Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
A fragile cease-fire seems to be holding in Syria, but in defiance of the UN-backed deal, President Bashar al-Assad has failed to pull back troops (Reuters) and heavy artillery from many towns. Opposition activists and Western powers remain highly skeptical of the regime's intentions. Kofi Annan, who helped broker the agreement, is scheduled to update the UN Security Council at 2 p.m. GMT. Western governments are trying to persuade Russia to drop its veto and allow the Council to ratchet up the diplomatic push for Assad's ouster. Annan has proposed a team of about 250 unarmed UN personnel to observe the cease-fire. A Norwegian general who has been in Damascus the past week negotiating plans for a UN peace-keeping mission said he was "cautiously optimistic" on the prospect.
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"The regime of President Bashar al-Assad is still in power and seems fairly well entrenched in the sense that the military is willing to support it. As long as that's the case, it's hard to see things changing. The one thing that could make a real difference is if there were a more unified and concerted pressure from the international community, which would mean that Russia and China would have to stop protecting Assad," says Tamara Cofman Wittes, Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
On ForeignPolicy.com, Steven Walt discusses whether the West should arm the Syrian opposition, and the implications of a post-Assad Syria: "The composition of a post-Assad state in Syria is anyone's guess, but there are plenty of contenders for power who are wary of the West in general and the U.S. in particular. A post-Assad Syria would still be buffeted by its neighbors and other interested parties, especially if outsider powers are supporting different factions. And the greater the level of force needed to topple him, the harder it will be to put Syria back together afterward."
Philippines Pulls Warship From Standoff With China
The Philippines has withdrawn its largest warship from the scene of a naval standoff with China in the South China Sea (BBC). Both countries claim the shallow waters off of the Philippines' northwest coast. Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said diplomacy was being sought to resolve the issue.
Given the growing importance of the U.S.-China relationship and the Asia-Pacific region to the global economy, the United States has a major interest in preventing the disputes in the South China Sea from escalating militarily. This CFR Contingency Planning Memo examines the issue.
NORTH KOREA: The first day of the five-day window proceeded without a North Korean rocket launch (CNN), as the United States and its allies in region wait with anxiety. Pyongyang said it will launch its controversial rocket sometime between today and Monday, between 7 a.m. and noon.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Kashmir to Enter India-Pakistan Peace Talks
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said his country is willing to discuss the disputed region of Kashmir as part of peace talks with Pakistan. In turn, Mathai emphasized that Islamabad must take firm action against militants that target India.
AFGHANISTAN: President Hamid Karzai is considering whether to host the next presidential election (AP), currently scheduled for 2014, a year early to reduce the pressure on Afghanistan that may increase with the withdrawal of foreign combat troops around the same time.
To Evade Sanctions, Iran Sweetens Oil Deals
In an effort to skirt Western sanctions, Iran is offering advantageous credit terms to boost its oil sales (FT). The marketing ploy comes just days before negotiations are set to begin between Tehran and Western nations over Iran's nuclear program.
Upcoming negotiations are shadowed by Iran's increasing uranium enrichment capabilities. Four nonproliferation experts provide a path for resolving the intensifying nuclear dispute. All agree on the need to address immediate proliferation risks, including halting Iran's accumulation of 20 percent enriched uranium.
Interim President Takes Office in Mali
A new interim president, Dioncounda Traore, assumed office and returned Mali to civilian rule (AP) three weeks after a military junta overthrew the country's democratically elected ruler. Traore is scheduled to lead Mali for just forty days, but analysts say organizing new elections will take longer.
SUDAN: Sudanese aircraft bombed strategic targets in South Sudan (al-Jazeera), as violence between the two recently divided nations entered a third day. The strikes came after the South occupied the oil-rich border town of Heglig, which is internationally recognized as part of Sudan.
Greece to Hold National Elections May 6
Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos asked President Karolos Papoulias to dissolve the parliament and announce the national elections (FT), now set for May 6. Opinion polls indicate the former coalition partners in the center-right and center-left parties may have trouble winning voters angered with the prospect of multi-year austerity.
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.
ITALY: Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is turning from the economy to a focus on corruption in the wake of a recent party-financing scandal (Bloomberg). Among other things, the anti-corruption package will aim to broaden the criminal definition of corruption to include the private sector, and tighten procedures regarding the statute of limitations.
Chavez Returns Home Following Cancer Treatment
President Hugo Chavez returned home to Venezuela (News24) following a third round of radiation treatment in Cuba. Two more are scheduled. The 57-year-old communist strongman vows to overcome his illness and win reelection in October.
MEXICO: Shares of Royal Dutch Shell fell upon news that it was investigating the origin of "a light sheen" of oil in the Gulf of Mexico (BusinessWeek). The firm said there was no indication the oil came from its well, but has deployed an oil-spill response ship and is monitoring the situation with aircraft.
Poll Shows Latin America Losing Faith in Obama
Although President Barack Obama may be counting on this weekend's Summit of the Americas to gather more support from Latino voters (Reuters), a new poll by Gallup shows his job approval rating in Latin America has dropped 10 percentage points since 2009.
Should he be elected, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney plans to issue five executive orders (WashPost) on Inauguration Day–including declaring China a currency manipulator–as well as "five bills for day one."
In an effort to garner support for the "Buffett Rule," a proposed change in tax laws that would set a 30 percent minimum income tax for people earning more than $1 million annually, the Obama campaign website on Wednesday began offering a chance for voters to calculate and compare their tax rates to that of Mitt Romney.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.
Keep fighting Assad. No matter what you do, what you give up, what you provide to the rebels, your enemies will continue to say it isn't enough and they will fight you. They are just asking for some breathing room to re-group and come at you with more arms and men.
Fares Raslan MD
خبر عاجل وهام جدا جدا ::::::
تقوم المخابرات العامة في دمشق بأخذ كميات من الدم الفاسد من المشافي الحكومية الى افرع السجون حيث يتم حقن المعتقل بكمية 5 سم من هذا الدم وعلى اثرها يتوفى وفاة طبيعة /يرجى النشر لجمعيات حقوق الانسان/
By: شبكة اخبار حمص العدية (عاصمة الثورة السورية)
reliable sources from my collegues syrian doctors in syria .
the intelligence services in syria are collecting spoiled blood and injecting forcefully prisioners with 5 ml of it to let them die naturally ...please share to human rights watch and all human organizations around the world ....
also they are sending 50 truks aday since 3 months ago those trucks going to hizboallah south of lebanon , full of weapons , cash, arms, rockets, and some chemical weapons please take a note this is an eye wotness ....why no body is doing any thing to those thugs , war criminal shiia thugs?
There are Muslims envolved, peace won't last long...
Yes, muslims are not meek people and will never be subjugated. They will fight back for their rights. Is this what you were trying to imply @ Greg?
What rights are you fighting for?
What do you think people are trying to take away from you?
islam will never rule the world. Islamic immigration to Western countries is also phenomenally high, and even during this engineered economic depression, they just keep on coming! They are already conquering us through immigration rather than violence!
Russia has been indulging in self-indulation, saying it had put pressure on Assad to abide by Annan's ceasefire plan. Iran opposes any foreign intervention in Syria and insisted that change in Syria should come under the leadership of Assad, which doesn't resonate well with the opposition.
Russia does not care that much about all that ME stuff. It just uses this as an opportunity to make another statement about its renewed international standing. It will not be looking for US and EU "friendship" anymore – but will proceed building independent relations with the rest of the world. And it cannot do it by copyign every US and EU foolish gesture! So here you are...
US and EU are stuck in the past as long as their international policies are concerned. They are for example keep their gibberish about communist Russia... They cannot even see that in the last 20 years Russia has moved from communism into Liberalism and then further to the right – and keeps going! Now even US ultra conservative look like mindless liberals compared....
Russia – keep going, carry on the swing!
Wake up and smell the roses rotten liberals! You not gonna like it! He-he-he.
Indeed, Andrey, Russia can be a great country. It needs loads of people like you to keep going!
please read: SELF-ADULATION......
North Korea has invited a bunch of foreign journalists to the site to witness the launching of a long-range missile which it says will put a satellite in orbit.
If one peels the onion back enough it will become evident that India has also been double crossing the americans in Syria as was the case in Iran. The nexus of evil in the form of Russia and India axis, as pertains to Iran/Syria, needs to be recognized and countered. India has yet not been able to shed its communist skin completely.
Hamid Karzai intends to host the presidential elections next year instead of in 2014 which also sees the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan. That's shrewd, because he could find a way of putting his name forward in the vote in the absence of any obvious successor.
Amid austerity measures in the modern Greece, people now return to the ancient system of barter. It has brought optimism back to those who are hard up and have no cash to spare.
Jane–I spent a year in Saudi Arabia and am certainly no fan of the Saud fmaily nor the Kingdom generally, and its brand of Wahabism specifically–do you have any specific evidence that the Saudis are involved in this? I'm not Jane, but I'll point out that the more than once-a-day diatribes against the cartoons in the Saudi press started after all the pilgrim deaths in (at?) the Hajj. It seems to me a classic case of diverting outrage from the Saudis who can't prevent deaths at the Hajj to those wicked, wicked Danes.
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