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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 16, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Answers Sought in Boston Bombings

Federal and local law enforcement officials are pursuing a "potential terrorism investigation" (BostonGlobe) into the bomb explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday, which killed three and wounded about 140 people. Authorities have made no arrests in connection with the explosions, which occurred seconds apart near the finish line of the race. U.S. president Barack Obama vowed that the perpetrators "will feel the full weight of justice" (WaPo), but stopped short of labeling the incident a terrorist attack.


"The Boston bombing is above all a reminder of the continuing need for heightened defenses against terror threats. As the years since 9/11 without a successful homeland attack increased, the temptation was to forget how vulnerable the U.S. is, and to conclude that the worst is over," says this Wall Street Journal editorial.

"Who was responsible? Again, there seemed to be a general understanding of the danger of jumping to conclusions. The nation has seen its share of foreign terrorism and homegrown terrorism attacks alike (the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta come to mind). Sadly, any number of explanatory scenarios were plausible, absent a claim of responsibility and pending a more thorough investigation," says this Washington Post editorial.

"It is also a failure in intelligence. Bomb-sniffing dogs and technological surveillance will always have their limitations. Good intelligence is the most effective protection against large terrorist networks, small cells, and lone wolves alike. Police officials in Boston say they didn't have a warning," writes the Boston Globe's Lawrence Harmon.



China Criticizes U.S. Over Military Buildup

China's defense ministry today condemned the expanded U.S. military presence in the Pacific--part of the so-called U.S. pivot to Asia--and accused the United States of accelerating tension in the region (Reuters). The ministry's annual white paper comes amid mounting international concern over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

SOUTH KOREA: U.S. president Barack Obama is slated to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Washington at the beginning of May to discuss economic and security matters, including "countering the North Korean threat" (BBC), the White House said yesterday.

This CFR Crisis Guide provides an interactive, multimedia overview of the dispute between North and South Korea.



Afghan Opium Production on the Rise

Afghan opium production grew for a third year in a row (NYT), fueling concerns that the drug could become Afghanistan's main economic driver after international troops leave the country in 2014, according to a United Nations report released yesterday.

PAKISTAN: Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, facing charges of treason (al-Jazeera) for allegedly illegally dismissing judges who opposed his presidency in 2007, failed to attend a hearing a the country's supreme court yesterday. Musharraf, who ruled from 1999 to 2008, returned to Pakistan in late March after four years in self-imposed exile.



Syria Accuses UK, France of Supporting al-Qaeda

Syrian vice-foreign minister Faisal al-Miqdad yesterday accused Britain and France of "directly or indirectly" backing al-Qaeda in their support of opposition groups trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's regime, calling the European powers "new colonialists" (Guardian).

TURKEY: A Turkish court yesterday handed down a suspended jail sentence to concert pianist Fazil Say for allegedly insulting Islam on Twitter (WSJ), in a ruling that has alarmed free speech advocates in Turkey.



Sub-Saharan Growth to Outpace World

Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa--fueled in part by high commodity prices and increased investment--is set to surpass the global average over the next three years, rising above 5 percent (BBC), the World Bank said yesterday.

SOMALIA: Human Rights Watch today called for greater protection for Somalia's judges and lawyers so the country can maintain its "current focus on judicial reform" (Reuters), following a deadly weekend attack on the courts in Mogadishu by radical Islamist group al-Shabaab.

Some experts believe al-Shabaab is at its weakest point in years following an African-led counterinsurgency campaign, but others warn of the group's resiliency in an unstable Somalia, says this CFR Backgrounder.



U.S., Russian Presidents to Meet

U.S. president Barack Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin will hold a bilateral summit (NYT) ahead of a G20 conference in Russia this fall, the Kremlin said, following meetings with U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon yesterday. Obama and Putin will also meet on the sidelines of a G8 meeting in Northern Ireland in June.

EUROPEAN UNION: The European Parliament today voted against rescuing the floundering EU carbon market (FT). The International Energy Agency yesterday called on the EU to save the emissions trading scheme, saying it was important for the "global fight against climate change."



U.S. Senators to Present Immigration Plan

A bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators is set to make public a comprehensive immigration reform plan today that would give millions of illegal immigrants the chance to become U.S. citizens (WaPo), while creating tens of thousands of new visas for foreign workers in low-skilled jobs.

This CFR Task Force report offers a strategy for maintaining America's political and economic leadership by attracting skilled immigrants, implementing a program of legalization for those living in the United States illegally, and taking steps to secure the country's borders.



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