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Top of the Agenda: Kerry Calls Chemical Use in Syria a 'Moral Obscenity'

Abo Alnour Alhaji/Courtesy Reuters  

Abo Alnour Alhaji/Courtesy Reuters

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry said in a speech Monday that the use of chemical weapons on civilians in Syria last week was undeniable (NYT) and a "moral obscenity." In some of the strongest language used yet by the Obama administration, Kerry said the United States would hold the Syrian government accountable for the "indiscriminate slaughter of civilians." The statement came hours after snipers opened fire on a UN convoy en route to the site of the attacks. Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem rejected the claims "utterly and completely" (BBC), adding that the weapons inspectors had originally been unable to visit a second site because they were stopped by rebels. The United States is now reported to be weighing the contingencies of a military strike (WashPost).


"To say only the UN Security Council can make something legitimate seems to me to be a position that cannot be supported because it would allow in this case a country like Russia to be the arbiter of international law and, more broadly, international relations," says CFR President Richard N. Haass in a media call.

"It remains in the United States' interest now as two years ago to see more moderate forces prevail. This can't be achieved with one or two volleys of cruise missiles. It will require patience and commitment," writes the Washington Post in an editorial.

"The practical impact of the intervention would not be to protect civilians on the ground from state-directed violence, but to deter Assad from using one type of indiscriminate lethality, chemical weapons. If Obama decides that achieving this outcome is in the U.S. national interests—both in terms of Syria and any deterrent effect it has on the potential use of chemical weapons users elsewhere—then he will likely authorize the reported cruise missile and airstrikes. However, it is highly unlikely that such an intervention can be so narrow that it will not force a deeper U.S. military engagement in Syria's civil war," writes CFR's Micah Zenko for New York Times.



China Antitrust Probes Not Aimed at Foreign Firms

Responding to charges that foreign-owned companies were singled out by Chinese regulators (Reuters), Beijing said Tuesday that antitrust investigations are intended to enforce a 2008 anti-monopoly law and do not target foreign firms.

CFR's Elizabeth Economy explains how Beijing uses foreign firms as a scapegoat for the ills of the country in this blog post.

JAPAN: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tasked sixty experts (WSJ) with debating a planned increase in the sales tax, which could double to 10 percent by 2015.



Pakistan-controlled Kashmir PM Demands UN Intervention

The prime minister of Azad Jammu Kashmir, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, called on the United Nations to end shelling by the Indian army on the Pakistan-controlled territory (Express Tribune). India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire in 2003, but both sides appear to have violated the agreement in recent weeks.

INDIA: Maoist rebels attacked a border security convoy in the eastern state of Odisha, killing four soldiers (TimesOfIndia) in what appears to be retaliation for the death of a rebel leader last week.



Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Leader Denies Terrorism Charges

Mohammed el-Beltagy, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official, denied accusations (Daily Star) that his group engaged in terrorism in a speech aired by Al Jazeera. Beltagy went into hiding following the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in July.

CFR's Steven A. Cook explains Turkey's reaction to the fall of its Islamist ally in Egypt in this blog post.



Sudan Opposition Pushes to Dismantle Bashir's Regime

Sudanese opposition leaders have called on the head of the National Umma Party, part of an alliance that has signed on to a democratic blueprint for the country, to advise longtime president Omar al-Bashir to step down (Sudan Tribune) and accept a peaceful transition to a an interim government. Bashir and the NUP leader are scheduled to meet on Tuesday.

LIBERIA: Liberian students who took this year's university admissions exam all failed the test (BBC). University officials said the students lacked enthusiasm and did not have a basic grasp of English.



UK Markets Supervisor Rejects EU Regulatory Guidance

The Financial Conduct Authority, the UK's new market supervisor, rejected EU guidance on financial regulations, adopting rules that favor bankers and broker (FT). The move follows a rejection of tough short-selling rules in May.

GERMANY: European Central Bank Governing Council members are split over further cuts to its benchmark rate (Bloomberg) amid signs that the euro-area economy is growing.

CFR's Robert Kahn offers takeaways from this year's Jackson Hole Federal Reserve conference in this blog post.



U.S. Treasury Will Not Be Able to Pay Bills by October

The Treasury Department said it will not be able to pay the government's bills by mid-October unless Congress raises the debt ceiling (NYT), adding another budget deadline just a few weeks after stopgap measures funding the federal government expire at the end of September.

BRAZIL: Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota resigned after a Brazilian diplomat admitted that he helped a Bolivian senator accused of corruption enter Brazil (Reuters). President Dilma Rousseff accepted Patriota's resignation but appointed him ambassador to the UN.



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