Syrian opposition takes seat at the table at Arab Summit

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
March 26, 2013

Resigned opposition leader takes Syria’s seat at Arab Summit, North Korea boasts battle readiness, and Thailand’s government agrees to meet jihadist group. Today is Tuesday, March 26, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.


The Syrian opposition flag is seen in front of the seat of the Syrian delegation at the opening the Arab League summit in Doha on March 26, 2013. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Back so soon? The recently-resigned leader of the Syrian National Coalition, Moaz Alkhatib, took Syria’s seat at an Arab Summit in Doha today, marking the first time the opposition has been included in such talks. Alkhatib asked the U.S. for aid during the meeting:

Alkhatib said the United States should play a bigger role in helping end the two-year-old conflict in Syria, blaming Assad’s government for what he called its refusal to solve the crisis. “I have asked [U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry] to extend the umbrella of the Patriot missiles to cover the Syrian north and he promised to study the subject,” Alkhatib said, referring to NATO Patriot missile batteries sent to Turkey last year to protect Turkish airspace.

A NATO official responded that the alliance does not intend to intervene militarily. Alkhatib resigned as head of the Syrian National Coalition on Sunday, citing frustrations with the global community’s lack of support for Syrian rebels. It is unclear whether the moderate leader’s decision to represent Syria’s opposition at the summit suggests he is reconsidering his resignation. Assad’s government was suspended from the summit in 2011.

North Korean troops ordered to be combat ready, targeting U.S. bases. North Korea issued yet another bellicose threat to the United States, this time saying that its strategic rockets and long-range artillery units are targeting U.S. military bases in Hawaii, Guam and the mainland.

The North previously threatened nuclear attack on the United States and South Korea, although it is not believed to have the capability to hit the continental United States with an atomic weapon. But the U.S. military’s bases in the Pacific area are in range of its medium-range missiles.

Pyongyang’s latest comments come in response to the U.S. flying B-52 bombers over the Korean peninsula as part of military drills. The North has made increasingly belligerent threats since the U.S. and South Korea began joint drills this month. South Korea said that the North did not appear to be taking unusual actions, but that it will monitor the situation.

Outlook darkens for forgotten Thai rebellion. The Thai government agreed to hold peace talks in Malaysia with the insurgent group National Revolutionary Front (BRN) in an attempt to cease the violence that has claimed more than 5,300 lives over a nine-year period. The talks, slated for Thursday, come weeks after a government raid in the southern Thailand district of Bacho killed more rebel fighters than any other clash since 2004. BRN officials and Thai government representatives have expressed doubts over the success of the upcoming meeting:

Thailand is dominated by Thai-speaking Buddhists, but its three southernmost provinces are home to mostly Malay-speaking Muslims. They have chafed under the rule of faraway Bangkok since Thailand annexed the Islamic sultanate of Patani a century ago. The latest and most serious violence erupted in the early 2000s. “This round of talks will not result in any formal deals,” said Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC), Thailand’s lead agency in the process. “We will ask them to reduce violence towards certain groups and soft targets.”

Thailand’s jihadists are not affiliated with al Qaeda, and so are often left out of the global discussion on radical Islamist groups.

Nota Bene: Reuters photographers were on the scene as cities of the world went dark for Earth Hour on March 23.

Standouts:

Senior suicides - Elderly South Koreans are twice as likely as their younger counterparts to take their own lives. (Time)

“Ogooglebar” - Sweden and Google are in a spat over who has the right to name the Swedish word for “ungoogleable.” (The Associated Press)

Victim blaming - Conservative Islamists in Egypt’s elite are upset at Egyptian women for being sexually assaulted. (The New York Times)

Collusion conclusion - Afghan President Karzai said the media misinterpreted his claim that the U.S. colluded with the Taliban. (CNN)

Oligarch out - Reuters columnist John Lloyd says Boris Berezovsky paid for betting on Putin. (Reuters)

Ladies and gents, the first lady - China’s new opera-singing first lady is making a splash on her first foreign trip. (New York Magazine)

From the File:

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  • Looters, gunmen roam Central African Republic capital after coup
  • New state coalition replaces far right in Austria heartland
  • BRICS chafe under charge of “new imperialists” in Africa
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