World News Brief, Wednesday March 27

Syrian opposition leader takes seat on Arab League; North Korea says it is nearly combat-ready and threatens to strike US and South Korea; Vietnam accuses Chinese vessel of firing at fishing boat in South China Sea; Australia to shut down base in Afghanistan; Cyprus banks to stay shut; and more

Top of the Agenda: Syrian Opposition Takes Arab League Seat

The Arab League kicked off a two-day summit in Doha, where Moaz al-Khatib, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, represented Syria (al-Jazeera) for the first time despite announcing his resignation from the organization on Sunday. Khatib said he had asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for U.S. forces to help defend (Reuters) rebel-controlled northern parts of Syria with Patriot missiles, adding that the United States should play a bigger role in helping end the two-year-old conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people. The Syrian conflict, along with Afghan government peace talks with the Taliban, will be high on the agenda at the summit.


"Moaz al-Khatib was a unifying figure on the surface for the opposition. But while he was a universal figure, he also lacked the constituency of other groups within the Syrian national coalition, the more partisan groups," writes Andrew Bowen for Syria Deeply.

"While sources in the Syrian National Council (which preceded the coalition and formed the major part of it) reject the idea that Syria could split up if the war continues, they do not discount the possibility that a post-conflict settlement could be sectarian-based," writes an editorial for the Guardian.

"Some believe that the US, British and French may be developing a strategy to spearhead a move on Damascus before the Islamic Front and al-Nusra can capture it for themselves. But it is not clear how committed the US and the West are to manning up the opposition in the South of Syria to gain the jump on the growing Islamic tide washing down from the North," writes Joshua Landis for Syria Comment.



North Korea Combat-Ready

North Korea said its military was preparing missile and artillery units to be combat-ready (AFP), issuing fresh threats that it would strike the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, Guam, and South Korea. The statement comes as the country retaliates against UN sanctions for its latest nuclear test.

VIETNAM: Vietnam accused a Chinese vessel of firing at a Vietnamese fishing boat (WSJ) in the disputed South China Sea in the latest flare-up over the strategic waters.

This CFR Backgrounder sheds light on the ongoing South China Sea conflict that has roiled diplomatic relations in the region.


Australia to shut down base in Afghanistan

Cyprus banks to remain closed

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