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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 21, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Iraq Sectarian Violence Escalates

Courtesy Reuters  

Courtesy Reuters

At least twelve people were killed by bomb blasts in Iraq (DailyStar) just a day after more than seventy died in attacks on majority Shiites. More than two hundred people have been killed in the past week as Sunni-Shiite tensions fueled by the civil war in neighboring Syria threaten to plunge Iraq into a sectarian war. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced plans to change the country's security strategy (AFP) in response to the growing violence, and would discuss the overhaul at a cabinet meeting Tuesday.


"Some veteran observers, like former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, view the current period as a return to the conditions of 2006 and 2007, when Iraq plunged into civil war-like violence. But there is an alternative comparison that may hold at least as much weight -- namely, the period beginning in 2003, when the international coalition's mistakes created the opening for Iraq's insurgent groups to grow in the first place," writes Michael Knight in Foreign Policy.

"Almost two years after the official U.S. withdrawal, the Maliki government continues to demonstrate a decided lack of interest in offering the country's once dominant Sunni majority a significant enough share of power to drain the most important cause of the ongoing sectarian conflict," Mark LeVine writes in this op-ed for al-Jazeera.

"One would assume that the Iraqi Interior Ministry's Criminal Evidence Directorate would take charge of the scene upon its arrival, in order to collect evidence pertaining to the vehicles that bore the explosives, the type of explosive devices used, the remains of the suicide bomber, any photographs that have been taken and any other evidence that might prove essential to discovering the identities of those who planned and carried out the attack. However, chaos and frantic activity usually prevail at the scene, and much of the evidence that might limit the scope of these terrorist acts is either ignored, contaminated or destroyed," writes Mushreq Abbas in al-Monitor.



Presidents Xi and Obama Schedule June Meeting

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Obama will hold their first talks since Xi became China's president (Diplomat) on June 7 and 8 in Rancho Mirage, California.

MYANMAR: Seven Muslims were sentenced to jail terms ranging from two years to life imprisonment for the killing of a Buddhist monk (TimesofIndia) during sectarian violence in March.



Pakistan's Sharif Calls for Talks With Taliban

Prime minister-elect Nawaz Sharif called for peace talks with Pakistan's Taliban militants (Dawn), a move that could put him on a collision course with the country's army.

AFGHANISTAN: A roadside bomb killed six police officers in Herat province (VOA), while Taliban militants attacked several security checkpoints in Helmand province and killed four police officers in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials say.



Kerry in Middle East to Push Syrian Peace Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry began a visit to Oman, Jordan, and Israel to promote peace talks (AP) between Syrian rebels and President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

ISRAEL: Israel fired a Tamuz missile into Syria (Ynetnews) after repeated gunfire from Syria hit an Israeli army patrol in the Golan Heights, damaging an army vehicle, the Israeli military reported.



M23 Rebels Attack Army in Eastern Congo

Rebels from the M23 movement, a Tutsi-led group believed to be backed by Rwanda, attacked an army position north of Goma in Eastern Congo (AP), a military official said. The rebels overran Goma last year, with international pressure stopping their advance.

In this CFR discussion, three experts examine roadblocks to a sustainable framework agreement in the Democratic Republic of Congo and offer recommendations for the United States and regional players moving forward.

UGANDA: At least two Ugandan newspapers were raided by police and two radio stations were taken off the air after reporting that President Yoweri Museveni, due to step down in 2016, is grooming his son (BBC) as successor.



Ireland Denies Apple Tax Avoidance Charge

Irish deputy prime minister Eamon Gilmore rejected a U.S. Senate committee report's findings that it is a tax haven that helped Apple avoid paying billions (FT) of dollars in taxes.

RUSSIA: Russian security forces killed two suspected militants in the North Caucasus (Reuters) after a car bomb yesterday killed at least four people in the Russian province of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya.

Alexey Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center leads a CFR discussion about religious tensions and the relationship between Moscow and the Caucasus.



Oklahoma Tornado Kills at Least 91

Emergency crews and volunteers searched for survivors of a fierce tornado (NYT) that ravaged parts of Oklahoma City and its suburbs, killing at least 91 people and wounding at least 145 others, 70 of them children.

GUATEMALA: Guatemala's constitutional court overturned a landmark genocide conviction against eighty-six-year-old former dictator Efrain Rios Montt (Reuters) and ruled that proceedings should be wound back to April 19, when there was a dispute over who should hear the case.



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