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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 22, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Ahmadinejad to Challenge Aide's Ban From Election

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he will ask Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to reverse a ban (Reuters) preventing Ahmadinejad aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei from running in next month's presidential poll. The Guardian Council charged with vetting candidates disqualified Mashaei along with ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from the June 14 election, leaving in the field only eight hardline candidates loyal to Khamenei.


"Even if Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the candidate most closely associated with Ahmadinejad, is allowed to run, it is uncertain whether or not he will be able to rally the beneficiaries of the populist policies followed in the last eight years to make a good showing at the polls. Uncertain, too, is how long his reformist and conservative opponents can afford to ignore popular demands for redistribution or be able to undo the redistributive policies of the current administration if they win the election," writes Djavad Salehi-Isfahani in Al Monitor.

"In the end, the two candidates who have had the most potential for shaking up the race are hobbled by their own contradictions. Even if they are allowed to run, they are unlikely to offer much of a challenge to the eventual candidate of the establishment. Iran can no longer be reformed through its own constitutional provisions and electoral processes," writes CFR's Ray Takeyh.

"It appears that instead of going back to the drawing board, Khamenei has concluded that a stitch in time is better than nine. He has decided to eliminate Rafsanjani and Mashaei now, rather than deal with the unpredictable ramifications of allowing them to run. But the decision is not cost free, as he has now openly demonstrated that for the man at the helm of power in Iran, security trumps legitimacy," Yasmin Alem writes in Foreign Policy.



North Korea Sends Envoy to China

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a senior military official and close confidant as a special envoy to China (VOA), one of the highest-level delegations North Korea has sent amid signs that China's leadership is growing frustrated with North Korea's nuclear efforts.

China announced details of its first carbon-trading scheme (FT), set to launch June 18 with the Shenzen Carbon Exchange. The trading scheme would cover 635 industrial and construction companies, accounting for 38 percent of Shenzen's emissions in 2010.

This CFR Global Governance Monitor interactive explores the international response to climate change.



China's Premier Li Offers Energy Aid to Pakistan

Following a visit to India, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang traveled to Pakistan (Dawn) and urged China-Pakistan cooperation on power generation as the government looks to end an energy crisis that severely restricts the country's economy.

AFGHANISTAN: Human Rights Watch reports that Afghan statistics indicate the number of women and girls imprisoned for "moral crimes" in Afghanistan had risen to about six hundred in May 2013 from four hundred in October 2011--a 50 percent increase in a year and a half.

Concerns are growing about whether women's legal rights will suffer during Afghanistan's political and security transition, writes CFR's Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.



Egyptians Kidnapped in Sinai Freed

Seven Egyptian security personnel kidnapped last week (Ahram) in the Sinai Peninsula were released in the middle of the desert and transported by the military to Cairo.



Nigeria Seeks Niger's Aid Against Insurgents

Nigeria asked for help from Niger (Reuters) against Islamist Boko Haram insurgents and said it would release some of the prisoners (AP) taken during its military offensive, including all women in custody.

CONGO: Fighting continued between the army and the M23 rebel group near Goma (WSJ) as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon began a visit to the country.



Tax Fraud, Energy Agenda at EU Summit

Tax fraud and energy policy are the key items on the agenda for European leaders at today's European Union summit (DeutscheWelle) in Brussels.

FRANCE: Right-wing National Front party leader Marine Le Pen described an award-winning far-right historian's suicide (BBC) in the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral as a "political act." The historian, Dominique Venner, had criticized a new law legalizing gay marriage in a blog posted earlier this week.



Immigration Bill Approved by Senate Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bipartisan immigration reform bill (CNN), sending the most significant immigration reform plan in decades to the Senate floor, where debate on the measure will begin next month.

U.S. tracking of visa overstays is imperfect, but it isn't the huge hole in immigration enforcement many in Congress believe exists, writes CFR's Edward Alden.

ARGENTINA: As part of a wave of prosecutions targeting corporate support for dictators, three former Ford Motor Co. executives (AP), all in their 80s, were charged with crimes against humanity by an Argentinean federal court. They are accused of helping the government identify union workers for kidnapping and torture after the country's 1976 military coup.



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