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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 25, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama Seeks Peaceful Resolution With Iran

Ray Stubblebine/Courtesy Reuters  

Ray Stubblebine/Courtesy Reuters

They didn't shake hands, but President Barack Obama and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani gave speeches, hours apart, aimed at seeking a peaceful resolution to Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program (AP). Rouhani said Iran must retain the right to enrich uranium, while denying plans to build a nuclear weapon. In a separate interview during his New York visit, Rouhani also distanced himself from his predecessor by calling the Holocaust a crime against Jews, adding that historians could only comment on the scale (Reuters). Obama also used his speech to pressure Russia to move ahead with a strong UN Security Council resolution to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons arsenal (Bloomberg).

Analysis

"This fight against testing Iran's intentions is dumb and dangerous. It's dumb because no one can possibly know just how much the new Tehran government is willing to compromise if we don't test them. Second, it's dangerous because without trying serious give-and-take diplomacy, the United States and Israel will be back on the track to war with Iran, and soon," CFR President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb writes in the Daily Beast.

"Khamenei seems to be calculating that the U.S. is so weak now (see recent events in Syria) that it will drop sanctions and accept Iran's ambitions to dominate the Middle East in return for a cosmetic slowdown in its nuclear development. It is critical that President Obama stick to a high standard for any possible deal," CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot writes for Commentary.

"To be sure, the president's ultimate vision for world order remains liberal and internationalist … But by his fifth year on the job, Obama is no starry-eyed idealist. Indeed, his comments betrayed the weariness of a statesman acutely aware that although forces and events may be nudged incrementally in a positive direction, there is no making the world anew," writes CFR Senior Fellow Stewart M. Patrick.

 

InfoGuide: China's Maritime Disputes

We are delighted to announce the launch of a new interactive series called "InfoGuides." The first guide examines the escalating maritime disputes in the South China and East China Seas, pairing expert analysis with maps, timelines, infographics, and videos. Take a look.

PACIFIC RIM

Chinese Activist Cao Shunli Missing

Cao Shunli, a legal rights activist in China, has disappeared after she was questioned by Beijing airport police (BBC), according to Human Rights Watch. Cao was on her way to attend a UN human rights training course in Geneva and was last seen on September 14.

NORTH KOREA: Pyongyang may be just one test away from developing technology to make a nuclear warhead that fits one of North Korea's long range ballistic missiles (Yonhap).

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Hundreds Killed in Pakistan Earthquake

A 7.7 quake struck southwestern Pakistan Tuesday, moving the earth with such a force that it created a small island off the country's southern coast and left more than 260 people dead (Dawn).

INDIA: The prime ministers of Pakistan and India will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week as tensions mount in the dispute over Kashmir (AFP).

 

MIDDLE EAST

Fears of Mass Starvation in Syria

As world leaders focus on dismantling Syria's chemical weapons, people trapped in the suburbs east and west of Damascus and were subject to the sarin gas attack last month are at the risk of mass starvation (AP). Six people have died for lack of food, including an eighteen-month-old girl.

 

AFRICA

Kenya Mall Attack Ends With Sixty-Seven Dead

Kenyan troops and rescue workers combed through a Nairobi shopping mall that was the scene of an eighty-hour attack by Somalia's al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab. Five attackers were killed and eleven captured (DailyNation). A British citizen was arrested in Nairobi in connection to the attack.

NIGERIA: President Goodluck Jonathan made a case at the UN for Nigeria to be elected to the Security Council for the 2014-2015 session, and called for reforming the body (DailyTimes).

CFR's John Campbell writes about the kidnapping of prominent people in Nigeria in this blog post.

 

EUROPE

Former Pope Denies Abuse Cover-Up

In his first remarks since retirement, former Pope Benedict XVI rejected personal responsibility in covering up the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy (BBC). The former pope delivered his statement in a letter to a prominent Italian atheist.

UNITED KINGDOM: A European Banking Authority report revealed that Europe's large banks are on track to meet the capital requirements of Basel III by February 2014, five years ahead of schedule (FT).

 

AMERICAS

U.S. Housing Recovery Still on Track

The U.S. housing market, an important driver of economic growth, has maintained strength despite rising mortgage rates, but the pace of price increases has slowed (NYT). Economists are concerned that some real estate markets are overpriced, but are still below their 2007 peak.

UNITED STATES: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) pulled an all-nighter at the Senate in a filibuster attempt aimed at derailing the implementation of Obama's health-care overhaul bill (LATimes).

 

 

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