US and UK suspend aid to Syrian rebels; former Thai PM indicted on murder charges; same-sex marriage law qushed in Australia; more than 2 million people in Zimbabwe will need food assistance before harvest; Uruguay's legalisation of marijuana breaks international law, says UN drugs body
Top of the Agenda: U.S., UK Suspend Aid to Syria's Rebels
The United States and the UK suspended nonlethal aid to rebels in northern Syria after bases controlled by the so-called moderate, armed opposition forces were seized by fighters from the Islamic Front, a new coalition of Islamist rebel groups in the country that doesn't include al-Qaeda (BBC). Prominent activists in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus have been kidnapped at gunpoint, adding to the scores of civilian activists and both Syrian and foreign journalists who have been detained by Islamist extremists in recent months (WaPo). Meanwhile, millions of refugees inside Syria and in neighboring countries are suffering through rain, snow, and freezing temperatures as a storm rips through the region (al-Jazeera).
"Contrary to claims made by observers of the recent mergers, the alliance of Salafi groups is bad news for al-Qaeda. The formation of this alliance has significantly halted the drifting of Syrian fighters by virtue of its Islamic rhetoric and pragmatism. These groups have already drawn Ahrar Ash-Sham, a long-time ally of Jabhat al-Nusra, towards them while avoiding a confrontation with the latter," writes Hassan Hassan for the National.
"International diplomatic efforts must therefore focus on achieving temporary cease-fires to bring in the most urgently needed help, such as polio vaccines for children. Aid should not be a mere side show to the seemingly endless peace talks taking place in Geneva; as United Nations emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos insisted, it must be central to those negotiations," writes David Miliband for Project Syndicate.
"Those who advocate a more assertive U.S. policy argue that the most humane option is to ratchet up the pressure on Assad. The sooner he falls, the argument goes, the sooner the violence will end and refugees will be able to return home. But that calculation is naive. An attempt by the U.S. and its allies to overthrow Assad by force would be bloody and protracted and could have disastrous side effects, including the empowerment of Islamist extremists and a rupture in negotiations with Iran, an Assad ally, on its nuclear program," the Los Angeles Times writes in an editorial.
Former Thai Premier Indicted on Murder Charges
Thailand's former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was indicted on murder charges relating to the military crackdown on street protests in 2010 that left scores dead (WSJ). Abhisit's former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, who is leading protests against the current government, faces similar charges.
CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains in this blog post the demise of Thailand's Democrat Party.
AUSTRALIA: The Australian High Court struck down a local law passed in October that permitted same-sex marriage, voiding almost twenty marriages that were held in recent weeks (Australian).
This CFR Backgrounder compares same-sex marriage laws in six countries.
More than 2 million people in Zimbabwe to need food assistance
Uruguay's legalisation of marijuana breaks international law, says UN drugs body
This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org.