Top of the Agenda: Benghazi Suspect Dies in Cairo Shootout
A man suspected of involvement in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last month has been killed (BBC) after an exchange of fire with security services in Cairo. Media reports suggested (DailyStar) that the man, who threw a bomb at police forces after being cornered in a flat, was a Libyan citizen believed to be an al-Qaeda militant. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into the controversial September 11 attack, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The incident has been the center of partisan furor as details emerged that the White House was notified (AP) hours after the attack that Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility for the violence.
"Expecting policymakers to publicly examine and go through every conflicting piece of intelligence collected in the hours before and after an attack would be unreasonable and potentially even damaging to national security. Instead of making political hay out of the circumstances surrounding Benghazi, we should be focusing on how to improve our intelligence collection and analysis capabilities," writes Tara Maller for CNN.
"The Benghazi story also strongly suggests, if not downright shows, that the Obama White House kept pushing the ridiculous video story for weeks to protect the president's political prospects. He'd just spiked the terrorism football, taking credit at the Democratic National Convention for the killing of Osama bin Laden. He didn't want to talk about Benghazi in terms of terror," writes John Kass for the Chicago Tribune.
"Once the political spin stops, the bottom line is there is no evidence so far to support the Romney camp's claim of incompetence or a cover-up by the administration. There is only a tragic attack on the United States, our understanding of which is becoming clearer as new intelligence comes to light," writes Juan Williams for The Hill.
Chinese Ships Seen in Disputed Island Area
Four Chinese government ships entered territory around the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands early on Thursday (AFP), prompting a Japanese minister to protest by phone to the Chinese ambassador. Beijing denied the abnormality of ships exercising jurisdiction in the area.
CFR's Sheila Smith discusses the tide of nationalism sweeping the region in this Expert Brief.
JAPAN: Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, known for his hawkish views toward China, announced Thursday he would quit his post (JapanTimes) and launch a new right-wing party ahead of the general election that must be held by next summer.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Myanmar Steps Up Security
Myanmar imposed curfews and sent extra security forces to the western Rakhine state amid a fresh outbreak of sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims that has killed twenty people (CNN) and destroyed more than a thousand houses in recent days. Rakhine is home to the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority that is not recognized by Myanmar as citizens.
LAOS: Laos is expected to gain entry (Reuters) into the World Trade Organization on Friday after years of reform aimed at tapping into the regional economic boom as manufacturers scout lower-cost alternatives to China.
CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick writes about Laos' renewal in this blog post.
Ahmadinejad Denied Visit to Prison
Iran's judicial authorities denied President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a visit to Evin Prison (AlArabiya), where his top media advisor is serving a sentence, for the second time, in a potential sign of the president's waning power during his last year in office.
Sudan Blames Israel for Factory Bombing
The Sudanese government blamed Israeli for an airstrike on a military factory in Khartoum (SudanTribune), a charge Israel neither confirmed nor denied. Sudan accused Israel in 2011 and 2009 of masterminding airstrikes in eastern Sudan for what it suspected was the smuggling of arms to Hamas-controlled Gaza strip.
MALI: The African Union has lifted Mali's suspension from the organization (VOA), which has also been discussing logistics of an intervention force to help Malian authorities regain ground seized by Islamists in the north.
Mali's mutiny wasn't a coup, Janet Goldner writes in this CFR blog.
Greece Claims Bailout Extension
Greece's finance minister said on Wednesday the country had been given more time to hit bailout targets (DerSpiegel), to which the European Central Bank responded that it was unaware an extension had been granted. Greece had requested two more years to meet spending cuts demanded by international creditors.
RUSSIA: Russian security services said Wednesday they had killed three Islamic militants (NYT) suspected of organizing consecutive attacks in July targeting the chief mufti of Kazan and a local Muslim leader who had spoken out against religious radicalism.
Argentine Ship Crew Back From Ghana
Hundreds of sailors trapped in Argentina's signature navy ship Libertad, moored in Ghana after being seized by a court in a debt dispute, returned to Buenos Aires early Thursday (MercoPress). President Cristina Fernandez refuses to negotiate with hedge fund investor NML Capital Ltd., which is holding the ship as collateral.
GUANTANAMO: The main suspect of the USS Cole bombing threatened on Wednesday (MiamiHerald) to boycott his trial over what he called "mistreatment" at his prison camp for ex-CIA captives.
Obama Says Fiscal Cliff Will Be Avoided If Reelected
In an off-the-record interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board that was made public yesterday, President Obama said that if elected, a budget deal similar to last year's "grand bargain" – with $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending – will be passed to avoid the fiscal cliff (NBC).