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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 19, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Bombs Rock Baghdad on Decade Anniversary of Invasion

Car bombs killed at least fifty-six people in Shia districts across Baghdad on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The attacks came as the cabinet announced on Tuesday that it would postpone provincial elections (BBC) scheduled for April in two provinces over security concerns. Al-Qaeda-linked Sunni fighters have intensified attacks this year in an attempt to stoke sectarian tensions (al-Jazeera) and undermine Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shia-led government a decade after U.S. and Western troops ousted Saddam Hussein from power.

Analysis

"Iraq was not an important sponsor of Islamicist terrorism. Islamicist terrorism was fueled not by fascist dictatorships such as Iraq, but by non-state actors in failed states such as Afghanistan and Somalia; and our invasion of Iraq promptly turned it into precisely the sort of failed-state sectarian war zone that does fuel terrorism," writes the Economist.

"So are you asking me was it worth it? Was this a good set of decisions well implemented? The answer I would say is absolutely not. This war was a war of choice that represented a poor choice poorly implemented," says CFR President Richard Haass.

"After two trillion dollars, thousands of American lives, and over a hundred thousand Iraqi lives, there is so little U.S. influence that we can't get the government of Iraq to interdict Iranian weapons shipped across its territory to arm the soldiers of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Iraq has rejected the organ transplant and gone its own way," writes George Packer for the New Yorker.

 

PACIFIC RIM

China's Xi Jinping Meets U.S. Treasury Secretary

China's new President Xi Jinping met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in Beijing on Tuesday in his first major diplomatic meeting since taking office. The two plan to discuss points of contention (WaPo) including cyberattacks, China's currency, and intellectual property during the two-day trip.

JAPAN: Four fuel storage pools at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant were left without fresh cooling water due to a power outage (AsahiShinbum) on Tuesday, although authorities restarted two of them.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

India and Italy's Diplomatic Row Escalates

India's Supreme Court extended a travel ban on the Italian ambassador until further notice, escalating the diplomatic dispute (WSJ) over the Italian government's refusal to return two Italian marines to India to stand trial for allegedly murdering two Indian fishermen.

MYANMAR: Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (Reuters) plans to go to Myanmar this week as the first high-profile technology executive to visit since the West eased sanctions.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick discusses some of the policy shortcomings of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in this blog post.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Syrian Opposition Elects PM

Syrian opposition coalition members elected former businessman Ghassan Hitto as provisional prime minister (al-Arabiya) on Tuesday. Hitto, who worked at a technology communications firm in Texas, will be responsible for forming a government to fill a power vacuum in Syria.

 

AFRICA

Suicide Bomb Hits Nigerian Bus Station

A suicide bomber attacked buses parked at a motor park in Kano, Nigeria, killing at least twenty people (DailyTrust). While no group claimed responsibility, authorities suspect the involvement of the insurgency led by militant group Boko Haram.

CONGO: Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda surrendered (BBC) to the U.S. embassy in Rwanda on Monday after seven years on the run, and will stand trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court.

 

EUROPE

Cyprus Amends Levy Plan

Cyprus drafted a new bill that would spare all small depositors from charges (AP), an amendment to the bank deposit levy plan that has sparked outrage in the country and sent jitters through European financial markets.

CFR's Robert Kahn reflects on why Cyprus matters in this blog post.

VATICAN: Pope Francis celebrated his inauguration mass with a brief homily (FT) in St Peter's square, officially taking over the reign of Benedict XVI, the German-born pope who abdicated last month.

The new pope represents a cautious break with tradition, CFR's Isobel Coleman says in this blog post.

 

AMERICAS

Chile's Bachelet to Run Again

Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, who resigned from her post as the executive director of UN Women, is expected to return to Chile and announce her intention to run as the leading opposition candidate (MercoPress) against Sebastian Piņera in Chile's primary elections next April.

BRAZIL: Brazil's central bank lowered 2013 growth forecasts (LAHT) from 3.1 percent to 3.03 percent as the country copes with higher prices and outsized inflation.

 

 

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