Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Syrian security forces fought opposition fighters outside Damascus (WSJ) for the third day on Sunday as the government sought to maintain control over the capital's suburbs. At least sixteen people were killed. The nearly eleven-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has become increasingly militant as Syrian soldiers continue to defect from the military to join the dissident Free Syrian Army, which is now working in conjunction with the opposition Syrian National Council.
The Arab League suspended its peace monitoring mission toSyriaamid the violence, putting renewed pressure on the United Nations Security Council to take a stronger stand on the conflict.
"Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, where popular uprisings toppled longtime rulers Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, the Syrian army has stayed largely loyal to Assad. The number of soldiers defecting to the opposition appears to be increasing, but so far, mostly low-ranking officers and conscripts have turned their weapons against their former comrades," writes al Jazeera's Cajsa Wikstrom.
"The security forces are dominated by members of the Alawite sect. The battered Sunni majority has on occasion taken indiscriminate revenge, although many activists have shown remarkable patience and remained peaceful in the face of the regime's onslaught. But a growing number are viewing an armed struggle as the only way out," notes the Economist.
"There are a number of things that can be done, short of military intervention, to increase the pressure on Bashar al-Assad, isolate his regime internationally, weaken his base of support in Syria, and help begin to prepare the environment for a post-Assad Syria," writes CFR's Robert M. Danin at CNN.com.
Suu Kyi Calls for Amending Constitution
Myanmar's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, called for amending the country's 2008 constitution in order to curb the powers of the military (Reuters). Suu Kyi is set to run for a parliamentary seat in by-elections in April.
In a meeting conducted via video conference with CFR, Aung San Suu Kyi discusses recent changes in Myanmar, her decision to rejoin the political system, and Myanmar-U.S. relations.
CHINA: Sudanese troops rescued fourteen out of twenty-nine Chinese workers who were abducted (BBC) by rebels inSudan'sSouth Kordofan state over the weekend.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Taliban Says Talks with U.S. Started
Taliban officials have started meeting with U.S. representatives in Qatar as part of preliminary discussions (NYT) over finding a negotiated solution to the war in Afghanistan, former Taliban officials said.U.S. officials did not deny that meetings between the two sides were taking place.
As the United States continues to pursue peace talks with Afghanistan's Taliban as a means to secure stability, Middle East expert Bruce Riedel discusses the challenges faced by the Obama administration, including its ongoing tensions with Pakistan, in this CFR Interview.
KAZAKHSTAN: A court sentenced three opposition activists (al-Jazeera) to more than two weeks in prison for holding a rally protesting the government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Hundreds of protesters joined in the Almaty demonstration over the weekend.
Hamas Leader Visits Jordan
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal traveled to Jordanto meet with King Abdullah in his first official visit since being expelled from the country in 1999. The meeting comes amid speculation that Hamas is looking to move its base from Damascus (Telegraph).
AU Summit Underway
Benin's president, Thomas Boni Yayi, took over as rotating head of the African Union. A two-day summit of the fifty-four-nation bloc in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has centered on mounting tensions between Sudan and South Sudan (SAPA/AFP) over oil and borders.
SENEGAL: The Constitutional Council confirmed that President Abdoulaye Wade can run for a third term (BBC), while blocking a number of opposition candidates from standing in February's election.
EU Leaders Meet in Brussels
EU heads of state will discuss the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis at a summit in Brussels, where the focus of the talks is expected to shift from austerity to "growth-friendly consolidation and job-friendly growth" (NYT). The leaders will also advance plans for a new European fiscal compact.
Political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos focused on the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis, with some cautioning that Germany is not doing enough to resolve the crisis and facilitate growth, explains this CFR Analysis Brief.
FRANCE: French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced plans for a financial transactions tax (Guardian), which he said would come into effect in August regardless of whether the rest of the EU adopts the measure.
Castro Calls for Term Limits
Cuban president Raul Castro called for term limits of ten years (al-Jazeera) for high-ranking political officials–including himself–while defending one-party rule at a Communist Party conference in Havana.
VENEZUELA: President Hugo Chavez threatened to nationalize the country's banks (Bloomberg) if they fail to provide $9.31 billion in loans for government-backed agriculture projects.
Romney Would Add to Military
At a campaign stop in military-rich Pensacola, Florida, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced that he would boost the size of the military (Pensacola News Journal), in contrast to President Obama's proposal to cut the military by 100,000 troops. "I would take the exact opposite course, and I would add 100,000 active-duty personnel to our military," Romney said.
In an appearance on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul said he would reassess the United States' aggressive approach to Iran, though he agreed that Iran should not have nuclear weapons. "I always think that the biggest danger is our overreaction," Paul said.
[Editor's Note: Click here for more CFR 2012 campaign resources, which examine the foreign policy and national security dimensions of the presidential race.]