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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 17, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: UN Says Sarin Used in Syria

The UN confirmed that sarin gas was used in an August 21 attack on rebel-controlled territory near Damascus, and the United States and its Western allies suggested that the Assad regime was responsible (WaPo). Russian officials disputed this, pointing to rebels as the source. Outgoing Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said Israel wanted to see President Bashar al-Assad removed from power, and that the Tehran/Damascus/Beirut axis was the greatest threat to Israel (JerusalemPost). A Turkish fighter jet shot down a Syrian military helicopter after it entered Turkish airspace on Monday, and Ankara said it will submit a report to NATO and the UN Security Council about the incident (al-Jazeera).


"With the possibility of widespread sectarian strife emerging from the Syrian conflict, it is absolutely vital that the Saudis and the GCC, as they did in Egypt and Bahrain, quickly move to ensure that the al-Assad regime finally falls. They must do it for themselves, for regional security in containing Iran, to prevent al Qaeda in the Levant from rising and, above all else, for the Syrian people," Nawaf Obaid and Jamal Khashoggi write for CNN.

"The large scale use of sarin, the direction of the rocket attacks, and kind of rockets used in the attacks all point to use by Assad's forces beyond reasonable doubt. The conclusions reached by the United States and European governments would now appear to have received corroboration by a source the Russians and Syrians will have trouble discrediting," write Greg Thielmann and Daryl G. Kimball for Arms Control Now.

"The official line from Tehran remains that there is no evidence that Mr. Assad conducted the recent chemical attack, with speculation that the rebels had been supplied with chemical weapons by the Saudis. This narrative fits with the view, even in moderate policy circles, that Iran is fighting a proxy war with the Saudis for regional hegemony," Ali Ansari writes in the Financial Times.



Danone Accused of Bribing Hospital Staff in China

French food group Danone has allegedly bribed hospital staff in China to give its milk powder to newborn babies (CCTV). Chinese authorities have been cracking down on graft in many industries.

CFR Senior Fellow Elizabeth C. Economy explains the risks of China's corruption crackdown in this blog post.

PHILIPPINES: Dozens of civilians held by the Moro National Liberation Front, a Muslim rebel group, have been freed, but the rebels captured a senior Philippine policeman (BBC). Fighting between the group and the military has been ongoing since September 9.



Report: Afghan Policewomen Victims of Sexual Violence

An unpublished UN report on female police officers in Afghanistan found they were subjected to sexual violence and harassment by their male colleagues (NYT). Roughly 70 percent of policewomen interviewed said they personally experienced violence or harassment.

BANGLADESH: Abdul Kader Mullah of the Jamaat-e-Islami party was sentenced to death for war crimes committed during the country's independence war in 1971 (Hindu).



Iran's Rouhani Tells Republican Guard to Stay out of Politics

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani told the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite military force that answers to the country's top cleric, that it should not get involved in politics (Reuters).

In this new CFR interview, expert Gary G. Sick explains that Rouhani may set a more constructive tone.



Rwanda's Ruling Party Slated for Parliamentary Win

The Rwandan Patriotic Front, the ruling party of President Paul Kagame that has dominated the country since the 1994 genocide, is expected to achieve a landslide victory in Monday's parliamentary elections (al-Jazeera).

SOMALIA: The European Union pledged $868 million in aid to Somalia to help with economic growth and political recovery, adding onto a $1.6 billion package for the beleaguered African country (AllAfrica).



Greek PM Sees Recovery by 2019

Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras said the country could return to its living standards prior to the debt crisis by 2019 (BBC). Greece's economy shrunk by 23 percent since 2008 and is expected to contract by 4.2 percent this year.

UNITED KINGDOM: Britain has raised $5.1 billion from the sale of a 6 percent stake in Lloyds Banking Group, a milestone moment in the country's recovery from the 2008 financial crisis (Reuters).



Washington Navy Yard Shooting Kills Twelve

A defense contract employee and former Navy reservist went on a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard Monday, killing twelve people before he died in a gun battle with the police (AP). Motives for the shooting are still being investigated.

This Backgrounder explains U.S. gun policy and compares it to global practices.

UNITED STATES: Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen has emerged as the front-runner to lead the central bank after Lawrence Summers withdrew his name from consideration (Bloomberg).

CFR Senior Fellow Benn Steil and Analyst Dinah Walker expect the Fed to taper in September, according to this this blog post.



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