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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 11, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama Delays Syria Strike

President Barack Obama asked Congress to delay its deliberations on a possible military strike against Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons, saying in an address to the nation Tuesday evening that he would pursue a Russian proposal that would to dismantle the Assad regime's chemical weapons program (Bloomberg). Negotiations for a UN resolution that would put Syria's weapons under international control have faltered as Russia rejected U.S. and French demands that the resolution authorize the use of force to hedge against noncompliance (AP). Arms-control experts warn that inspecting and disarming Syria's chemical arsenal would be difficult during peacetime and those challenges will be amplified amidst a raging civil war (WaPo).


"Putin's move rescues Obama from what would almost certainly have been the most devastating defeat of his presidency. The speech was originally intended as a last-ditch effort to convince Congress to approve a bill authorizing him to use force against Bashar Assad's regime in Syria—a bill that the House of Representatives seemed set to vote down by a huge margin. Now, the vote can be put off while diplomacy is given another try," CFR Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow Fred Kaplan writes in Slate.

"Russia has publicly supported Assad's denials that he used sarin gas, but we are now supposed to believe it will thoroughly scrub Syria of those weapons. We are also supposed to believe Assad will come clean about the weapons he has long denied having and still denies using," the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial.

"The hope must be that the U.S. and Russia overcome their divisions and agree to a Security Council resolution on Syria. That would be unprecedented in this conflict. The prospect of a credible U.S.-Russian deal would certainly make Mr. Assad start to sweat," the Financial Times writes in an editorial.



North, South Korea to Restart Joint Industrial Zone

North and South Korea agreed to resume operations of the Kaesong industrial zone in North Korea, which was closed in April due to political tensions (Yonhap). The joint project is home to more than one hundred South Korean factories and employs some 53,000 North Koreans.

CFR's Scott Snyder explains U.S. policy toward North Korea in this article.

CHINA: Japan sent an undisclosed number of fighter jets to the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, which lie at the heart of its territorial dispute with China, after an unidentified drone was spotted in the area (SCMP).



Pakistan to Release Senior Taliban Leader

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a senior Afghan Taliban leader, could be released by Pakistan within a month as Islamabad seeks to build on a peace process in Afghanistan (BBC). Baradar's capture in 2010 was seen as coup for the CIA and Pakistani intelligence.

CFR's Ed Husain proposes a global fund to combat extremist narratives in this Policy Innovation Memorandum.

PAKISTAN: Intelligence officials detained nine al-Qaeda suspects in Lahore, including six members of a "suicide squad" and shopkeepers who provided electronic gadgets to the cell (Express Tribune).



U.S. Eases Iran Sanctions

The Obama administration on Tuesday eased sanctions on humanitarian and good-will activities between Iran and the United States in an apparent response to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani's stated intention to improve relations with Washington (NYT). Rouhani assumed office last month.



Congo Sentences Six Soldiers for 2012 Explosions

Six soldiers were sentenced to varying prison terms of up to fifteen years for willfully setting fire to an arms depot in Brazzaville in March 2012. Three hundred people were killed and more than two thousand wounded (BBC).

KENYA: Al-Futtaim Group, a family-owned, Dubai-based conglomerate, agreed to acquire CMC Holdings (East African), a regional auto dealer based in Kenya, for $86.67 million.



Greece May Need Two More Aid Packages

Luc Coene, a European Central Bank Governing Council member, said on Wednesday Greece may need two additional aid packages to support its slowly improving economy (WSJ). Coene added that Greece's troubles no longer threaten the "whole edifice" of the eurozone.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the eurozone crisis.

UNITED KINGDOM: Unemployment in the UK fell to 7.7 percent for the three-month period ending in July. A resurgent real estate market spurred new hiring and higher confidence in the economy (Telegraph).



NSA Surveillance Too Big to Understand

The electronic surveillance apparatus assembled by the U.S. National Security Agency, which was largely revealed through leaks this year, is so extensive that its managers did not comprehend its complexity (AP), according to declassified documents released Tuesday.

VENEZUELA: President Nicolas Maduro withdrew Venezuela from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Tuesday, a day after his opponent in last April's elections submitted allegations of electoral fraud (Al Jazeera). Maduro called the body, which is affiliated with the Washington-based Organization of American States, an instrument of U.S. control.



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