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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 29, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: U.S. Drone Strike Kills Taliban Number Two


A U.S. drone strike killed Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the number two of the Pakistani Taliban (Reuters), in Pakistan's North Waziristan region on Wednesday in a heavy blow to the militant group. His close aide and five others, including Uzbek militants (Dawn), also died in the attack. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, is a separate entity allied to the Afghan Taliban, and has launched devastating attacks against the Pakistani military and civilians. In response, Pakistan's foreign office expressed "serious concern" over the attack, saying that drone strikes are counterproductive (TheNews), have human rights and humanitarian implications, and violate principles of national sovereignty and international law.


"The new drone strike policies still raise many questions. For example, what area constitutes the 'area of active hostilities?' Will the stricter policies apply to Pakistan, where the largest number and most controversial drone strikes have occurred? Will 'signature strikes' continue to be permitted? And what constitutes an 'imminent' threat?" says John Bellinger in an interview for CFR.

"Pakistan's military and civilian leaders have quietly collaborated with drone operations, but at the same time they reinforce their public legitimacy by denouncing the policy as a violation of national sovereignty -- which in turn further inflames public opinion. The net consequence is that U.S. relations with this vital and profoundly brittle country are a disaster," writes James Traub for Foreign Policy.

"In response to his critics, Mr Obama has tried to make the [targeted killing] programme look better. He has, for example, imposed new guidelines for determining targets. Previously, a non-US citizen could be killed by a strike if he or she posed a 'significant' threat to the US, according to legal experts. In contrast, the requirements for killing an American were more limited - he or she had to pose an 'imminent' threat," writes Tara McKelvy for the BBC.



Hagel to Visit Southeast China to Discuss Cyber Threat

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is headed to Southeast Asia, where he will discuss the escalating cyber threat amid the recent disclosure that China used cyberattacks to access data from nearly forty Pentagon weapons programs (AP) and around thirty other defense technologies.

CFR's Adam Segal gives three thoughts on cyber operations and the Defense Department's report on the Chinese military in this blog post.

JAPAN: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in Japan for a four-day visit, stressed that the two countries could deepen cooperation in maritime security (JapanTimes), as well as their economic ties.



Fresh Violence Erupts in Myanmar

Myanmar's government imposed a curfew late Tuesday after mobs burned down a Muslim orphanage, a mosque, and shops in a new wave of religious violence (al-Jazeera) in the northeastern Shan state. The country's recent sectarian strife has been partly blamed on the 969 movement, launched by an extremist monk.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick says in this op-ed that more is needed from Myanmar's president and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to foster reconciliation in the ethnically divided country.



Hezbollah Fighters Sent to Reinforce Syrian Troops After Ultimatum

Syrian forces and Hezbollah fighters have been sent to reinforce government troops battling rebels in the strategic border town of Qusayr, despite a twenty-four-hour ultimatum (al-Arabiya) set on Tuesday by a Free Syrian Army official for the Lebanese Shiite group to end its involvement in the Syrian conflict.

IRAQ: At least thirteen people died in Iraq in new bombings and gun clashes (BBC), two days after sixty-six people were killed by car bombs in Baghdad targeting Shia-majority areas of the city.

Expert Ned Parker talks about Iraq's worsening situation in this CFR interview.



Kenyan MPs Vote to Hike Pay

Kenya's parliament overturned a directive from a government commission that reduced their annual pay (GlobalPost) from $126,000 to $78,000 earlier this year, dismissing President Uhuru Kenyatta's requests that lawmakers accept the pay cuts.

SUDAN: Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir warned South Sudan that supporting rebels (SudanTribune) would lead to a stop of oil flow for the international market, urging a cooperation agreement.



Bulgaria Approves New Government

The Bulgarian parliament approved a Socialist-led technocrat government (Reuters) on Wednesday, ending months of political impasse that had left the European Union's poorest state without a permanent administration since February.

EUROPEAN UNION: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that the eurozone was still in trouble, and forecast its economy would contract 0.6 percent this year (FT).



Mujica Touts Ties With China

Uruguayan president Jose Mujica, in Beijing on an official visit, underlined China's significance (MercoPress) in trade and investments for South America, but also admitted that there was some "fear," mostly from Argentina and Brazil, about greater integration and dependency.

VENEZUELA: Two U.S. embassy officials, working with the embassy's defense liaison office, were wounded Tuesday in a shooting (CNN) at a strip club in Venezuela's capital of Caracas.



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