World News Brief, Tuesday December 17

UN launches $6.5 billion aid appeal for Syria; North Korean economy unaffected by execution of Kim Jong-un's closest advisor; Japanese businesses brace for sales-tax increase; Ukraine protesters return to central Kiev; Bangladesh violence kills four; and more 


Top of the Agenda: UN Launches Record Aid Appeal for Syria

The United Nations launched a $6.5 billion humanitarian aid appeal on Monday, its largest fundraising effort on record, to help an estimated 75 percent of Syria's 22.4 million population that will need assistance in 2014 (BBC). Reuters reports that the Syrian government has denied UN staff access to rebel-held areas where freezing children are starving to death while rebels have hindered convoys as well. A plane chartered by the UN World Food Program landed in a government-controlled city in northeastern Syria on Sunday after a short flight from Erbil, Iraq, the first of dozens of scheduled deliveries between the two countries over the next ten days (AFP). Meanwhile, dozens of civilians, including at least sixteen children, were killed in Aleppo on Sunday after fighter jets and helicopters dropped more than twenty bombs on rebel-controlled sections of the northern city (al-Jazeera).


"The United States has options it has not used: It could demand that Russia stop blocking a UN Security Council resolution ordering the Assad regime to allow relief convoys as the price of going forward with the conference, which was Moscow's initiative. It could threaten missile and air strikes on the forces that are conducting the sieges. 'The world cannot sit by watching innocents die,' Mr. Kerry wrote. Yet that's exactly what he and the Obama administration are doing," the Washington Post writes in an editorial.

"The actual policy of the U.S. in Syria has looked more like containment than regime change. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey this year publicly recommended using the military to keep the conflict from spreading outside of Syria, but not to intervene with direct military force. The administration's decision this fall to abort military strikes in favor of negotiating a deal with Assad to destroy his chemical weapons stockpiles only furthered that impression," writes CFR Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon for Defense One.

"Regime survival guarantees no civilized future for Syria. The clan is not an alternative to political Islam in Syria—it is the catalyst of Syria's sectarian breakdown and the cause of an al-Qaeda presence featuring foreign fighters. The administration's Geneva approach to regime change defines the term long-shot. Yet it has no real choice other than to play the hand it has dealt itself," writes Frederic C. Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.


North Korean Purge Won't Affect Economy

A senior official said the execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle, once considered the country's second most powerful man in charge of economic policies, won't alter Pyongyang's ambitious plans to develop new economic zones to attract foreign investments (AP).

JAPAN: Business sentiment among large manufacturers is at its highest level since 2007, but companies are paring capital spending next year as a sales-tax increase looms in April (Japan Times).

This CFR Backgrounder explains Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe's vision for Japan, dubbed Abenomics.


Ukraine protesters return to central Kiev

Bangladesh violence kills four


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