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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 3, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Iran Threatens Retaliation

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would retaliate (Reuters) over Western-backed sanctions targeting its oil exports and threats of an attack on its nuclear facilities. The United States and the EU, which is in the process of imposing an oil embargo on Iran, contend that the country's nuclear program is intended for manufacturing weapons. Khamenei's speech followed reports suggesting that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta believes Israel could launch an attack on Iran as early as this spring.

Analysis

"The best option is the third one, a version of current policy, which is to place as much economic pressure as one can on Iran--not that it will get them to end their nuclear program, but rather to lead the Iranians to calculate that the costs of proceeding as they are are simply too great, and therefore it makes sense to change their behavior," says CFR President Richard N. Haass in this interview.

"If the United States seriously considers military action, it would be better to plan an operation that not only strikes the nuclear program but aims to destabilize the regime, potentially resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis once and for all," write Jamie M. Fly and Gary Schmitt in Foreign Affairs.

"The United States should heed the lessons of the North Korean nuclearization. Not so long ago, Washington had to face an aggressive regime in Pyongyang intent on developing nuclear weapons. The United States rejected a preventive strike in 1994 for fear that the outcome would be worse than its target's nuclear acquisition," write Alexandre Debs and Nuno P. Monteiro in Foreign Affairs.

The World Next Week Podcast

Listen to CFR's James Lindsay and Robert McMahon discuss Syria, the Munich Security Conference, and a poignant EU anniversary.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Khmer Rouge Official Given Life Sentence

A UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Cambodia sentenced a former jailer of the Khmer Rouge regime, Kaing Guek Eav, to life in prison for overseeing the deaths of about 15,000 people (al-Jazeera) in the late 1970s.

CHINA: State-controlled PetroChina Co. bought a 20 percent stake in a shale gas development from Royal Dutch Shell in Canada, increasing Beijing's presence in the North American energy sector (WSJ).

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Panetta Moves to Clarify U.S. Afghanistan Strategy

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta sought to allay worried NATO allies by clarifying remarks that indicated the United States would end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2013. Panetta said that U.S. forces would not step back from combat entirely (NYT), but would push for Afghan forces to take a lead role.

This CFR Timeline examines the events that precipitated the U.S. war in Afghanistan as well as the history of the war.

PAKISTAN: The Taliban attacked a Pakistani security checkpoint (Dawn) in the northwestern Kurram region, killing seven Pakistani soldiers and wounding three. Eighteen militants were killed in the ensuing clashes.

Pakistan has emerged as a terrorist sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants that threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as the region, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Russia Threatens UN Veto on Syria

Russia said it would veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's eleven-month crackdown on anti-government protesters if it is put to a vote today, saying that officials needed more time to review the draft (BBC).

Middle East expert Andrew Tabler examines Russia's motives, Syria's internal fissures, and the prospects for ongoing violence in this CFR Interview.

 

AFRICA

China Approaches South Sudan Over Hostages

The Chinese government reached out to recently independent South Sudan to help negotiate the release of twenty-nine Chinese workers being held hostage (WSJ) by rebels in neighboring Sudan, a diplomatic move that could complicate Beijing's relations with the two oil-rich nations.

SOUTH AFRICA: The foreign ministry denied it was pressured by mobile operator MTN Group to support Iran's nuclear program (Reuters) and aid its military so that the telecommunications provider could secure a license in Iran.

 

EUROPE

New Hole Discovered in Greece's Finances

International debt inspectors discovered a new $19.6 billion gap (Guardian) in Greece's finances, an indication that the debt write-down being negotiated between Greece and its private creditors may not be enough to prevent it from defaulting.

GERMANY: On the second day of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to China, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Beijing was "willing to cooperate" (AFP) with Europe to fight the sovereign debt crisis--potentially by investing further in the EU's bailout funds--but had no intention to "buy Europe."

CFR's Charles A. Kupchan argues that unless the growing gap between governance and the governed in the Europe is resolved, the EU may be headed for fragmentation, if not outright dissolution, in this Survival article.

 

AMERICAS

Argentina Criticizes UK over Falklands Row

Argentinean Vice President Amado Boudou accused Britain of provoking tensions with Argentina over the Falkland Islands by sending Prince William there for a tour of a duty (Telegraph), saying the British government was trying to distract from domestic issues like high unemployment.

BRAZIL: The government pledged new funding for the northwestern states of Acre and Amazonas to help support an influx of Haitian migrants (Guardian) who have continued to flee to Latin American countries since a devastating earthquake two years ago.

 

Campaign 2012

Obama Unveils Plan for Unemployed Veterans

Breaking off yet another piece of his comprehensive jobs bill in hopes of congressional passage, President Obama will unveil a $6 billion plan (Politico) Friday aimed at service members coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plan would provide funding to hire "post-9/11" veterans primarily through law enforcement and first responder programs.

Campaigning in Nevada Wednesday, Rick Santorum said that he favored opening the nuclear waste repository (RenoNevadaNews) at Yucca Mountain in Southern Nevada, a project that was canceled by the Obama administration in 2009.

Editor's Note: Click here for more CFR 2012 campaign resources, which examine the foreign policy and national security dimensions of the presidential race.

 

 

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