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Daily Brief: Syrian Cease-Fire Set to Take Effect

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September 12, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Syrian Cease-Fire Set to Take Effect Amid Doubts

A cease-fire in Syria brokered between the United States and Russia is set to come into force (NPR) Monday evening. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov negotiated a deal (ABC) under which rebels and the Syrian government will stop attacking one another, and the United States and Russia will cooperate on efforts to defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The truce will also open corridors for much-needed humanitarian aid. While rebels remain skeptical (FT) about the effectiveness of the truce, they are expected to adhere to the cease-fire. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed to retake (WaPo) all of Syria on Monday, casting doubts about his regime's commitment to the truce. Violence continued (NYT) over the weekend, with at least ninety-one killed in attacks on rebel-held areas in Idlib and Aleppo.


"Rebel infighting and a free hand around Damascus might be good for Mr Assad. Even better was the vagueness about a timetable for his and Syria's political transition to a more broadly based government. Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov concentrated on the technicalities of securing a cessation of hostilities, relegating the task of restarting a political process to the UN. Without a negotiated settlement, though, any halt to the violence will be at best a temporary lull while the parties prepare for another round," writes the Economist.

"Anything that can reduce the level of violence has to be applauded. The US-Russia plan is essentially a bargain. Syrian government forces will stop bombing targets and areas that the US and Russia have agreed to spare, while humanitarian aid will be given safe passage, including to Aleppo. The US will acknowledge Russia as a partner in the fight against Isis. Anti-Assad rebel forces will be required to disentangle themselves from forces formerly associated with al-Qaida," writes the Guardian.

"For Moscow, the deal offered by the United States is extremely advantageous and meets most of Russia's political objectives for its one-year-old military intervention in Syria. It is perhaps the last available off-ramp leading to a dignified political exit from the war Russia could not win. The deal satisfies Moscow's obsession with achieving the international status of an indispensable global player on a par with the United States," writes Vladimir Frolov in the Moscow Times.


South Korea: North Korea Prepared for Another Nuclear Test

South Korea's defense ministry said on Monday that North Korea is ready to conduct (Korea Times) another nuclear test at "any time," following its fifth nuclear test last week. The United States is set to fly two supersonic bombers (Yonhap) over South Korea on Tuesday morning in protest of North Korea's latest nuclear test, according to the U.S. Air Forces Korea. 

Pyongyang is betting that the world will acquiesce to a nuclear North Korea rather than effectively mobilizing for its denuclearization, writes CFR's Scott A. Snyder.

JAPAN: A Vietnamese woman in Tokyo has been diagnosed (Japan Times) with the Zika virus, according to the Japanese health ministry. The case is Japan's eleventh and comes as the virus is spreading in Asia. Last week, the World Health Organization said that Zika infections have been confirmed in fifty-five countries and territories since the start of 2015.

This CFR Backgrounder explores the transmission and spread of the latest Zika outbreaks.


Thirty-One Killed in Bangladesh Factory Fire

 At least thirty-one people are dead following an explosion and fire (Al Jazeera) at a packaging factory outside the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. Labor rights groups pressed (WSJ) Bangladesh to accelerate safety improvements to its industrial sector.

INDIA: Clashes (Reuters) in India-administered Kashmir killed seven suspected militants and one police officer on Sunday. Protests and violence in the Muslim-majority region reignited (Guardian) over the summer after the killing of a young militant commander in July.


Libyan Unity Government Oil Ports Fall to Rivals

Fighters who oppose the UN-backed national unity government in Libya seized (AFP) three oil ports along the Mediterranean on Sunday and Monday.


Further Arrests in Kenya After Thwarted Attack on Police Station

Authorities arrested (Star) three additional suspects after three women stormed a central police station in the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya on Sunday, in what is being treated as a terror attack. Officers said the assailants were killed when police officers thwarted the attack (Standard); authorities said the women were wielding knives and that one threw a petrol bomb.

SOMALIA: The African Union urged the UN Security Council to consider lifting (Shabelle) its arms embargo against Somalia in a bid to build up the East African nation's security institutions. Separately, UN officials warned that South Sudan could face its own arms embargo if the government does not cooperate (East African) on the deployment of a new UN protection force.  


Explosion Near Ruling-Party Offices in Eastern Turkey

A car bomb (Hurriyet) injured at least forty-eight people near the provincial headquarters of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in eastern Van province on Monday. The explosion comes on the first day of Islam's Eid al-Adha holiday. Turkey replaced (CNN) more than two dozen mayors with trustees over suspected ties to Kurdish militants, triggering protests.

EU: France and Germany have issued a joint proposal for enhanced EU defense cooperation (EU Observer) that would include the creation of a new military headquarters and faster deployment of missions overseas, according to a paper drafted by France's and Germany's defense ministers.


Mexicans Rally in Support of Same-Sex Marriage

Mexicans rallied in Mexico City on Sunday in support (BBC) of same-sex marriage a day after thousands protested (LAHT) against it in cities across the country. President Enrique Pena Nieto has proposed a bill that would amend the constitution to recognize same-sex marriages.

This CFR Backgrounder compares the status of same-sex marriage around the world.  

COLOMBIA: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, knows as FARC, handed over thirteen child soldiers (AP) as part of the agreement reached last month between FARC and the Colombia government to end decades of violence.

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