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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 20, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Manhunt for Gunman in France

French police continued a manhunt today for a gunman who opened fire at a Jewish school in the southwestern city of Toulouse on Monday, killing three children and an adult. New evidence suggests the shooter may have filmed his attack (WSJ), French Interior Minister Claude Guéant said. Police are investigating a potential link between the incident and two similar attacks on soldiers in the area that left three dead last week. A .45-caliber gun was reportedly used in all three attacks. Officials said the suspect was "cold blooded" and anti-Semitic, but suggested his larger motives were still unclear.

Analysis

"All of those who have been shot or killed in and around the city in the past eight days have had one thing in common. They are from visible minorities. They had names or faces that marked them out as not being descended, as Jean-Marie Le Pen would say, from 'our ancestors the Gauls.' Their roots--both Jewish and Muslim--were in the Maghreb or the Caribbean," writes Fiachra Gibbons for the Guardian.

"Prior to the Jewish school attack, anti-racism groups had been pointing to what they saw as the troubling xenophobic, anti-Muslim, and perhaps even anti-Semitic subtext of the presidential campaigns by the far-right National Front party as well as Sarkozy's 'respectable right' ruling party. Both have criticized Muslims--and, to a lesser extent, Jews--during the controversy over halal and kosher meat," writes Eric Pape for Foreign Policy.

"Until the motivation behind the attacks is known this incident also seems likely to reignite a discussion in Europe more broadly. Though the victims in this case are less numerous, this incident comes in the same year-long period that saw Anders Breivik's attack on the government buildings in Oslo and the Workers' Youth League camp, as well as the uncovering of the neo-Nazi terrorist cell in Germany," writes Heather Horn for the Atlantic.

 

PACIFIC RIM

North Korea to Allow Visit by UN Inspectors

North Korea invited inspectors with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the country as part of an effort to implement a deal with the United States (BBC) to suspend its nuclear weapons program. However, Pyongyang last week announced a rocket launch for next month, a move the United States called "highly provocative."

This CFR Crisis Guide provides an interactive, multimedia overview of the dispute between North and South Korea.

MYANMAR: Human Rights Watch accused Myanmar's military-backed government of ongoing human rights violations in ethnic minority areas (WSJ) of the country, ahead of a key parliamentary by-election on April 1.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Pakistan Calls for 'Unconditional' U.S. Apology

A Pakistani parliamentary commission called on the United States to issue an "unconditional apology" over a NATO strike (Dawn) along the border with Afghanistan that killed twenty-four Pakistani soldiers late last year. The commission also insisted on the cessation of U.S. drone strikes inside Pakistan.

Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country with this CFR Crisis Guide.

SRI LANKA: The United States put forward a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (NYT) in Geneva calling on the Sri Lankan government to address allegations of rights abuses surrounding the end of the country's civil war three years ago, prompting a diplomatic dispute.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Deadly Blasts Across Iraq

Insurgents set off a coordinated series of car bombs and improvised explosive devices across Iraq today, killing at least thirty-six people (WaPo), a week ahead of an Arab League summit to be held in Baghdad.

Iraq is on the road to becoming a failed state, argues CFR's Ned Parker in this Foreign Affairs essay.

ISRAEL: A classified U.S. war simulation held this month indicated that an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities (NYT) would lead to a wider regional war that could draw in the United States, U.S. officials said.

 

AFRICA

Zimbabwe Convicts Six Activists

A Zimbabwean court convicted a former opposition legislator and five other activists of "conspiring to commit public violence" when they watched a video of the Egyptian uprisings (al-Jazeera) in February 2011. The court is expected to hand down a sentence today.

SOMALIA: Al-Shabaab Islamist rebels fired mortars at the presidential palace (Reuters) in Mogadishu for a second day, prompting retaliatory fire by African Union peacekeepers.

This CFR Backgrounder provides a profile of the al-Shabaab Islamist militant organization based in southern Somalia.

 

EUROPE

EU Largest Exporter of Weapons to Saudi Arabia

Many European countries have disregarded security-related export controls (DerSpiegel) implemented three years ago, subsequently making the EU the world's largest exporter of weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to the European Commission.

 

AMERICAS

Apple to Offer Quarterly Dividend

U.S.-based technology company Apple announced Monday it would begin offering a quarterly dividend and buying back some of its stock at $2.65 per-share, a move that is expected to attract new institutional investors (SFC).

MEXICO:
Gunmen ambushed and killed twelve police officers (AP) on a rural highway in the southern Guerrero state on Sunday night, police confirmed Monday. The officers were investigating the beheadings of ten people in the region, which has been plagued by drug violence.

Since 2006, the Mexican government has been in embroiled in a bloody drug war, which has failed to significantly curb trafficking, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

 

Campaign 2012

Poll Shows Many Voters Gloomy About Obama Policies

A recent survey from The Hill shows many voters are pessimistic about policies coming out of the White House, with 62 percent of those polled responding that President Obama's policies will increase the national debt and 48 percent saying his policies will increase joblessness.

Campaigning in Illinois Monday, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said his campaign is more about preserving freedom than fixing the economy (ABC). Mitt Romney said at a campaign stop in the state that "the economy is coming back (Politico)," though the recovery is slower than it should have been.

RealClearPolitics' Erin McPike notes that recent remarks by Romney and Santorum on the economy "suggest that the candidates are in a bit of a bind: They seem uncertain how to tailor their messages on improving key economic indicators as they challenge an incumbent president who is leading the recovery--albeit a slow one."

Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.

 

 

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