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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 24, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Iran Takes Center Stage at UN

Morteza Nikoubazl/Courtesy Reuters  

Morteza Nikoubazl/Courtesy Reuters

There is rare excitement at the annual UN General Assembly meeting, where President Barack Obama and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani will deliver speeches today as Tehran continues a charm offensive that could lead to a breakthrough in nuclear talks and sanctions (WaPo). President Obama is expected to signal willingness to engage Iran, but will remain firm in his call for a UN Security Council resolution to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons (AP). Moscow said it hoped to reach an agreement on Syria this week, but that talks with the United States "are not going so smoothly" (Reuters).


"For years, many have noted that the problems in the Middle East are so intricately related that it would be hard to solve each on its own. Obama may have before him a rare convergence of events, factors, and forces where at least some of those problems can be dealt with simultaneously. He has a remarkable chance to pull the gold ring," CFR Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow Fred Kaplan writes for Slate.

"On that diplomatic chessboard, and before a big crowd that has gathered to watch the protagonists in a standoff with high stakes, it is easy to see the American player being decisively outclassed. There is cunning aplenty in Persia, an eye for that exact moment when one's rival has been trapped," writes Fouad Ajami for Bloomberg.

"The president also faces domestic risks with Iran. Having been burned once before, Obama will be pilloried by critics as a congenital naïf if talks collapse. But it is a wager the president cannot avoid, for it presents the best opportunity for a nuclear deal with Teheran that he is likely to see. And in diplomacy, as in much of life, nothing ventured, nothing gained," writes CFR Senior Fellow Stewart M. Patrick.



China Bans Some Exports to North Korea

China's commerce ministry banned the export of dual use materials and technology that could be used by North Korea to build weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons (Yonhap). North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February.

SINGAPORE: New regulations will limit employers from recruiting foreign workers in Singapore, giving Singaporeans a better chance to land a job amid intense competition from foreign labor (Reuters).



NSA Targets Sensitive Indian Programs

Classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden allegedly reveal that the U.S. National Security Agency has used its surveillance systems to intercept and search for content related to India's nuclear and space programs (Hindu).

PAKISTAN: The Council of Islamic Ideology, which is converting Pakistani laws to follow sharia doctrine, ruled against using DNA tests as primary evidence in rape cases (TribuneExpress).



Egypt Bans Muslim Brotherhood Activities

An Egyptian court banned the Muslim Brotherhood's activities and confiscated the group's finances, although the ruling did not outlaw the group itself (al-Jazeera). Most senior members of the group are in prison or on the run, and its junior members vowed to continue operating as "business as usual."

CFR's Elliott Abrams writes about leaked recordings of former president Mubarak in this blog post.



U.S. Citizens Said to Be Among Kenyan Mall Attackers

Kenya's foreign minister said some of the fighters involved in this week's attack on a Nairobi mall were U.S. citizens, though U.S. officials said they were working to determine the facts. The deadly standoff between Islamist fighters linked to al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, continued into a fourth day Tuesday, but Kenyan officials said most hostages have been released (WaPo).

CFR's John Campbell explains in this blog post that al-Shabab is just one example of rising jihadist movements in Africa.

MALI: The United Nations mission in Mali said it is investigating allegations of misconduct by its peacekeeping troops, including an incident of sexual abuse (AllAfrica).



Russia Accuses Greenpeace Activists of Piracy

Russian prosecutors accused roughly thirty Greenpeace activists of piracy and said the activists will be tried for attempting to board an Arctic oil platform last week (BBC). Jail terms for piracy can last up to fifteen years and be accompanied by up to $15,000 in fines.

GREECE: Two Greek police generals resigned as authorities probed possible links between the police department and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party (France24).



Latin American Leaders to Discuss U.S. Spying at UN

Latin American and Caribbean leaders are expected to express their concerns at the annual UN General Assembly meeting about revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency has tapped into the communications of companies and presidents in South America (MiamiHerald).

COLOMBIA: Uruguayan president Jose Mujica offered to host peace talks between Colombia's government and the ELN guerillas, opening possibilities of another peace process in addition to Bogota's talks with FARC rebels (MercoPress).



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