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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 19, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Iran's Overtures Boost Prospects for Nuclear Talks

Fars News/Courtesy Reuters  

Fars News/Courtesy Reuters

Softer rhetoric from Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani appears to have created a diplomatic opening to settle the crisis over Iran's nuclear program. All eyes are now focused on the annual UN General Assembly meeting next week when President Barack Obama and Rouhani will speak on the same day (AP). The Obama administration said it was possible that a meeting could take place in New York, reaffirming Obama's willingness to hold direct negotiations with Tehran that he floated during his 2008 campaign (WaPo). Israel's strategic affairs minister Yuval Steinitz said the time has passed for negotiations and that Iran is on track to develop a nuclear bomb within six months (Reuters).


"As I depart for New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran's recent election. I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government's efforts to engage in constructive dialogue," Iranian president Hassan Rouhani writes for the Washington Post.

"The moment of truth is coming. All the optics from Tehran—even from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—indicate that Iran is gearing up for a new attempt at a nuclear deal. If a deal can't be made in the next few months, it's hard to see another opportunity when the chances would ever be this good again," Patrick Clawson writes in Foreign Policy.

"Neither Obama nor Rowhani seem to be under any illusion about the consequences of a failure in negotiations. The military option for the U.S. remains on the table, and unlike the case with Syria, congressional lawmakers are more likely to support it. Iran's influence is also a reality in the region and could make life harder for the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon if the situation deteriorates," Joyce Karam writes for al-Arabiya.

InfoGuide: China's Maritime Disputes

We are delighted to announce the launch of a new interactive series called "InfoGuides." The first guide examines the escalating maritime disputes in the South China and East China Seas, pairing expert analysis with maps, timelines, infographics, and videos. Take a look.



Kennedy Inches Closer to Japan Envoy Post

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former president John F. Kennedy, sailed through a Senate Foreign Relations Committee session during her confirmation hearing to be the U.S. ambassador to Japan (USAToday). Maritime disputes between China and Japan were discussed during the hearing.

CHINA: Super Typhoon Usagi, expected to be the world's most powerful storm in 2013, is on course to make landfall near Hong Kong on Sunday (SCMP).



India Raises Benchmark Interest Rate

India's central bank governor Raghuram Rajan boosted the country's benchmark interest rate by a quarter point to 7.5 percent, a move that surprised analysts and was intended to get a grip on inflation that has diminished India's economic outlook (Bloomberg).

PAKISTAN: Pakistan brought the issue of U.S. drone strikes on tribal regions to the United Nations Security Council, calling for an end to the practice (Dawn).



Al-Qaeda Kill Thirty-Eight Troops in Yemen

Al-Qaeda fighters launched coordinated attacks on military barracks in southern Yemen, killing thirty-eight soldiers and wounding dozens (AP). The terrorist group gained control of Yemen's lawless south in 2011 but was pushed back in 2012 by Yemen's army, with an assist from U.S. drones.

This Backgrounder explains the origins and current structure of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.



African Union Calls Summit on ICC

The African Union is arranging a special summit to discuss a mass withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, or ICC, in protest of the trial of Kenya's deputy president William Ruto (BBC). The AU has previously accused the ICC of "hunting" African leaders and ignoring crimes elsewhere.

NIGERIA: At least eighty-seven additional bodies were discovered in a village in northeastern Nigeria following an alleged Boko Haram attack this week that killed more than 150 people (Daily Trust).

Expert Jacob Zenn writes about the different factions that make up Boko Haram in this blog post.



German Business Backs Merkel

Angela Merkel is the preferred candidate of Germany's business community, but polling ahead of Sunday's election indicates that the country's two main parties will not secure enough votes to form a government, opening possibilities of grand coalitions that could hurt the interests of German companies (FT).

VATICAN: Pope Francis says in a new interview that Catholic leaders must strive for a "new balance" between their spiritual mission and conveying church doctrine (America). "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods," he said.



Colorado Oil Spills Raise Concerns Over Regulation

Two large oil spills that leaked roughly twenty thousand gallons of oil into two Colorado rivers has raised concerns that regulatory oversight of the industry hasn't kept up with expansion of oil and gas drilling in the state (al-Jazeera).

MEXICO: Almost one hundred people have been killed in storms earlier this week, and Mexico's president decided to cancel his trip to the UN General Assembly to focus on relief efforts (LATimes).



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