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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 4, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Putin Warns West on Syrian Action

President Vladimir Putin warned the West against going through with a punitive strike against the Assad regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons (AP), and said Moscow would reconsider its decision to suspend delivery of an air-defense missile system to Syria if military action is taken without UN Security Council authorization. The Obama administration edged closer to congressional authorization for the use of force on Tuesday after a long and sometimes testy hearing in the Senate, where the foreign relations committee's draft resolution would permit sixty days of military operations (Miami Herald), which the president could then extend for an additional thirty. Uncertainty over a potential strike and fallout dragged on many equity markets (Reuters) despite a positive outlook for the global economy.


"The US should reverse course. A direct US attack on Syria without UN backing is far more likely to inflame the region than it is to resolve the crisis there—a point well appreciated in the United Kingdom, where Parliament bucked the government by rejecting British participation in a military strike," writes Jeffrey Sachs for Project Syndicate.

"Ratification of an AUMF for Syria might set a precedent for Congress as much as for Obama. It would suggest that Congress agrees that the United States should enforce international norms against the use of dangerous weapons ¬≠or intervene to prevent serious violations of human rights—even when the United Nations will not lend its support," writes Jack Balkin in the Atlantic.

"If the world's strongest power fails to defend the hard-earned prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, then don't expect anyone else to, either. The best move now is for Obama to muster every gram of persuasion, focus his nation's and the world's attention on the global need to prevent these weapons from being used and, yet again, build a coalition of the willing," Bloomberg editors write in an editorial.



China's Economy Intentionally Slowed, Xi Says

President Xi Jinping said the Chinese government targeted slower growth this year to adjust the economy and "solve fundamental problems" (Bloomberg). Senior Chinese leaders are planning a meeting in November that could provide clarity on projected growth rates this decade.

CHINA: Six Communist Party investigators are expected to be tried for the torture and death of a fellow party member during a disciplinary probe earlier this year (SCMP).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and current challenges of China's ruling party.



Armenia to Join Russia-led Customs Union

Armenian president Serzh Sarkisian said his country will join the Russia-led Customs Union and will work with Moscow to establish a Eurasian economic union (RFE/RL). Belarus and Kazakhstan, the two other members of the Customs Union, still must approve Armenia's membership.

INDIA: India's ranking in the Global Competitiveness Report, compiled by the World Economic Forum, slipped to sixty, thirty-one spots below its peer, China (Economic Times).



World Bank to Help Lebanon Raise Funds for Syrian Fallout

Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, said on Tuesday that the institution is helping Lebanon prepare for a request for international aid to deal with the influx of refugees and other spillover from Syria's civil war (AP). The World Bank's analysis will be presented at the UN General Assembly.



Kenya to Discuss Ending ICC Membership

Kenya's parliament will hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to debate ending the country's membership in the International Criminal Court (BBC). Deputy President William Ruto is scheduled to appear before the court next week on charges of crimes against humanity.

NIGERIA: The People's Democratic Party, Nigeria's ruling party, has split in two factions (Vanguard), with fifty-eight members of PDP's 204 officials in the House of Representatives defecting.

CFR's John Campbell writes about the split in Nigeria's ruling party in this blog post.



Eurozone Shows Signs of Firmer Recovery

Economic activity in the eurozone grew for the second consecutive month in August, sparked by an increase in consumer, government, and investment spending, and buoyed by a rise in exports (WSJ). The eurozone's return to growth in June came after six quarters of contraction.

RUSSIA: Disagreements between Russia and the United States over the conflict in Syria and Moscow's decision to provide asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden risk derailing the G20 summit (FT), which is set to begin Thursday in St. Petersburg.

CFR's Stewart Patrick lays out an economic agenda for the G20 meeting in this blog post.



Colombia–FARC Talks Reach 'Critical Stage'

A Colombian government negotiator said negotiations with the Marxist rebel group FARC has reached a "critical stage" (MercoPress). Peace talks, which began ten months ago, were expected to be completed by the end of the year but may last several months longer.

UNITED STATES: Thousands of Walmart employees have threatened to strike on Thursday, demanding better pay and to protest the firing of workers who previously demonstrated against the nation's largest private employer (Al Jazeera).



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