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Daily Brief: U.S., Russia Suspend Syria Cease-Fire Talks

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October 4, 2016

Daily News Brief

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U.S., Russia Suspend Syria Cease-Fire Talks

Syrian rebel forces said on Tuesday that an assault by pro-government forces continued in rebel-held neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo (AP) after the United States announced it was suspending its participation in bilateral channels with Russia (Al Jazeera) to negotiate a cease-fire. The United States blamed Russia and Syria for intensifying attacks on civilians (BBC). A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said the United States did not fulfil its promise to distinguish between moderate opposition members and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former Syrian branch of al Qaeda. The militant group and the Pentagon confirmed that one of its senior leaders had been killed on Monday in a U.S.-led coalition strike (Middle East Eye). In other signs of deteriorating bilateral relations, Russia announced it was suspending an agreement with the United States for the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium (BBC).


"There was never any guarantee that the U.S-Russia deal would work even if Russia had shown goodwill. Moscow is right that it was always going to be difficult to separate true terrorists in Syria (like the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) from the 'moderate' opposition groups fighting alongside them. JFS and the Islamic State, moreover, would have every reason to violate the cease-fire, given that its implementation would lead to U.S.-Russian military cooperation against them. It is also possible that the Syrian regime bears greater responsibility than Russia for having bombed the U.N. convoy trying to get aid to Aleppo a few days after the cease-fire started — possibly to retaliate for the accidental U.S.-led coalition strike on Syrian forces in Deir al-Zour a few days before," CFR's Philip Gordon writes for the Washington Post.

"Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry lulled each other into thinking that they could waltz their way to the Geneva conference table, when neither the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, nor the State Department were running things. The deal breaker was the US bombing of Syrian regime positions in Deir Ezzor on 17 September, an act for which the US have apologised but which the Russians believe was a deliberate act," David Hearst writes for Middle East Eye.

"For many of those in the United States who have worked on Syria policy for years, the overwhelming sense of frustration has made the bloodshed nearly impossible to watch, in part because of its predictability. The ghost of the Iraq War looms large in Washington, but the question is what lessons has it offered? What is without question is that the conflict has prevented the Obama administration from committing sustained resources to stopping the carnage," CFR's Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes for CNN.


Philippines, U.S. Stage War Games as Duterte Rebukes Obama

The Philippines and the United States began annual war games days after President Rodrigo Duterte said this year's exercises would be the last for the two countries (Reuters).

This CFR Backgrounder examines the history of the U.S.-Philippines defense alliance.

INDONESIA: More than two thousand Indonesian air force personnel began exercises in the South China Sea (Reuters) in a gas-rich area claimed by China. Military officials from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK will also hold exercises in the South China Sea this month (IBTimes).

CFR's InfoGuide lays out the maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas.


Police: Kunduz Center Secured After Taliban Attack

A police spokesman said Afghan security forces had secured (CNN) the center of the northern city of Kunduz after Taliban militants launched a coordinated assault, though he also said fighting continued in and around the city.

Christopher D. Kolenda discusses gains made by the Taliban in Afghanistan in this CFR interview.

INDIA: Indian police said gunmen attacked an Indian army camp in the Kashmiri town of Baramulla, killing one, after which a gun battle ensued on the border between Indian and Pakistani troops (RFE/RL)


Egyptian Forces Kill Senior Muslim Brotherhood Leader

The Egyptian interior ministry announced (BBC) that a senior Muslim Brotherhood figure, Mohamed Kamal, and associate Yasser Shehata Ali Ragab were killed in what authorities said was a gun battle that followed a raid. Egypt alleges the two men were involved in the 2015 assassination of the country's prosecutor-general (Egyptian Streets); the Brotherhood says it is a peaceful organization.


Study: African Oil Exporters Fail to Diversify

Oil exporters like Angola, Nigeria, and Sudan failed to use years of oil revenue to diversify their economies or to create sustainable economic opportunity based on transparency and quality infrastructure (FT), according to a study from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Non-oil exporters in Africa, such as Mauritius and Senegal, had better scores on governance.

IVORY COAST: A new constitution to be put to a public referendum (VOA) will amend a nationality clause for presidential candidates. A proposed clause says that presidential candidates need only have one parent who is born in the country; the exclusion of children of immigrants from the presidency helped spark a 1999 coup and ensuing civil war.


Mass Police Suspension as Turkey Extends Emergency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan extended a state of emergency following a July coup attempt by ninety days (FT) as Turkish authorities suspended more than 12,000 police officers (AFP) and raided a pro-Kurdish TV station over accusations of supporting militants. Turkey also arrested a brother of a U.S.-based cleric Erdogan claims was behind the coup attempt (NYT).

CFR's Steven A. Cook argues that Turkey and the United States no longer see eye to eye in this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

UK: Prime Minister Theresa May and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon are expected to announce a plan for the UK military to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights in order to push back against what May has called "an industry of vexatious claims" against soldiers (Guardian).


Death Toll at Three as Hurricane Approaches Haiti

Three people have been reported killed (CNN) as a category 4 storm approaches Haiti, bringing 140-mile-per-hour winds and rainfall of up to three feet on the island (NYT). The storm is then predicted to hit Cuba and the Bahamas; governors in Florida and North Carolina declared states of emergency.


Report: Ten Countries Host 56 Percent of Refugees

A new report from Amnesty International said that ten countries that account for less than 2.5 percent of the world's GDP, including Turkey, Jordan, and Ethiopia, host 56 percent of the world's 21 million refugees (Amnesty). The report came a day after more than six-thousand migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean were rescued (AFP).

This CFR event discussed the crisis on the Mediterranean and the role the United States should have in resettling refugees.

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