of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl candidates in the tribal region of Kurram on Monday (PakTribune). The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes before the country's Saturday elections.

Ahead of Pakistan's elections, this CFR interactive Crisis Guide examines the roots of the country's challenges and what they mean for the region and the world.

BANGLADESH: The Bangladeshi government took a television station off air and transferred a protest leader under police escort in the latest crackdown on demonstrations in Dhaka (al-Jazeera).



Egypt Increases Brotherhood Presence in Cabinet

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi increased the influence of his Muslim Brotherhood in a government reshuffle that replaced two ministers involved in talks with the International Monetary Fund over a $4.8 billion loan (Reuters).

CFR's Isobel Coleman discusses Egypt's untenable financial situation in this blog post.



UK Hosts Somalia Peace Conference

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is hosting an international conference (VOA) in London to help Somalia end more than two decades of conflict and help rebuild security forces. The country has been plagued by an Islamist insurgency, piracy, and a famine from 2010 to 2012.

TANZANIA: Tanzania arrested four Saudi men and four Tanzanians in connection with a Sunday church bombing that killed two people. The attack underscored sectarian tensions (Reuters).



European Commission Pushes Slovenia

The European Commission will likely take a tougher line with Slovenia amid mounting concerns that infighting between its finance ministry and central bank is impeding the country's ability to overhaul its banking sector and avoid being the next rescue target in the eurozone crisis (FT).

RUSSIA: Thousands of demonstrators gathered Monday near the Kremlin to demand the release of political prisoners, as well as new presidential and parliamentary elections (LAT).



Ecuador Recalls Ambassador After Supermarket Brawl

Ecuador's ambassador to Peru, Rodrigo Riofrio, has resigned after being involved in a brawl with two women in a supermarket that set off a diplomatic crisis (RT). The incident escalated tensions between the two countries, which had once fought a border war but have recently grown closer.

ARGENTINA: An International Monetary Fund director warned on Monday about the "negative effect" of Argentina's protectionist policies during an outlook conference (MercoPress).



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