Top of the Agenda: Obama, Cameron in Show of Unity
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron affirmed their countries' joint commitments to NATO operations in Afghanistan during Cameron's state visit to Washington D.C. The allies vowed to withdraw combat troops by 2014 (NYT), in line with their current strategy, despite a wave of recent violence in Afghanistan. Cameron and Obama also pledged to work toward a diplomatic solution over Iran's controversial nuclear program, while pushing for a leadership transition in Syria to halt the year-long crackdown against opposition forces.
"Cameron and Obama marked the imminent close of the phase of U.S.-UK foreign policy that began after 9/11 with the coming together of American imperial power and British support for the active promotion of democracy and liberal institutions, particularly in the Muslim world," writes the Guardian's Martin Kettle.
"Repeatedly since Churchill's day, British prime ministers have pressed American presidents to take military action, like the pugnacious little brother, egging on the more laidback big brother. Churchill did it to Roosevelt. Thatcher famously did it to a 'wobbly' George H.W. Bush. His son didn't need much encouragement from Tony Blair, but he got it. Is it now David Cameron's turn to goad Barack Obama onto the warpath?" writes Newsweek's Niall Ferguson.
"Much of the message of the Obama-Cameron summit is purely symbolic, but symbols are important. Obama wishes visibly to reciprocate the hospitality he enjoyed on his state visit to Britain last year, cement the notion that transatlantic relations are in good shape under his administration, and finally dispel some of the less informed speculation that he is cool toward the Anglo-American alliance," writes Oliver Kamm on ForeignPolicy.com.
South Korea, U.S. Implement Trade Pact
A free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea came into effect today, eliminating tariffs on thousands of products (WSJ) traded between the two nations. The deal, which was ratified by the U.S. Congress in October after years of delay, is the largest U.S. free trade agreement since NAFTA.
Trade accounts for an increasing portion of the U.S. economy, and the Obama administration has embraced a ramped up export strategy. But debate persists over the merits of a vigorous free trade agenda, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
CHINA: The Chinese leadership removed rising politician Bo Xilai (BBC), a contender for the central Politburo, from his post as Communist Party leader of Chongqing. The move followed a scandal that arose after Bo's former police chief visited the U.S. consulate in an alleged effort to seek political asylum.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
U.S. Soldier Suspected in Killings Flown Out of Afghanistan
A U.S. soldier accused of killing sixteen Afghan civilians in Kandahar province on Sunday was transferred to Kuwait (al-Jazeera). The decision was a based on a "legal recommendation" and because of Afghanistan's lack of "appropriate detention facilities," according to the Pentagon.
The killing of Afghan civilians allegedly by a U.S. soldier aggravates U.S.-Afghan ties, raises fresh doubts about talks with the Taliban, and feeds debate about the U.S. strategy to end the war, explains this CFR Analysis Brief.
Assad Emails Revealed as Uprising Marks One Year
A Syrian opposition group allegedly intercepted thousands of private emails of President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, between June 2011 and February 2012. The messages, obtained by the Guardian, reveal that Assad apparently received advice from Iran on how to combat the protests.
A local charity in northern Uganda arranged a screening of "Kony 2012," a film produced by U.S. charity Invisible Children focusing on the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, prompting outrage and anger from Ugandan viewers over the film's apparently insensitive and inaccurate portrayal of their lives (M&G).
UNITED KINGDOM: Credit rating agency Fitch put Britain on warning (Telegraph) that it could lose its prized triple-A status, citing "risks and uncertainty" over the ruling coalition government's fiscal plans.
Thirteen Cuban dissidents have occupied part of a Roman Catholic church (AP) in central Havana. They are demanding an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, who is visiting Cuba in two weeks, to discuss alleged human rights violations by the government.
BRAZIL: Federal prosecutors filed corruption charges (LAHT) against Development Minister Fernando Pimentel, the eighth member of President Dilma Rousseff's cabinet to face such allegations since she took office in January 2011.
Gingrich Continues to Tout Energy Plan
In an interview on Fox News, GOP candidate Newt Gingrich said that his energy plan--in addition to lowering gas prices, creating jobs, and freeing the United States from dependence on the Middle East for oil--could pay off the federal debt through new oil and gas royalties.
Voters say news on the economy and jobs has improved in the past year, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center, but bad news about gas prices and a general negativity about the economy tarnishes most hopes for a change in public perception. Eighty-nine percent of those polled rate current economic conditions as fair or poor, a number Pew says has changed little in the last four years, though 44 percent of respondents say they think economic conditions will improve in the next year.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy, check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.