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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 17, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Britain Marks Thatcher's Passing

Britain today held a ceremonial funeral with military honors (FT) at St. Paul's Cathedral for former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who died last week from a stroke at the age of eighty-seven. Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister David Cameron, and dignitaries from around the world--including former U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, and James Baker--attended the 2,000 person service. Thatcher, who led Britain from 1979-1990, was best known for championing unwavering free market policies and for her alliance with former U.S. president Ronald Reagan during the climax of the Cold War. But Britons were divided about her leadership and legacy.


"It is often claimed that Margaret Thatcher was a divisive figure, but the reality is that she inherited a country that was already very divided. Through a mix of cautious strategy and determination, she transformed Britain. Unions were democratized and the closed shop outlawed. Inflation was brought under control and the higher rate of income tax fell from a punishing 83 percent to the growth-inducing rate of 40 percent," says this Daily Telegraph editorial.

"Far from saving Britain, Thatcher's government delivered rampant inequality, social breakdown, disastrous financial deregulation, pulverizing deindustrialisation and mass unemployment. A North Sea oil bonanza was frittered away on tax cuts for the wealthy and a swollen benefits bill as public services were run down, child poverty escalated and social mobility ground to a halt," writes the Guardian's Seumas Milne.

"But she was at least as much a product of her times as she was the master of them, and Thatcherism was not so much a coherent creed as it was something she made up as she went along. Like many public figures, Margaret Thatcher had a touching and naive concern about 'the verdict of history,' but in her case, the only certainty is this: there will be never be agreement as to what that verdict should be," writes David Cannadine for the New York Times.



Taiwan Conducts Live-Fire Military Drills

Taiwan today began conducting its annual military drill on the Penghu Islands, using live ammunition for the first time since 2008. Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou said the exercise was necessary for sustaining "peace in the Taiwan Strait" (BBC).

PHILIPPINES: A leader of Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, Isnilon Hapilon, narrowly escaped an army offensive in the south of the country that left eight militants dead (Reuters). Hapilon is wanted by the United States over the kidnapping of U.S. citizens in 2001.



Musharraf Barred From Pakistani Elections

Pakistani election officials disqualified former president Pervez Musharraf from running in next month's general election, citing his failure to protect the country's judicial independence (Guardian) during his time in office. Musharraf returned to Pakistan at the end of March after four years of self-imposed exile.

PAKISTAN: A U.S. drone strike today decimated a Taliban training camp (AFP) in South Waziristan, killing at least five suspected militants.

Targeted killings have become a central component of U.S. counterterrorism operations around the globe. Despite pointed criticism over transparency and accountability issues, analysts say the controversial practice seems likely to expand in the future, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

Shifting lead executive authority for U.S. drone strikes from the CIA to the Pentagon is the essential first step toward greater transparency and oversight, asserts CFR's Micah Zenko in this Policy Innovation Memo.



U.S. Fears Islamist Victory in Syria

U.S. president Barack Obama's administration is concerned that a sudden victory by the Syrian opposition over embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad could empower Islamic extremists at the expense of a diplomatic solution, the Wall Street Journal reports.

ISRAEL: Two rockets were fired from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula today, hitting the Israeli Red Sea resort city of Eilat (Haaretz). There were no casualties.



Rebels Killed in CAR Clashes

A mob of armed civilians today killed seven fighters of the Seleka rebel group (al-Jazeera), which ousted former president Francois Bozize and took control of the capital, Bangui, last month.

KENYA: The Supreme Court concluded yesterday that there was no "profound irregularity in the management of the electoral process" (AFP) of the country's March presidential election. The vote ushered in President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces charges at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.



Trial of Anti-Putin Activist Adjourned

The trial of Russian opposition activist and blogger Alexei Navalny (FT), which began today in the provincial town of Kirov, was summarily postponed to allow the defense more time to prepare its case. Navalny allegedly embezzled funds from a state timber company, charges he calls politically fabricated.



New Clues in Boston Marathon Bombings

U.S. investigators said yesterday that explosives detonated during the Boston Marathon on Monday, which killed three people and wounded over 170, were constructed using a common pressure cooker, nails, and pellets (WaPo). Experts said the design has been used by al-Qaeda around the world, but its simplicity belied the easy identification of a culprit.

The deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon raise anew the vulnerability of U.S. civilian targets and homeland security policy dilemmas, as examined in this CFR Issue Guide.

VENEZUELA: President Nicolás Maduro, elected in a narrow poll on Sunday, pledged yesterday to crack down on post-election protests and violence (NYT) that have left seven people dead. Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has rejected the election results and called for a recount.

Significant challenges await Venezuela's new president, including rampant crime, economic distortions, and political divisions, explains this CFR Issue Guide.



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