January 30th, 2012
09:33 AM ET

Roundup: Syrian forces fight rebels near Damascus

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.

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"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.



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.


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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.


Campaign 2012

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.]

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Topics: Daily Roundup • Syria

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. olumide lincoln moses

    The syrian crisis is one of great concern first,the AL has failed in its part to resolve the issue while the russians refuses a european plan, the UN must come in to find a lasting solution as the crisis further deteriorates. Innocent protesters are dying on daily basis this is the time to act and it must be now, the syrian opposition council needs support the US must back opposition for democracy to thrive or is it the outcome of Egypt in terms of who won majority seats baffles the US.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:00 am | Reply
    • Alex

      Rehmat,Norway has wkreod hard in effort to achieve justice for the Palestinians. Latest reports have Norway supporting the UN resolution on independence.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Of course Assad's regime forces have to defend the capital. They have regained control in some suburbs and make house-to-house arrests, but face stiff resistence in some pockets. Assad can't deploy his forces to everywhere to stem defiance of the protesters. In some regions the armed insurrection has gained momentum.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:40 am | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    Ron Paul was right about the danger of bellicose rhetorics against Iran from the other fellow candidates, "I always think that the biggest danger is our overreaction," .

    January 30, 2012 at 10:53 am | Reply
    • George Patton

      Thank you, j. von hettlingen. I totally agree. We need Rep. Ron Paul in the White House but unfortunately, due to the very ignorance of the general public, he won't be nominated.

      January 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Reply
  4. Andrew Knee

    It is interesting to see how countries that have sidelined themselves from the mainstream through the failure to establish the rule of law and some kind of democracy, always react the same way on the global stage. They resort to outrageous statements and sometimes outrageous actions. The Russian Federations' blockage of any meaningful action on Syria is one example. The DPRK's and Iran's "negotations" on nuclear matters provide others.

    They crave the attention I suppose, like a spoiled child among adults.

    January 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Reply
    • Michelle

      Clint,FYI lkined the pbs.com Frontline report (in which Mousavian says the US apparently will accept Iranian production of LEU, but France won't), at 1:38pm.

      February 12, 2012 at 2:15 am | Reply
  5. icigo

    BS"DGreat aclirte. But Reut, you are inadvertently feeding the trolls by letting that comment through. That is no terror supporter, that is a teen looking for attention.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Reply

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