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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 20, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama Threatens Veto of New Iran Sanctions

A group of twenty-six senators introduced legislation that would impose sanctions on Iran if the interim nuclear deal is violated or is allowed to expire before a final agreement is reached (AP). The bipartisan bill won't be debated until next year, and President Obama threatened to veto new sanctions because it could derail negotiations with Tehran (Bloomberg). Meanwhile in Geneva, Iran and six world powers resumed expert-level talks on how to implement the interim agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear program in return for relaxing some economic sanctions (Reuters).

Analysis

"If Iran does not follow through on this opening or if in the end the regime is not willing to rejoin the community of nations, then we should impose even more crippling sanctions, and make clear that all potential options, including the use of military force, remain available. But we shouldn't pass legislation now that would endanger negotiations that most people and countries want to succeed. Such congressional action now could bolster the efforts of Iran's militants to kill the deal," Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) write in Politico.

"Iran is sending an early message that it does not intend to bargain in good faith. That impression was reinforced by interviews given recently by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, including one to The Post's David Ignatius. Mr. Zarif claimed that Iran wanted a deal and that 'on our side. . . it is very easy to reach an agreement.' But he also came close to ruling out acceptance of steps that will be essential to ensuring that Iran is not left with a nuclear breakout capacity," the Washington Post writes in an editorial.

"America must now begin to think about a gradual realignment of its Middle East policy, one that aims to reintegrate Iran into the international fold and, over time, transform an enemy into an ally. It won't be easy. But, in the long term, it would be good for the United States, Israel and the Iranian people," writes David Patrikarakos in the New York Times.

 

CFR Report: Preventive Priorities Survey 2014

The Center for Preventive Action's annual Preventive Priorities Survey evaluates ongoing and potential conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring in the coming year and their impact on U.S. interests. Take a look at the 2014 survey.

PACIFIC RIM

Philippine Mayor Killed in Airport Shooting

A town mayor, his wife and infant, and another person were killed after gunmen fired at the group at close range outside the airport in the Philippine capital Manila. The gunmen escaped on motorcycle. Authorities said they didn't know the motive behind the attack (al-Jazeera).

CHINA: U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel said China's behavior during a narrowly avoided collision with a U.S. naval vessel was "unhelpful" and "irresponsible" (SMH).

This CFR InfoGuide explains the maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

U.S. Refuses to Drop Charges Against Indian Official

The United States will not drop charges against India's deputy consul general in New York despite an escalating diplomatic row. Devyani Khobragade was arrested on suspicion of visa fraud and making false statements after being accused of underpaying her maid (BBC).

TAJIKISTAN: Almost two hundred cars stolen in Germany, including ninety-three BMWs, have turned up in Tajikistan and are being driven by the family and friends of the president (AFP).

 

MIDDLE EAST

Corruption Inquiry Hits Close to Turkey's Leader

More than a dozen police officials have been dismissed after several days of sensational disclosures of corruption involving the inner circle of Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The scandal has also exposed a deepening rift between Erdogan and followers of his former ally, the Sufi preacher Fethullah Gulen (NYT).

 

AFRICA

Uganda to Punish Gays With Life Imprisonment

Lawmakers in Uganda have passed a law that punishes "aggravated homosexuality" with life imprisonment. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but writers of the bill said a tougher law was needed to deter Western homosexuals from "recruiting" Ugandan children (AP).

This CFR Backgrounder explains same-sex marriage laws in six countries, including South Africa.

SOUTH SUDAN: President Barack Obama warned that fighting in South Sudan could reignite conflict less than two years after the country became independent (Sudan Tribune).

 

EUROPE

S&P Drops EU Triple-A Rating

Standard & Poor's downgraded the EU from triple-A to AA-plus, citing disagreements over a common budget and the bloc's increasingly fragile financial conditions. EU officials disputed the rationale for the downgrade. The move is seen as symbolic because eurozone issues very little debt of its own (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the role of credit rating agencies in the global financial system.

RUSSIA: Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man and political rival of President Vladimir Putin, has been released from prison after Putin signed a decree pardoning him (Guardian).

 

AMERICAS

Obama Commutes Eight Drug Sentences

President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of eight people who each served more than fifteen years on crack cocaine offenses. Obama said the prisoners would have already been released under a new law that reduced the discrepancy in sentences between crack and powder cocaine offenses (Bloomberg).

UNITED STATES: The Obama administration said millions of consumers whose individual health insurance policies were cancelled can claim a "hardship exemption" to avoid buying insurance before the December 23 deadline (WaPo).

This CFR Backgrounder explains how health-care costs affect U.S. competitiveness.

 

 

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