Headlines of the Day

February 27, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Who’s in the News

Hillary Clinton says Syrian military may oust President Assad (Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times)

With deep divisions preventing forceful international action, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested security forces long loyal to Bashar Assad and his family could oust the Syrian president and end the bloodshed that is ripping his country apart.  “We also know from many sources that there are people around Assad who are beginning to hedge their bets … they didn’t sign up to slaughter people,” Clinton said.  Clinton cited the cases last year of Tunisia and Egypt, where militaries stepped in to remove longtime autocratic leaders after popular protests.  “We saw this happen in other settings last year,” Clinton said. “I think it is going to happen in Syria.”  Robert Danin, a former State Department official now with the Council on Foreign Relations, said Clinton’s statement Friday was “by far the most explicit call by the administration for what would be a coup.”

See also: Clinton sat down for an interview with NPR’s Michele Kelemen while in Morocco, to discuss Syria and promoting democracy.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Egypt Delays Aid-Worker Trial, as U.S. Steps Up Talks (Matt Bradley, Wall Street Journal)

An Egyptian judge adjourned a trial of 43 civil-society workers, including at least 16 Americans, who are charged with taking illegal foreign funding, prolonging a legal dispute that is inflaming relations between the U.S. and its crucial Mideast partner.  The decision, which postpones the trial until April 26, is not unusual, as Egyptian trials routinely adjourn after the opening session to allow time for the defense and prosecution to prepare their cases. The trial of President Hosni Mubarak, which ended last week ahead of a final verdict on June 2, was also adjourned at the outset.  With the trial now underway, the delay is unlikely to open new avenues for a diplomatic settlement. Cairo has said repeatedly that the trial is a judicial matter that will brook no outside interference.  The U.S. government is “having intense talks at the highest levels of the Egyptian government” over the accused Americans, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN in the Moroccan capital of Rabat, where she was on an official visit Sunday.

A Taste of Hope Sends Refugees Back to Darfur (Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times)

More than 100,000 people in Darfur have left the sprawling camps where they had taken refuge for nearly a decade and headed home to their villages over the past year, the biggest return of displaced people since the war began in 2003 and a sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.  And while the many thousands going home are only a small fraction of Darfur’s total displaced population, they are doing so voluntarily, United Nations officials say, offering one of the most concrete signs of hope this war-weary region has seen in years.  “It’s amazing,” said Dysane Dorani, head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission for the western sector of Darfur. “The people are coming together. It reminds me of Lebanon after the civil war.”

In Syria, aid agencies unable to evacuate wounded from Homs (Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times)

Aid agencies were unable to evacuate any people Saturday from a battle-scarred neighborhood in the central Syrian city of Homs, one day after the United States and other nations demanded that President Bashar Assad allow humanitarian aid into strife-ridden Syria.  Among the injured still stranded in Homs’ Baba Amr district were a pair of Western journalists, Edith Bouvier of the French daily Le Figaro and Paul Conroy of the Sunday Times of London. Both suffered leg injuries in a shelling attack Wednesday that killed two other Western journalists.  Aid groups were unable to work out an arrangement after extensive discussions with both government and opposition representatives, said Saleh Dabbakeh, a spokesman in Damascus for the Red Cross.  “We kept negotiating all day long, but unfortunately the negotiations did not lead to anything,” Dabbakeh said by telephone from the Syrian capital.