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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 6, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Syrian Forces Increase Attacks on Homs; Diplomacy Fails at UN

The Syrian military stepped up its campaign against anti-government protesters and opposition fighters in the city of Homs on Sunday, killing at least fifty people, activists and witnesses said. The flare-up in violence came a day after Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over an eleven-month crackdown that has seen approximately 6,000 people killed. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called the veto a "moral stain" on the UN (al-Jazeera), and said Europe would press forward with new sanctions while helping the Syrian opposition "structure and organize itself."


"Where much of the Western world now sees a case for human rights and democracy, and where the Soviets in their day would have spotted national liberation movements or the rise of the masses, most observers in Moscow today see geopolitics," writes Dmitri Trenin at

"It is true that the regional and international balance of power continues to play a negative role in ending the suffering of the Syrian people. But the Syrians have now become the most important actors in the flow of events. This would enable them to overcome all external factors in their quest for freedom from tyranny and repression," writes Wadah Khanfar in the Guardian.

"In short, the Syrian dictator is not strong enough to subdue the opposition, but they are not strong enough to oust him--a scenario for continued civil war. So, if Assad is to go he may need a push from the international community," writes Foreign Policy's Daniel Byman.



Chinese Premier Outlines Case for Aiding Eurozone

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao outlined the case to an increasingly skeptical public for using China's extensive foreign exchange reserves to invest in the eurozone's bailout funds. Wen said that stabilizing Europe--China's largest export market--is "also helping ourselves" (WSJ).

MYANMAR: The electoral commission formally granted opposition leader and democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi (al-Jazeera) permission to run in parliamentary by-elections in April.

Myanmar's sudden transition from repressive pariah to potential democracy should be viewed through the lens of a military alarmed by people power revolts and by the country's increasingly shaky economic condition, says CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick in this Expert Brief.



U.S. Targeted Rescuers During Drone Strikes

U.S. drone strikes on suspected militants in Pakistan have also targeted civilian rescuers (NYT) at the scene of an attack and the funerals of killed militants, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism wrote in a new report.

In his blog "Power, Politics, and Preventive Action," CFR's Micah Zenko discusses U.S. President Barack Obama's recent acknowledgement of the covert CIA drone program.

PAKISTAN: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is en route to Qatar to discuss the Afghan peace process (AFP/APP) as the United States begins preliminary contact with the Taliban over a potential negotiated settlement to the war in Afghanistan.



Palestinian Groups Reach Unity Deal

The rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas--which control the West Bank and Gaza Strip territories, respectively--agreed to form an interim unity government led by Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (NYT).

This CFR Crisis Guide provides an in-depth, multimedia look at the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its geopolitical repercussions.



Nigerian Militants Attack Oil Pipeline

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, a militant group in southern Nigeria, attacked and destroyed an oil pipeline run by Italian firm Eni (BBC) in Bayelsa state. MEND signed an amnesty agreement with the Nigerian government in 2009 and has not carried out an attack since 2010.

SUDAN: Rebels said they will "soon" release twenty-nine Chinese workers (Reuters) kidnapped in South Kordofan state last week. Talks between the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North--a group with ties to recently-independent South Sudan--and Chinese officials are ongoing.

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



Merkel, Sarkozy Meet in Paris

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet in Paris today for the fourteenth Franco-German cabinet meeting (WSJ), where they are expected to discuss deepening fiscal cooperation between the eurozone's two largest economies and solutions to the ongoing debt crisis.

GREECE: Leaders in Prime Minister Lucas Papademos's coalition government have yet to agree on new fiscal reforms (Guardian) needed to secure a second EU-IMF bailout, threatening a disorderly default ahead of a March deadline to make loan repayments.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the Euro Group, talks about the need for Greece to push ahead with economic reforms.



Mexico's Ruling Party Chooses Presidential Candidate

Mexico's ruling National Action Party selected Josefina Vazquez Mota to be its candidate in presidential elections to be held on July 1. Vazquez Mota is the first female from a major Mexican political party (al-Jazeera) to stand for the presidency.

FALKLANDS: Nicaragua and several Caribbean countries said they would join a regional agreement to ban ships flying the Falklands flag (MercoPress) from their ports. Argentina claims sovereignty over the British territories.


Campaign 2012

Romney Wins Nevada Caucus

After easily winning the GOP Nevada caucus (CNN) Saturday, Mitt Romney said he would cut the growth of government, reduce the government's share of the total economy, and balance the budget without raising taxes.

In an interview with NBC (Politico) Sunday, President Obama reaffirmed the United States' commitment to Israel's security and said he was working in "lockstep" with Israel to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Obama also said that he doubted that Iran is seeking to carry out attacks in the United States.

Editor's Note: Click here for more CFR 2012 campaign resources, which examine the foreign policy and national security dimensions of the presidential race.



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