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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 6, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Memo Reveals Legal Case for Drone Strikes on Americans

A leaked Justice Department memo, concluding that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be senior operational leaders of al-Qaeda, was released on Tuesday (NBC), providing new details about the legal rationale behind one of the Obama administration's most controversial polices. The White House has dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaeda suspects abroad, including American citizens. The report also revealed that for the past two years, the Central Intelligence Agency has been operating a secret airbase (BBC) in Saudi Arabia for unmanned drones, established to scout for members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.


"The revelation that U.S. drone strikes against militants in Yemen have been launched from a secret base inside Saudi Arabia will be an embarrassment for the government in Riyadh. King Abdullah has embarked upon a gradual process of reform in the face of a conservative religious elite who strongly object to the presence of foreign non-Muslim troops in the country," writes Bill Law for the BBC.

"The current trajectory of U.S. drone strike policies is unsustainable. Without reform from within, drones risk becoming an unregulated, unaccountable vehicle for states to deploy lethal force with impunity," writes Micah Zenko in this CFR Special Report.

"The example of clandestine and surreptitious British support for CIA's drone campaign, conducted away from public and legal scrutiny, raises troubling questions about the ability of governments to circumvent the law and elude popular accountability in the pursuit of foreign military adventurism," writes Murtaza Hussain for al-Jazeera.



Japan's Abe Slams China Radar

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned China on Wednesday over the locking of a radar on a Japanese destroyer (KyodoNews) in the East China Sea by a Chinese navy vessel near the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in late January.

CFR's Sheila Smith talks about China, Japan, and the rise of nationalism in this Expert Brief.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea's military is pushing to deploy spy satellites (Yonhap) to strengthen its surveillance of North Korea in light of its growing nuclear threats.



India Concerned About Pakistan Port

India said Wednesday that New Delhi was concerned by Pakistan's decision (Dawn) last month to transfer management of the deep-sea Gwadar port to China from a Singaporean company. Gwadar is expected to open an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf, across Pakistan, to western China.

AFGHANISTAN: The UK has deployed four-inch-long helicopter-shaped drones (LATimes), designed to provide frontline reconnaissance, to Afghanistan with British soldiers.



Tunisian Opposition Leader Shot Dead

Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid was murdered Wednesday in what President Moncef Marzouki, who scrapped a trip to Cairo in light of the incident (AFP), called an act of terrorism. Belaid's family accused the ruling Ennahda party of orchestrating the murder.

ISRAEL: President Obama will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories next month in an early second-term push (WashPost) for peace negotiations. It will be Obama's first trip as president to Israel.

Shlomo Avineri discusses Israel's peace process after the election in this Foreign Affairs article.



France to Withdraw From Mali in March

France said on Tuesday that it will begin pulling troops out of Mali in March (France24). France, which has deployed nearly four thousand ground soldiers as well as warplanes and armored vehicles in its three-week-old operation, has broken Islamist militants' ten-month grip on northern towns.

SOUTH AFRICA: South African police arrested nineteen suspected Congolese rebels, including two senior members of the M23 group, on suspicion of running an illegal military operation (Reuters).



Hezbollah Responsible for Bulgarian Attack

A Bulgarian investigation concluded that Hezbollah was behind the bombing (Guardian) of an Israeli tourist bus in Burgas last July. The link between Hezbollah and the attack on European soil opens the way for the EU to include the Lebanese Shia militia on its list of terrorist organizations.

GERMANY: A plagiarism scandal (Deutschewelle) involving German Education Minister Annette Schavan is posing a challenge to Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of general elections this fall.



House Republicans Debate Immigration

House Republicans are adopting a more conciliatory approach to immigration reform (LAT), with the number two Republican in the House, Rep. Eric Cantor, announcing in a stark reversal that he favors a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

CFR's Edward Alden discusses three things to know about immigration reform in this video.



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