Global Briefing, Jan. 18, 2012; Intervention, Inaction, Independence, Iran — and Iceland’s Funnyman Mayor

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REUTERS / Amateur video via Reuters TV

A member of the Free Syrian Army with an assault rifle stands guard during a patrol in the western border town of Zabadani in this undated still image taken from amateur video obtained by Reuters Jan. 16, 2012.

“It’s Time to Think Seriously About Intervening in Syria”— CFR fellow Steven A. Cook argues in the Atlantic the West must reconsider the assumption Bashar al-Assad’s regime will fall on its own. Meanwhile, the Guardian‘s Middle East editor Ian Black reports from Zabadani, a town 20 miles from Damascus effectively liberated by the Free Syrian Army but under siege.

Arrested Development — The Washington Post delves into the comfortable life of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier. Technically under house arrest on charges of crimes against humanity, “[Duvalier] dines with his many admirers at the chic bistros of Petionville, where he can be found at Quartier Latin, having his poulet creole,” the paper reports.

Secession Lesson — Canadian scholar Michael Ignatieff asks what Scotland can learn from Quebec’s failed attempt to leave Canada. The case of Quebec shows that the split would be both “messy” and “protracted,” he writes.

From Paris, With Love – TIME’s LightBox highlights the amazing photography of Christer Strömholm, who captured the nightlife in Paris’ red light district and the trans-sexual prostitutes who called it home.

There’s Something About China – Western economies have long acknowledged that China is an economic force to be reckoned with. Why then, asks Seumas Milne, in The Guardian, won’t those same states, now dealing with economic turmoil, consider the reasons behind that success.

Toy Story – An Iranian non-profit will honor President Obama’s request that Iran return a crashed drone … by sending miniature toy versions. “We plan to send a full squadron of 12 to the White House for President Obama as a present,” said Reza Kioumarsi, a spokesman for the Aaye Art Group.

And Lastly… Jón Gnarr, the Mayor of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík, penned an amusing “New Year’s Address.” Apparently he wants to boost tourist numbers to the city in 2012. “I am mostly interested in getting people that are rich, interested in swimming and like to spend a lot of money on nonsense. Others are also welcome, though,” the former comic and actor writes.