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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 13, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Keita Wins Mali Election

Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters  

Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won Mali's presidential election (BBC) after rival Soumaila Cisse conceded defeat in the second round runoff on Monday. Electoral sources had showed that Keita, who served as prime minister from 1994 to 2000, was comfortably ahead with two-thirds of the runoff votes counted (France24) in Mali's first election since 2007. The vote is viewed as crucial for unlocking more than $4 billion from international donors who halted aid (AFP) in the wake of last year's coup that ignited an Islamist insurgency and a French military offensive. The election will also allow France to withdraw most of the 4,500 troops it had sent to the country in January to oust al-Qaeda-linked extremists that occupied the north.


"This is yet another example that politics is not an exact science—many had predicted chaos if Mali held elections so soon. France, anxious to get its troops out of Mali after routing Islamist militants from northern regions earlier this year, faced criticism for pushing for early polls," writes Abdourahmane Dia for the BBC.

"Mali's persistent challenges include an unresponsive and corrupt political class and its failure to reconcile with the [Tuaregs] (and other minorities) in the north. It remains to be seen if these elections will address either of those issues," writes CFR's John Campbell on his blog, Africa in Transition.

"Taken together, these data suggest that Mali's problems are rooted in its institutions and further corroborate what some scholars have already asserted: the coup, Tuareg rebellion, al-Qaeda penetration and corruption of the state were all symptoms of the same basic institutional dysfunction. Nothing has fundamentally changed to address the deficiencies in accountability and oversight, yet over US$4 billion of development aid is poised to come online at the conclusion of the current political transition," writes IRIN.



South Korean Official Heads to Moscow

A South Korean official headed to Moscow on Tuesday to hold talks (Yonhap) with his Russian counterpart in a bid to resume the long-stalled dialogue to denuclearize North Korea. The three-day meeting will be the first of its kind after denuclearization talks paused in late 2008.

This CFR Backgrounder traces the history and trajectory of the Six Party Talks.

CHINA: Hong Kong-based activists intending to land on the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands to assert Chinese sovereignty (JapanTimes) have called off their trip.

CFR's Sheila Smith addresses the possibility of a Sino-Japanese clash in the East China Sea in this Contingency Planning Memorandum.



Pakistan's Sharif Urges Peace With India

Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif called for a "new beginning" in the country's strained ties (TimesofIndia) with India, urging all issues to be settled in a "friendly manner." His comments come amid an escalation in tensions over incidents along the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir.

AFGHANISTAN: Taliban fighters kidnapped a female parliamentarian (Reuters) in Afghanistan's central Ghazni province in the latest incident of attacks on women in the country.

This CFR Backgrounder traces the Taliban in Afghanistan.



U.S. Embassies Reopen

Eighteen U.S. embassies and consulates reopened (McClatchy) across the Middle East and North Africa after closing for a week due to heightened terrorist threats in the region. The U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, remains closed.

ISRAEL: U.S. secretary of state John Kerry said that Israel's approval of building 1,200 new homes (VOA) in parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank should not derail peace talks with the Palestinians.



Forty-Four Die in Attack on Nigerian Mosque

At least forty-four worshippers were shot dead (BBC) at a mosque in northeastern Nigeria by what authorities suspect are members of militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has killed thousands since 2009.



Germany, U.S. Seek No-Spy Deal

Germany and the United States will seek to negotiate an agreement that will ban espionage (FT) in the wake of recent allegations of widespread internet surveillance by American intelligence agencies. The question of U.S. intelligence operations has become an issue in the upcoming German election.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Czech prime minister Jiri Rusnok and his cabinet handed their resignation (Reuters) to President Milos Zeman after losing a confidence vote in parliament last week.



Peru Confirms Deaths of Shining Path Rebels

Peruvian president Ollanta Humala confirmed the deaths of three Shining Path militants (PeruThisWeek), including a top leader, who were killed by security forces during a military ambush. The Shining Path was largely defeated in the 1990s, but pockets continue to be active in parts of Peru.

MEXICO: Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto unveiled historic constitutional reforms (LAT) that allow foreign companies take part in Mexico's state-run oil industry.



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