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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 5, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Syria Strikes Loom Over G20 Summit

Leaders from the Group of 20 leading world economies are meeting St. Petersburg for an annual summit that is expected to be overtaken this year by sharp divisions over a looming U.S.-led strike to punish the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons (AP). While many observers will search for clues in the interactions between Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, the G20 is also expected to sign an agreement that fights tax evasion by multinational corporations (BBC), and will discuss concerns from emerging markets about the Federal Reserve's plan to taper its quantitative easing program (CSMonitor).


"As the only multilateral forum that unites, and is limited to, the most important advanced and emerging countries, the G20 must be allowed to address the other critical challenges confronting the world, including matters of peace and security. This is the emerging lesson of the St. Petersburg summit, where the question of what to do about Syria will dominate conversation, even if it is not on the formal agenda," writes CFR Senior Fellow Stewart M. Patrick.

"With U.S. missiles poised to strike at a key Russian ally, keeping the focus on the G-20's economic agenda may be a lost cause – about as likely as making Putin and Obama see eye to eye at the summit. And although the weather is forecast to be clear this week in St. Petersburg, the mood inside the Konstantin Palace will likely be as cold as a Russian winter," writes Simon Shuster for TIME.

"The U.S. is now debating a military campaign that marries the highest, most abstract idealism to the harshest, most unsettling pragmatism: Obama wants to punish Assad for violating the abstract norms of war even as he leaves Assad capable of continuing his massacre by more conventional means. This is why there is no enthusiasm for intervening in Syria," writes Ezra Klein for Bloomberg.



Bank of Japan Says Economy on Track for Recovery

The Bank of Japan said the economy is on a recovery track, a move that could see the implementation of a sales tax increase and a temporary pullback on monetary easing (WSJ). Consumer prices rose 0.7 percent in July, the fastest increase in four years.

CAMBODIA: The UN and Human Rights Watch criticized Cambodia for failing to pay its share of the cost for the Khmer Rouge tribunal (AP).



Pakistan Gets $6.7 Billion IMF Loan

The International Monetary Fund approved a $6.7 billion loan package for Pakistan, with proceeds from the three-year program to help rebuild the country's reserves and prevent a crisis in balance on payments (Reuters).

AFGHANISTAN: A new report states that the United States is retaining non-Afghan detainees in custody at the Bagram prison, which was turned over to Afghan control last year (al-Jazeera).



Egypt's Interior Minister Survives Attack

Egypt's interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, survived a bomb attack while traveling in a convoy through a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold in Cairo (BBC). Four people were injured in the blast.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and current struggles of the Muslim Brotherhood.



Mali's New President Sworn In

Ibrahim Keita has been sworn in as Mali's new president (AllAfrica), a milestone in the country's return to constitutional rule after a military coup last year. French and West African troops regained control of areas taken over by al-Qaeda-linked militants in Mali earlier this year.

ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwe's chief prosecutor ordered the investigation of lawyers working for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai (News24) for contempt of court following the criticism of judges in a court filing related to the disputed reelection of Robert Mugabe.



Draghi Dampens Market Expectation for Rate Hike

Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, is trying to prevent investors from feeling too confident in the eurozone recovery in an effort to keep interest rates low (Bloomberg). After six quarters of contraction, the eurozone grew in the second quarter of 2013.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the eurozone crisis.

POLAND: The Polish government is retreating from the partial privatization of its social security program, a move that could reduce its national debt by 8 percent of GDP (Warsaw Voice).



U.S. Car Sales Rebound to Pre-Slump Level

Car sales in the United States topped 1.5 million in August, up 17 percent from a year earlier and back to a pace seen before the recession. Buyers were spurred by low interest rates and growing job market (WSJ).

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: The Vatican recalled its ambassador to the Dominican Republic and is investigating him for several cases of alleged child abuse (DominicanToday).



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