Series of bombings in Syria's largest city kill 25 and wound 70; Chinese banks withdraw from IMF events in Tokyo; Taiwanese citizens visiting US can now do so without visas; Iran's currency loses one third of value in a week; Georgia holds first democratic election in post-Soviet history; and more
Top of the Agenda: Deadly Explosions Hit Central Aleppo
At least twenty-five people are dead and more than seventy wounded after a series of bombings on Wednesday (AlJazeera) struck the main square of the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub and largest city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggested the attacks may have been suicide bombings, which have been common across Syria, particularly in Damascus, but have rarely been seen in Aleppo. Rebel fighters launched a new offensive (BBC) last week in an attempt to seize more districts in their weeks-long fight for control of the city, while reports surfaced that President Bashar al-Assad had ordered tens of thousands more troops to Aleppo from Hama.
"I believe that military intervention by the West, in anything close to the scale of that which occurred in Libya, would possibly cause more damage, chaos, and instability than not. Everyone is trying to insulate this so it doesn't spill over across into Lebanon or Iraq or elsewhere, or draw in the Israelis or the Turks, which may be impossible in the end, but I think everyone wants to prevent this from turning into a regional, or even an international, conflict," says David W. Lesch in this CFR interview.
"Hastening an end to the slaughter in Syria as we did in Libya, a far less significant and promising country, would provide a great boost to America's friends in the region. If we cannot summon the will for this, or even a no-flight-zone like the one that protected Iraq's Kurds from Saddam Hussein, we must at least arm the Syrian rebels modestly, provide them with medical supplies and funds for food and fuel, and ensure that communications and intelligence support gets down to the level where the fighting is done. Covert, deniable drone and missile strikes would be both effective and justified," writes Bartle Breese Bull for The New York Times.
"It is not too late for the United States to shift course. First, we can and should directly and openly provide robust assistance to the armed opposition, including weapons, intelligence and training… We know there are risks associated with deepening our involvement in the profoundly complex and vicious conflict in Syria. But inaction carries even greater risks for the United States — in lives lost, strategic opportunities squandered and values compromised. By continuing to sit on the sidelines of a battle that will help determine the future of the Middle East, we are jeopardizing both our national security interests and our moral standing in the world," write U.S. senators John McCain, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham in the Washington Post.
China Banks Withdraw From IMF Events in Tokyo
Chinese banks, including The Bank of Communications and possibly China Construction Bank, have pulled out of events (AFP) linked to annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Japan next week, despite IMF chief Christine Lagarde's remarks to Japanese reporters on Wednesday that cooperation was too important for the territorial spat.
TAIWAN: The White House and State Department officials announced on Tuesday visa-free travel for Taiwanese citizens looking to visit the United States, saying the waiver program is consistent (VOA) with close relationship shared with Taiwan.
This CFR Backgrounder explains China-Taiwan relations.
Iran's currency loses one third of value in a week
Georgia holds first democratic election in post-Soviet era