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January 18, 2017

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Nigeria Apologizes for Bombing Refugee Camp

The Nigerian Air Force said it "deeply regretted" (Vanguard) the loss of life after it mistakenly bombed a refugee camp for people who had fled Islamist militants. Medical charity Doctors Without Borders said the bombing killed fifty-two people (VOA) and injured more than one hundred, and the International Committee of the Red Cross said six of its employees were among the dead. The bombing took place in the town of Rann near the country's border with Cameroon, which hosts tens of thousands of the two million people (WaPo) who have fled Boko Haram insurgents in recent years. Major General Lucky Irabor said the strike was ordered (This Day) following reports of Boko Haram terrorists gathering in the area.

ANALYSIS

"The Nigerian military has been locked in a fierce battle with Boko Haram fighters for years as they rampage through the country’s northeast, carrying out attacks on military positions and, more recently, frequent suicide bombings that have killed hundreds. In the government’s zest for rooting out the militants, civilians have frequently ended up detained, hurt or dead. ... The bombing also came as the United States is considering selling the Nigerian government warplanes, despite objections from some officials in Congress over the military’s past record of human rights abuses," Dionne Searcey writes for the New York Times.

"The Nigerian Army has actually recovered hundreds of other women and children in the past year from Boko Haram camps and hideouts. But its successes are too few compared with the atrocities that persist. The current government, on which Nigerians pinned high hopes that the insurgency would finally be capably handled, is already repeating the sins of its predecessor," Alexis Okeowo writes for the New Yorker.

"A steady corrosion of the Nigerian military capability from the biggest contributor or one of the biggest contributors to peacekeeping worldwide to a shell of its former self is due to a combination of political expedience and management of potential risks to political leadership in the capital as well as rampant corruption and just lassitude... The U.S. military’s assessment is that whether you’re talking about a lack of precision with the use of airpower, a lack of junior-level leadership, or, essentially a paucity of fundamental navigational skills in some cases, you’re talking about real operational limitations," said Sarah Sewall, U.S. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, at a CFR Event.

PACIFIC RIM

Islamic Bloc to Denounce Myanmar Violence

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation is expected to denounce violence against ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar and will discuss opening an office in the country to investigate abuses (Radio Free Asia). Malaysia, which will host the meeting of Muslim nations' foreign ministers on Thursday, has called the violence in Myanmar a "genocide" (AP).

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the crisis in Myanmar as tens of thousands of Rohingya flee the country.

CHINA: Liaoning’s provincial governor, Chen Qiufa, admitted that the province's fiscal revenues were inflated (FT) for four years. The announcement comes after China’s statistics chief acknowledged in December that local economic data is sometimes falsified.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Iran Opposes U.S. Joining Syria Peace Talks

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran has not invited the U.S. and opposes its presence in Syria peace talks (WaPo) to be held in the Kazakh capital, Astana. Russia and Turkey, who are organizing the peace talks with Iran, have said representatives from the incoming administration of U.S. President-Elect Donald J. Trump (RFE/RL) should be invited.

BANGLADESH: Parliament is expected to consider amending legislation to permit girls under age eighteen to be married in "special cases" (Thomson Reuters Foundation). Bangladesh has one of the world's highest child marriage rates despite existing legislation that bans the practice. 

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Rouhani: Trump Can't Renegotiate Nuclear Pact

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said U.S. President-Elect Donald J. Trump's vow to renegotiate a deal to curb Iran's nuclear program "is like saying that we should turn a shirt back to cotton." The multilateral deal, which also permits lifting sanction on Iran, has already been signed by seven countries (NYT). Trump's choice for defense secretary, retired Marine General James N. Mattis, contradicted the president-elect during his confirmation hearing by expressing support for upholding the agreement.

IRAQ: Former security guards from the private military company, Blackwater USA, appealed prison sentences they received for killing fourteen Iraqis in Baghdad in 2014. The guards’ lawyer argued that legislation authored by then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (WSJ) was used inappropriately to prosecute them.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Gambia's Jammeh Declares State of Emergency

President Yahya Jammeh declared a three-month state of emergency (Bloomberg) on Tuesday, two days before he is expected to transfer power to election winner Adama Barrow. Parliament approved a ninety-day extension (BBC) for Jammeh, who has been in office since 1994. West African nations have pledged to send troops into the country if Jammeh refuses to step down.

EUROPE

German Cabinet Proposes General Election Date

The cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed September 24 as a date for general elections, in which Merkel will seek a fourth term (AFP). The center-right Christian Democratic Union (DW) will seek to hold on to the largest share of seats in Parliament after facing popular opposition on Merkel’s policies on refugees.

TURKEY: A correspondent for the New York Times was denied entry into Turkey, though no official explanation (Al Jazeera) was given for his deportation at Ataturk airport. Dozens of Turkish reporters have been jailed (NYT) and several foreign correspondents have been harassed in recent months.

CFR's Steven A. Cook argues that Turkey is becoming an electoral autocracy as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strengthens his grip on power.

AMERICAS

Additional Guantanamo Detainees Transferred to Oman

The United States confirmed that it transferred ten additional Afghan and Yemeni detainees (RFE/RL) from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to Oman for resettlement. Their release leaves forty-five men at the facility; more transfers are expected (Miami Herald) in the final days of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Laura Pitter, in Foreign Affairs, argues that keeping Guantanamo Bay’s detention center open feeds terrorist propaganda.

UNITED STATES: President Barack Obama commuted the thirty-five-year prison sentence (Guardian) of former U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning, who in 2010 leaked hundreds of thousands of documents to the anti-secrecy website, Wikileaks, about U.S. diplomatic relations and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Manning will be released in May.