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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 17, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Peace Envoy to Visit Syria Wednesday

UN-Arab League for Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is expected to visit Damascus (CNN) later on Wednesday after shuttling between regional neighbors in an attempt to broker a cease-fire in Syria for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha next week. Brahimi has stopped in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, where Iranian officials suggested proposals for political transition, and most recently Lebanon. The Syrian foreign ministry has stated it looks forward to talks with Brahimi on the cease-fire proposal, while the opposition Syrian National Council said it expected the rebel Free Syrian Army to reciprocate any halt to the violence, but that it was up to the government to act first (AFP). The fighting has killed more than 30,000 people as it advances into its nineteen month.


"No one wants western involvement in another Middle Eastern war. The constraints must not be underestimated, including the military challenge of enforcing the zones and neutralising Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons. But it has always been clear that without a credible threat from western nations, the US above all, Assad's murderous machine will not stop," says an editorial from the Financial Times.

"The question that must be asked here is: Will the Russians have interests in this new Middle East or not? They have chosen the worst paths to seek a return to the Middle East, namely by choosing to support the worst regime, and more than this, a regime that has little chance of survival. In the past, the Russians were welcome as allies and friends on the region's chessboard i.e. in Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Southern Yemen and Algeria. However it seems that their alliance with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah has placed them in a tight corner, and this will only serve to push more regional governments and nations towards the West, not the opposite," writes Abdul Rahman al-Rashed for Al Arabiya.

"Romney had strong words about Syria in his foreign policy address but tepid proposals. There is no substitute for American leadership. If weapons are to be provided, then America ought to organize their distribution. If a no-fly zone is needed, only America can do it. If someone has to create an anti-Assad coalition in the region, then America, not Turkey--the former colonial power, after all--is the one to do it. It was good of Romney to point out Obama's lack of leadership on Syria. It would have been better if he had provided some himself," writes Richard Cohen in the Washington Post.



Chinese Fisherman Dies in Yellow Sea Spat

A Chinese fisherman died after being hit with a rubber bullet shot by South Korean coast guards on Tuesday in the latest of a series of violent clashes (WSJ) between South Korean and Chinese fishing fleets in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea.

AUSTRALIA: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will hold talks on Wednesday with Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on renewing the sale of uranium (Australian) to India for its nuclear power program.



Pakistan, Iran to Pursue Infrastructure Projects

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met with Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Azerbaijan (Dawn) on Tuesday, pledging support on joint projects like the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and electricity transmission lines.

AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban took responsibility for a suicide bomber that drove into a joint Afghan-U.S. base (AFP) in the country's east on Wednesday, wounding at least forty-five Afghan soldiers.



Kuwaiti Protestors Clash With Police

Six people were arrested on Tuesday night after violent clashes occurred between security forces and demonstrators in Kuwait City, protesting what the opposition claims is an attempt by the government to amend the election law (Bloomberg). Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah dissolved parliament on October 7, the third dissolution in less than a year.



Rwanda, Uganda Leading DR Congo Rebels, UN Report Says

UN experts say that Rwanda's defense minister, with the backing of Uganda, is effectively commanding the M23 rebels (BBC) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the insurgents have been fighting the DRC's army since April.

John Campbell discusses Rwanda's Eastern Congo involvement in this CFR blog post.

KENYA: On Wednesday, Kenyan police killed (Reuters) three suspected members of the al-Shabaab militant group, which Kenya has helped fight in Somalia, during a raid in Kenya's turbulent coastal region.



Spain Bailout Decision Within Weeks

Spain, under pressure to allow the European Central Bank to buy its government bonds, said on Wednesday that a decision to ask for rescue money would come within weeks (AP), although the country may opt for a precautionary line of credit in lieu of bailout cash.

FRANCE: French President François Hollande issued a warning (Guardian) to Angela Merkel over austerity on eve of EU summit, warning that France and Germany could stall over deep differences on how to resolve the euro crisis.



Cuba Ends Exit Visa Policy

Cuba will terminate its exit visa requirement as of January 13, allowing citizens to travel freely in a move that could affect U.S. migration policy (MiamiHerald) for Cubans.

CFR's James Lindsay remembers the Bay of Pigs invasion in this CFR video.

LATIN AMERICA: UN Development Program regional director Herlado Muñoz said at a conference in Mexico City that "the State is back" (MercoPress) in Latin America, which, he believes, will lessen inequalities, help establish social policies, and increase inclusion.



Candidates Debate Benghazi, China, Immigration, Amid Domestic Issues

Tuesday's debate between President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney focused heavily on domestic topics, but the subjects of Chinese trade policies and the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi provoked two of the most heated exchanges of the second debate (NYT).

Both President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney have used increasingly tough language on China during the campaign, but analysts predict that based on the experiences of past administrations, either candidate would likely moderate his position if elected (CNN).



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