World News Brief, Thursday August 22

Syrian activists say government launched gas attack; Bo Xilai's trial begins in eastern China; Japanese PM to tour Middle East; China and Kenya sign $5 billion in deals; third bailout for Greece; and more

Top of the Agenda: Syrian Activists Claim Chemical Attack

Syrian activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of launching a gas attack (Reuters) that killed more than 200 people on Wednesday in a government offensive against rebel-held areas of the Damascus suburbs. If confirmed, it would mark the worst reported use of chemical arms in the civil war, coming just days after a UN investigative team arrived in the country (al-Jazeera) to conduct tests. France and Britain said they will ask the UN Security Council to discuss the claim, which the Syrian government denies. The Arab League called on UN chemical weapons inspectors inside Syria to immediately visit (al-Arabiya) the site of the incident.


"To begin with, the team's objective is only to determine whether or not chemical weapons were used, not how and not by whom. Even under the best circumstances — unfettered access, immediately following the attack — the findings were likely to be disappointing," writes Aryn Baker for TIME.

"To hold off this new drumbeat toward another U.S. war in the Middle East, Mr. Obama is right to set aside his automatic 'red line' and substitute a new standard that calls for proof of 'systematic' use of chemical gases. This 'flashing yellow line,' however, won't stop the hordes for long," writes CFR's Leslie Gelb for The Daily Beast.

"Whatever the truth about who has used or not used chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict and whether the evidence will ever be found, the bigger issue is to prevent massive use—of the sort seen in Halabja twenty-five years ago. In addition, and not unconnected, the securing of the Syrian chemical weapons stocks in a post-conflict Syria is also of the utmost priority," writes Patricia Lewis for Chatham House.



Bo Xilai's Trial to Begin Amid Protest

Supporters of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai protested outside (Reuters) a courthouse in eastern China on Wednesday, the eve of his trial, denouncing what they said was politically motivated persecution. The trial is the culmination of one of the biggest scandals the Chinese Communist Party has faced.

This CFR Backgrounder describes the structure of the Chinese Communist Party and explains the Bo Xilai case.

JAPAN: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit four Middle Eastern and African countries on a six-day trip (KyodoNews) beginning Saturday. The tour includes visits to Bahrain, Kuwait, Djibouti, and Qatar.


China and Kenya sign $5 billion in deals

Third bailout for Greece

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