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October 26, 2016

Daily News Brief

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U.S.-Led Coalition 'Laying Groundwork' to Isolate Raqqa

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the United States has begun "laying the groundwork" with its partners to isolate the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Raqqa while meeting in Paris with ministers to discuss security threats likely to arise as the militant group loses territory (WSJ). Carter said the U.S.-led coalition is building a force (WaPo) that includes Arab fighters to enter Raqqa, which the Islamic State considers its capital in Syria. He did not give a date for operations against Raqqa to commence, but said it would happen before the current offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul (UPI) is over. That campaign, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said yesterday, would likely take a “long time” and might not yield the conditions needed to prevent the militant group’s return (CFR)


"Going after IS-held Raqqa would mean moving deeper into an explosive mix of regional and international rivalries, including a proxy war that has pitted the United States against Russia and its allies. The fight against IS in northeastern Syria also underlines a U.S. reliance on its one effective partner there—Syria’s Kurds. Such an alliance for a Raqqa campaign threatens to ignite a new conflict, with another U.S. partner, NATO member Turkey, and its allied Syrian rebels," Sarah El Deeb writes for the Associated Press.

"As its leaders are picked off from the sky, as its economic resources run dry, and as its prized ‘caliphate’ slips from its grasp—Mosul likely being the next casualty—the Islamic State’s supporters are looking for explanations for why the tide of war has turned against them. The facts on the ground, after all, no longer support the Islamic State’s triumphalist slogan: Remaining and Expanding (baqiya wa-tatamaddad). How, one may well ask, does a group that projected such unbounded confidence, whose legitimacy seemed to rest on seizing and controlling large territories, adjust its message to less fortunate circumstances?" Cole Bunzel writes for Foreign Policy.

"The war against the Islamic State is unwinnable without filling the political and security vacuum that now exists in too much of Iraq. The Islamic State’s eventual retreat from Mosul will be a much-needed victory for the country. But unless the government in Baghdad enables Iraqi Sunnis to fill that void, it will once again emerge from the desert," Hassan Hassan writes for the New York Times


South Korean President Apologizes for Scandal

South Korean President Park Geun-hye made a televised apology amid controversy that one of her associates (LAT) had pressured corporations to donate to a foundation. A recent report accused the associate of having improper access to classified documents.

INDONESIA: Indonesia's highest court is considering a law that would criminalize same-sex relations and sex outside of marriage (WaPo).


Islamic State Suspected in Execution of Afghan Civilians

Militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State executed thirty Afghan civilians in Ghor province (VOA), a spokesman for the provincial government said. No group has claimed responsibility for the massacre (Al Jazeera).

KYRGYZSTAN: An Uzbek government delegation has been received by Kyrgyz ministers with concerts. The visit represents a thaw (RFE/RL) in relations, which were harmed by clashes between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the country's south in 2010.  


Iran Shaken Over Reported Abuse by Religious Figure

Three complainants have publicly accused (Guardian) a top Quran reciter in Iran of sexually abusing them when they were boys. The reciter denied the accusations and called them an attempt to smear the image of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


Gambia Withdraws from International Court

Gambia became the latest African nation to withdraw (Al Jazeera) from the International Criminal Court, following Burundi and South Africa. Information Minister Sheriff Bojang called (BBC) the body "an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans." 

This CFR timeline offers a history of leaders facing justice since World War II.

MOZAMBIQUE: Mozambique has asked international creditor to restructure its debt (WSJ); the country's debt is more than double its gross domestic product this year.


Turkey Arrests Kurdish City's Mayors

Authorities arrested the co-mayors of Diyarbakir, a predominantly Kurdish city in Turkey's southeast, on charges (FT) that they siphoned public funds to support the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In a statement, the European Union expressed concerns, saying it is "essential" that Turkey respect due process (Hurriyet).

This CFR Interactive explores the history of the Kurds.

UK: London home prices are expected to drop 5.6 percent in 2017 following the UK's vote to exit the European Union (Bloomberg), according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

CFR's Sebastian Mallaby argues that Prime Minister Theresa May can contain the damage from Brexit in the Washington Post


Venezuelan Parliament Votes to Try Maduro

Venezuela's opposition led-parliament voted to try President Nicolas Maduro on charges of violating the constitution (BBC). Maduro accused the members of parliament of attempting a coup, and the supreme court had previously declared the national assembly illegitimate (AP).

This CFR Backgrounder explores Venezuela's economic fractures and political turmoil.

ARGENTINA: The Catholic church in Argentina announced it would open its archives (LAHT) related to the 1976–83 military dictatorship to victims' families.