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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 23, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Al-Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Iraq Prison Raids

Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility on Tuesday for simultaneous raids on two Iraqi prisons that resulted in the freeing of more than five hundred inmates (Reuters). Monday's deadly attacks on the Taji and Abu Ghraib prisons involved suicide bombers who detonated car bombs and gunmen who attacked prison guards with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, resulting in the deaths of 120 Iraqi guards. Sunni insurgents have been regaining momentum in recent months against Iraq's Shiite-led government, and the intensifying violence has fueled fears that the sectarian conflict roiling Syria is spilling over into Iraq (al-Jazeera).


"Even if the prisoners are recaptured, the scale of the attacks on the heavily guarded facilities reinforced an impression among many Iraqis that their security forces are struggling to cope with a resurgent al-Qaeda since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011, taking with them much of the expertise and technology that had been used to hold extremists at bay," write Jabbar Yaseen and Liz Sly in the Washington Post.

"While it's possible the U.S. will offer help at the margins, Iraqis shouldn't expect an American cavalry. Leaving Iraq is one of Barack Obama's proudest accomplishments, and the President clearly has no desire to undo it — possibly even at the cost of seeing Iraq slip back into chaos," writes Michael Crowley for TIME.

"Iraq remains a long way from the worst of the civil war. The vast majority of Iraqis who lived through it don't want to return to that horror. But the war in Syria has seen Iraq's already limited control of that long border slip, and government failures like that today – which potentially saw hundreds of seasoned operatives re-injected into the Iraqi insurgency – will encourage more Sunni fence-sitters to join the fight," writes Dan Murphy in the Christian Science Monitor.



Tepco: Fukushima Leaking Radioactive Water Into Sea

The operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant admitted for the first time on Monday that radioactive groundwater is likely flowing into the Pacific Ocean (JapanTimes). Tepco's admission comes a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner scored a big victory in upper-house elections. The country's fisheries have voiced concern about the health of its marine life in light of these revelations.

CHINA: GlaxoSmithKline announced on Monday that it would lower the cost for its products in mainland China (SCMP) after an investigation revealed that some senior executives of the British pharmaceutical company were guilty of bribery and corruption charges.



Pakistani Document Reveals Dozens of Civilian Drone Deaths

A classified Pakistani government document leaked by the London Bureau of Investigative Journalism outlined seventy-five separate CIA drone strikes in Pakistan between 2006 and 2009 that resulted in at least 147 civilian deaths (Dawn), 94 of which were said to be children. The report stated that Pakistani officials were "aware of those deaths for many years." The United States had previously stated that no more than fifty to sixty non-combatants had been killed in the nine-year-long drone campaign.

AFGHANISTAN: Afghan president Hamid Karzai contested a decision made by parliament Monday to fire interior minister Ghulam Mujtaba Patang (al-Jazeera). Patang lost a parliamentary vote of confidence Monday over what they said was his failure to quell attacks from Taliban militants. Karzai announced he would appeal to the Supreme Court before deciding whether to accept the minister's dismissal.



Pentagon Outlines U.S. Options on Syria

The Pentagon gave Congress the first detailed overview of U.S. military options for Syria's civil war (NYT), ranging from training opposition troops to conducting air strikes and enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria. The report suggested that U.S. involvement to assist the rebels against President Bashar al-Assad would be a formidable undertaking costing billions of dollars.



UNICEF Cites Fall in Practice of Genital Mutilation

A report by the UN's children's fund released Monday found a decline in the practice of female genital mutilation, common mostly in Africa, but also reported that millions of girls remain at risk (UNICEF).

MALI: Preparations for Mali's presidential polls, scheduled for July 28, have intensified with UN officials enlisted to help tens of thousands of refugees (UNHCR) in three neighboring countries to vote. Concerns persist that low turnout and other obstacles will mar the voting.



Rajoy to Testify in Spanish Parliament

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy agreed on Monday to appear before parliament to face questions over a metastasizing slush-fund scandal (FT). This concession comes on the heels of the opposition group's threat to hold a no-confidence vote if he refused. A poll published in El Mundo daily (AFP) this past Sunday showed that nearly nine in ten Spaniards thought Rajoy should explain himself in parliament.

UK: The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a baby boy (Guardian) on Monday afternoon at St. Mary's Hospital in London. The child is the third in line to the throne, and is destined to be the forty-third monarch since William the Conqueror obtained the English crown in 1066.



Pope Draws Thousands on Arrival in Brazil

Thousands of Brazilians turned out in Rio de Janeiro to greet Pope Francis (LAT), who is making his first trip abroad as pontiff to his home continent. The highlight of the pope's trip will be his Thursday address to World Youth Day, and through the week he is expected to focus on issues affecting Catholics in the emerging economies.

VENEZUELA-COLOMBIA: The presidents of Venezuela and Colombia (Reuters) have agreed to move beyond differences triggered by the visit of a Venezuelan opposition leader to Colombia this spring, and affirmed cooperation on issues like ending Colombia's civil war with FARC rebels.



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