TOP NEWS: Nat’l Security / Foreign Affairs: July 25, 2012
- Al Qaeda Taking Deadly New Role in Syria Conflict
- Germany backs Spanish austerity plans
- EU Proposes Criminalizing Interest Rates Rigging in LIBOR
- UK Economy Sinks
- Has The South China Sea Reached Boiling Point?
Excerpts and more top stories
SYRIA: AL QAEDA: Al Qaeda Taking Deadly New Role in Syria Conflict
Rod Norland, NY Times – While leaders of the Syrian political and military opposition continue to deny any role for the extremists, Al Qaeda has helped to change the nature of the conflict, injecting the weapon it perfected in Iraq — suicide bombings — into the battle against President Bashar al-Assad with growing frequency.
EUROZONE: GERMANY/SPAIN: Germany backs Spanish austerity plans
Miles Johnson, Quentin Peel, and Peter Spiegel, FT – Germany on Tuesday threw its considerable weight behind the reform and austerity programme of the Spanish government, in the face of a continuing surge in the cost of borrowing for Madrid, and strong protests against its spending cuts.
LIBOR: EU Proposes Criminalizing Rigging of Key Interest Rates in Wake of LIBOR Scandal
AP via Washington Post – The European Union proposed Wednesday to make manipulating key global interest rates a criminal offence. European Commission vice president Viviane Reding said public confidence in the financial sector had nose-dived after the latest revelations about manipulations by banks of key lending rates, such as the London interbank offered rate, or LIBOR.
UK: UK Economy Sinks
Ainsley Thompson and Jason Douglas, WSJ – U.K. economic output collapsed in the second quarter of 2012, official data showed Wednesday, raising questions about the wisdom of Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s austerity drive when the economy remains in recession.
Ray Kwong, Forbes – Now that China has backed up its claim to two million square kilometers of the South China Sea with some PLA muscle, confrontation with its Southeast Asian neighbors with overlapping and competing claims is almost sure to turn ugly.
Andrew E. Kramer, NY Times – On Tuesday, Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, announced that it had begun negotiations on what would be its biggest deal ever: to buy the British oil giant BP’s share of its Russian joint venture. BP estimates that its stake in the venture, TNK-BP, is worth about $30 billion.
RUSSIA: TRADE: US moves closer to Russia trade bill
James Politi and Neil Buckley, FT – The US Congress is set to take a big step towards approving normal trade relations with Russia, brushing off geopolitical tensions to deliver a victory for large US exporters such as Caterpillar and General Electric.
Gordon Fairclough, WSJ – The suicide bombing that killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last week was the work of sophisticated plotters operating stealthily in the Eastern European country for nearly a month before the blast, Bulgaria’s premier said Tuesday.
Emanuele Ottolenghi, Opinion, WSJ – Ordinary Iranians are having to tighten their belts since the European Union’s oil embargo came into force on July 1. The decades of economic mismanagement by Iran’s authoritarian leaders have culminated in five years of increasingly stern sanctions that are crippling Iran’s economy. And notwithstanding the regime’s defiant dismissal of their impact, sanctions have left many Iranian families with empty bank accounts and hollow stomachs.
IRAQ: Iraqi Distress Signals
WSJ, Opinion – Meanwhile, back in Iraq. As Syria’s civil war worsens and the U.S. watches mostly from the sidelines, violence is escalating again in another Middle East country from which President Obama has disengaged.
TAJIKISTAN: Dozens Killed in Tajikistan Battle
Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal – Heavy fighting erupted in the Tajikistan city of Khorog after central government forces confronted local commanders, with dozens of people reported dead in some of the worst violence in the former Soviet republic since its civil war ended in 1997.
Yahia H. Zoubir, Foreign Affairs – The military campaign against Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime has been hailed a success. But all the celebration has covered up a worrying trend. The unrest surrounding Qaddafi’s last months is now reverberating throughout North Africa and the Sahel — a phenomenon that might be called Qaddafi’s spawn.
Vibhuti Agarwal, WSJ – Communal violence in India’s northeastern state of Assam escalated Wednesday, with nine people killed in clashes which have forced tens of thousands of people to flee to government-protected relief camps.
Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, WSJ – China’s central bank is starting to guide the yuan downward against the dollar after two years of trying to boost its value, reflecting concern in Beijing over China’s slowing economy and risking a political fight with the U.S. The People’s Bank of China guided the Chinese currency to its weakest level of the year on Wednesday against the U.S. dollar, the third straight day of a push to bring down the yuan’s value. Overall, the yuan has fallen 1.1% against the dollar this year after rising 4.7% against the U.S. currency last year. PBOC didn’t respond to requests for comment, and it isn’t clear whether the trend will continue in coming days and weeks.
Chico Harlan, Washington Post – Japan posted its biggest first-half trade deficit on record, according to government figures released Wednesday, highlighting the economic consequences as this nuclear-averse country imports fossil fuels to meet its energy needs.
Craig Whitlock, Washington Post – The skies over Somalia have become so congested with drones that the unmanned aircraft pose a danger to air traffic and potentially violate a long-standing arms embargo against the war-torn country, according to United Nations officials.
Kelly Slivka, NY Times – In a scant four days this month, the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet melted to an extent not witnessed in 30 years of satellite observations, NASA reported on Tuesday.
Nathan Hodge, WSJ – Shindand Air Base has an 8,000-foot runway, a gleaming new headquarters complex and a cadre of motivated Afghan pilot candidates. Because of the way Washington operates, however, it lacks warplanes.
CHINA: SOUTH KOREA: South Korean Activist Says He Was Tortured in China
Choe Sang-Hun, NY Times – A South Korean advocate for democracy in North Korea claimed on Wednesday that he was tortured by Chinese state security agents during his three-month detention in China.
Reuters – Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi addressed Myanmar’s parliament for the first time on Wednesday to support calls by a ruling party lawmaker for new laws to protect the country’s many ethnic minority groups.
Chris Wimpress, Huffington Post – Gay Marriage will be made legal in Scotland, the SNP government announced on Wednesday morning, after the Scottish government finally agreed the framework for legislation. The Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement a week later than expected, after the Cabinet failed to hammer out the details at a meeting last Tuesday.
SOUTH AFRICA: Growing Pains Strain South Africa
Patrick McGroarty, WSJ – The World Bank lowered its growth forecast for South Africa, saying the continent’s largest economy faces serious economic headwinds as Europe’s debt crisis persists and China’s growth slows
NORTH KOREA: North Korean Leader Marries
Choe Sang-Hun, NY Times – North Korea’s state-run news media announced on Wednesday that its young leader Kim Jong-un had married, and identified his wife as Ri Sol-ju.
More Syria News:
Neil MacFarquhar, NY Times – The Syrian government today sent thousands of troops from northwestern Idlib province toward the commercial capital of Aleppo, following days of clashes there between government and opposition forces. The government has launched offensives to crush rebel advances in both Damascus and Aleppo, which have been the main strongholds of President Bashar al-Assad throughout the sixteen-month anti-government uprising. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday called on the international community to work “closely with the opposition” to create a “safe haven inside Syria” as a base for its actions against the Assad regime.
Babak Dehghanpisheh, Washington Post – Syrian warplanes bombed the nation’s largest city Tuesday, activists said, a dramatic escalation in the 16-month uprising and a stark sign of the government’s growing desperation as it tries to reverse the recent momentum of rebel forces.
SYRIA: TURKEY: Turkey blocks trade with Syria as fierce fighting convulses Aleppo
AP via Washington Post – Turkey sealed its border with Syria to trucks on Wednesday, effectively cutting off a trade relationship once worth almost $3 billion with the embattled nation, as regime forces fought to evict rebels from the country’s largest city.
SYRIA: Syria Is Iraq
Thomas L. Friedman, Opinion, NY Times – Lord knows I am rooting for the opposition forces in Syria to quickly prevail on their own and turn out to be as democratically inclined as we hope. But the chances of this best-of-all-possible outcomes is low. That’s because Syria is a lot like Iraq. Indeed, Syria is Iraq’s twin — a multi-sectarian, minority-ruled dictatorship that was held together by an iron fist under Baathist ideology.
Tony Karon, TIME – “That’s why even if Assad were willing to go–and there’s no sign that he is–those who have fought for his regime and now feel their backs to the wall are likely to remain armed, organized and willing to defend their turf at all costs. But a triumphant Sunni rebellion that has buried many thousands of ‘martyrs’ would not tolerate armed enclaves of regime supporters in its midst. It’s quite conceivable that a messy sectarian war will rage long after Assad loses meaningful control of Syria as a nation-state,” writes TIME’s Tony Karon.
Andrew Tabler, Foreign Policy “The Assad regime is mired in a grinding conflict with the Syrian opposition, in which it is steadily losing control, as the July 18 bombing in the heart of Damascus shows. Furthermore, a number of massacres by Alawite forces in Sunni villages around the cities of Homs and Hama indicate that Alawites and the regime they dominate may be attempting to clear Sunni villages in order to set up a rump Alawite enclave in their historic homeland along the Syrian coast in the event of regime collapse” writes Andrew Tabler for ForeignPolicy.com.
Economist – “The regime’s escalation of violence has produced a backlash against it. The influx of refugees into Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s second city, has spread awareness of the regime’s brutality even among households that had long turned a blind eye to the suffering caused, according to the government’s stubborn account, by ‘terrorists,’” says the Economist.
More Eurozone News:
EUROZONE: SPAIN: Politics is adding to Spanish woes
FT, Opinion – Economic mismanagement is not the basis of the latest bond market panic; political mismanagement is. Mr Rajoy’s Partido Popular won the last election with a landslide and a mandate for reform. That strength has eroded as cacophonous messages, a fumbled political approach to austerity, and unfair impacts of bank collapses increasingly alienate voters, the regions, foreign governments and global investors. If Mr Rajoy does not soon regain markets’ confidence in his political leadership, it may be lost forever.
EUROZONE: GREECE: Euro’s Medicine May Be Making Greece’s Symptoms Worse
Rachel Donadio and Suzanne Daley, NY Times – Only a month after Greece installed a new government, the country is facing renewed peril. Its official lenders are signaling a growing reluctance to keep paying the bills of the nearly bankrupt nation, even as the government is seeking more leniency on the terms of its multibillion-euro bailout.
EUROZONE: ITALY: Rome Orders Sicily Into Fiscal Rehabilitation
Stacy Meichtry, WSJ – Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is stepping up pressure on Sicily to tighten its spending as the government seeks to stave off any prospect that the island, one of Italy’s poorest regions, risks insolvency.
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