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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 23, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama to Restrict Drone Targets

Handout/Courtesy Reuters  

Handout/Courtesy Reuters

A day after his administration formally acknowledged killing four U.S. citizens in drone strikes outside the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, President Obama, scheduled to give a major speech on counterterrorism today at National Defense University, is set to restrict the use of unmanned drone strikes (NYT). In an effort to increase transparency, he is expected to shift control of any such strikes from the Central Intelligence Agency to the military. He is also likely to propose renewed efforts to close Guantanamo prison, and to anticipate a time when al-Qaeda is sufficiently decimated so that the "war on terror" will end.


"The issue of defining down the enemy has become a topic of intense discussion inside the Obama administration as critics in Congress and elsewhere have been increasingly questioning how long U.S. presidents can continue to use the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Act, which was passed one week after 9/11 and set no temporal or geographic boundaries for killing terrorists," writes Michael Hirsh in the National Journal.

"Under President George W. Bush, the proportion of those killed by drones in Pakistan who were identified in reliable news reports as civilians or 'unknowns'--people who were not identified definitively as either civilians or militants--was around 40 percent, according to data assembled by the New America Foundation. But the civilian and 'unknown' casualty rate (CNN) from drone strikes has fallen steadily over the life of the program. Under Obama that number has fallen to 16 percent. And in 2012 it was around 11 percent," writes Peter Bergen for CNN.

"The president might begin spending the political capital needed to move remaining detainees to an alternative facility inside the United States, as he planned in 2009, such as the facility in South Carolina where former military detainees Yaser Hamdi, Jose Padilla, and Ali al-Marri were held in the past, or the civilian facility in Thompson, Illinois, that DOJ purchased last fall. It is almost impossible to imagine a scenario for closing Guantanamo that does not involve moving some of them here," writes CFR's Matthew Waxman with Robert Chesney in this Lawfare blog post.



Asian Markets Rattled By Chinese Data

Asian markets tumbled with a sudden plunge (SCMP) of more than 7 percent in Japan's stock market after the release of weak Chinese economic data and concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin tapering off its stimulus measures.

MALAYSIA: A Malaysian court charged a student activist (ChannelNewsAsia) with sedition, along with two opposition politicians, raising political tensions in the country. Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged last year to repeal the Sedition Act.

The recent election in Malaysia did little to solve the country's "serious internal problems," with large numbers of voters in urban areas who did not vote for the government and are angry about the result, writes CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick.



Car Bomb Kills at Least Twelve in Southwest Pakistan

A powerful, remotely detonated car bomb in Quetta (Dawn) killed at least twelve people, eight of them policemen, and injured at least twenty-one others.

INDIA: Citing a spectrum of security challenges in the Indian Ocean region, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the country is poised to become a net provider of security (EconomicTimes) in the region and beyond.



IAEA Reports Iran Nuclear Advances

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had advanced in its nuclear production (NYT), enriching more uranium and installing hundreds of next-generation centrifuges, but that it had not yet crossed the line set by Israel--enough medium-enriched fuel for a bomb--to warrant military action.

U.S. actions in Syria could have implications for Iran's nuclear program, writes CFR's Meghan L. O'Sullivan.

LEBANON: France has joined Germany and Britain in push to have the military wing of Hezbollah (Reuters) declared a terrorist organization.



Two Lethal Car Bomb Attacks Strike Niger

Two simultaneous car bombs (AP) in two cities injured more than a dozen people in Niger. One bomb struck in Agadez, where a military barracks was targeted, and the other one detonated in Arlit, where the French nuclear company Areva operates a uranium mine ore.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: M23 rebels in Eastern Congo announced a cease-fire (Reuters) in anticipation of a visit to the region by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. At least twenty people have been killed this week in three days of clashes between rebels and government troops near Goma, on the border with Rwanda.



Cameron Seeks Answers in Soldier's Murder

British prime minister David Cameron urged Britons not to give into terror as police raided two homes in search of clues to the violent murder of a British soldier (BBC) by two men in Woolrich, southeast London. Two men, one of whom has been identified, were shot by police and are under arrest in the hospital.

GENEVA: Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, told the World Health Assembly that collaboration by international health officials contained the SARS virus (UPI) ten years ago, and urged similar cooperation against today's threats.

As the World Health Organization considers its budget proposal, members would "be wise" to think about where sustainable funding will come from in the future, writes CFR's Laurie Garrett.



Argentina's Fernández Suggests Inflation Challenge

Argentinean President Cristina Fernández indirectly acknowledged that inflation has become a major challenge (Mercopress), while official figures show inflation of 10.6 percent and private estimates indicate 24 percent.



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