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July 28, 2015

Daily News Brief

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Obama Addresses African Union

U.S. President Barack Obama called on African leaders to prioritize job creation, uphold (BBC) democratic freedoms, and fight corruption or risk eroding recent progress and facing a future of instability. Obama also pledged U.S. support against militant groups such as Boko Haram and al-Shabab and said he would host a UN summit (AP) in September to build international support for peacekeeping operations in Africa. The president's speech at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, concludes a five-day trip to Kenya and Ethiopia. On Monday, Obama also called on Ethiopia to end (Al Jazeera) its crackdown on political opposition and hinted that South Sudan could face (Sudan Tribune) increased sanctions and a possible arms embargo if it missed an August peace deadline. Obama's speech marked the first time a U.S. president addressed the fifty-four-member African Union at its headquarters.


"All of this adds up to incremental, rather than transformational progress, and Mr Obama can rightly be criticised for failing to make Africa a priority. Still, he can argue that he has renewed a good trade accord, is boosting electrification and has expanded the number of training missions to fight terrorists," writes the Economist.

"The threat to Kenya posed by al Shabab is, like that posed by ISIS, unlikely to disappear in the near future. Kenya is one of the world’s biggest beneficiaries of U.S. military aid and, with it, the country has been able to become more resilient to terrorist attacks. The aid has come at a cost, though. The country's focus on security sweeps alienates the very population that the government needs to win over. The United States should ask some serious questions of its ally, especially surrounding the accusations of kidnapping and extra-judicial killing," writes Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens in Foreign Affairs.

"America's power is weakening in Africa, just as the rest of the west's has done. China is now an alternative market and source of investment, one which has no scruples about human rights. The effects of climate change are adding to human cruelty and encouraging it. Mr Obama's message, and his example, may have a more lasting effect than the spectacle and popular rejoicing that greeted him," writes the Guardian.


South Korea Says MERS Outbreak Over

The South Korean government declared a virtual end (Korea Times) to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak after no new infections were found for twenty-three days, and the number of people in isolation fell to zero. Thirty-six people died since the outbreak began in May. The World Health Organization said the country must wait a twenty-eight-day period before officially claiming an end to the outbreak.

MALAYSIA: Prime Minister Najib Razak dismissed (WSJ) his deputy, four other cabinet members, and his attorney general, amid a graft scandal involving a state investment fund. Najib, who has been linked to allegations of the firm's financial mismanagement and corruption, denies any wrongdoing.


Former Indian President Dies

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, India's president from 2002 to 2007, died of a heart attack (Indian Express) on Monday at the age of 83. Kalam, a rocket scientist, helped develop India's nuclear program before taking his post as president.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at nuclear competition in Southern Asia.

KAZAKHASTAN: Kazakhstan joined (RFE/RL) the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Monday after nearly two decades of negotiations. The WTO now has 162 members.


Qaddafi's Son Sentenced to Death

A Libyan court sentenced (BBC) Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, son of deposed leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, to death over war crimes committed during the 2011 Libyan revolution. The court also sentenced the Qaddafi regime's former head of intelligence and former Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.

IRAN: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew, and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz are scheduled to testify (VOA) before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday on the Iran nuclear deal. Separately, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is in Tehran on Tuesday to meet (Reuters) with Iranian leaders to discuss the nuclear agreement and regional issues.

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry defends the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program at this CFR Event.


Fresh Attacks in Nigeria's Borno State

At least twenty-nine people are dead after an attack (This Day) in northeastern Nigeria Tuesday. A faction of Boko Haram approached (Reuters) the government with an offer for peace talks on Monday, according to a spokesman for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Meanwhile, Cameroon announced plans to deploy (Vanguard) an additional two thousand soldiers to the regional force of troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria combatting the insurgency.

This CFR Backgrounder chronicles the rise of the Boko Haram insurgency.


Erdogan: Kurdish Peace Process Impossible

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it would be impossible (Hurriyet) for Ankara to continue the peace process with Kurdish militants amid ongoing attacks on Turkish targets and urged parliament to strip politicians with links to alleged terrorist groups of prosecutorial immunity. Meanwhile, Turkish authorities blamed (FT) the Kurdish PKK for an overnight attack on the Turkey-Iran oil pipeline. NATO ambassadors meet in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss (AFP) Turkey's new campaign against militants in Syria.

This new CFR InfoGuide provides background and analysis on the emerging role of the Kurds.

SWEDEN: Authorities opened (Telegraph) an investigation on Monday into the origin of a wrecked and abandoned submarine found in Swedish waters. The Swedish navy launched a search for a foreign submarine, unidentified but believed to be Russian, which was spotted in Swedish waters last year.


U.S. Boy Scouts Lift Ban on Gay Leaders

The Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban (NYT) on openly gay adult troop leaders on Monday, two years after it began to admit openly gay youths.

CUBA: The United States removed (WaPo) Cuba from the list of worst human trafficking offenders. The move comes as Washington and Havana have taken steps to normalizing relations; the two countries opened their respective embassies last week. Malaysia was also removed from the human trafficking blacklist.