World News Brief, Friday March 1

US to send food and medical supplies to Syria; Thailand signs deal with militant Muslim group; China signals new foreign policy focus; Tony Blair defends Rwanda's role in Congo; Bulgaria announces election; and more

Top of the Agenda: U.S. Non-Lethal Aid to Syria Marks Major Policy Shift

In a significant policy shift, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that the United States plans for the first time to provide non-lethal aid (Reuters), including food rations and medical supplies, to Syrian opposition fighters battling Bashar al-Assad's regime. The Obama administration will also provide an additional $60 million (BBC), adding to the $385 million of humanitarian aid already given and $54 million in equipment, medical supplies, and other non-lethal assistance. Speaking at an international conference on Syria in Rome, Kerry said that the decision was the result of "the brutality of superior armed force propped up by foreign fighters from Iran and Hezbollah" (AP).


"If the Obama administration is to lead on Syria, it must commit itself to steps that can bring about the early collapse of the regime and its replacement by a representative and responsible alternative. Only direct political and military intervention on the side of the opposition can make that happen," writes a Washington Post editorial.

"If Mr Kerry is to have any diplomatic force in discussions he must be able to threaten an alternative. Mr Assad has cynically exploited the west's reluctance to intervene to stay in power. This bluff has to be called. This applies equally to the EU, which last week rejected a UK call to lift its arms embargo to allow shipments to rebels. If western powers continue to stand on the sidelines, the war will drag on," writes a Financial Times editorial.

"[If] the past is prologue, and more arms proved insufficient, advocates of arming the rebels would soon argue for direct U.S. intervention. The only strategy that stands a chance—and not even necessarily a very good one—is for the United States, the post-Assad Alawites, and the secular Syrian Sunnis to focus relentlessly on the common goal: stopping the victory of Islamic extremists," writes CFR's president emeritus Leslie H. Gelb for the Daily Beast.



Thailand Signs Historic Deal With Militants

Thailand signed a landmark deal with the militant Muslim group Barisan Revolusi Nasional, agreeing to hold talks in a bid to end the nine-year insurgency (PTI) in the country's restive south that has claimed more than five thousand lives. The deal was brokered by Malaysia.

CHINA: China will likely appoint two officials with deep experience in the United States, Japan, and North Korea to its top diplomatic posts (Reuters), signaling its foreign policy focus.

This CFR Timeline takes an interactive look at U.S.-China relations.


Tony Blair defends Rwanda's role in Congo

Bulgaria announces elections

This is an excerpt of the Daily News Brief. The full version is available on