Top of the Agenda: Pentagon Claims Iran Fired on U.S. Drone
Pentagon officials said Thursday that Iranian fighter planes shot at an unarmed U.S. drone conducting surveillance in international airspace east of Kuwait last week in an air attack (CNN) that could raise military tensions in the region. Congress was briefed on the incident November 2, although President Barack Obama did not disclose (WSJ) the event ahead of the presidential election. Although Iran and its state media was initially mum about the allegations, a senior armed forces commander responded on Friday (Reuters) by saying Tehran would deal "decisively with any foreign encroachment into its airspace." The fighter jets reportedly belonged to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"Given the magnitude of these kinds of accusations – their obvious ability, if not intent, to bolster animosity on the part of the US public toward Iran and heighten tensions between the two nations – shouldn't CNN at least pretend to be a bit more skeptical and even-handed about how it is reporting these claims?" writes Glenn Greenwald for the Guardian.
"Despite the sabre-rattling that has accompanied US-Iran relations in recent months, there is some optimism in Washington that President Barack Obama's re-election could create the political space to restart negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. However, Iran will also face presidential elections next summer, which could complicate the situation," writes Geoff Dyer for the Financial Times.
"The U.S. is believed to keep up regular surveillance of Iran's borders and even inside its territory – last December, a top-secret Air Force drone believed to be operating from Afghanistan was said to have crashed more than 100 miles inside Iran's eastern border. American officials insisted the drone crashed after its operators lost contact with it, but Iranian leaders boasted they had brought the aircraft down themselves," writes Kate Brannen for Politico.
Tibetan Students Demonstrate
Hundreds of students protested in eastern Tibet, demanding greater freedom (VOA) under Chinese rule as the country opened its Eighteenth Party Congress for a once-in-a-decade leadership transition. Recent self-immolations in Tibet have brought the total number to at least sixty-nine since February 2009.
JAPAN: Japan's defense minister said on Friday he wants to revise the country's national security alliance (NYT) with the United States to place more emphasis on the threat from China to Japan's southeastern islands.
Armenian President Indicates War Tensions With Azerbaijan
The Armenian president accused Azerbaijan of being eager for armed conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, vowing a "disproportionate" response (Hurriyet) to Baku if a conflict begins. Armenia-backed separatists seized the region from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s.
PAKISTAN: The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack (AlJazeera) that killed at least three paramilitary forces in southern Pakistan, potentially making Karachi its next battleground.
CFR's Daniel Markey gauges the Taliban's moves in Pakistan in this interview.
Syria's Assad Denies Civil War
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied in an interviewFriday that his country was in a state of civil war, and said he has no regrets (AP) about decisions made since the uprising against him began nearly twenty months ago. More than 5,000Syrians crossed into Turkey overnight to flee violence.
UK to End Aid to India
The UK will end financial aid to India by 2015 (BBC), a move that will save $319 million and see the UK's focus shift to technical assistance. The country's aid to India has been a cause of concern among conservative MPs. POLAND: Poland, the largest recipient of EU funds, said Friday it would seek common ground (Reuters) with countries that pay the most into EU coffers if a long-term budget proposal is vetoed.
Mbeki Named African of the Year
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki was named African of the Year (AllAfrica) at the annual meeting of the African Media Leaders Forum in Dakar on Thursday. He was accredited for his efforts to avert war between Sudan and South Sudan and for leadership of the African Union's High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan.
CFR'sJohn Campbell talks about South Africa's way forward in this blog post.
SUDAN: Rebels in Sudan's warring South Kordofan state claimed responsibility on Thursday for shooting down an air force bomber (AFP). Insurgents have reported an upsurge in government bombing since Sudan and South Sudan signed a deal in Septemberfor a demilitarized border buffer zone.
Thousands Protest in Buenos Aires Against Kirchner
Buenos Aires saw hundreds of thousands protesting the government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Thursday (MercoPress), rallying against rising inflation, crime, and high-profile corruption in what could be one of the biggest anti-government protests in a decade.