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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 30, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: France Backs Punitive Action Against Syria

Note: There will be no Daily Brief on Monday, September 2 due to the Labor Day holiday.

President Fran├žois Hollande said the alleged chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb last week "must not remain unpunished," (France24) and that Paris was working with its allies on an appropriate response. The French leader's support for possible punitive strikes on Syria follows a defeat of Prime Minister David Cameron in a parliamentary vote (Guardian) on the principle of military action, a rare rebuke of a British leader's intentions to wage war. In Washington, the Obama administration briefed members of Congress on its intelligence, saying that there was "no doubt" that chemical weapons were used in Syria (Reuters).


"The change reflects the reality that Britain and the rest of Europe are neither able nor willing to play a substantial role in [Asia and the Middle East] that will define the 21st century. Instead, European politics are likely to become more parochial,, focused mostly on matters of governance and economic policy on the continent," CFR President Richard Haass writes in the Financial Times.

"In recent days, a notable number of members of the online jihadist community—some involved directly and others indirectly in the conflict in Syria—have been somewhat fixated on a widespread fear that their leaders, personnel, and bases will also be the target of Tomahawk cruise missiles," writes Charles Lister in Foreign Policy.

"A pinprick attack portends more months or years of civil war, leading to an eventual Assad-Iran victory or perhaps a divided country. The jihadist groups, now a minority in the opposition, will grow as the war drags on … We'd support a larger military intervention aimed at regime change," says a Wall Street Journal editorial.



Japan Prices Rise in Validation of Abenomics

Consumer prices increased at the fastest pace in five years, a sign of progress in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plan to end Japan's fifteen-year cycle of deflation (Bloomberg). Higher energy costs and central bank stimulus were seen as the triggers for the desired inflation.

This CFR Backgrounder explains Abe's Keynesian-inspired plan for Japan's economy.

CHINA: Former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang is being probed on corruption charges (SCMP) possibly linked to the his time as a senior manager at the China National Petroleum Corp.



Suicide Attack Kills Afghan Governor

A suicide bomber in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province killed a district governor on Friday (Reuters). His bodyguard and ten other civilians also died in the attack.

INDIA: Despite the rupee's sharp decline, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ruled out the reversal of economic reforms or imposition of capital controls (Hindu).



Al-Qaeda Affiliate Claims Responsibility for Iraq Attacks

The Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda said it detonated bombs (Daily Star) this week that killed at least eighty-two people in retaliation for the execution of prisoners. The group, which is also linked to al-Qaeda in Syria, promised more attacks on government targets.

CFR's Robert Danin recaps an especially eventful week in the Middle East.



UN Urges Restraint in Rwanda, DR Congo Tensions

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Rwanda's president to show restraint after Rwanda accused the Democratic Republic of Congo of bombing its territory (BBC). Rwanda is accused of backing M23 rebels in DR Congo.

SOUTH AFRICA: The National Union of Mineworkers, representing two-thirds of gold miners in the country, plan to strike over pay next week (Bloomberg).



Portugal Court Strikes Down Austerity Measure

Portugal's Constitutional Court struck down a law that would make it easier to fire public workers (WSJ) in a blow to the government's austerity efforts under an EU/IMF bailout.

This CFR backgrounder expands on the bailouts and crises in the Eurozone.

UK: Mortgage approvals increased in August, the highest level in five years, and lending to businesses rose in signs of easing credit in the United Kingdom (Telegraph).



Report: U.S. Intelligence Spending Revealed

Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden leaked a budget summary for the National Intelligence Program (WaPo) which provided details on the $52.6 billion "black budget" allocated to intelligence agencies in 2013.

ARGENTINA: Argentina's Foreign Ministry condemned plans for a strike on Syria (Buenos Aires Herald) and called for an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly.



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