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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
January 26, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Merkel Opens Davos Forum

German Chancellor Angela Merkel formally opened the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, calling on Europe to become "more European" (DeutscheWelle) in order to address the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Merkel urged her European counterparts to move forward with a so-called fiscal compact agreed upon late last year. However, she resisted calls for Germany to provide more financial aid to prop up the eurozone's weaker states, reiterating her belief in strict austerity and debt reduction as the best way to resolve the crisis.

Analysis

"If we are witnessing the euro being saved, this is a triumph of fear, not of hope. Other great moments of the European project were driven by hope. Here, it is fear that has led Germany and others to do the minimum necessary: fear that the costs of collapse would be higher than the unpalatable, resented alternative of 'bailing out' the countries in trouble," writes the Guardian's Timothy Garton Ash.

"The Germans know what they do not want: no transfer union, no Eurobonds, and no transformation of the European Central Bank into a lender of last resort. But it is harder to discern a vision for Europe behind the slogan of a 'stability union,'" says the Economist.

"The hottest debate in Davos on Thursday will come from a series of plenary sessions on Europe. After German Chancellor Angela Merkel's sobering address Wednesday night, where she asked for patience and more time to save the European Union, leaders will be breaking down the touchy issue of the European Union's relevance and the survival of the euro," writes Newsweek's Barbie Latza Nadeau.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Military Mutiny in PNG

A group of soldiers marched on Papua New Guinea's military headquarters and arrested the country's military chief (Australian), Brig. Gen. Francis Agwi, replacing him with Col. Yaura Sasa. The mutiny was reportedly ordered by ousted prime minister Michael Somare.

AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott were rescued from a Canberra restaurant by federal security officers during a protest by Australia's indigenous aboriginal community (SMH) on Australia Day, the anniversary of the country's founding.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

UN Envoy Calls for Afghan-Led Peace Process

The new United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, called for an "Afghan-led, Afghan-owned" peace process (NYT) following recent reports that the United States is planning to negotiate with the Taliban without the participation of Afghan officials--a claim the U.S. government strongly denies.

Bruce Riedel discusses the challenges faced by the Obama administration in pursuing talks with the Taliban, including its ongoing tensions with Pakistan, in this CFR interview.

INDIA: The country celebrated its sixty-third Republic Day (BBC)--marking the enactment of its democratic constitution--with a military parade in the capital of Delhi.

 

MIDDLE EAST

UN Concerned over Libyan Militias

United Nations Libya envoy Ian Martin warned the Security Council of deadly clashes in Bani Walid and other strongholds of former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, while UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said anti-Qaddafi militias were holding around 8,500 prisoners in detention centers (RFE).

Despite the hopes raised by the Arab Spring, democracy is actually in retreat around the world, but there is a way to revive it, writes CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick in this BusinessWeek op-ed.

EGYPT: Authorities have blocked Sam LaHood, the Cairo chief of the International Republican Institute, from leaving the country as part of a criminal investigation into foreign-funded pro-democracy groups (NYT). He is the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

 

AFRICA

Nigerian President Fires Police Chief

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan fired his chief of police, saying that sympathizers of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram had infiltrated the country's security forces (al-Jazeera). The decision came a week after a Boko Haram suspect, charged with a deadly Christmas bombing, escaped police custody.

On his blog Africa in Transition, CFR's John Campbell analyzes the rationale for Boko Haram's increasingly deadly attacks throughout Nigeria.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Médecins Sans Frontières, an international organization of doctors, warned that around 15,000 AIDS victims (M&G) could die over the next three years while waiting for anti-retroviral medications.

 

EUROPE

Spain Skeptical of EU

A new poll shows that 62 percent of Spaniards--particularly the elderly, less educated, and unemployed--"tend to distrust" the European Union (el País), although 74 percent think the EU needs more centralized and powerful government institutions to address the ongoing sovereign debt crisis.

 

AMERICAS

Pentagon to Expand Special-Ops

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to announce the expansion of the United States' worldwide network of drones and special operations bases (WSJ), even as the Pentagon reduces the number of conventional U.S. military forces.

Targeted killings have become a central component of U.S. counterterrorism operations around the globe. Despite pointed criticism over transparency and accountability issues, analysts say the controversial practice seems likely to expand in the future, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

VENEZUELA: The government of President Hugo Chávez said it was withdrawing from a World Bank arbitration forum (NYT) that is considering cases in which Chávez nationalized property claimed by foreign companies, citing a violation of Venezuela's sovereignty.

 

RENEWING AMERICA

Protecting the Global Supply Chain

The White House announced a new strategy to protect the global supply chain of goods that are critical to U.S. national security and economic welfare. Among other things, the plan calls for improving the detection of threats (natural disasters, terrorism, piracy, etc.), building a resilient critical infrastructure, and fostering international collaboration.

TAX INCENTIVES: President Obama laid out a series of tax proposals designed to encourage growth in domestic manufacturing (FT), including a 20 percent tax credit for the moving expenses of firms that relocate to the United States, and doubling the tax deduction for advanced manufacturing from 9 to 18 percent.

Renewing America is a special CFR project focused on the domestic underpinnings of U.S. global competitiveness, including the debt and deficit, infrastructure, education, innovation, trade, and corporate regulation and taxes.

 

 

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