Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Iran helped Syria to hide its oil exports in order to bypass a U.S. and European embargo, U.S. officials discovered. Syria reportedly shipped crude oil to Iran (WSJ), which was sold on the international market, the profits of which were returned to Damascus.
The United States and the EU imposed sanctions on Syria's lucrative oil exports in the wake of the Assad regime's ongoing crackdown on anti-government activists. U.S. and European officials think that Iran is assisting Syria in its crackdown by providing weapons, training, and intelligence, amid increasing calls for the West to intervene militarily in Syria.
"It is also hard to ignore the possibility that bringing down Assad would advance the long-standing American goal of isolating Iran. Any post-Assad government in Damascus would not likely look to Iran for support, but instead to Turkey and Saudi Arabia. That would be a net benefit for Washington and others looking to limit Iran's influence in the Arab world," writes CFR's Steven A. Cook on TheAtlantic.com.
"The moral outrage at the depredations of Assad's forces, as well as the fevered hopes of those hoping to change the region's strategic equation by bringing down Iran's main Arab ally are not enough, any more than hope is a plan. Military intervention in Syria has little prospect of success, a high risk of disastrous failure, and a near-certainty of escalation," writes Marc Lynch on ForeignPolicy.com.
"The gravest challenge to intervening forces would come not from Assad's conventional defenses but from groups allied to the regime, such as Hezbollah, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, and Iraqi pro-Iranian forces and Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, agents of which are already enlisted or embedded with Assad's feared Fourth Armored Division," writes Michael Weiss on ForeignAffairs.com.
FDI Rises in Indonesia
Foreign direct investment in Indonesia increased by over 20 percent (WSJ) in 2011, a number that is expected to grow following credit rating agency Moody's decision this week to lift the country's sovereign rating back to investment grade.
CHINA: Speaking at a press conference in Washington, D.C., dissident writer Yu Jie (LAT)–who fled to the United States with his family last week–detailed the torture and harassment he endured at the hands of Chinese authorities.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Pakistan to Reopen Afghanistan Routes for NATO
Pakistan is reportedly planning to reopen supply routes to Afghanistan for NATO forces, but will charge tariffs (Reuters). Pakistan had closed the routes in the wake of a NATO cross-border attack that killed twenty-four Pakistani soldiers late last year.
PAKISTAN: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani appeared before the Supreme Court (Dawn) on contempt of court charges for not reopening a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari. Gilani argued that, as president, Zardari had immunity, and the court adjourned the trial until February 1.
Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country with this CFR Crisis Guide.
Arab League's Syria Mission Ends
The Arab League's monitoring mission of a negotiated peace plan in Syria is set to expire today, even as the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues a deadly crackdown (BBC) on anti-government protesters and opposition forces.
Nigerian Police Chief Questioned over Escaped Suspect
The Nigerian government questioned Inspector General of Police Hafiz Ringim over the escape of a suspected member of the Islamist Boko Haram group (al-Jazeera), who was charged with the deadly bombing of a church outside the capital of Abuja on Christmas day.
Widening violence by Boko Haram has caused concerns about its possible links to international terrorist groups, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
SOMALIA: The International Maritime Bureau reported the number of worldwide piracy attacks dropped in 2011, even as hijackings by Somali pirates (SAPA/AP) increased, accounting for 54 percent of global attacks.
Hungary Moves to Avoid EU Legal Action
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told the European Parliament that he will revise controversial laws (DeutscheWelle) giving him greater control over the country's central bank and judiciary, which had prompted the EU to launch legal proceedings against Budapest this week.
ITALY: Prime Minister Mario Monti's government is set to unveil new measures on Friday to make the country's economy more competitive (WSJ), including stores to operate outside regulated times and providing more taxi licenses. The measures are expected to anger Italy's powerful trade unions.
Obama Rejects Keystone Pipeline
U.S. President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada's application for a permit to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico (WashPost). The State Department will allow the company to file a revised route that bypasses an environmentally sensitive area in Nebraska.
CFR's Michael A. Levi outlines "five myths" regarding the Keystone XL pipeline in this Washington Post op-ed.
FALKLAND ISLANDS: British Prime Minister David Cameron accused Argentina of a colonialist attitude (Guardian) toward the Falkland Islands, calling for the islanders' right to self-determination. The islands are a British Overseas Territory.
U.S. Competitiveness Report Cites Business Fears
Harvard Business School professors Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin released a new report (PDF) where business community respondents suggest the root of U.S. competitiveness problems may lie in the country's tax code, political system, K-12 education, macroeconomic policies, legal framework, regulations, infrastructure, and workforce skills.
U.S. CITIES : In a new report, mayors from across the United States have expressed their discontent with Congress (Roll Call) for slow economic recovery efforts and making cuts to programs that benefit cities.
Renewing America is a special CFR project focused on the domestic underpinnings of U.S. global competitiveness, including the debt and deficit, infrastructure, education, innovation, trade, and corporate regulation and taxes.