World News Brief, Wednesday August 28

Chemical use in Syria a "moral obscenity" says Kerry; Chinese anti-trust probes not aimed at foreign companies, says Beijing; Japanese PM investigates plannes sales tax increase; Sudan opposition pushes to dismantle Bashir's regime; Egypt Muslim Brotherhood leader denies terrorism claim; and more

Top of the Agenda: Kerry Calls Chemical Use in Syria a 'Moral Obscenity'

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry said in a speech Monday that the use of chemical weapons on civilians in Syria last week was undeniable (NYT) and a "moral obscenity." In some of the strongest language used yet by the Obama administration, Kerry said the United States would hold the Syrian government accountable for the "indiscriminate slaughter of civilians." The statement came hours after snipers opened fire on a UN convoy en route to the site of the attacks. Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem rejected the claims "utterly and completely" (BBC), adding that the weapons inspectors had originally been unable to visit a second site because they were stopped by rebels. The United States is now reported to be weighing the contingencies of a military strike (WashPost).


"To say only the UN Security Council can make something legitimate seems to me to be a position that cannot be supported because it would allow in this case a country like Russia to be the arbiter of international law and, more broadly, international relations," says CFR President Richard N. Haass in a media call.

"It remains in the United States' interest now as two years ago to see more moderate forces prevail. This can't be achieved with one or two volleys of cruise missiles. It will require patience and commitment," writes the Washington Post in an editorial.

"The practical impact of the intervention would not be to protect civilians on the ground from state-directed violence, but to deter Assad from using one type of indiscriminate lethality, chemical weapons. If Obama decides that achieving this outcome is in the U.S. national interests—both in terms of Syria and any deterrent effect it has on the potential use of chemical weapons users elsewhere—then he will likely authorize the reported cruise missile and airstrikes. However, it is highly unlikely that such an intervention can be so narrow that it will not force a deeper U.S. military engagement in Syria's civil war," writes CFR's Micah Zenko for New York Times.



China Antitrust Probes Not Aimed at Foreign Firms

Responding to charges that foreign-owned companies were singled out by Chinese regulators (Reuters), Beijing said Tuesday that antitrust investigations are intended to enforce a 2008 anti-monopoly law and do not target foreign firms.

CFR's Elizabeth Economy explains how Beijing uses foreign firms as a scapegoat for the ills of the country in this blog post.

JAPAN: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tasked sixty experts (WSJ) with debating a planned increase in the sales tax, which could double to 10 percent by 2015.


Sudan opposition pushes to dismantle Bashir's regime

Egypt Muslim Brotherhood leader denies terrorism

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