Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The United Nations and the Arab League appointed former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to be a joint special envoy on Syria. Annan has been charged with finding an "inclusive political solution" (al-Jazeera) to the Syrian regime's deadly year-long crackdown on anti-government protesters and opposition forces. The decision comes as diplomats from more than sixty countries are meeting in Tunis for a "Friends of Syria" conference, which is expected to call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to cease all violence and allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid. Both the opposition Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Committee are participating in the talks.
"Unlike in Libya, Russia's support of Assad has until now seemed solid. And unlike the Libyan rebels last year, several Syrian opposition figures say they oppose Western military intervention. The U.S., European and Arab diplomats converging on Tunis for Friday's meetings are instead focused on tightening Western sanctions and increasing their support for opposition groups," writes TIME's Vivienne Walt.
"Tunisia's approach to the Syrian uprising is also a sign of a more self-confident country seeking to reposition itself overseas as well as at home. With Syria facing a long, grim battle ahead, Egypt's revolution only half-complete, and Libya too preoccupied with internal strife to play much of a regional role, Tunisia is slowly starting to flex its modest but newly democratic muscles," writes Alex Warren on ForeignPolicy.com.
"Western powers will need to start preparing the groundwork for backing their diplomatic carrots with increased sticks. This means that the policy, reiterated yet again last week by NATO secretary general Anders Rasmussen, rejecting force or assistance with UN-mandated humanitarian assistance, must be reversed," writes CFR's Robert Danin on his blog "Middle East Matters."
Rudd to Challenge Gillard for Australian Labor LeadershipPACIFIC RIM
Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, ousted by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2010, will challenge Gillard in a Labor party leadership ballot (Australian) on Monday. Rudd said he wanted to "finish the job" the Australian people elected him to do in 2007. Rudd resigned as Gillard's foreign minister this past week.
JAPAN: The U.S. Treasury Department announced a freeze on U.S.-owned assets controlled by Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest Japanese organized crime syndicate (WSJ).
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Pakistan Urges Taliban to Engage in Afghan Peace Talks
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called on the Taliban and other Afghan militant groups to participate in peace talks with the Afghan government. Taliban leaders have begun preliminary negotiations with U.S. officials in Qatar (AFP), but have officially refused to negotiate with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government.
Pakistan has emerged as a terrorist sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants, that threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as the region, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
AFGHANISTAN: Hundreds of Afghans protested against the burning of Qurans at the U.S.-run Bagram Air Base, as demonstrators marched on the presidential palace chanting "Death to America" (al-Jazeera). Twelve Afghans and two U.S. soldiers were killed in this week's protests.
U.S. to Try Hezbollah-Linked Prisoner in Iraq
The Obama administration approved military commission charges (NYT) against a Lebanese man and suspected Hezbollah operative accused of killing U.S. troops in Iraq. The U.S. military said it was working with Iraq to have the defendant, Ali Musa Daqduq, transferred to the U.S. military tribunal system.
Deadly Airstrike Hits Somalia's Al-Shabaab Militants
An airstrike hit a convoy of vehicles in southern Somalia, killing six al-Shabaab Islamist rebels (RTT). Neither the United States, which maintains an air base in neighboring Djibouti, nor Kenya, which launched a military operation against al-Shabaab last year, has confirmed or denied involvement in the attack.
Targeted killings have become a central component of U.S. counterterrorism operations around the globe. Despite pointed criticism over transparency and accountability issues, analysts say the controversial practice seems likely to expand in the future, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
MALI: Around 130,000 people have been displaced by fighting (BBC) between the Azawad National Liberation Movement–so-called Tuareg rebels–and government forces in northern Mali, the United Nations said.
Draghi Warns Eurozone Against Backtracking on Austerity
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi warned indebted eurozone countries that there is "no feasible tradeoff" between implementing tough austerity measures (WSJ) and economic structural overhauls, amid concerns that austerity is limiting economic growth for beleaguered euro members.
The eurozone, once seen as a crowning achievement in the decades-long path of European integration, is a buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
SPAIN: Iñaki Urdangarin, the son-in-law of King Juan Carlos (NYT), will appear in court on Saturday–the first royal in modern Spanish history to do so–over allegations that he and his business partners embezzled $7.7 million in public funds.
Manning Charged in WikiLeaks Case
U.S. Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of leaking classified military reports and diplomatic cables to whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, was formally charged with aiding the enemy (Politico) and violating the Espionage Act during the first day of his court martial. Manning, who could face life in prison, deferred entering a plea.
BOLIVIA: Dozens of disabled protesters, who have been marching for higher disability subsidies (Guardian) for the past hundred days, clashed with riot police in the capital of La Paz.
Obama Defends Energy Policy
In a Florida speech, President Barack Obama defended his energy policies (WashPost) and said there are no "quick fixes" for rising gas prices. This CFR Issue Tracker shows GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have made gas prices a campaign issue, calling for more oil exploration and criticizing the delay of the Keystone pipeline.
A recent AP-GfK poll (PDF) looks at how voters rate the importance of major economic, foreign policy, and national security issues. Washington Post blog "Behind the Numbers" uses the issue of Iran to examine the conflicting results of several recent polls about the degree to which U.S. voters support military action against the country.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.