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Daily Brief: Syrian Opposition Proposes Transition Plan

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September 7, 2016

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Syrian Opposition Proposes Transition Plan

An umbrella group representing political and armed Syrian opposition groups outlined a transition plan (Guardian) to end five years of conflict. The proposal calls for six months of negotiations (BBC) with President Bashar al-Assad and a full cease-fire, followed by the handover of power to a unity government who will manage the country in preparation for elections after eighteen months. Meanwhile, the Syrian government denied (Al Jazeera) claims that it dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine gas on opposition-held parts of Aleppo. One person has died and more than one hundred others injured in the alleged chemical weapons attack. Elsewhere, clashes between Syrian government troops and insurgents in Syria's central Hama province have displaced (AP) one hundred thousand people in eight days of fighting, according to the UN humanitarian agency.

ANALYSIS

"It long used to be said that Syria was impossible because it represented a choice between two evils: Assad or Isis. But the coalition of opposition groups assembled today in London, just like the forces who freed Manbij, demonstrate that there is another way. The [High Negotiating Committee]'s blueprint for a pluralist, democratic Syrian future may look like a fantasy now, but it does put the lie to the notion that the country's only options are jihadist brutality or murderous Ba'athism," writes Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian.

"The borders of the Islamic State's 'caliphate' are shrinking fast. The group's strongholds in Iraq and Syria are collapsing one by one. The U.S.-led war has reached a point where questions are being raised about what comes next. So far, the answer seems likely to be: more war. That's partly because the U.S. strategy for defeating the Islamic State relies on a variety of regional allies and local armed groups who are often bitterly at odds. Though all of them regard the Islamic State as an enemy, most of them regard one another as enemies, too," writes Liz Sly for the Washington Post.

"Dividing Syria along ethnic and religious lines will create more - not less - conflict and violence. Treating Syria or Iraq, Libya, Yemen and other troubled Arab nations like the former Yugoslavia (which was divided into seven states) will produce dozens more fragile conflicting mini-states. But even that isn't really my main point. Of grave importance here is the fact that it's the Syrian regime (and ISIL) that's busy reshaping and dividing the country through bloodshed and ethnic cleaning along sectarian or/and defensible lines," writes Marwan Bishara at Al Jazeera.

PACIFIC RIM

The Philippines released images (AP) of Chinese coast guard vessels near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea on Wednesday. The release of the photos comes ahead of a regional summit between China and Southeast Asian states. Japan and the Philippines reached a deal for Tokyo to supply (FT) Manila with patrol boats and surveillance aircraft on Tuesday.

This CFR InfoGuide provides background and analysis on China's maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas.

NORTH KOREA: The UN Security Council condemned (WSJ) North Korea's latest ballistic missile launch on Tuesday. Separately, a North Korean deputy nuclear envoy reportedly traveled (Yonhap) to China amid international criticism of Pyongyang's nuclear program.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Minister: 80 Percent of Pakistanis Drink Contaminated Water

More than 80 percent of Pakistanis drink unsafe and contaminated water (Dawn), said Pakistani Minister for Science and Technology Rana Tanveer on Tuesday before the senate. Tanveer said recent monitoring projects found some 69 to 82 percent of more than 2,800 water samples across the country were unsafe for consumption.

KYRGYZSTAN: State security officials said that the assailant in the bombing (RFE/RL) of the Chinese embassy in the capital of Bishek last month was a Tajiki member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Authorities said the Nusra Front, a Syria-based al-Qaeda affiliate, financed (FT) the attack.

This CFR Backgrounder explores the origins of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

U.S. Counterterrorism Strikes Hit Targets in Yemen

U.S. air strikes (VOA) conducted between August 24 and September 4 killed thirteen militants affiliated with al-Qaeda in Yemen, the U.S. military said on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Egypt will host an international conference (Reuters) in March to coordinate humanitarian assistance delivery in Yemen.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

African Union to Send Delegation to Gabon

The African Union will send a delegation to Gabon to mediate (Reuters) tensions between incumbent President Ali Bongo and his main challenger Jean Ping that resulted in violent protests. Bongo said that only the country's constitutional court (DW) can decide whether there will be recount.

SOUTH SUDAN: The government released conditions (Sudan Tribune) for the deployment of a UN protection force, saying that it would only accept such a force if the contributing troops came from countries that did not border South Sudan.

Megan Roberts outlines the challenges of UN peacekeeping missions in this CFR guest blog post.

EUROPE

Paris Terror Arrest After Car Found With Gas Tanks

French authorities arrested (BBC) a man on the terrorism watch list after police discovered his car, which was holding seven gas cylinders, parked near the Notre Dame cathedral.  Separately, Paris mayor Anne-Marie Hidalgo announced that a refugee camp (Irish Times) will open in the French capital in October, Europe's first camp in a dense urban zone.

POLAND: The Polish government said it will seek formal U.S. approval for the purchase (Guardian) of eight Patriot missile defense systems from U.S. arms manufacturer Raytheon, a deal estimated at $5 billion.

AMERICAS

Nicaragua Grants Former Salvadoran President Asylum

The Nicaraguan government granted former President of El Salvador Mauricio Funes asylum (BBC) on Tuesday. Funes is facing action over allegedly illegally obtained funds in his accounts in El Salvador and is under investigation for corruption during his time in office. The former president claims he is being politically persecuted. 

PERU: New Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski will travel (LAHT) to China next week, marking his first foreign visit since taking office in July.

GLOBAL

Report: Children Make Up Half of World's Refugees

There are nearly 50 million children refugees (UNICEF PDF) around the world, accounting for more than half of the world's refugee population, according to a new UNICEF report. More than 75 percent of children refugees come from just ten countries; children from Syria and Afghanistan comprise more than 50 percent of all refugee children.

 
 
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