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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 9, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama, Assad Take their Cases to the Press

As U.S. president Barack Obama and his administration mount an extensive media campaign to promote a military strike on Syria (WSJ), Syrian president Bashar al-Assad granted an interview to CBS News in which he denied using chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb last month (AP). Russia's foreign minister met in Moscow with his Syrian counterpart, where both urged the United States to focus on reviving efforts for a peace conference in Geneva rather than taking military action (Reuters). Meanwhile in Syria, opposition fighters linked to al-Qaeda and other extremist groups have been hiding their weapons and dispersing forces, believing that they will be targeted (Guardian) in possible U.S. strikes.


"If the Obama administration wants to send a message to Assad that he accurately understands, the United States must provide not only a credible response to his recent use of chemical weapons but also make him believe that response is part of a larger strategy to compel him to stop slaughtering his own people—by any means," CFR's Robert Danin writes in the Washington Post.

"In order to dislodge the Assad regime's premier fighting forces—the Fourth Armored Division and the Republican Guard—the Arab League should assemble an Arab army of 75,000 to 100,000 men to take up positions along Jordan's border with Syria—a potential staging ground for an invasion," write Nawaf Obaid and Jamal Khashoggi in the New York Times.

"As with other post–Cold War atrocities, the use of chemical weapons has led to calls for the United States to 'do something' to stop the perpetrators. Yet exactly what that something should be—which would not make things worse, not cost too much in blood and treasure, and not have unanticipated consequences—is utterly unclear," writes Richard K. Betts in Foreign Affairs.



Australia's New PM Tackles Economic Issues

Incoming prime minister Tony Abbott, who won Australian elections on Saturday, said his administration would move quickly to reduce taxes and boost a slowing economy as the country's mining boom fades (WSJ).

PHILIPPINES: Suspected Muslim rebels have attacked several villages in southern Philippines and taken over two hundred hostages (Al Jazeera). At least six people have been killed in clashes.



India Deploys Security Forces in Uttar Pradesh

India deployed police and soldiers to Uttar Pradesh in northern India after clashes between Muslims and Hindus killed twenty-six people over the weekend (Indian Express).

AFGHANISTAN: A drone strike in Kunar province killed up to sixteen people while a Taliban assault in Wardak killed four intelligence officers and wounded 120 people, Afghan officials said Sunday, highlighting ongoing risks for civilians (NYT).



Egypt's Activists Fear Military Crackdown

Egypt's pro-democracy activists fear the country's military-backed government will expand its crackdown beyond the Islamist allies of the ousted president Mohammed Morsi to include anyone who opposes military rule (Guardian).

Michael J. Koplow discusses the crackdown on the secular opposition in this Foreign Affairs article.



Kenyan VP Heads to the Hague for ICC Trial

Vice President William Ruto flew to the Hague on Monday to face charges at the International Criminal Court for allegedly masterminding post-election violence in 2008 (New24). Kenya's parliament voted to withdraw from the ICC last week.

CFR's John Campbell expands on the ICC charges and debate in this blog post.

SUDAN: A Sudanese jet fighter bombed a South Sudanese military barracks on Saturday, killing a soldier and his wife (Sudan Tribune). The attack follows a week of bilateral talks between the two countries.



British Banking Expert Questions Capital Levels

Sir John Vickers, the chief architect behind Britain's banking-regulation reforms, said lenders should double their tier-one capital ratios to 20 percent (FT). New Basel III rules will allow banks to have higher leverage multiples which Vickers said is "not very sensible."

RUSSIA: Sergei Sobyanin, President Vladimir Putin's former chief of staff, won the Moscow mayoral election with just over 50 percent of the vote—enough to avoid a runoff. Challenger Alexei Navalny disputed the results (BBC).



U.S. Allegedly Spied on Brazil's Top Oil Company

The U.S. government tapped into the networks of organizations such as Google, the Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras, France's foreign ministry, and the Swift banking network, according to a report by a Brazilian television network (Reuters).

UNITED STATES: Pension funds and other U.S. investors have pumped in $65 billion into European stocks in the first six months of 2013, the largest amount since 1977 (FT), Goldman Sachs reported.



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