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Daily Brief: Obama Bolsters U.S. Special Forces Against ISIS in Syria

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April 25, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Obama Bolsters U.S. Special Forces Against ISIS in Syria

U.S. President Barack Obama announced the deployment of up to 250 special forces to Syria in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (VOA), bringing the total number of U.S. troops in the country to about 300. The UN special envoy for Syria unofficially estimated that the five-year civil war has killed 400,000 people (Al Jazeera). Obama announced the deployment ahead of a meeting with UK, German, French, and Italian leaders in Hanover, Germany, where they are scheduled to discuss a U.S.-EU free trade agreement (International Business Times) and security in the Middle East and Ukraine. 


"The increase is part of an overall acceleration in the fight against the Islamic State. Despite a string of what the administration has described as successes — including territory reclaimed from the militants in Iraq and Syria and the severing of supply and communication lines between Islamic State forces in the two countries — some aspects of the conflict have gone more slowly, or have been less successful, than anticipated," writes the Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe, Missy Ryan, and Karen DeYoung.

"Syria has now endured five years of war. We know the figures that illustrate that time passing: as many as 470,000 dead; nearly five million refugees; some six million displaced inside the battered country. The opposition walked out of peace talks in Geneva last week. No one seemed surprised. Those in Syria have little hope. When you live through war for that long, you become accustomed to the misery, the drudgery, to not having water, electricity or medical care," writes Janine di Giovanni in the New York Times.

"Countering this [jihadist] threat will require a vigorous ideological battle against the forces of intolerance and hatred, building on Islam’s history of openness and tolerance. But ideological struggle, on its own, will not be enough. We must also recognize the true origins of the jihadist threat: the conflicts and state failures ranging from West Africa across the wider Middle East to South Asia. It was not jihadism that created today’s crises. On the contrary, bad governance and state failure provided jihadism with the opportunity to flourish," writes Carl Bildt in Project Syndicate.


UN Security Council Condemns North Korean Ballistic Missile Test

The international body called Saturday's submarine missile launch test "another serious violation" of UN resolutions (VOA). Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking with reporters (BBC), dismissed a North Korean offer to suspend its nuclear tests if the United States ended its annual military exercises with South Korea.

CHINA: Lawmakers are conducting a third and possibly final review of a bill that would give police broad powers to oversee foreign NGO activity (Global Times)


Nepal PM Announces Heritage Site Reconstruction on Anniversary of Quake

Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli said work would begin on heritage sites in and near Kathmandu a year after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed nine thousand people and damaged some six hundred historic structures (AP). Nepalese authorities have received criticism for delays in repairing structures and locals' homes despite $4.1 billion pledged in foreign donations for reconstruction.

INDIA: An Indian Home Ministry official confirmed (Indian Express) that the country withdrew a visa issued for the leader of the World Uyghur Congress following protests from China. Dolkun Isa, who lives in Germany, was to speak at a conference organized by the U.S.-based Initiatives for China.

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker explores the Uighur conflict in China.


IMF: Middle East Missed $390 Billion in Oil Revenues in 2015

Middle Eastern countries could forgo up to $150 billion this year due to the global drop in oil prices, according to the International Monetary Fund (WSJ).

YEMEN: Yemeni troops and the Saudi-led coalition fighting in the country announced that they had reclaimed the port city of Mukalla from Al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters on Sunday (Al Jazeera).

This CFR Backgrounder discusses the history of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.


Report: Dim Future for Nigeria's Oil Output

Analysts expect sharp drops in production over the coming decade in oil-rich Nigeria, according to a new report from Wood Mackenzie, an energy consulting group (FT). The pessimistic forecast follows uncertainty over President Muhammadu Buhari's promised reforms in the state oil company.

CFR's Matthew Page argues that Nigeria's reforms of its national oil company will be largely cosmetic in this Quartz article.

ETHIOPIA: Fourteen people died in clashes after an NGO vehicle struck and killed two children in a camp for South Sudanese refugees in western Ethiopia (AFP). Protesters also attacked buildings and vehicles belonging to the UN and Doctors Without Borders.


Right-Wing Party Wins First Round in Austrian Elections

AUSTRIA: A far-right, anti-immigration party won the first round of Austria's presidential elections on Sunday (Guardian). The Freedom Party took 36 percent of the vote (BBC), marking the first time since World War II that candidates from Austria's two main parties did not make the runoff.


Panel Details Mexican Law Enforcement's Role in Student Disappearances

An investigation by international experts implicated military and state and federal police officers in the 2014 disappearance of forty-three students in the city of Iguala (NYT) and refutes government claims that the students were killed by a local drug gang and incinerated in nearby dump. Mexican authorities did not renew the group's mandate to investigate.


WHO: Potential for 'Marked Increase' in Zika

The World Health Organization warned on Monday that it expects a "marked increase" (AFP) in the number of cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the coming months. The international public health organization said that the virus, which has swept across Latin America, could spread to new parts of the world.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the spread of Zika.

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