World News Brief, Wednesday April 20

Funerals lead to more deaths in Syrian protests; Assad concessions fail to satisfy critics; Rebels beg for NATO troops in beseiged Misurata; Nigeria election winner confirmed, but violence continues; S&P downgrades US debt; and more

Top of the Agenda: Gunfire Disperses Protests in Syria

Syrian security forces used gunfire and tear gas to scatter anti-government protestors in the city of Homs (al-Jazeera), following a day in which activists say at least twenty-five people were killed there. Armed forces locked the city down with several rings of checkpoints, giving protestors until 2:30 a.m. to clear the town's central Clock Square. Thousands of demonstrators had gathered in the city center on Monday after mass funerals for protestors killed by Bashar al-Assad's regime over the weekend. Tuesday's crackdown (BBC) followed an announcement by the interior ministry that the civil unrest in Homs and in the northern city of Baniyas amounted to an "armed insurrection" by ultraconservative Salafist groups.

Analysts say the demonstrations signify a rejection of the concessions (NYT) outlined by Assad on Saturday, including a pledge to end emergency rule by the end of the week. Some fear recent statements by the regime against the protestors indicate the government is preparing a "showdown." The Assad regime has leveraged off fears of sectarian warfare (WSJ) in its efforts to crush popular support for the uprising. Human right groups claim that at least two hundred people have been killed in political violence over the past month.


Syria's Ba'athist regime has responded to widening pro-reform protests by tightening its crackdown, but this approach is unlikely to quiet restive Syrians like it has in the past, writes CFR's Mohamad Bazzi.

On his CFR blog From the Potomac to the Euphrates, Steven A. Cook discusses the political conversation in Washington on the events in Syria, and the US efforts at democracy promotion through the Middle East Partnership Initiative.

In Foreign Affairs, Itamar Rabinovich writes that Assad may blame Israel for his problems, but the Israelis are more ambivalent about their sometime antagonist. Yet with little ability to affect the outcome of the uprisings, Jerusalem can only watch nervously as events unfold.


PACIFIC RIM: Radioactive Water Pumped from Fukushima

Engineers at the Fukushima nuclear plant (JapanTimes) began moving highly radioactive water from the basement of a reactor building to an onsite storage facility. Removing the several thousand tons of contaminated water will allow workers to begin restoring the cooling systems.

Japan's ability to rebound from its triple disaster in March will require more than just rebuilding; it will demand restructuring in areas from energy and farm policy to decentralization of power, write Brian P. Klein and CFR's David S. Abraham.

Singapore: Singapore dissolved its parliament and scheduled a new general election (WSJ) for May 7. Analysts expect the ruling People's Action Party to face its toughest political challenge in decades.



- Evacuation Efforts Continue in Misurata as Rebels Plead for Troops
- Amid Unrest, Goodluck Jonathan Wins
- S&P Downgrades Outlook on US Debt


This is an excerpt of the Daily News Brief. The full version is available on