Daily News Brief

August 19, 2010

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

- Last U.S. Combat Troops Leave Iraq
- Explosion Kills 7 in China's Xinjiang
- S. African Police Clash with Protesters
- Russia Pushes for Afghan Business Ties

Top of the Agenda: Last U.S. Combat Troops Leave Iraq

The last U.S. combat brigade left Iraq (BBC) as U.S. President Barack Obama's August 31 deadline for ending combat operations there nears. Some fifty thousand U.S. troops will remain until the end of 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect U.S. interests. An additional six thousand support troops will be in Iraq until the end of the month. The task of training the Iraqi police will largely be carried out by contractors. U.S. diplomats in two new outposts will be tasked with diffusing sectarian tensions between the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces (NYT) in northern Iraq. The State Department also plans to more than double its private security guards to as many as seven thousand to protect civilians against al-Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias.

Some officials doubt Obama can fulfill (Reuters) his pledge to draw down all troops by the end of 2011 and that thousands more will be needed. Defense Secretary Robert Gates left the door open to that possibility but stressed that Iraq's new government would first have to ask.

Analysis:

On Stratfor, George Friedman says a crisis may arise if the United States continues to withdraw its remaining fifty thousand troops to the point that Shiite politicians close to Iran feel free to escalate attacks on Sunnis.

This CFR Analysis Brief discusses Obama's defense of the U.S. troop drawdown, and U.S. and Iraqi military officials' pursuit of a longer commitment. 

Read President Obama's August 2 remarks on the Iraq drawdown.

Read the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces agreement.

MIDDLE EAST: Lebanese Doubt Hariri Tribunal

Lebanon has little faith in the hybrid court (Reuters) backed by the UN to try the killers of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, which many believe is heavily swayed by politics.

Lebanon faces new sectarian violence, and tensions along its border with Israel threaten to boil over. CFR's Mohamad Bazzi says to help avert conflict, Washington must eventually engage with the most powerful force in Lebanon: Hezbollah.

PACIFIC RIM: Explosion Kills Seven in China's Xinjiang

Chinese police arrested an Uighur suspect (al-Jazeera) for an explosion that killed seven people in China's western region of Xinjiang, which suffered from intense ethnic conflict and separatist violence last year.

Australia: Immigration policy (WSJ) has become an important issue in Australia's election campaign amid a public backlash against a perceived increase in illegal immigration.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA: U.S. to Increase Pakistan Flood Aid

U.S. Senator John Kerry announced the United States will increase aid (CSMonitor) for Pakistan's devastating flood to $150 million, up from $90 million so far.

India-Pakistan: India's army accused Pakistan (AFP) of violating a ceasefire along their militarized border in southern Kashmir. India said Pakistan opened fire on Indian posts to push Islamic militants over the border.

AFRICA: South African Police Clash with Protesters

South African police clashed (BBC) with crowds of more than one million South African civil servants protesting for higher wages from the government. Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the strikers.

Africa: Sub-Saharan African countries and Afghanistan are most at risk of shocks (Reuters) to food supplies such as droughts or floods, according to a new 163-nation food security risk index.

AMERICAS: U.S. Guard Deployed to Mexican Border

California deployed the first group of U.S. National Guard troops (AFP) to its southern border to help stem the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants from Mexico.

Venezuela: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez signed a new law (LAHT) prohibiting brokerages from trading in the bolivar or in dollar-denominated government bonds and established a new state-run financial exchange to "escape the rot of capitalism."

EUROPE: Russia Pushes for Afghan Business Ties

Russia is inching its way back into business deals and diplomacy with Afghanistan (NYT) and has already begun negotiating to refurbish more than 140 Soviet-era projects including hydroelectric stations, bridges, wells, and irrigation systems.

France: The EU is monitoring France's deportation (DeutscheWelle) of roughly seven hundred Gypsies to ensure that France complies with regulations about freedom of movement within the EU.