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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
January 21, 2014
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Top of the Agenda

UN Rescinds Iran Invitation to Syria Talks

UN chief Ban Ki-moon withdrew a last-minute invitation to Iran to attend peace talks on Syria in Montreux, Switzerland, after objections from the Syrian opposition, the United States, and other allies (Reuters). Iran, for its part, refused to publicly endorse a U.S.-Russian transition plan reached in Geneva in 2012 and affirmed in UN Security Council Resolution 2118. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said there is a "significant" chance he will seek a new term, and dismissed sharing power with his political opponents, whom he deemed as "terrorists" (AFP). Meanwhile, three former prosecutors from the criminal tribunals for Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone examined thousands of Syrian government photographs and files leaked by a defector that they said showed the "systematic killing" of about 11,000 detainees (Guardian).


"To shift the focus of Geneva talks away from core political issues would be a significant mistake. It would continue a process of re-legitimating the Assad regime, further delay accountability to its tens of thousands of victims, and render even less likely the prospects for a political transition in the future. To broaden the agenda will be a vindication of the Assad regime's strategy of diverting attention from Geneva I. It would send a clear signal that the Geneva I framework—already on life support—will be all but dead and buried," writes Steven Heydemann in Foreign Policy.

"If there is one general lesson for the parties meeting in Switzerland that stems from the international community's efforts to knit Bosnia back together, it is of the need for humility. As determined as foreigners may be to resolve conflict, civil war is extraordinarily resistant to outside intervention," writes Philippe Leroux-Martin in the New York Times.

"Obama should announce that the U.S. is committed to a political solution in Syria, and that his government will do whatever it can to bring about such a solution through next week's peace conference and follow-up action. But if a cease-fire has not been achieved in the next three months, the US should work with regional organizations and all friends of the Syrian people to authorize a set of military strikes on Al Qaeda-linked forces and on the killing machine that Assad's government has aimed at civilians," writes Anne-Marie Slaughter for Project Syndicate.


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Pacific Rim

Thailand Imposes State of Emergency

Thailand's government imposed a sixty-day state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces where antigovernment protestors have blocked official buildings to try and force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign (New Straits Times).

CHINA: JPMorgan walked away from a potentially lucrative role in an initial public offering in China due to the U.S. investigation into the bank's hiring of princelings in China (FT).


South and Central Asia

Pakistan Bombs Taliban Militants

Pakistan fighter jets bombed suspected Taliban hideouts in tribal areas along the Afghan border, the first air strikes since Islamabad struck a cease-fire agreement with local Taliban officials in 2007. At least fifteen people died in the strikes, which came in response to a wave of insurgent attacks against security forces (Reuters).

This Council Special Report assesses Afghanistan's prospects after the U.S. military drawdown.

INDIA: Delhi's chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, and members of his cabinet are conducting business on the street after spending the night protesting police tactics (BBC).


Middle East

Turkish Lira Tumbles to Record Low

Turkey's central bank is struggling to stem the slide of the country's currency, which has declined 3.6 percent against the dollar this month, as Ankara deals with the fallout of the U.S. Federal Reserve's plan to withdraw its stimulus and a corruption scandal that hit the Turkish government (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains currency crises in emerging markets.



Central African Republic Appoints Interim President

The National Transitional Council in the Central African Republic voted Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of the capital Bangui, as the country's interim president. Former rebel leader Michel Djotodia resigned last week after failing to end the bloodshed in the country (al-Jazeera).

CFR's John Campbell explains the conflict in the Central African Republic in this video.

SOUTH SUDAN: President Salva Kiir Mayardit criticized the expanded role of United Nations in his troubled country and said the UN should be clear if it intends to "take over South Sudan" (Sudan Tribune).



Another Night of Clashes in Kiev

Antigovernment protestors in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, held their ground through a night of violent street clashes as the police moved to dismantle barricades leading to government offices (AP).

SERBIA: Brussels and Belgrade began their first government-level conference for accession negotiations to the European Union, a process that could last for six years before Serbia becomes an EU member (Deutsche Welle).



Fed May Cut Bond-Buying Program

The U.S. Federal Reserve is on track to reduce its bond-buying program for the second time in six weeks as expectations for strong U.S. growth remain high. A further trimming of the stimulus measure may be announced at the end of the January 28-29 meeting, the last for outgoing chairman Ben Bernanke (WSJ).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the role of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

VENEZUELA: President Nicolás Maduro has called for raising gasoline prices in Venezuela, currently fixed at six cents a gallon, a move that many fear could spur riots and unrest (NYT).



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