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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 5, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Funding Woes Plague Weapons Mission in Syria

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international body responsible for destroying Syria's nerve agent arsenal, has raised only $13.5 million for the task and is expected to run out of cash by the end of the month (Reuters). Meanwhile, the United Nations said that 9.3 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance, up from 6.8 million in June, and roughly 40 percent of the population depends on foreign aid for survival (DeutscheWelle). Dozens of diplomats from the United States, Russia, and the UN are gathered in Geneva to prepare for a Syria peace summit. Syria's information minister said the government will not take part in any conference that aims to get President Bashar al-Assad to step down (BBC).


"The complex and lengthy process of removing Syria's chemical weapons bought time for the regime. The U.S. acquiesced, in a quid-pro-quo that could be interpreted as exchanging the elimination of Syria's chemical-weapons capability for keeping Assad in power. Indeed, there are indications that in the wake of the deal, Russia has stepped up its weapons deliveries to Syria," Aaron David Miller writes for Bloomberg.

"Only 61 percent of the money earmarked for refugees outside of Syria has been collected, while 36 percent of the aid for Syrians inside the country has been collected, according to United Nations figures. China, the world's second-biggest economy after the United States, has donated a miserable $1 million, while Russia, awash in oil and gas profits, has given $10.3 million," the New York Times writes in an editorial.

"After the Assad regime's chemical massacre and President Obama's backtracking on his declared red lines, Washington is eager to avoid future situations that could lead to calls for its direct involvement. It hopes to internationalize diplomatic efforts and lock everyone into unlimited rounds of talks, while paying lip service to the need for transition," Rime Allaf writes in the Guardian.


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Thai PM Defends Amnesty Bill Amid Protests

Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra defended a political amnesty bill that would allow the exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, to return to the country. More than ten thousand protesters marched in Bangkok against the bill (AFP).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains the politics and controversy behind the amnesty bill in this blog post.

CHINA: Expectations that China may begin releasing its cotton stockpile, estimated to comprise 60 percent of the world's stock, are weighing heavily on cotton prices (FT).



Bangladesh Sentences Soldiers to Death for Mutiny

A Bangladeshi court sentenced 152 soldiers to death over a 2009 military mutiny that led to the killing of seventy-four people who were hacked to death or tortured and burnt alive (Dawn).

MYANMAR: Authorities found no additional survivors in the Bay of Bengal after a boat filled with roughly eighty Muslim Rohingyas capsized and sank Sunday (Voice of America).



Israel, Palestinians Sour on Peace Talks

Israeli and Palestinian officials said U.S.-brokered peace talks are going nowhere, a grim assessment that will likely complicate a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with leaders from both sides this week (Reuters).



Battles Rage in DR Congo Despite Cease-Fire

Fighting continued in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday a day after rebel group M23 agreed to a cease-fire with the military after twenty months of conflict (al-Jazeera). International monitors urged both sides not to abandon the peace process.

NIGERIA: Forty people were killed in Borno state in Nigeria over the weekend when Boko Haram fighters allegedly attacked two villages in the state (DailyTrust).

CFR's John Campbell explains some of Boko Haram's tactics in this blog post.



EU Tempers Growth Forecasts

The European Commission said the currency bloc reached a "turning point" in its recovery, but it cut its growth projection to 1.1 percent in 2014 from the 1.2 percent forecast reached in May (BBC).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the economic crisis in the eurozone.

RUSSIA: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the jailed punk rock singer who has not been seen in two weeks, is reportedly en route to a new detention facility, possibly in Siberia (Telegraph).



Americans Vote in Local Elections

Voters will head to the polls in the United States to cast ballots for two governors, several mayors, and some local issues on Tuesday, but insights into the nation's main national debates, health care and government spending, won't be gleaned from these elections (AP).

UNITED STATES: Billionaire Steven A. Cohen's hedge fund agreed to plead guilty to securities fraud, pay a record $1.8 billion fine, and shutter its investment advisory business (Bloomberg).



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