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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 1, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama Renews Vow to Close Guantánamo

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that he would recommit himself to closing the Guantánamo Bay prison (NYT), an initiative that had once figured heavily into his campaign but gained no momentum in his first term. The president vowed to try again to persuade Congress to lift restrictions on transferring inmates, saying it was not sustainable to keep Guantánamo open. The military base has been rocked by a widening hunger strike (Guardian) involving at least 100 of its 166 prisoners, twenty-one of whom are being force-fed, and many of whom have been held for more than eleven years without trial.


"There is no doubt that Congress - both parties - played a significant role in the ongoing travesty by limiting Obama's options, and it deserves much of the blame. But for the reasons documented here, Obama deserves his own share of the blame, and it is substantial," writes Glenn Greenwald for the Guardian.

"[The] Pentagon has failed to set up a promised new system for reviewing the cases of prisoners that Mr. Obama ordered established more than a year ago—which means that Guantánamo inmates are receiving less review of their cases than they did during the Bush administration. It's little wonder that many have grown desperate enough to try starving themselves to death," writes a Washington Post editorial.

"It mocks American standards of justice by keeping people imprisoned without charges. It has actually hindered the prosecution and imprisonment of dangerous terrorists. Even if Guantánamo seemed justified to some people in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, those justifications are wearing thin. It is unsustainable and should be closed," writes a New York Times editorial.



Japan Vows Nuclear Infrastructure Exports to Middle East

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to promote exports (KyodoNews) of Japan's nuclear infrastructure to the Middle East in a bid to tighten economic ties with the region. Abe, who is currently in Saudi Arabia, will also visit the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

MALAYSIA: Malaysia faces tightly-contested national elections Sunday, when voters will choose between opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and the ruling National Front coalition (Reuters).



Myanmar Sees More Anti-Muslim Violence

At least one person died in central Myanmar after Buddhist gangs (al-Jazeera) set fire to hundreds of homes and attacked two mosques, marking the latest anti-Muslim violence to plague the Southeast Asian nation since late March.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick delves into Myanmar's troubles in this op-ed.

AFGHANISTAN: Three British soldiers were killed (Independent) in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan, underlining the continued danger as the UK prepares its 2014 drawdown.

CFR's Stephen Biddle discusses Afghanistan's looming security test in this new interview.



Obama Reconsiders Syria Red Line

President Barack Obama said he needed more information (WaPo) about the use of chemical weapons in Syrian before deciding on escalating U.S. military or diplomatic responses. Some viewed the statement as a backtrack from his previous assertions that use of such weapons would be a "game-changer."

This CFR Backgrounder outlines the Syrian civil war and the global response.

TURKEY: A Syrian air strike on a headquarters of a rebel brigade along the Turkish border killed at least five people (Hurriyet). The attack targeted Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafist Islamist rebel unit.



Gunmen Overtake Libyan Ministries

Armed gunmen overtook several ministries in Libya (UNNS), including the foreign ministry, which remains under siege for a third day. Protestors want the General National Congress to pass a law that would ban Muammar al-Qaddafi-era officials from holding government posts.

NIGERIA: Satellite images showed excessive military force (BBC) by the Nigerian army during a raid to capture militant Islamists in the northern Nigerian town of Baga last month.



Cyprus Approves Bailout

Cypriot lawmakers narrowly backed a ten billion international bailout (FT) amid calls by the communist opposition for a referendum on leaving the euro. Under the terms, depositors will be forced to take major losses on savings over 100,000 euros.

GREECE: Thousands of Greeks walked off their jobs on Wednesday in the second general strike against government austerity measures this year (NYT).



Venezuelan Congress Brawls

Venezuelan government and opposition lawmakers physically clashed in the national assembly as political tensions over Venezuela's disputed presidential election boiled over Tuesday. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles accused election officials of rejecting his appeal for a full recount (MercoPress).



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