Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Hundreds of Afghans demonstrated on Thursday for the third consecutive day against the burning of Qurans at the U.S.-run Bagram Air Base (NYT) north of Kabul. The protests today left at least six Afghans dead and fifty-five wounded after clashes with Afghan and NATO security forces. A man dressed in an Afghan military uniform fired on coalition forces, killing two NATO soldiers. Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on protesters to keep demonstrations non-violent, even as some members of parliament urged Afghans to take up arms against U.S. "invaders." Meanwhile, President Barack Obama apologized for the Quran burnings in a letter to Karzai.
"Maybe we know that we're not there as crusaders or to wage war on Islam. But as long as we are there, a bag of books sent to a dumpster by mistake can make for a very big fire. (Non-symbolic, and unfixable disasters, like the killing of children in a drone strike, do so even more.) We keep saying that we are in Afghanistan to help. Burning a Quran isn't helping," writes the New Yorker's Amy Davidson.
"In the West, we bend over backwards to express cultural sensitivities that the most hardened of Muslim militants or the most ordinary of Muslims don't even practice. When militants firebomb mosques and plant suicide bombers in mosque congregations, they don't apologize for the Qurans that burn and smolder in the aftermath of their attacks," writes Asra Q. Nomani at the Daily Beast.
North Korea, U.S. Reopen Nuclear Talks
U.S. and North Korean diplomats met in Beijing for "exploratory talks" (Yonhap) over North Korea's nuclear weapons program–the first since the death of longtime leader Kim Jong-il in December–to pave the way toward the resumption of official six-party negotiations.
In the CFR blog "Asia Unbound," Scott Snyder outlines what to expect from the latest round of U.S.-North Korea talks.
AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister Julia Gillard called for a Labor party leadership ballot (Australian) a day after Kevin Rudd, whom Gillard ousted as prime minister in June 2010, resigned as her foreign minister on a trip to Washington.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Deadly Car Bombing in Northern Pakistan
A car bomb exploded at a bus stop in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar, killing twelve people and injuring at least thirty-two (AFP). Police are investigating whether a suicide bomber was involved in the attack.
Deadly Attacks Across Iraq
A series of coordinated bombings and shootings in Baghdad and eleven other Iraqi cities killed 50 people and wounded at least 225 (WSJ). Al-Qaeda militants are considered responsible for the attacks.
SYRIA: A United Nations panel drew up a list of Syrian government officials and army officers deemed responsible for human rights violations (BBC) in the Syrian regime's nearly year-long crackdown on anti-government protesters, even as forces continued a deadly assault on the city of Homs.
As the debate over intervention or arming the opposition grows amid continuing violence in Syria, four CFR experts offer their recommendations on how Washington should respond to the crisis in this Expert Roundup.
Britain Hosts International Conference on Somalia
World leaders and diplomats are meeting in London today to discuss international efforts to combat terrorism, piracy, and famine (al-Jazeera) in war-torn Somalia. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for the establishment of a stable central government in Mogadishu.
SOUTH SUDAN: The Chinese foreign ministry called on the South Sudanese government and Chinese oil firms to "put an end to misunderstandings" (Reuters). Juba, which accuses Chinese firms of helping Sudan steal its oil, expelled the head of Chinese-Malaysian oil consortium Petrodar earlier this week.
China has increased its economic ties with Africa as it seeks to fulfill its growing energy demands. But China's way of doing business has prompted international criticism, even as its policy of noninterference faces new challenges, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
Tens of Thousands Rally for Putin
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin addressed a rally of more than 100,000 at a stadium in central Moscow, calling for support in the March 4 presidential election (RFE/RL). Putin vowed to limit foreign interference in Russia.
The New Yorker's David Remnick examines the effectiveness of Russian resistance to Putin's next presidency in this CFR Must Read.
GERMANY: Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at a memorial service honoring the victims of a neo-Nazi terror cell (DerSpiegel) that was discovered last year, saying "indifference has a devastating effect."
Chávez Ships Fuel to Syria
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez directed Venezuela's state oil company (NYT) to ship fuel to Syria twice since December in an apparent effort to prop up embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
COLOMBIA: The air force and national police launched an airstrike in northwest Colombia, killing six FARC guerilla rebels (LAHT), President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed.
Candidates Spar Over Iran at GOP Debate
With a slew of primary contests and caucuses coming up in the next couple of weeks, the four remaining GOP presidential candidates in Arizona debated for the last time before Super Tuesday, touching on a variety of foreign policy issues ranging from foreign aid and defense policy to Iran and immigration. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney agreed that Iran poses a serious nuclear threat that should be addressed.
Prior to the debate, Romney released a tax plan that would cut marginal rates by 20 percent for individuals and broaden the tax base. His proposal also would zero out taxes on income from capital gains, interest, and qualified dividends for families with an annual income below $200,000.
For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.