World News Brief, Wednesday August 15

Syrian rebels claim fighter jet downing; South Koreans organise relay swim to disputed islands; North Korean leader's uncle visiting China in bid to increase economic cooperation; nine killed in South African mine dispute; Merkel heads to Canada for financial help; and more

Top of the Agenda: Syrian Rebels Claim Fighter Jet Downing

Syrian rebels say they shot down a fighter jet (NYT) and captured its pilot, raising questions about whether the Syrian government's military advantage might be threatened. Syrian authorities contested the rebels' claim, saying that the jet crashed because of technical problems. Meanwhile, in advance of a two-day emergency summit in Saudi Arabia, foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria (CNN) from the group.


"With time, President Bashar Al Assad may still turn the tide of the uprising, never re-establishing full control, but doing enough to prolong the war so Syria crumbles beneath him. Even if he loses in a war that drags on for years, it would destroy the country with knock-on effects across the Middle East. The world cannot wait and watch while that happens," writes Faisal al Yafai in The National.

"Syria is like Humpty Dumpty. Made up of four or five diverse regions glued together after World War I, the country is an accident of great power politics. Like neighboring Lebanon, it has now dissolved into its constituent parts. The Free Syrian Army isn't a unified force but rather a network of militias, each with its own regional power base and external patron," writes Michael Doran in the Wall Street Journal.

"What Ankara sees now is a PKK proxy establishing a stronghold in northern Syria, conjuring up the spectre of a confederation of Kurdish territories. That looks to the Turkish establishment like an embryonic Kurdish state that will try to bite off chunks of the predominantly Kurdish southeast of the country," David Gardner writes in the Financial Times.



South Koreans Swim to Disputed Islands

Following the visit of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to islands disputed by South Korea and Japan, more than 40 South Koreans began a relay swim (BBC) of more than 124 miles toward the islands. Japan recalled its ambassador to South Korea in objection to Lee's visit.

CHINA: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle, Jang Song-thaek, considered his key guardian and the man behind his power, is visiting China in a bid to increase economic cooperation (KoreaTimes) as North Korea struggles with a collapsed economy.



Nine killed at mine dispute in South Africa

Merkel in Canada for financial help


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