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April 28, 2017

Daily News Brief

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Pope Visits Egypt for Interfaith Dialogue

Pope Francis began a two-day visit to Egypt on Friday, some three weeks after Palm Sunday attacks on two Egyptian churches killed forty-seven people. Francis will meet President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and visit Al-Azhar University and Mosque. He will also meet his Coptic counterpart, Pope Tawadros II (AP), who will hold a prayer service with Francis at a church targeted in a December suicide bombing. Francis said his visit is meant to offer encouragement to all Christians in the Middle East as well as a message of "fraternity and reconciliation" to Muslims (FT).


"Francis arrives at a tumultuous time for Egypt's minority Christians, marked by fear and uncertainty of the future. Over the past five months, they have been targeted in several church bombings, drive-by shootings and assassinations carried out by Islamic State militants determined to sow religious divisions and destabilize Egypt," Sudarsan Raghavan writes for the Washington Post.

"Egypt, where 90 percent of the Copts reside, has changed too. Islamism has weakened the notion of an Egyptian national identity, to which Coptic thinkers contributed heavily. The Copts are targets of both extremists and political opportunists," writes Maged Atiya.

"Sisi has attempted to justify his harsh rule by presenting himself as a visionary strongman uniquely capable of bringing stability and prosperity back to Egypt following the turmoil of the Arab Spring. But the Palm Sunday attacks reveal both how hollow these promises are, as well the limits of Sisi as a U.S. ally," Meir Walters writes for Foreign Affairs.


Korea Rejects Trump’s Call for $1 Billion Payment

South Korea's defense ministry issued a statement rejecting comments from U.S. President Donald J. Trump requesting the country pay $1 billion (Korea Times) for the implementation of a missile defense system there. The ministry stated South Korea was to provide land and facilities (VOA) while the United States was to deploy and operate the defense shield. Trump also vowed to terminate or renegotiate the existing U.S.-South Korea free trade deal (Reuters).

CFR's Scott A. Snyder and Sungtae "Jacky" Park discuss the strategic options facing South Korea for the East Asia Forum.

INDONESIA: Female Muslim clerics issued a fatwa against child marriage (BBC) during a congress that is being regarded as the first major gathering of its kind. The clerics also called on the government to raise the legal marriage age from sixteen to eighteen. 


Two U.S. Servicemen Killed in Afghanistan

The Pentagon said that two U.S. servicemen were killed and a third wounded in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province during a raid on an affiliate of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (BBC).

CFR's Micah Zenko discusses U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan.

INDIA: The International Monetary Fund predicted that India will surpass Germany (Bloomberg) to become the world's fifth largest economy by 2022, pushing Britain out of the global top five.


U.S. Visas for Iranians Drop by Half

The United States granted 393 immigrant visas to Iranians in March compared to a monthly average of 644 during 2016, according to the State Department (RFE/RL).


Court Upholds Chadian Ex-Ruler's Conviction

A Senegalese court upheld a war crimes conviction (NYT) against former Chadian leader Hissene Habre. Habre received a life sentence last year in Senegal, where he has been living in exile, for overseeing wrongful arrest, torture, and murder (Guardian) of Chadian citizens during the 1980s.

SOMALIA: Somalia's U.S. ambassador said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) informed him that it would no longer arrest undocumented Somali immigrants (VOA) in their homes and workplaces after the embassy expressed concern over the recent arrests of eleven Somalis. ICE did not confirm the policy change.


Montenegro to Ratify NATO Entry

Montenegrin lawmakers are expected on Friday to formally approve the country's accession (BBC) to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization despite opposition from Russia.

This CFR Backgrounder explores the history of NATO.

MACEDONIA: Some two hundred protesters stormed parliament and attacked lawmakers (EUobserver) after an alliance of the Social Democratic Union and ethnic Albanian parties elected a new speaker. Seventy-seven people were injured in the violence (RFE/RL).


Argentina's Macri Meets Trump at White House

President Trump said during a visit from Argentine President Mauricio Macri that he will consider lifting a U.S. ban on Argentine lemon imports (LAHT).

BRAZIL: A prosecutor from the team leading a massive anticorruption probe said his team would "basically ignore" a bill (WSJ) that is expected to pass Brazil's lower house and would limit the investigative practices they have used, such as detaining and questioning suspects without making prior requests. 

CFR's Matthew Taylor discusses Brazil's recent gains in fighting graft.


Carter Asked Not to Pursue North Korean Diplomacy

A State Department official visited former President Jimmy Carter, who has served as an envoy between Washington and Pyongyang, to request he not pursue rapprochement efforts (FT) that could undermine the Trump administration's efforts to pressure the regime.