Wednesday Roundup: Syria opposition vows to break regime while West mulls sanctions
Bashar al-Assad (Getty images)
April 27th, 2011
08:56 AM ET

Wednesday Roundup: Syria opposition vows to break regime while West mulls sanctions

Overview

- Syrian opposition vows to break the regime; the UK says Bashar al-Assad can redeem himself while sanctions on Syria are being prepped

- Leon Panetta will likely be the new U.S. Secretary of Defense and David Petreaus is likely to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

- Standard and Poor’s sounds a fresh alarm on Japan’s debt

- Pakistan urges Afghanistan to look East for support rebuilding

- Anthony Faiola explains why in Britain, Prince William threatens to eclipse his father, Prince Charles:

Syria Reports

Syrian opposition vows to 'break the regime' (Al Jazeera)

Syrian opposition figures have said their "massive grassroots revolution" will break the regime unless Bashar al-Assad, the president, leads a transition to democracy.

The statement on Wednesday from an umbrella group of opposition activists in Syria and abroad, called the National Initiative for Change, said a democratic transition will "safeguard the nation from falling into a period of violence, chaos and civil war."

"If the Syrian president does not wish to be recorded in history as a leader of this transition period, there is no alternative left for Syrians except to move forward along the same path as did the Tunisians, Egyptians
and Libyans before them," the statement said.

UK says Assad can redeem himself (Guardian)

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said it is not too late for Syria to "do the right thing" by implementing the reforms its people are calling for. EU countries are discussing imposing sanctions on Syria if the regime continues its violent suppression of pro-democracy protests.

Hague said a "major diplomatic effort" was under way to try to persuade the Syrian authorities to go down the right "prong in the fork" to avoid sanctions being imposed. The foreign secretary signalled that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, is still viewed as a potential reformer of his country and, as such, is not being urged to quit – unlike Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

But sanctions on Syria are being prepped (CSM)

The US is weighing a "range of options," including the targeted sanctions, "to show the Syrian government that ... the course it is on is wrong," said Jake Sullivan, State Department director of policy planning, in a briefing with reporters Tuesday.

Despite that, the US has not closed its embassy in Damascus and is "keeping lines of communication open" with senior Syrian government officials, he added. The US will oppose Syria’s election to the Human Rights Council, State Department officials say. But it remains unclear if the US plans to actively undermine Syria’s candidacy.

Other Reports

From a Qaddafi Daughter, a Glimpse Inside the Bunker (NYT)

Aisha el-Qaddafi, the daughter of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, likes to tell her three young children bedtime stories about the afterlife. Now, she says, they are especially appropriate.

“To make them ready,” she said, “because in a time of war you never know when a rocket or a bomb might hit you, and that will be the end.”

In a rare interview at her charitable foundation here, Ms. Qaddafi, 36, a Libyan-trained lawyer who once worked on Saddam Hussein’s legal defense team, offered a glimpse into the fatalistic mind-set of the increasingly isolated family at the core of the battle for Libya, the bloodiest arena in the democratic uprising that is sweeping the region.

Panetta moving to Pentagon and Petraeus to CIA (AP)

Administration sources say President Barack Obama plans this week to name CIA Director Leon Panetta to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Gen. David Petraeus, now running the war in Afghanistan, would take the CIA chief's job.

Gitmo docs: the kids held in Cuba (Miami Herald)

Naqibullah was about 14 years old when U.S. troops detained him in December 2002 at a suspected militant's compound in eastern Afghanistan.

The weapon he held in his hands hadn't been fired, the troops concluded, and he appeared to have been left behind with a group of cooks and errand boys when a local warlord, tipped to the raid, had fled.

Pakistan to Karzai: Drop the U.S. (WSJ)

Pakistan is lobbying Afghanistan's president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan—and its Chinese ally—for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy.

S&P sounds fresh alarm on Japan debt (FT)

Standard & Poor's has downgraded its outlook for Japan’s sovereign debt from “stable” to “negative,” citing concerns that reconstruction costs following the March 11 disaster would increase Japan’s fiscal deficits.

The rating agency cited concerns that the Japanese government would face difficulty providing a clear plan for paying for reconstruction, which S&P estimates as ranging from Y20,000bn ($245bn) to Y50,000bn.

Analyses

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo complicate the story of the more than 1 billion people who are hungry in the world:

The poor often resist the wonderful plans we think up for them because they do not share our faith that those plans work, or work as well as we claim. We shouldn't forget, too, that other things may be more important in their lives than food. Poor people in the developing world spend large amounts on weddings, dowries, and christenings. Part of the reason is probably that they don't want to lose face, when the social custom is to spend a lot on those occasions. In South Africa, poor families often spend so lavishly on funerals that they skimp on food for months afterward.

Philip Zelikow argues that America must regain the initiative abroad:

The revolution in Syria is well under way. The revolution in Libya struggles on. The Middle East is alight, yet most of America’s military commitment, and the political attention associated with it, remains in Afghanistan. Every day that the US worries about events such as the escape of hundreds of painstakingly detained insurgents from an Afghan jail is a day in which America loses the power of initiative elsewhere.

Lester Brown lays out the new geopolitics of food:

Welcome to the new food economics of 2011: Prices are climbing, but the impact is not at all being felt equally. For Americans, who spend less than one-tenth of their income in the supermarket, the soaring food prices we've seen so far this year are an annoyance, not a calamity. But for the planet's poorest 2 billion people, who spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food, these soaring prices may mean going from two meals a day to one. Those who are barely hanging on to the lower rungs of the global economic ladder risk losing their grip entirely. This can contribute - and it has - to revolutions and upheaval.

Anthony Faiola tells us why in Britain, Prince William threatens to eclipse his father, Prince Charles:

Britons are likely to get Charles as king, whether they like it or not. The succession of Charles, who as of last week has spent more time waiting for the crown than any other heir in British history, is enshrined by law and unlikely to be changed. Although Elizabeth may be on Facebook and the Friday wedding may be wired for YouTube, royal experts say the monarchy’s hereditary tradition still stands above the whims of public opinion.

But the popularity gap between father and son is nevertheless hanging over the coming reign of Charles III — a man poised to rank among the most controversial monarchs of recent times.

The Wall Street Journal offers a helpful guide to the Fed chairman’s first Q&A:

"Inflation expectations." If Mr. Bernanke frets about longer-run inflation expectations rising in the face of surging commodity prices, it could signal a hawkish turn for monetary policy and increase the odds that the Fed will boost interest rates earlier than is now expected.

Topics: Development • Japan • Middle East • Pakistan • Syria • Taliban

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