Must-Reads from Around the World: Feb. 8, 2012

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Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping waves to students during a visit to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok on Dec. 24, 2011

Iowa Beckons – Communist Party mouthpiece China Daily muses the impact of Vice-President Xi Jinping’s U.S. visit next week. While its news story quotes experts saying it “will help China-U.S. ties fly clear of U.S. election year turbulence,” an accompanying op-ed goes further: “Xi’s U.S. visit will play a positive role in advancing Sino-U.S. relations and a healthy and mutually beneficial partnership.”

Damascus Damned – The Guardian gives a grizzly account of the “genocidal” Syrian siege of Homs, in which witnesses describe “their fear that the regime is preparing to make a lethal final assault.” Meanwhile a Haaretz op-ed in Israel argues that the U.N. must create an inquiry into atrocities in Syria “to send a direct message to Bashar Assad: A regime which resorts to war crimes will have to answer for them.”

War of Words – As the U.K. and Argentina continue to feud over the Falklands Islands, the Buenos Aires Herald reports how Argentine President Cristina Fernández announced in a much hyped speech on live television Tuesday that the country would file a formal complaint before the U.N. General Assembly and the Security Council over the alleged increasing “militarization” of the South Atlantic region. British officials dismissed the claim, responding that, “the people of the Falkland Islands are British out of choice”

Bye, Bye Baghdad – The New York Times reports the U.S. State Department is planning to slash staff at the Iraq embassy. The decision to downsize the $750 billion embassy and its nearly 16,000 employees and contractors marks a change in attitude in the region.

Conversation Starter – Iran may be ready to discuss its nuclear program and The Atlantic’s Madison Schramm makes the case that diplomacy is the best course. Foreign Policy’s John Limbert has five tips before anyone sits down at the table, noting that it’s been more than a year since the last round of unsuccessful talks and it’s never to early to have a game plan.

Primary Problems – As this October’s Venezuelan presidential elections draw near, the Wall Street Journal reports that in order to successfully oust incumbent Hugo Chavez the opposition parties will have to unify behind one candidate. And that candidate appears to be Henrique Capriles Radonski. The Washington Post follows Capriles as he braces for a tough battle ahead, but has fared better in polls than any other challenger to Chavez. Speaking of Capriles, the next edition of TIME International will have more on him.