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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 2, 2012

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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: U.S., Allies to Aid Syrian Rebels

The United States joined dozens of other countries at the Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul yesterday in agreeing to send communications equipment to Syria's opposition groups (NYT). Arab countries pledged $100 million to opposition fighters, who remain under continued assault by Syrian government forces. The decision to aid the Syrian army defectors, known as the Free Syrian Army, brought the international Friends of Syria coalition closer to military intervention in Syria. The move came as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad apparently failed to implement a peace plan developed by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria.


"Saudi Arabia is emerging as the opposition's treasury and arsenal--raising the prospect of the Syrian civil war turning into a proxy Sunni-Shia conflict between Sunni Saudi Arabia and its arch-enemy, Shia Iran, a long-time backer of the Assads. That's a nightmare scenario which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been working hard to avert," writes Newsweek's Owen Matthews.

"But Syrian security forces have continued firing on civilians in direct contradiction of the Annan plan's terms; it's clear by now that Assad will leave office only if he feels sure that the alternative is a bullet in his head. The real danger is that he will comply with the peace plan just enough to further divide the international community," writes James Traub for

"In Syria, there are more numerous and amorphous opposition groups in play. These groups are populated with elements from Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. This leads to monumental challenges when trying to decide who to support and whether to provide arms," writes CFR Mlitary Fellow Col. Chad Manske for GlobalPost.



Suu Kyi Claims Victory in Myanmar Poll

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi claimed victory in Myanmar's parliamentary by-elections (WSJ) on Sunday. The National League for Democracy apparently won at least forty-three out of forty-four of the seats it contested, including Suu Kyi's in a constituency south of Rangoon.

THAILAND: Militants set off a series of car bombs (al-Jazeera) in the southern cities of Hat Yai and Yala, killing at least 14 people and injuring more than 340.



Pakistan Sentences Bin Laden's Family

A Pakistani court sentenced former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's three widows and two of his daughters to forty-five days in jail and a fine of $114 each for illegal residency. The women, whose sentence began with their arrest on March 3, are expected to be deported in two weeks (BBC).

PAKISTAN: Afghan militants attacked a Pakistani military checkpoint (Dawn) near the Afghan-Pakistani border, killing at least four soldiers this morning. Pakistani forces killed at least fourteen of the militants.

Pakistan has emerged as a terrorist sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants, that threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as the region, explains this CFR Backgrounder.



Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Names Presidential Candidate

In a significant reversal, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood put forward a candidate to stand in Egypt's presidential election in May, the first to be held since longtime leader Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year. The candidate, Khairat al-Shater, is a wealthy businessman and a longtime financial backer (CNN) of the Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood is far removed from al-Qaeda and the supporters of violent jihad, and its rise in Egypt should not be feared, argues CFR's Ed Husain in this Times of London op-ed.



Mali Rebels Capture Timbuktu

Tuareg rebels, or the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, captured Timbuktu in northern Mali, and called for negotiations with the government (al-Jazeera). Meanwhile, Amadou Sanogo, who ousted Mali's president in a coup over a week ago, agreed to reinstate the constitution and hold elections.

NIGERIA: Government troops raided an alleged hideout of Islamist separatist group Boko Haram (SAPA/AFP) in central Kogi state, reportedly killing nine suspected members. A Nigerian soldier and a police officer were also killed in the ensuing clashes.

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



Ukraine May Release Imprisoned Former PM

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych may allow imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to receive urgent medical treatment in Berlin (DerSpiegel). Tymoshenko was sentenced last October to seven years in prison for allegedly abusing her position as prime minister, in a trial criticized by the international community.

RUSSIA: A former city councilman who left Russia's ruling party to run for mayor of the city of Yaroslavl on an anti-corruption platform (WSJ) appeared to win Sunday's election, encouraging the country's nascent protest movement.

Vladimir Putin's reelection as president raises concerns over domestic reforms and relations with Washington. Russia's future will be determined by Putin's handling of opponents and whether opposition forces can build a viable political force, says CFR's Stephen Sestanovich in this CFR Interview.



Argentina, Britain Mark Falklands Anniversary

Argentina and the United Kingdom marked thirty years since Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, prompting a seventy-four-day military conflict (Telegraph) between the two countries that left 255 British and 649 Argentine troops dead. The anniversary came amid heightened Argentinean-British tensions over the sovereignty of the islands, a British overseas territory.

MEXICO: Former president Miguel de la Madrid, who guided Mexico toward a free market economy (NYT) in the 1980s, died yesterday in Mexico City at the age of seventy-seven.


Campaign 2012

Obama-Medvedev Sidebar Still at Play

A spokesperson for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign said the president "should release the notes and transcripts of all his meetings with world leaders" (NationalJournal), amid the ongoing campaign controversy over comments President Obama made to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

On Face the Nation Sunday (CBS), Vice President Joe Biden defended those comments, in which Obama asked for space on missile defense until after the elections, from Romney's extended criticism, saying that the president was simply stating the obvious.

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich (CBS) said that the Obama administration's energy policies are keeping oil prices from dropping in the same way natural gas prices have gone down as U.S. production has risen, discounting the suggestion that turmoil in the Middle East and increased demand from China also factor into pricing.

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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