TOP NEWS: Nat’l Security / Foreign Affairs: July 27, 2012
- Syria Army Fires On Aleppo Rebels As US Fears Massacre
- UN rights chief fears imminent showdown in Aleppo
- Iran Bolsters Retaliation Capability in Persian Gulf
- Euro-Zone Economy Slowdown Deepens
- Russia Talking to Cuba, Vietnam and Seychelles about Naval Bases
Excerpts and more top stories
Ian Pannell, BBC News – Syrian forces have renewed their assault on the northern city of Aleppo, firing from helicopter gunships on rebel-held areas. The US state department has said it fears Syrian government forces are preparing to carry out a massacre.
SYRIA: UN rights chief worries buildup of Syrian forces could signal imminent showdown in Aleppo
AP via Washington Post – A showdown between rebels and government troops in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, is imminent, the U.N.’s human rights office said Friday, as the Red Cross pulled some of its foreign staff from Damascus out of concern for the safety of its workers.
Tabassum Zakaria, Matt Spetalnick & Andrew Quinn, Reuters, Opinion – In his first year in office, U.S. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seeking a new start to a long-strained relationship. In his third year, Obama demanded that Assad step down. Now, nearing the end of his first term, with a presidential election looming in November, Obama is moving cautiously toward greater support for Syrian rebels, as international diplomatic efforts that had been Obama’s first preference falter.
Economist – As the prospect of the regime’s disintegration looms, so too do worries about Syria’s huge arsenal of chemical and (possibly) biological weapons either being used in some apocalyptic final act or falling into the hands of terrorists.
Joby Warrick, Washington Post – Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines, U.S. and Middle Eastern analysts say.
EUROZONE: Euro-Zone Economy Slowdown Deepens
Paul Hannon, William Horobin, and David Roman, WSJ – The euro-zone economy contracted at a steeper pace in July, with consumer and business confidence weakening as the fiscal and banking crises continued to deepen, according to a measure of activity compiled by the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the Bank of Italy.
Quentin Peel, Financial Times – Even as hundreds of thousands of German tourists head south for their holidays on the front line beaches of the eurozone crisis, the politicians and commentators left behind are indulging in an orgy of speculation about whether Greece can long last as a full participant in the common currency. Markus Söder, finance minister of Bavaria, on Thursday joined a chorus of voices from Germany’s wealthiest federal state to declare his belief that Athens would be forced to leave the eurozone.
EUROZONE: Spanish Unemployment Hits Record High
Miles Johnstone, FT – Spanish unemployment has hit the highest level since the country’s transition to democracy following the Franco dictatorship, as austerity measures taken by a government battling to reduce its budget deficit show little sign of reversing a deepening recession.
Jana Randow and Lukanyo Mnyanda, Bloomberg Opinion – European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has boxed himself into a corner. Spanish and Italian bond markets rallied yesterday as investors cheered Draghi’s signal that the ECB is prepared to intervene to reduce soaring yields. Now he has to deliver, or face deep disappointment on financial markets, analysts said. The risk in doing so is alienating key policy makers on the ECB council, such as Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann. The Bundesbank reiterated its opposition to bond purchases today.
EUROZONE: The flight from Spain
Economist – Spain’s nightmare is a symptom of what is wrong with the entire euro zone. As the months drag on, the crisis is deepening. Europe’s leaders have asked the world to trust that they will do what it takes to save the euro. They have also pleaded for more time to sort out the mess. Their task is indeed immense, but as they disappear to their chateaux and beach villas, trust is draining away and time is not their friend.
EUROZONE: European entrepreneurs – Les misérables
Economist – Europe produces plenty of corner shops, hairdressers and so on. What it doesn’t produce enough of is innovative companies that grow quickly and end up big. In 2003, analysing Europe’s entrepreneurial gap, the European Commission cited a study which showed that during the 1990s, 19% of mid-sized firms in America were classified as fast-growers, compared with an average of just 4% in six European Union countries.
Neelabh Chaturvedi, Emese Bartha & Eamonn Quinn, WSJ – The Irish government returned to the bond markets Thursday after an enforced absence of almost two years, marking an important step in its rehabilitation after its 2010 bailout and providing a rare hint of hope for the euro zone.
EUROZONE: Portugal Outlook Dims, OECD Says
Patricia Kowsmann, WSJ -The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that Portugal risks a worse-than-expected contraction this year and next as the euro-zone crisis worsens and domestic banks reduce lending.
RUSSIA: Russia Talking to Cuba, Vietnam and Seychelles about Naval Bases
AP via Washington Post – Russia is talking to Cuba, Vietnam and the Indian Ocean island country of Seychelles about housing Russian navy ships, the nation’s navy chief said in remarks reported Friday. Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov told the state RIA Novosti news agency that Russia is in talks about setting up maintenance and supply facilities for Russian ships in those countries but wouldn’t give any further details.
Andrew E. Kramer, NYTimes – A Russian blogger and anticorruption activist accused Russia’s chief federal investigator, Aleksandr I. Bastrykin, of secretly owning real estate and other investments in Europe.
Ellen Barry, NY Times – 248 Fetuses abandoned near small Russian town incite national discussion about policing, the grim economic state in Russia’s “rust belt,” and the push for national anti-abortion restrictions.
INTERNATIONAL ARMS TREATY: An Arms Treaty Within Reach
Editorial, NY Times – Proponents should push hard to reach a global treaty aimed at controlling the international trade in conventional weapons before the United Nations conference ends.
CYBERSECURITY: Rise Is Seen in Cyberattacks Targeting U.S. Infrastructure
By David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt – Gen. Keith B. Alexander of the National Security Agency said that the nation was not fully prepared for the attacks on electricity grids, water supplies and other targets.
VENEZUELA/DRUGS: Cocaine’s Flow Is Unchecked in Venezuela
William Neuman, NYTimes – Venezuela’s government has trumpeted one major blow after another against drug traffickers, but a visit to its remote western plains shows that its claims are greatly overstated.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan President Issues Reforms Aimed at Corruption
Alissa J. Rubin, NY Times – The Afghan president released a sweeping set of proposed reforms late Thursday, including a number aimed at stemming the government’s endemic corruption; the proposals touched every ministry, the attorney general’s office and the Supreme Court.
Andrew Jacobs, NYTimes – In formally accusing her in a poisoning death, the government put Gu Kailai in a well-worn Chinese framework: the conniving vixen whose greed derailed her husband’s career.
Alexander Martin, WSJ – The Japanese government said in its annual economic report released Friday that the nation’s economy is headed for a gradual recovery mainly because of reconstruction demand after last year’s earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan.
Simon Mundy, Financial Times – So striking is the resemblance of Kim Jong-eun to his grandfather, Kim Il-sung that wild rumours circulate in Seoul that the young North Korean leader has undergone plastic surgery to achieve it. Now, experts say, Mr Kim appears to be developing a personality cult in the gregarious style developed by the country’s founding leader – and one that contrasts with the closed, militaristic image of his late father, Kim Jong-il.
Emre Perker, WSJ – A semi-presidential system will govern Turkey after the first public elections for the head of state in 2014, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said Thursday, marking the latest attempt to set the stage for a powerful presidency amid stuttering efforts to overhaul the constitution.
Agencies via Al Jazeera – The Congolese army has been fighting rebels in the east of the country for the third day in a row, with clashes reported in villages around the town of Goma, near the country’s border with Rwanda. Soldiers backed by UN helicopter gunships battled rebels around a strategic army garrison near a mountain gorilla reserve in eastern DR Congo, as thousands of people continued to flee a three-month-old rebellion allegedly backed by neighbouring Rwanda.
Adam Entous and Drew Hinshaw, WSJ – The U.S. is considering new steps to counter an emerging haven for al Qaeda militants in Mali, officials said, ranging from working more with local forces to more direct intervention should the U.S. be threatened.
The Common Good publishes an international news digest every weekday, available here.