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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 26, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Egypt Fragile in Referendum Aftermath

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi signed the country's controversial, Islamist-backed constitution into law on Tuesday following official reporting of the referendum's results (al-Jazeera). Analysts note that while 60 percent of voters supported the constitution, only a third of the electorate participated. The country remains divided in the aftermath, but Muslim Brotherhood leaders are pushing the restive population to come together to "begin building our country's rebirth with free, women, Muslims and Christians." Meanwhile, the upper house of parliament, known as the Shura Council (WSJ), met for the first time, marking the first action by an Egyptian state institution in accordance with the new constitution.


"If there is any cause for hope now, it is that the constitutional referendum might force actors to recalculate. The Brotherhood might finally realize that it can get much of what it wants through less heavy-handed methods, and the opposition might find that the electoral process offers it the greatest possibilities of success. Only if actors perceive their options differently can Egypt break free from its current crisis," writes Nathan J. Brown at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"Behind the scenes, the generals have backed the elected president while working to preserve their own interests. In part, they have done so because they believe that Morsi and the group from which he hails are likely to continue winning elections. After all, the Muslim Brotherhood is better organized than Egypt's other political parties, and its networks stretch throughout the entire country, allowing it to reach a huge portion of the population," writes Joshua Stacher for Foreign Affairs.



Abe Named Japan's Next Prime Minister

Shinzo Abe was voted in as prime minister (Reuters) by parliament's lower house on Wednesday, giving the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party a second chance at Japan's top job as the country battles decades-long deflation and confronts escalating tensions with China. On Tuesday, Abe appointed Shigeru Ishiba (WSJ), a former rival for leadership of the LDP, to the party's number two post.

SOUTH KOREA: On Tuesday, the Obama administration formally proposed the sale of advanced spy drones to South Korea (Yonhap). The deal, if approved by Congress, would be worth up to $1.2 billion dollars, according to the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency.



India Pushes Gang Rape Investigation

The Indian government has ordered an inquiry into the alleged gang rape (BBC) of a student in Delhi on December 16 in order to identify "lapses" on the part of authorities. The incident sparked violent protests in which one policeman died and more than 100 others were injured.

AFGHANISTAN: A suicide car bomber targeted a U.S. base in Khost city in eastern Afghanistan (al-Jazeera), killing at least four and wounding several others. Analysts characterize the area, which borders Pakistan, as a flashpoint for Taliban activity.



Syrian Military Police Chief Defects

The head of Syria's military police, General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal, has reportedly defected and joined forces with the resistance against the regime of Bashar al-Assad (Reuters). Analysts note that the development, while not strategically significant, will erode the morale of Syrian government forces.



Al-Qaeda Condemns France Over Hostages

A leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Reuters) condemned France for failing to enter negotiations with the group regarding the release of four hostages taken in Niger two years ago. Paris claimed to be working "discreetly" on the matter.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: A rebel coalition known as Seleka has captured the regional capital of Kaga-Bandoro in the Central African Republic (al-Jazeera). The rebels launched their offensive December 10 and now control large swathes of the country's north and east, according to reports.



Monti Won't Run For Italian Premier

On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti announced that he would not stand as a candidate (LAT) in the country's upcoming national elections, but was open to leading the government if parties that endorsed his pro-reform agenda asked. The caretaker prime minister tendered his resignation last Friday (WSJ), but is expected to stay on until the February 24 elections.

In this video, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti discusses challenges for the euro and the future of European integration during a visit to CFR.

VATICAN CITY: In his annual Christmas address delivered on Tuesday in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI decried the ongoing violence in Syria and called upon China's new leadership (BBC) to allow more religious freedom.



Chavez Recuperating Post-Cancer Surgery

\Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is resting and in good spirits after undergoing cancer surgery (Xinhua) in Havana, Cuba, according to reports. Chavez's health has been under great media scrutiny in recent weeks, as he is scheduled to be sworn into a third six-year term on January 10.

MEXICO: Analysts say Mexico (MercoPress), which has become "the new darling of foreign investors," is slated to have a year of strong economic growth in 2013, projected to expand between 3.5 and 4 percent.



Obama to Return to White House to Continue Fiscal Cliff Talks

President Obama will cut short his vacation to Hawaii and return to Washington (ABC) Wednesday to continue fiscal cliff negotiations with Congress in hopes of reaching a budget deal before January 1.



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