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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 13, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Putin Backs Sisi for Egypt Presidency

Russian president Vladimir Putin said he was "aware" of Egypt military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi's plan to run for the presidency during a visit to Moscow to negotiate a reported $2 billion arms deal, even though Sisi hasn't yet announced his candidacy (BBC). The only declared presidential candidate so far, Hamdeen Sabahi, has called for the release of political prisoners and raised concerns over a culture of fear spreading across Egypt (Reuters). Meanwhile, the crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood has reached the U.S. embassy in Cairo, where police arrested a local employee who reportedly served as a liaison between the United States and the ousted elected government in Egypt (WaPo).

Analysis

"Six months ago skeptics warned the army-backed government against a blanket clampdown on dissent, whether peaceful or not. Instead, the re-emboldened security services have increasingly been hammering the whole gamut of opposition, from secular reformers to every type of Islamist. And sure enough, resentment is brewing, in slums and villages as well as in intellectual and liberal circles," writes the Economist.

"The 85m-strong society (of which 45m are under 35, and two-thirds of that group are in their teens) is being transformed. It is more connected to the world, more opinionated, daring, and commercially and socially entrepreneurial. No central power can control such a society for any significant period of time. These factors will inevitably weaken centralization," writes Tarek Osman in the Financial Times.

"It is hard to blame Egyptian elites for their predisposition to curry favor even if it violates privately held principles and beliefs. There is no reward for dissent in Egypt. It might get an activist a ringing and eloquent defense on the editorial page of the Washington Post, making him or her a Beltway hero (for a few days), but that will hardly make up for the onslaught that said activist will undoubtedly face within the Mehwar. Confronted with the choice, some brave Egyptians have spoken out, but many more have chosen instead to burnish their pro-coup credentials, calculating that it will ensure them a place (and the attendant benefits) within the new regime," writes CFR Senior Fellow Steven Cook.

 

Pacific Rim

Kerry Visits Seoul to Ease Regional Tensions

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry began a trip to South Korea, China, and Indonesia on Thursday to ease tensions between China and its neighbors over territorial disputes and to explore ways to restart talks on eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons (AP).

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

CHINA: China plans to establish a $1.65 billion fund to aid efforts to curb the use of fossil fuels and control coal consumption with the goal of reducing air pollution (Bloomberg).

This CFR Backgrounder explains China's environmental crisis.

 

South and Central Asia

Afghanistan Releases Detainees Despite U.S. Warnings

Afghanistan released sixty-five detainees on Thursday from the Bagram Prison over the objections of the American military, which said the prisoners were "directly linked" to deadly attacks on coalition and Afghan forces (NYT).

AFGHANISTAN: Two U.S. soldiers were killed by two Afghan men wearing military uniforms, in the first suspected "insider attack" of 2014 (AFP).

 

Middle East

Fate of Evacuated Syrians in Homs Remains Uncertain

A United Nations humanitarian mission has evacuated nearly 1,500 Syrians from a besieged neighborhood in Homs since Friday, but Syrian security forces have detained 374 men in a local school for interrogations and potential trials (WSJ).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Syrian conflict and the global response to the crisis.

 

Africa

Nigeria Central Bank Governor Uncovers Oil Subsidy Racket

Nigeria's central bank governor, who began his tenure in 2009 tackling financial fraud, has exposed an alleged subsidy racket in the country's state-owned oil company that may explain at least $20 billion in shortfalls in the Nigerian government's accounts (FT).

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: President Catherine Samba-Panza said she will "go to war" with Christian militias who are killing Muslims. Violence against Muslims is causing an exodus that has threatened the country's markets and food supply (BBC).

 

Europe

Europe Calls for Less U.S. Influence Over the Internet

The European Commission said it's seeking a timetable to limit U.S. influence over institutions that control the architecture of the Internet, such as the assignment of .com and .org domain names, a move that signals the growing rift between the United States and Europe after revelations of U.S. spying capabilities and practices (WaPo).

RUSSIA: Yevgeny Vitishko, a Russian environmental activist who campaigned against ecological damage from construction in Sochi, will be jailed for three years after losing an appeal against his sentence on Wednesday (Reuters).

 

Americas

Five People Killed in Venezuela Protests

Clashes erupted between Venezuelan security forces and opposition groups that have been protesting against President Nicolas Maduro's government. Five people were killed, including a police officer, two student demonstrators, and a member of a militant community group (al-Jazeera).

UNITED STATES: Comcast group has agreed to acquire Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion, a deal that would create the country's largest provider of cable TV and Internet services (LATimes).

 

 

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