World News Brief, Thursday March 20

New concerns for Syria; China dismisses any link between Uighur ethnic minority and missing Malaysian Airlines flight; Taiwanese activists break into parliament to protest trade deal with China; Ukraine's naval headquarters seized; Sri Lanka releases two human rights activists; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Syria Conflict Stirs New Concern

UN investigators told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that they had expanded their list of Syrian individuals, military units, security agencies, and insurgent groups suspected of war crimes, and have collected enough evidence to substantiate indictments (Reuters). Meanwhile, the Obama administration ordered the Syrian government to suspend operations at its American embassy and consulates, requiring personnel who are not legal residents to leave the country (AP). As the conflict marked the third anniversary of the initial uprising that sparked the civil war this week, regional fallout has spread. The Lebanese military moved to break a blockade of a Sunni town in the Bekaa Valley that followed rocket attacks in the area (Daily Star), while Israel retaliated against Syrian security targets after a bomb wounded four Israeli soldiers in the Golan Heights on Tuesday (Haaretz).


"The Assad regime's recent successes are by no means sweeping -- its offensive operations sometimes progress very slowly or fail altogether, and in some places it has lost ground. But it is having incremental success on key fronts in Aleppo and the Damascus area. If it prevails there, the war's real and perceived direction would shift strongly in its favor -- Bashar al-Assad and his allies, buoyed by success, would press their 'military solution' harder and become even less inclined to negotiate," writes the Washington Institute's Jeffrey White.

"In the unceasing warfare between rival camps all around Israel's borders, Israel is a secondary player, and conventional wisdom has been that the main players are too busy battling each other to attack Israel. But the ongoing instability is gradually wearing down the security bubble in which Israelis have been living in recent years," writes Amos Harel in Haaretz.

"The best case for Syria and for the credibility of the United States would be one in which the president upholds the operational relevance and directive nature of his August 2011 step-aside language and permits the interagency national security system to go back to the drawing board in creating options for his consideration. The worst case would be one that continues to permit the strategic communicators to broadcast the inadmissibility of what is happening in Syria, but coupling that message with operational inaction justified by excuses ranging from someone else's civil war, to the purported failure of mass murder to achieve the definition of genocide, to the all-or-nothing argument that anything with a military dimension amounts or leads to the invasion and occupation of Syria," writes former ambassador Frederic C. Hof.


Pacific Rim

China Dismisses Uighur Connection in Missing Plane

Beijing dismissed any link between China's Uighur ethnic minority and missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Two-thirds of the flight's passengers were Chinese (FT).

TAIWAN: Hundreds of activists opposed to a trade deal with China broke into the parliament Tuesday night and have refused to leave (BBC).


Ukraine's naval headquarters seized

Sri Lanka releases two human rights activists

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