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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 13, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: U.S.-Russian Talks on Syria Continue

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov continued negotiations on dismantling Syria's chemical weapons arsenal and met with UN–Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to discuss the peace process (AP) on their second day of talks in Geneva. The Syrian government submitted a document to the UN confirming its intention to comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention and said it would reveal its stockpiles within thirty days, as the treaty stipulates (Al Jazeera). U.S. officials estimate that Syria has over 1,000 tons of chemical and biological agents, and intelligence indicates that the Assad regime has been dispersing these weapons in recent months (Telegraph).


"While Mr Putin can fairly claim to have won this round of diplomacy, through his own cleverness and Mr Obama's multiple missteps, he cannot assume it is the harbinger of a trend, much less an era of global politics. Tactical triumphs cannot obscure or do away with the larger strategic reality of Russian limitations and weaknesses, and America's underlying power and reach," writes CFR President Richard Haass in the Financial Times.

"The Arab rebellions of 2011 had unnerved the Russians. The autocratic model itself was on the defensive, and those Arab regimes of plunder and tyranny were both physically close to Russia and bore a striking resemblance to the lawless Kremlin model of rule," writes Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal.

"Most bizarre is the out-of-date nature of Putin's analysis of U.S. warmongering, right down to paraphrasing a 12-year-old quote from President George W. Bush: 'You're either with us or against us.' Drones aside, if Obama has a Middle East policy it is to withdraw U.S. military that Bush deployed, and he is hardly a 'with us or against us' kind of guy," Bloomberg writes in an editorial.



China Targets Bayer in Graft Probe

Chinese regulators have contacted the local division of German pharmaceutical company Bayer in relation to an investigation into antitrust violations (SCMP). Drug companies from the United States, France, Denmark, UK, and Belgium have been approached by investigators this year.

SOUTH KOREA: A South Korean fisherman who was abducted by North Korea forty years ago has escaped and returned to the South (Yonhap), an official said Friday. Abduction is a contentious issue in North-South relations, dating to the Korean War.



Taliban Attacks U.S. Consulate in Herat

Seven Taliban fighters attacked the U.S. consulate in Herat, in western Afghanistan, killing an Afghan guard and wounding eighteen people (AFP). There were no U.S. casualties. The attackers set off two car bombs and then engaged in a firefight with American forces.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and resiliency of the Afghan Taliban.

INDIA: Four men convicted in the gang rape of a twenty-three-year-old student were sentenced to death by a Delhi court on Friday, ending a case that brought attention to violence against woman in India (Hindu).



Egypt Extends State of Emergency

Egypt's president, in a statement, extended the country's state of emergency (BBC), which began on August 14, by two months. The military-backed government accused Muslim Brotherhood leaders of inciting violence and has cracked down on the group and its supporters.

CFR's Steven Cook explains Egypt's Islamic insurgency of the 1990s and its possible revival in this article.



African Union Urges End to Kenya ICC Cases

The African Union asked the International Criminal Court and UN Security Council to end the trials of Kenya's president, his deputy, and a local journalist, and to refer the cases to Kenyan courts (CapitalFM). Deputy President William Ruto is currently standing trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity in the aftermath of 2007 elections.

LIBERIA: After ten years of peace, Liberia's police force still lacks the capacity to protect most neighborhoods, a function that has been taken up by vigilante groups (All Africa).



France to Revive its Industrial Base

French president Francois Hollande unveiled a ten-year plan to support thirty-four industrial sectors, including renewable energy, robotics, and medical biotech (FT). The president said the plan could help reverse the loss of 750,000 manufacturing jobs over the past decade.

RUSSIA: More than thirty people may have died in a fire that destroyed a psychiatric hospital near Novgorod (Moscow Times). Thirty-eight people died in a fire at another psychiatric institution in April.



Chile Riots Mark Anniversary of Pinochet's Coup

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested and forty-two policemen were injured as demonstrations demanding transparency for human rights abuses under the Pinochet regime (MercoPress) turned violent. Rioters threw chains at power lines, leading to a partial blackout in Santiago.

UNITED STATES: One of the most toxic subprime mortgage bonds has recovered most of its value, buoyed by the rebound in U.S. real estate prices and decline in defaults since the financial crisis (WSJ).



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