Vote on Syria meets Russian resistance

May 15, 2013

U.N. General Assembly set to vote on resolution decrying Assad,  sanctions cool off North Korean nuclear program, and apartheid tactics show dark side of Myanmar’s democratization. Today is Wednesday, May 15, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

A Free Syrian Army fighter walks past graffiti on a wall along a street in Deir al-Zor on May 14, 2013. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

U.N. prepares to vote on Syria. The U.N. General Assembly will vote today on a draft resolution similar to one from  2012, which criticizes the Syrian government and supports the opposition’s Syrian National Coalition:

A dispute between Russia and the United States over how to end Syria’s war has left the U.N. Security Council paralyzed to act. They both agreed last week to convene a peace conference on Syria, but that plan already appears to be hitting snags over who should represent the opposition. The current draft U.N. resolution welcomes the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition “as effective representative interlocutors needed for a political transition.”

Russia opposes the resolution, but unlike in the Security Council, no country in the Assembly has veto power. The resolution denounces all violence and the government’s increasing use of heavy weapons, shelling and shooting into neighboring countries, and human rights abuses. It also demands access for a U.N. group investigating allegations of chemical weapons use. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that the the two-year conflict may have cost as many as 120,000 lives.

Sanctions seen choking North Korean nuclear program. Heightened sanctions are successfully slowing North Korea’s nuclear arms work, according to a confidential U.N. report obtained by Reuters:

The latest annual report by the U.N. sanctions-monitoring group comes as the United States seeks to convince China that applying economic and other sanctions against its neighbor is crucial to halting the program. “While the imposition of sanctions has not halted the development of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, it has in all likelihood considerably delayed (North Korea’s) timetable and, through the imposition of financial sanctions and the bans on the trade in weapons, has choked off significant funding which would have been channeled into its prohibited activities,” the group said in a 52-page report.

The evaluation does not include the effects of heightened sanctions implemented in March. The group also noted that North Korea had breached sanctions following reports of luxury good imports, as well as interceptions of aluminum alloys suspected of being nuclear-related and missile-related materials headed for Syria.

Myanmar’s transition makes room for ethnic hatred. Myanmar is seeing the worst sectarian violence in decades after a quasi-civilian government came into power in 2011, tarnishing the country’s transition to democracy after nearly 50 years of military dictatorship:

Trash-strewn camps represent the dark side of Myanmar’s celebrated transition to democracy: apartheid-like policies segregating minority Muslims from the Buddhist majority. As communal violence spreads, nowhere are these practices more brutally enforced than around Sittwe. In an echo of what happened in the Balkans after the fall of communist Yugoslavia, the loosening of authoritarian control in Myanmar is giving freer rein to ethnic hatred.

Roughly 140,000 people have been displaced since violence erupted two years ago, and the state government halted plans to allow Rohingya Muslims to return to their homes unless they self-identify as “Bengali.” Bangladesh also disowned the Muslim group, leaving them essentially stateless and vulnerable to human rights abuses inflicted by government police and Buddhist nationals.

Nota Bene: Even Germany can’t save the European Union from its longest recession.


Learning the wrong lessons – Political scientist Dalia Dassa Kaye explains how the U.S. could get the wrong message from Israel’s Syria strike. (Reuters)

‘We are not fanatic killers’ – Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal gives his first interview since being re-elected. (Foreign Policy)

Paved paradise –  Contractors in Belize want to use a Mayan temple’s limestone to make gravel. (Bloomberg)

Charity walk cut short – A Seattle man dies trying to dribble a soccer ball to Brazil. (The Guardian)

Bibi’s beauty budget – Israelis are outraged by how much PM Netanyahu spends on hair and makeup. (The Telegraph)

From the File:

  • Malaysia’s Najib packs new cabinet with conservatives
  • Series of bombs kills at least 14 people across Iraq: police
  • Thousands of Palestinians mark 65 years since displacement
  • Britain’s Cameron faces parliamentary revolt over Europe
  • Nigerian troops on new offensive against Islamists


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