Assad appears on TV after rebels report attack

August 8, 2013

Syria’s Assad shown unscathed after alleged rebel attack, Obama cancels meeting with Putin, and U.S. drones kill 8 in Yemen. Today is Thursday, August 8, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @clarerrrr.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (C) attends Eid al-Fitr prayers at Anas bin Malek mosque in Damascus, August 8, 2013, in this handout photograph released by Syria’s national news agency SANA.  REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

Assad attack. Syrian rebels on Thursday claimed to have hit President Bashar Assad’s motorcade in Damascus, however the government denied the attack and state television showed the embattled president uninjured during Eid al-Fitr celebrations:

Firas al-Bitar, head of the Tahrir al-Sham brigade, said his fighters had carried out reconnaissance of the route of Assad’s motorcade and fired 120 mm artillery towards the president’s convoy early on Thursday. “The attack rattled the regime, even if Assad was not hit,” he told Reuters from an undisclosed location in the capital. “There were two motorcades, one containing Assad and a decoy. We targeted the correct one.” Bitar’s brigade operates mainly in the Ghouta region on the eastern outskirts of the capital. Another official in Tahrir al-Sham said Assad’s forces fired rockets and artillery “like rain” on the region in response to the reported attack.

A Syrian army ambush on Wednesday morning killed sixty-two rebels in a town east of the capital as the government tried to secure Damascus.

Ice cold.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Snowden chills U.S.-Russia relations. Obama called off a meeting with Russia’s President Putin after Russia granted NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum.

“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia summit in early September,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. The Russian government expressed disappointment at the decision, which means Obama will skip Moscow talks with Putin but still attend a G20 summit in St. Petersburg September 5-6. Obama will stop in Sweden on September 4 instead of visiting Moscow.

The high-profile Snowden case is the latest sore point in an increasingly sour relationship between the two countries, contradicting the “reset” Obama sought in his first term. On Thursday, Putin sent a telegram wishing his old friend and former U.S. president George W. Bush a speedy recovery from surgery, highlighting Putin’s comparatively cool relationship with President Obama.

Drone strikes kill eight. Amid warnings of potential attacks and the shuttering of U.S. embassies across the Middle East, a U.S. drone strikes killed at least eight suspected militants in Yemen on Thursday:

Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries, is one of handful of countries where Washington acknowledges targeting militants with strikes by drone aircraft, although it does not comment publicly on the practice … Security in Yemen is a global concern. Home to [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], considered one of the most aggressive branches of the global militant organization, it shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally and the world’s top oil exporter.

BBC correspondent Yalda Hakim explains anger in Yemen and why drone attacks are like “trying to hit a ghost.” On Wednesday, Yemeni authorities claimed to have foiled an al Qaeda plot to seize major oil and gas export terminals.

Nota Bene: A suicide bomb attack on the funeral of a Pakistani policeman that killed 29 people was broadcast on live television.


Oh Maya goodness – Archeologists discover “extraordinary” sculpture in a Guatemalan pyramid. (BBC)

Still standing – One of the last American journalist in Yemen explains the mood in the country. (The Atlantic)

Cause for accord – Egyptians agree U.S. politicians have done enough. (Huffington Post)

Satire slip-up – Humorous article on Washington Post sale fools Chinese state media. (Washington Post)

Vlad the Impaler – How Putin sticks it to Obama. (Foreign Policy)

From the File:

This post has been updated to reflect the latest death count from U.S. drone strikes in Yemen.

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