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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
January 24, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Gulf States Quit Syria Mission

Saudi Arabia and its partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council withdrew from the Arab League's monitoring mission (Reuters) in Syria after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused to step down and end a ten-month-old crackdown on anti-government protesters and opposition forces. The Arab League--which deployed monitors in Syria to oversee implementation of an agreed upon peace plan--will meet today to determine whether the body will abandon the mission altogether. Syrian officials, meanwhile, have accused the Arab League of implementing a foreign conspiracy (al-Jazeera) against Syria.


"The silver lining in all this is the Arab League's dismal efforts have drawn attention to a conflict that the international community otherwise seems to want to just go away. The Obama administration's high-level inattention towards the bloodshed in Syria is curious, given just how inimical such a posture is to American interests and values," writes CFR's Robert M. Danin on

"The local co-ordination committees condemned the prolongation of the observer mission, pointing out that 795 Syrians had been killed during the first month of its operation. Syria's protesters are on their own, but the league may have given leverage to those who oppose Russia's efforts to keep on arming the Assad regime," argues this Guardian editorial.

"The Iranians aren't giving up on [Assad], and in Moscow Vladimir Putin won't abandon the son of the Soviet Union's favorite Arab tyrant, Hafez Assad. Far from it. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week rejected any talk of new UN sanctions or arms embargo on Syria. He even defended Moscow's right to arm Mr. Assad as he kills more civilians," says this Wall Street Journal editorial.



Chinese Security Forces Fire on Tibetans

Chinese security forces opened fire on Tibetan protesters in China's western Sichuan province (NYT), near the border with Tibet, killing at least one person and wounding thirty-two.

MYANMAR: The European Union said it would ease some sanctions on Myanmar (WSJ)--including lifting visa bans on the country's top political leaders--in order to reward a series of democratic reforms implemented by the military-backed civilian government over the past few months.



U.S. Rejects Pakistan's Claim on Cross-Border Raid

The Pentagon rejected elements of a Pakistani probe into NATO airstrikes (AFP) along the Afghan border in November that killed twenty-four Pakistani soldiers, including allegations that it was an "unprovoked attack" by NATO forces. In turn, Pakistan refused to shoulder any of the blame for the incident.

Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country with this CFR Crisis Guide.

INDIA: A planned video address by UK-based author Salman Rushdie to the Jaipur Literary Festival in India was canceled, amid threats of violent protests (BBC) by Muslim activists demonstrating against Rushdie's book, The Satanic Verses.



Egyptian Parliament Chooses Speaker

Egypt's first democratically-elected parliament in six decades held its opening session Monday, choosing the Muslim Brotherhood's Saad el-Katatni (NYT) as its speaker.

With Islamists gaining the most seats in Egypt's parliament, CFR's Steven A. Cook spells out challenges in the transition process, including the writing of a new constitution, in this interview.



Boko Haram Killings on the Rise

Human Rights Watch reported that Nigeria's Islamist rebel group Boko Haram has killed at least 935 people (Reuters) since 2009, 250 of which were murdered in January of this year.

Widening violence by Nigeria's Boko Haram has caused concerns about its possible links to international terrorist groups, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

SOUTH SUDAN: The recently-independent country instructed its oil companies to shut down production (M&G) within two weeks, potentially disrupting the world's oil supply. South Sudan alleges that neighboring Sudan stole $815 million of its oil, which is pumped through Sudan's pipelines.

With oil supplies tight, regions most vulnerable to oil supply disruptions present a significant economic concern, explains this CFR Backgrounder.



Finance Ministers Reject Offer by Greek Private Creditors

Eurozone finance ministers rejected an offer by the Greek government's private bondholders (Telegraph) over a write down on Greek debt--part of a second EU bailout agreed on last year--because the interest rates on new bonds would allegedly be too high.

Policymakers and market actors are increasingly concerned about a disorderly Greek default, while many analysts question the wisdom of Germany's strict austerity approach to the escalating eurozone sovereign debt crisis, explains this CFR Analysis Brief.

TURKEY: The government threatened to sever diplomatic relations with France (DeutscheWelle) after the French Senate passed a bill that would make it illegal to deny that the 1915-1917 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks was genocide.



Caribbean Forum Backs Falklands

At the Seventh Ministerial United Kingdom-Caribbean Forum in Grenada, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Caribbean counterparts agreed to the Falkland Islands' right to self determination (MercoPress), amid mounting tension between Argentina and the UK over the British territory.

MEXICO: Soldiers killed a wanted regional leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel (AP), Luis Alberto Cabrera Sarabia, during a raid in the northern state of Durango. Eleven other alleged cartel members were arrested.

Since 2006, the Mexican government has been embroiled in a bloody drug war, which has failed to significantly curb trafficking. This Backgrounder looks at Mexico's eradication efforts, along with U.S. policy options for one of its most important regional allies.



Congress Preparing to Fund FAA

The U.S. House of Representatives is preparing to consider legislation that would fund the Federal Aviation Administration (WSJ) in the short-term, a move that industry insiders say could set the stage for longer term agency funding. Progress on the issue comes as lawmakers were able to reach a compromise last week on controversial labor provisions.

COMPETITIVENESS: The rise of "state capitalism" in emerging markets like China and Brazil has generated much debate over the sustainability of the model and whether the United States can compete effectively. This article from the Economist looks at the trend (state-backed firms represented one-third of the emerging world's FDI in 2003-10) and its implications for the world.

Renewing America is a special CFR project focused on the domestic underpinnings of U.S. global competitiveness, including the debt and deficit, infrastructure, education, innovation, trade, and corporate regulation and taxes.



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