Daily News Brief

April 2, 2010

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

- Karzai Criticizes Foreign Presence
- Official Says Iran Sanctions "Ineffective"
- Obama Calls Hu Jintao on Iran
- Cuba and U.S. Hold Rare Talks

Top of the Agenda: Karzai Criticizes Foreign Presence

Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticized (WashPost) the foreign presence in Afghanistan and accused the West and the United Nations of wanting a "puppet government" and of engineering voter fraud in last year's election. Karzai's remarks follow U.S. President Obama's first visit to Afghanistan five days earlier, during which Obama pushed to crack down on corruption. Obama also called for independently monitored elections and a clear plan for Taliban reintegration. Karzai's comments were in response to a vote in the Afghan parliament rejecting Karzai's decree for more power over an election fraud committee. Karzai did not cite the United States directly but accused the United Nations and international media of working against him.

Karzai also said the Western coalition fighting in Afghanistan was close to becoming invaders (NYT). If this perception spreads he said, the insurgency "could become a national resistance." The U.S. embassy and UN mission in Kabul had no comment.

Analysis:

In TIME, Joe Klein says it will be difficult to conduct a successful surge in Kandahar "if we're depending on the Karzai regime to deliver the governance goods." 

In the New York Times, Thomas Friedman says the Obama administration has violated "three cardinal rules" in Middle East diplomacy in its Karzai relations, especially turning "a blind eye" on last year's stolen election.

President Obama is pushing for a civilian surge in Afghanistan, but in this CFR interview, John E. Herbst, in charge of staffing a State Department civilian-led reconstruction program in the country, says congressional inaction and funding challenges are hampering American stabilization efforts.

MIDDLE EAST: ranian Official Says Sanctions "Ineffective"

After talks in Beijing with Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, Tehran's senior nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said international sanctions would not stop (Guardian) Iran's nuclear program .

Iran's Revolutionary Guard will likely be the target of UN Security Council sanctions that could be ready within weeks, says Iran sanctions expert Kenneth Katzman in this CFR interview, while Congress focuses on preventing U.S. companies from selling gasoline and refining equipment to Iran. 

Israel: Israeli warplanes struck (WSJ) the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, including alleged weapons factories and storage depots, a day after a Gaza-fired rocket landed in Israel 

PACIFIC RIM: Obama Calls Hu Jintao on Iran

President Obama called Chinese President Hu Jintao to seek cooperation (NYT) on Iran's nuclear issue and stronger bi-lateral ties but it was not immediately clear how China would respond.

South Korea: South Korean media continues to speculate (CSM) over what caused the Cheonan warship to sink near the North Korean border last week.

Read CFR's new Asia Unbound blog, featuring timely analysis from CFR Asia experts.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA: Pakistan Considers Parliamentary Reforms

Pakistan's parliament is considering (AFP) constitutional reforms to strip President Asif Ali Zardari of powers to dismiss the prime minister and to dissolve parliament.

AFRICA: Sudan Opposition Parties to Boycott Elections

The majority of Sudan's main opposition parties say they may boycott (BBC) presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections this month, after the South's SPLM party voiced concerns over fraud and security.

This Center for Preventive Action Contingency Planning Memorandum presents the likely triggers of renewed civil war and discusses the U.S. policy options for preventing it from happening and mitigating its consequences in the event that it does.

Somalia: Somali rebels are planning to attack (Reuters) Mogadishu's seaport with vessels armed with explosives, according to African Union peacekeepers and moderate Islamists.

Instead of fighting jihad in Somalia by supporting the weak transitional government, the United States would have more success focusing on humanitarian aid and development, says democracy and governance expert Bronwyn Bruton in this CFR interview.

AMERICAS: Cuba and U.S. Hold Rare Talks

Cuba's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez and Cheryl Mills, chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, held talks (BBC) at a UN forum on aid for Haiti in New York. It is one of the highest-level meetings between the two countries in years.

Argentina: Thousands of Argentines are expected (MercoPress) to gather for the country's biggest anti-British protests in years over controversial plans to drill for oil in waters surrounding the Falkland Islands.

EUROPE: Germany and UK Back Iran Sanctions

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed to support (DeutscheWelle) tougher sanctions against Iran for its suspected nuclear program.

EU: Carbon dioxide emissions from industrial plants and power stations in Europe's cap-and-trade system dropped 11 percent (FT) last year due to the economic crisis, leaving companies with vast surpluses of carbon allowances.