Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Syria's deputy oil minister, Abdo Husameddine, said he was defecting from President Bashar al-Assad's regime and joining the opposition, in a video posted on Youtube today (Guardian). Husameddine cited Assad's "brutal" year-long crackdown on anti-government dissenters, saying he did not want to die "servicing the crimes of this regime" (AP). His announcement came as UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos is visiting the country and meeting with government officials in an effort to pave the way for greater humanitarian aid to the "devastated" city of Homs. Meanwhile, Kofi Annan, the joint UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, cautioned the international community against military intervention in Syria ahead of his arrival there this weekend.
"That is where Kofi Annan comes in. His job is to convince a reluctant Putin that he stands much to gain both in Syria and internationally by working for an end to the violence and a political process that will perforce require the departure of Assad, whose bloodshed has simply robbed him of the legitimacy to continue ruling in Syria," writes CFR's Robert M. Danin in his blog, Middle East Matters.
"Putin would rather 'share' Syria with the United States and the European Union than be left out completely, as is the case with Libya. To do that, one thing has to happen: The Americans and Europeans have to ask for his help, and they have to do so nicely," writes Sami Moubayed for Eurasia Review.
"Unlike Gaddafi's Libya, which disintegrated very quickly, the Ba'athist state continues to function. Assad may, therefore, equate his regime with those of Algeria, Iraq and his father's that survived an uprising," write Chris Phillips for the Guardian.
China Accuses Uighur Militants of Pakistan Ties
Militant separatists from Xinjiang province's large ethnic Uighur Muslim community have numerous links to Pakistan-based militant organizations (Hindu), a senior Chinese official alleged. Beijing has previously accused Uighur separatists of being part of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
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.
MYANMAR: The military-backed civilian government is holding peace talks with rebels (BBC) from the ethnic Kachin community after decades of conflict, part of a larger effort to implement political reforms and facilitate national reconciliation.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
U.S. Investigates Alleged Drug Running in Afghan Air Force
U.S. officials are investigating allegations that some officers in the Afghan Air Force have been transporting narcotics and illegal weapons on air force aircraft throughout Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reports.
INDIA: Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti warned Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to allow two Italian marines, accused of killing two Indian fishermen mistakenly believed to be pirates, to be prosecuted under international law or risk setting a "dangerous precedent" for international anti-piracy missions (AFP).
Hamas Distances Itself From Iran
A senior leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas indicated that the group would not attack Israel (BBC) were it to launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Hamas is a longtime beneficiary of Iranian funding.
This CFR Backgrounder provides a profile of Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian group based in the Gaza Strip.
Video on Ugandan War Crimes Suspect Goes Viral
U.S. non-profit group Invisible Children posted an online video calling for the arrest of Ugandan war crimes suspect Joseph Kony (al-Jazeera), who allegedly forced children to join his rebel Lord's Resistance Army. The video garnered more than fifteen million views.
SOUTH AFRICA: Authorities at the Johannesburg airport deported 125 Nigerian citizens (Reuters) for allegedly carrying fake yellow fever vaccination certificates, prompting a new diplomatic row between the two countries.
Greece Close to Restructuring
More than half of Greece's private bondholders have pledged to participate in a $270.9 billion restructuring (WSJ) ahead of a pivotal deadline tonight. The bond swap is a prerequisite for a new $170 billion EU-IMF Greek bailout that will allow the country to avoid a disorderly default on its debt obligations.
The eurozone, once seen as a crowning achievement in the decades-long path of European integration, is buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed.
THE VATICAN: The online hacking group Anonymous disabled the Vatican's website (Telegraph) on Wednesday, citing its "absurd and anachronistic concepts." The incident came a day after five alleged Anonymous hackers in Britain, Ireland, and the United States were indicted by a U.S. court after one of the group's leaders became an FBI informant.
EU Calls on Argentina to Respect Trade Deals
The EU called on Argentina to respect its international trade commitments following a decision by the Argentinean trade ministry to reportedly boycott imports from the UK (Mercopress). The row comes amid escalating tensions between Argentina and the UK over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory in the South Atlantic.
COLOMBIA: President Juan Manuel Santos persuaded Cuba not to attend an Americas summit (al-Jazeera) in Cartagena next month, averting a potential conflict with the United States. Cuba was suspended from the Organization of American States in 1962.
Candidates Differ on Energy Policy
On Wednesday, President Obama announced $1 billion in tax credits and grants (Guardian) for alternative-energy cars and trucks that would help up to fifteen cities and towns pay for charging stations for electric cars and biofuel pumps.
GOP candidate Mitt Romney, in response to Obama's announcement (LAT), said that U.S. energy policy needs to be geared toward increasing production domestically, including more drilling offshore and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to drilling. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank notes that the Republican National Committee has asked supporters to take up the issue of high gas prices. CFR's Michael Levi's recent blog post looks at how oil prices might affect the election.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy, check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.