Obama insists U.S. won’t tackle Syria alone
Obama takes cautious line on Syria, the Afghan border makes Russia nervous, and China’s got a ten-year economic plan. Today is Friday, May 17, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.
A Free Syrian Army member prays next to the grave of a fellow fighter in a cemetery in Deir el-Zor, May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
Obama won’t go it alone. President Barack Obama said the United States would leave military and diplomatic action against Assad on the table, adding that the U.S. would not act alone to resolve the crisis. Obama and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented a united front on Syria after a meeting in Washington:
Taking a cautious line at a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Obama voiced hope that the United States and Russia would succeed in arranging an international peace conference on Syria, despite signs of growing obstacles. Erdogan had been expected to push Obama, at least in private, for more assertive action on Syria during a visit to Washington this week, days after car bombs tore through a Turkish border town in the deadliest spillover of violence yet.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saidthat an international peace conference on Syria proposed by the U.S. and Russia, which critics say may be doomed to fail, should be held as soon as possible. French President Francois Hollande criticized Russia for continuing to arm Assad, as U.S. officials said that Russia is sending the regime advanced antiship cruise missiles. A political solution in Syria is further complicated by extremist elements battling Assad. An exclusive Reuters report found that Al Qaeda in Iraq, whose goal goes beyond overthrowing the regime to anti-Western jihad, is overshadowing Syria’s rebel group Al Nusra Front. The two-year long crisis has forced a record 1.5 million refugees out of the country and killed 80,000, according to recently released U.N. figures.
Russia worried over narcotics, terrorism spillover from Afghanistan. Russia is thinking about sending troops to the Tajik-Afghanistan border once NATO-led forces withdraw. All too familiar with disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Moscow fears a repeat:
Intensifying violence across Afghanistan, less than two years before foreign combat troops withdraw, has sent tremors of worry across Russia, which is battling an Islamist insurgency in its North Caucasus as well as widespread use of heroin and a huge increase in the incidence of HIV and AIDS. Russia is involved in a series of ambitious construction projects in Afghanistan, including rebuilding its Soviet-era cultural center, aimed at fostering stability in the country which produces 90 percent of the world’s opium.
Russian troops stopped guarding the border in 2005, handing over power to local authorities. President Obama has not announced how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
Xi’s the man. Chinese President Xi Jinping plans sweeping reforms to spark China’s economic growth:
The reforms could face resistance from vested interests, especially state firms. Broadly, the measures would liberalize interest rates and overhaul the fiscal system for local governments to ensure they had a steady stream of tax revenues rather than relying on volatile land sales to raise funds. The reforms would also free up China’s rigid residence registration, or hukou, system that precludes people from access to basic welfare services outside their official residence area, the sources said.
China remains the world’s largest economy, but its growth rate has reached its weakest point in 13 years. In addition to focusing on altering local governments’ fiscal systems and pushing for urbanization, the reforms aim to curb China’s growing shadow banking sector.
Nota Bene: Argentina’s unrepentant dirty war dictator dies in prison at age 87.
After the massacre - Norway’s shooting rampage victims explain their scars in their own words. (New York Times)
Homophobic harassment - A quarter of LGBT individuals interviewed in the EU say they’ve been physically attacked or threatened over the past five years. (BBC)
“Like” lament - An Australian politician apologized for accidentally clicking “like” on a Facebook photo of a minor exposing himself. (The Independent)
TP emergency - Venezuela is experiencing a toilet-paper shortage. (The Associated Press)
Japan is back - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks about his ambitious economic plan and controversial comments on Japanese history. (Foreign Affairs)
From the File: