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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 6, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Global Divisions on Display at G20

At the G20 summit in Russia, leaders expressed concern about escalating conflict in Syria and its effects on the global economy (BBC). Russian president Vladimir Putin was joined by a number of other G20 leaders in opposing military intervention while France, Turkey, Canada, and Britain reportedly backed the call by U.S. president Barack Obama for military strikes in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Meanwhile, the Pentagon drew up more options for strikes in Syria, which could include the use of long-range bombers (NYT), and U.S. officials said the Department of Defense might supplant the Central Intelligence Agency and take on responsibility for training rebels (AP). Iran's Revolutionary Guard reportedly issued orders to Shiite militant groups in Iraq to attack U.S. targets if the Obama administration carries out punitive strikes (Reuters).


"The President and his Administration view this vote as a courtesy vote. Even though only 9 percent of the American population supports this intervention… and even if Congress votes against it, the President still believes that he reserves the right to involve our soldiers in another country's civil war," Senator Rand Paul writes in TIME.

"This is no longer just about the conflict in Syria or even the Middle East. It is about American credibility. Are we a country that our friends can trust and our enemies fear? Or are we perceived as a divided and dysfunctional superpower in retreat, whose words and warnings are no longer meaningful?" write Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl in the Wall Street Journal.

"[If] the UN team's findings point to Assad's culpability, the Security Council should issue a resolution condemning the Syrian use of chemical weapons and strongly encouraging Syria to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.… All that might seem like a pipe dream, but it is worth remembering that progress in global arms control and disarmament has followed such paths," writes Richard Price in Foreign Affairs.



Campaigning Wraps for Australian Election

Voters in Australia are preparing to head to the polls for general elections pitting the Labor Party incumbent, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, against Tony Abbott, leader of the conservative Liberal-National Coalition. The latest polls indicate Abbott is favored to become the country's new premier (Australian).

CFR's James Lindsay and Bob McMahon discuss the elections in this podcast previewing the week ahead.

SOUTH KOREA: Seoul expanded its ban on fish imports from Fukushima and adjacent Japanese prefectures to address potential radiation, the government announced Friday. Fears of contaminated seafood have led to sharp decline in seafood sales (Yonhap).



U.S. Drone Kills Taliban-linked Militants

Sangeen Zadran, a senior Haqqani commander and Taliban leader, is reported to have been killed with at least five other insurgents in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan (Reuters). Zadran was placed on the United States global terrorist list in 2011.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the rise and resilience of the Taliban.

PAKISTAN: President Asif Zardari will complete his term and step down from office this weekend, becoming the first elected president in Pakistan to serve a full five-year term (Hindu).



Iran Tasks its Foreign Minister for Nuclear Talks

President Hasan Rouhani signaled a shift in his country's nuclear policy, appointing Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who has a reputation for being moderate and pragmatic, as Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator (AFP) on Thursday.

This CFR Crisis Guide explains Iran's nuclear program.



Kenya Moves Toward ICC Withdrawal

Kenya's parliament overwhelmingly approved a motion to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, which is preparing to try the country's president and his deputy for crimes against humanity (Al Jazeera). Many Kenyan politicians label the ICC as a "neo-colonist" institution.

DR CONGO: Rebels from the Democratic Republic of Congo's M23 movement said they are ready to resume talks with the governments of the DRC and Uganda (News24).



Netherlands Liable for Three Srebrenica Deaths

The Dutch supreme court ruled that the Netherlands was liable for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims who worked for the Dutch peacekeeping force and were killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre (BBC). The ruling will allow relatives of the victims to claim compensation from the state.

UNITED KINGDOM: Prime Minister David Cameron defended Britain's historic role in the world amid claims that Russia called the United Kingdom "a small island no one listens to" (Telegraph) during the G20 summit.



Obama Talks with Mexico, Brazil Leaders on Surveillance

President Barack Obama discussed the National Security Agency's surveillance program with two of its alleged targets, the presidents of Brazil and Mexico (AP), on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Both leaders expressed outrage that their communications were monitored by the U.S. spy agency.

UNITED STATES: The U.S. unemployment rate, at 7.3 percent, is the lowest since December 2008, the Labor Department announced on Friday. Yet with a low participation rate and job growth less than expected, it is unclear whether the Federal Reserve will judge the economy strong enough for monetary stimulus to be tapered (Reuters) when central bankers meet in mid-September.



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