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Daily Brief: U.S. Charges Syrian, Russian Brutality in Aleppo

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September 26, 2016

Daily News Brief

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U.S. Charges Syrian, Russian Brutality in Aleppo

Dozens of air strikes continued to hit the Syrian city of Aleppo overnight (Reuters) as the United States claimed (WSJ) that Syrian and Russian forces had launched 150 airstrikes over seventy-two hours that killed 213 people. The continued attacks come after the UN Security Council hosted an emergency meeting on Sunday over the assault on the city following the collapse of a cease-fire brokered by the United States and Russia earlier this month. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power accused Russia of "barbarism" (BBC). Russia meanwhile said Syrian forces were working to minimize civilian casualties as they targeted terrorists in the city. Two new reports based on interviews with humanitarian workers and witnesses to an attack on an aid convoy headed toward Aleppo last week pointed (NYT) to the use of Russian or Syrian aircraft in the hours-long bombing of the convoy (WaPo). Russia has denied responsibility for the attack and suggested rebel forces or a U.S. drone caused the damage.


"Much of the death toll came in the four days since Thursday when the Syrian regime announced the start of a new offensive against Aleppo’s rebel-controlled neighborhoods. President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to retake all of Aleppo and the offensive was the latest indication that he aims to win the war militarily despite repeated efforts by the U.S. and Russia to reach a lasting cease-fire and a diplomatic solution," Raja Abdulrahim and Farnaz Fassihi write for the Wall Street Journal.

"The scorched-earth campaign appears aimed at forcing the rebels to surrender in Aleppo, their last major metropolis in what supporters of the regime deem 'useful Syria', relegating the opposition into a rural insurgency. The Syrian military command has announced that it is planning a major operation to retake all of Aleppo, urging citizens to flee the besieged district," Julian Borger and Kareem Shaheen write for the Guardian.

"Both the Russian and Syrian governments denied striking the convoy and suggested, at different times, that it could have been destroyed in a fire or a ground offensive by terrorists or a strike by a U.S. Predator drone. The United States — just days after mistakenly bombing a Syrian Army position — accused both countries of deliberately targeting the aid and the people handling it. Eyewitness accounts, along with social media postings and video, including footage of the wreckage, added to assessments by U.S. defense officials, show that the convoy was obliterated by airstrikes, first by helicopters dropping barrels loaded with explosives and shrapnel — a long-standing tactic of the Syrian government — and then by Russian bombers," Louisa Loveluck and Thomas Gibbons-Neff write for the Washington Post


Philippine Peso Sinks to Seven-Year Low

The Philippine peso sank to its lowest value against the U.S. dollar since 2009 (WSJ), amid investors' concerns over political instability under President Rodrigo Duterte. Elected in May, Duterte has lashed out against the United States and the European Union and has launched a violent crackdown on drug crime that has left more than 3,000 people dead.

CFR's Max Boot writes about Duterte's populism and extrajudicial crackdown on crime in this article for Foreign Policy.

SOUTH KOREA: A new graft law geared toward curbing influence over public servants, school officials, and journalists has sparked fears it could dampen South Korea's consumer spending (FT).


Report: Pakistan Police Killed 2,100 in 2015

Some 2,108 people were reportedly killed in confrontations with police in Pakistan in 2015, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Investigators reported that many of those killed were already in police custody and did not pose a threat to authorities.

AFGHANISTAN: More than 250,000 undocumented Afghan refugees in Pakistan have returned to Afghanistan over the past year (WaPo); the Pakistani government has given another 1.5 million Afghan refugees who have long lived in the country six months to leave.


Jordan Satirist in Blasphemy Case Shot Dead

Jordanian writer Nahid Hattar, who was standing trial over a satirical cartoon he had posted to Facebook, was shot dead outside court in Amman (BBC). The suspected gunman was arrested on the scene (Reuters)


African Elephant Numbers Drop by 110,000

A new report on poaching says that the number of elephants in Africa has dropped by 110,000 over a decade (Guardian), the worst drop in twenty-five years. The current population stands at around 415,000.

ZIMBABWE: President Robert Mugabe called for African countries to pull out of the United Nations as demands for Africa to have two permanent seats at the UN Security Council have gone unheeded (New Zimbabwe).


Azerbaijanis Vote in Referendum on Presidential Power

Azerbaijanis voted on twenty-nine proposed constitutional amendments (RFE/RL), including extending president's term from five to seven years, allowing the president to dissolve parliament, and introducing a vice presidential position to supersede that of the prime minister (Al Jazeera). Opposition groups staged protests, accusing President Ilham Aliyev of trying to tighten his grip on power through the measures.  

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Bosnians voted to maintain a January national holiday that coincides with Serbian Orthodox Christian festivities and the Serbian territory's 1992 secession from Bosnia (Reuters). The vote went forward despite (BBC) Bosnia's highest court ruling it illegal, saying it discriminated against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats.


Montreal Meeting Seeks Carbon Limit for Aviation

Representatives from nearly two-hundred countries are meeting in Montreal to discuss a limit on carbon emissions from commercial aviation (WSJ). The source of emissions was not covered in last year's climate talks in Paris because such pollution is largely produced outside of national borders.  

Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Jessica Seddon, and David G. Victor discuss the outcome of the Paris climate negotiations in this article for Foreign Affairs.

BRAZIL: Brazil's Supreme Court greenlighted an investigation into allegations that President Michel Temer solicited inappropriate campaign donations in 2012 from a subsidiary of the state oil company (Reuters). Temer was sworn into office last month after his onetime-ally Dilma Rousseff was impeached on charges she manipulated national accounts to hide budget shortfalls.  

CFR's Matthew Taylor discusses Brazil's political instability and economic outlook after Rousseff's impeachment in this CFR event.

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