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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
January 14, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Mali Rebels Pledge Counter-Attack on France

Rebels in northern Mali pledged to strike "at the heart" of France after a joint Malian-French offensive (France24), which is entering its fourth day of attacks, began pushing back al-Qaeda-linked rebels controlling the region. Algeria, which was previously hostile to foreign intervention in Mali, on Sunday granted France permission to fly (al-Jazeera) through its airspace to reach its targets. France's foreign minister said that the country's military operation would only last weeks, and convened a UN Security Council meeting for Monday to discuss the situation.

Analysis

"In short, to the French, Mali threatens to become a new Afghanistan: a failed state and a haven for terrorists. Added to this cocktail is the reality that approximately 6,000 French citizens live in Mali, and that there are currently seven French hostages being held in the country. These facts make it even easier to claim that vital French interests are at stake in a country that is becoming increasingly unstable," writes Jennifer Welsh for the Globe and Mail.

"For Hollande, whose poll ratings are at record lows because of his hesitant leadership and failure to cut unemployment, Mali could emerge as his political crucible. It was already diverting attention away from a mass march on Sunday in protest at his plans to legalize gay marriages, and meant that a late-night Friday deal between trade unions and employers on reforming the labor market went little noticed," write Mark John and John Irish for Reuters.

"AQIM is currently holding at least nine European hostages in northern Mali. Over the last decade a few local Ifoghas, Tuaregs and Arabs joined AQIM in Mali, and their members also inter-married with the community," writes May Ying Welsh for al-Jazeera.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Anger Mounts Over China's Pollution

China's state media joined the Internet public on Monday in calling for a reevaluation of China's rapid modernization (AFP) as pollution reached levels almost forty times that of the World Health Organization's safe limit in recent days.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye said Monday at meetings with UN Security Council envoys that she will work closely with Britain and France on issues regarding North Korea (Yonhap).

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Afghan Elders to Decide on U.S. Troop Immunity

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday that tribal elders will decide on the issue of whether American soldiers remaining in the country after 2014 would be granted immunity from prosecution (al-Jazeera).

CFR's Max Boot explores what it would take to secure Afghanistan in this report.

INDIA: Indian police say they have arrested six people suspected of kidnapping a woman from a bus in the northwestern state of Punjab and raping her (WSJ). The case comes a month after an attack on a woman on a bus in New Delhi sparked uproar across the country.

CFR's Isobel Coleman outlines three things to know about sexual violence in India in this video.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Egyptian Court Overturns Mubarak Verdict

An Egyptian appeals court on Sunday threw out the guilty verdicts against former president Hosni Mubarak and an interior minister on charges that they allowed the killing of protesters, and ordered a retrial (al-Ahram).

IRAQ: Iraqi Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, a central figure in more than two weeks of protests by minority Sunnis against the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government, survived a bomb attack (RadioFreeEurope) on his convoy on Sunday.

CFR's Meghan O'Sullivan discusses the difficult times ahead for Iraq in this interview.

 

AFRICA

EU Allocates Aid to Sudan

The European Commission has allocated up to eighty million euros (SudanTribune) for this year's humanitarian aid in Sudan and South Sudan, where conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states has displaced more than 500,000 people.

 

EUROPE

David Cameron Warns Against EU Vote

UK Prime Minister David Cameron warned against an immediate referendum (FT) vote on EU membership on Monday, saying it would offer voters a "false choice" on Britain's relationship with the twenty-seven-nation bloc.

GREECE: In another incident of political violence, gunmen fired shots (NYT) Monday into the Athens offices of Greece's conservative party, which leads the fragile coalition government.

 

AMERICAS

Chavez's Health "Improving"

The Venezuelan government announced Sunday that President Hugo Chavez's lung infection was controlled and his medical state is "improving" (MercoPress). Venezuelan officials also met with Cuban President Raul Castro during their Havana visit.

CUBA: Cuba's new travel policy, which eliminates exit visas (MiamiHerald) and allows exiled Cubans to visit, takes effect on Monday.

 

TRANSITION 2012

Russia and Obama's Second Term

President Obama's first-term "reset" with Russia has frayed badly in recent months, and "threatens pillars of Obama's second-term foreign policy agenda," reports the Washington Post.

Chuck Hagel, nominated to be the next secretary of defense, will meet this week with Senator Charles E. Schumer, one of the most influential Jewish members of the Senate, who is expected to press Hagel on issues concerning Iran and Israel, reports the New York Times.

 

 

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