Children killed in Syrian airstrike on school; Uighur terrorist attack on train station in China; UNESCO criticises Australian decision to allow dredging of Great Barrier Reef; 60 percent of eligible voters turn out for Iraqi election; IMF approves $17 billion loan for Ukraine
Top of the Agenda
Dozens Dead in Syrian Airstrike on School
A Syrian government airstrike on a school in the northern city of Aleppo killed as many as forty-seven people, mainly children, activists said (WSJ), while rebels and government forces near Damascus fought for control of a strategic corridor between the Syrian capital and the Lebanese border (Daily Star). Meanwhile, the U.S. government charged that Syria is dragging its feet on chemical weapons disposal as leverage to repurpose facilities and tunnels that the chemical weapons watchdog OPCW insists be destroyed; the deadline for Syria to hand over its chemical stocks passed Sunday, with the OPCW saying Damascus has yet to relinquish 8 percent of its declared arsenal (WaPo). The U.S. State Department published its annual country reports on terrorism on Wednesday, saying that terrorist attacks rose in 2013 as al-Qaeda continued to splinter (Guardian).
"Syria, after more than three years of civil war, is no longer torn by a dramatic, back-and-forth contest between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels, where new advances by either side are frequent. At this point, the government may have the upper hand, but its forces are worn down, heavily dependent on outside assistance and unable to reclaim large sections of the country now controlled by rebels and extremist groups. Instead, it has persisted with a slow, grinding strategy of seizing the territory it can while making life miserable in the areas beyond its reach," writes Ben Hubbard in the New York Times.
"'Realist' foreign policy analysts openly describe Assad as the lesser evil compared to Al-Qaeda-affiliated members of the opposition; others see an advantage in letting all sides fight it out, tying one another down for years. Moreover, the Syrian government appears to be giving up its chemical weapons, as it agreed to do last September. The problem is that if Assad continues to believe he can do anything to his people except gas them, he will exterminate his opponents, slaughtering everyone he captures and punishing entire communities, just as his father, Hafez Assad, did in Hama in 1982," wrtites Anne-Marie Slaughter for Project Syndicate.
"Among the regional cast of characters seeking to terminate the Assad regime—most notably Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar—none is able to lead or coordinate the efforts of all three, and none is willing to see the Syrian opposition as more than a manpower pool of potential employees. Among the European countries willing to do real things to bring about political transition in Syria—France is in the lead—none is able to take charge and coordinate the efforts of key regional powers. No other country can do it: no one besides the United States can 'pull together the resources and rationalize the response' to the palpable challenge to regional peace posed by a murderous, corrupt clan fully supported by Iran and Russia," writes Frederic C. Hof for the Atlantic Council.
Train Station Attacks in China’s Xinjiang Province
Three were killed and seventy-nine injured in a bomb and knife attack at a Xinjiang train station, as President Xi Jinping pledged a "strike first" strategy against terrorism (SCMP). The blast comes as the president wrapped up a four-day tour of the northwestern autonomous province, which is home to China's Muslim-majority Uighur ethnic group.
This Backgrounder explains Uighur separatism and Beijing's response.
AUSTRALIA: The cultural heritage body UNESCO criticized the federal government's decision to allow the dredging of the Great Barrier Reef, and recommended that the reef be placed in 2015 on a list of heritage sites deemed to be "in danger" if Australia does not change course (SMH).
60 percent of eligible voters turn out for Iraqi election
IMF approves $17 billion loan for Ukraine
This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org