World News Brief, Tuesday August 7

Syrian prime minister fired; Beijing wants US to refute accusation it is hampering diplomatic efforts in South China Sea; Japan marks 67th anniversary of first atomic bomb attack; Karzai accepts Afghan parliament's sacking of ministers; NASA rover lands on Mars; and more

Top of the Agenda: Syrian Prime Minister Fired

Syria's state media reported that President Bashar al-Assad fired Syrian Prime Minister Riad Farid Hijab (NYT), but activists and a Hijab spokesman say he defected to Jordan with three other officials. The Assad government has faced a series of high-level defections as well as a rebel bomb attack last month that killed four of the Syrian leader's closest security aides. Announcement of Hijab's dismissal came just hours after a bomb exploded at a state television building in Damascus, reinforcing rebel claims that Assad's government is increasingly strained by rebel operations in Aleppo and Damascus.


"It has been almost a year since Obama first called on Assad to 'step aside,' proclaiming 'the future of Syria must be determined by its people.' But his strategy for dislodging the Syrian leader -- which hinged in large part on a UN diplomatic effort to push Assad out voluntarily -- finally ran aground in the Security Council last month, leaving Assad clinging to power and raising the prospect that Syria's fate will be settled on the battlefield," writes Colum Lynch on

"Apart from a few days of relative quiet in April when a ceasefire partially held, Syria has seen a huge influx of arms to the rebels, growing involvement by foreign special forces, and the infiltration of al-Qaeda jihadis and other Salafists. What began as a peaceful uprising and then became local self-defense has been hijacked. Under Saudi, Qatari and U.S. leadership, and with British, French and Israeli approval, it has turned into an anti-Iranian proxy war," writes Jonathan Steele in The Guardian.

"Because we have refused to provide the rebels the assistance that would tip the military balance decisively against Assad, the United States is increasingly seen across the Middle East as acquiescing to the continued slaughter of Arab and Muslim civilians," write Senators John McCain, Joseph I. Lieberman, and Lindsey O. Graham in the Washington Post.



Beijing Blasts U.S. South China Sea Statement

China summoned the U.S. deputy chief of mission in Beijing, Robert Wang, to refute a State Department accusation (WSJ) that Beijing is hampering diplomatic efforts to defuse long-simmering tensions over the disputed South China Sea.

The Obama administration has backed ASEAN claimants' rights on territorial claims, even saying that freedom of navigation and a resolution of claims accepted by all nations was a U.S. "national interest," writes CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick.

JAPAN: Japan marked the 67th anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack (USAToday) with a ceremony attended by 50,000 near the epicenter of the 1945 blast that destroyed most of the city and killed as many as 140,000 people. A second atomic bombing Aug. 9 that year in Nagasaki killed tens of thousands more and prompted Japan to surrender to the World War II Allies.



Karzai accepts Afghan parliament's sacking of ministers

NASA rover lands on Mars


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