Bombs explode at Syrian army headquarters; former Japanese PM is new head of Liberal Democratic Party; meeting between Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers fails to ease tensions; Iran unveils new spy drone with 2000 km range; Paraguay shut out of South American free trade organisation; and more
Top of the Agenda: Bomb Blasts Hit Syrian Army Headquarters
Two bombs exploded this morning at the Damascus headquarters (al-Jazeera) of the Syrian army. The opposition Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the attack, saying dozens of military personnel were killed. However, the Syrian information minister insisted that an apparent car bomb and improvised explosive device caused "only material damage." Following the explosions, gun fighting ensued inside the general command compound, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Meanwhile, at the UN General Assembly yesterday, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani called for unilateral Arab intervention in Syria to end the eighteen-month-old conflict, due to the UN Security Council's failure "to reach an effective position." At the same time, U.S. President Barack Obama insisted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down.
"It baldly represents the interests of a small, fearful, well-armed, and organized sectarian minority, set against the wishes of a majority that has remained inchoate, politically divided, and powerless. The fact of this polarization, long elaborately disguised by hollow pageantries, has only become clear to many Syrians now that the underlying nature of the state has been exposed and the violence implicit in the country's neocolonial power structure has been made dramatically explicit," writes Max Rodenbeck for the New York Review of Books.
"This argument is harder to sustain in the case of Syria, where the death toll now exceeds 25,000, thanks to Bashar al-Assad's determination to remain in power and the failure of the UN Security Council to agree on forceful action in the face of repeated vetoes from Russia and China. Faced with this context, the White House appears paralyzed, calling the situation unacceptable yet remaining unwilling to arm the rebel forces, much less assume the tremendous risks of leading a 'coalition of the willing' to support them militarily," writes CFR's Stewart M. Patrick on his blog, The Internationalist.
Japan's Abe Makes Comeback
Former prime minister Shinzo Abe was elected Wednesday as head of the Liberal Democratic Party after a tight contest with former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba, marking the first runoff in an LDP leadership election in forty years. The LDP is widely expected to oust the Democratic Party of Japan (JapanTimes) from power in upcoming legislative elections.
CHINA: An hour-long meeting between Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly failed to narrow differences (KyodoNews) over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, where Japanese Coast Guard boats fired water cannons earlier this week.
On the CFR blog Asia Unbound, CFR's Sheila A. Smith discusses the Japanese-Chinese "diplomatic chill."
Iran unveils spy drone with 2000 km range
Paraguay shut out of South American free trade organisation