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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 14, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: UN Rights Chief Criticizes Security Council

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the Security Council's failure to pass a resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's eleven-month crackdown on anti-government protesters and opposition forces had emboldened the regime to launch an "all-out assault" on Homs (al-Jazeera). Syrian troops have allegedly killed more than 500 people in the city over the past ten days.

Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly is expected to consider a non-binding resolution that would back an Arab League plan calling for Assad to hand over power to his vice president, paving the way for the formation of a unity government. The Arab League has also called for a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping mission to Syria. Russia, which vetoed the Security Council measure along with China earlier this month, said it could not support a peacekeeping mission until all sides in Syria cease the violence.


"If anything, liberal interventionists now seem to feel they have the wind at their backs because of the acceptance by the United Nations of the so-called 'responsibility to protect' (R2P) doctrine, which has been widely touted as resolving many of the ethical and operational problems that accompanied previous iterations of humanitarian intervention," writes David Rieff on

"Characteristically, the interventionists aren't holding themselves to higher account; they're blaming President Obama. To them, it's all about his failure to act. But the president is moving sensibly and with due dispatch to restrain Assad's killings. He's squeezing the dictator economically and isolating him diplomatically," writes CFR's Leslie H. Gelb in Newsweek.

"Whereas the vetoed UN resolution explicitly ruled out military intervention in Syria, the Arab League yesterday crossed one of its traditional red lines and paved the way for a possible non-Arab intervention into a fellow Arab state," writes CFR's Robert Danin on his blog, "Middle East Matters."



Former Officials Appeal to China over Iran Sanctions

A bipartisan group of former national security advisers, the Partnership for a Secure America, released an open letter to Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping at the start of his U.S. visit, urging him to support economic sanctions efforts by the United States and EU (NYT) targeting Iran's nuclear program.

CFR's Elizabeth C. Economy discusses Xi's visit to the United States in this China Daily op-ed.

JAPAN: The Bank of Japan said it will expand its asset-purchase program (WSJ) to $838 billion by increasing its purchases of Japanese government bonds, in an effort to tackle deflation and jumpstart the country's weak economy.



New Maldives Leader Pledges Order

Newly installed Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed vowed to restore "peace and order" to the country and form a "fully inclusive" cabinet amid ongoing political unrest (al-Jazeera) following the forced resignation of former president Mohamed Nasheed last week. Nasheed has called for fresh elections.

INDIA: Home Minister P. Chidambaram opened an investigation into a car bomb attack in Delhi (BBC) that targeted the wife of an Israeli envoy to India. Israel blamed Iran for the explosion, as well as an attempted car bombing of Israeli embassy personnel in Georgia on the same day.



Bahraini Forces Clash with Protesters

Bahraini security forces fired tear gas and used stun grenades and shotguns to disperse anti-government protesters who attempted to march on Manama's Pearl Square (al-Jazeera), marking the one-year anniversary since the country's Shia majority began pro-democracy demonstrations against the kingdom's Sunni rulers.

After a year of protests, Arab countries continue to endure the pangs of revolution--some further along the road to democracy than others, explains this CFR Issue Guide.



Watchdog Warns of Piracy off Nigeria

The International Maritime Bureau warned ships to avoid the waters off Nigeria because of a trio of recent pirate attacks, including an ongoing hijacking of a cargo vessel (AFP) that left two crew members dead on Monday. Nigerian authorities reportedly launched an operation to rescue the ship.

NIGERIA: Islamist separatist group Boko Haram said it had killed twelve Nigerian soldiers (Reuters) in an attack in the northeastern town of Maiduguri. The military denied the claim, saying its security forces had killed members of Boko Haram.

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



Moody's Downgrades Six Euro Members

Credit rating agency Moody's downgraded six eurozone countries--Italy, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Malta--due to "growing risks" (DerSpiegel) associated with the eurozone's ongoing sovereign debt crisis. The agency also warned it could strip France, Britain, and Austria of their triple-A ratings.

EU officials contend that U.S.-based rating agencies have accelerated the European sovereign debt crisis, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

EUROPEAN UNION: Europe will be a "main investment destination" for China (WSJ) as it moves to diversify its foreign exchange reserves while also investing further in the EU's bailout funds, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at the fourteenth China-EU summit in Beijing.



Argentina Union to Boycott UK Ships

The Argentine Confederation of Transport Workers said it will boycott ships flying the British flag--or any flag that the "British pirates use"--amid rising tensions between Argentina and the UK over the Falkland Islands (BBC), a British territory in the southern Atlantic over which Argentina claims sovereignty.

BRAZIL: Police officers ended a strike in Rio de Janeiro (AP) calling for wage increases, just days before the start of the world's largest Carnival celebration.


Campaign 2012

Obama Unveils $3.8 Trillion Budget

President Obama unveiled a $3.8 trillion budget Monday that includes budgets cuts (Politico) for as many as six Cabinet-level departments, but also commits tens of billions of dollars to new mandatory spending initiatives and taps savings from the scaled-back military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to fund his domestic agenda.

House Republicans, who currently control the majority, made clear that they would not consider the president's budget proposal (Reuters) as they prepare to battle Democrats on the campaign trail over taxes, spending, and the size of government.

Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.



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