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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 2, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama Cancels Two Asia Stops as Shutdown Continues

President Obama cancelled an upcoming trip to Malaysia and the Philippines this weekend due to the partial shutdown of the federal government, but it isn't clear if he will still visit Indonesia and Brunei, which were also on the schedule (WaPo). Deadlock on Capitol Hill continues, leaving government services in limbo as lawmakers refuse to reach an agreement on a funding bill (AP). One outcome of a prolonged government shutdown is that the U.S. Federal Reserve will delay reducing its bond-buying program, boosting emerging market currencies at the expense of the dollar as investors shift away from Treasuries (Bloomberg).


"It's day one, and there is agreement that we don't know where we are headed or how we get there. Both sides are playing a long game and seem unified in their brinkmanship. If current market and political realities are any indicator, we're a long way off from there being enough pressure on either side to deal," writes CFR Senior Fellow Robert Kahn.

"Perhaps the looming mid-October debt ceiling, the breaching of which could have catastrophic financial consequences, will force the Republicans' hand. But it's equally plausible that, having precipitated a government shutdown over the health care law, the House Republicans could simply pass a short-term debt ceiling hike and leave the government closed," writes CFR Senior Fellow Edward Alden.

"Why does Washington claim that demonstrating resolve in the world requires intermittently using military force, but not funding the federal government on time? For those who claimed that attacking Syria with cruise missiles was required to maintain U.S. credibility in the eyes of Iran's Supreme Leader, doesn't Capitol Hill's behavior over the past week do more to demonstrate America's incompetence?" writes CFR Douglas Dillon Fellow Micah Zenko.



South Korea., U.S. Sign New Security Pact

The United States and South Korea signed a new pact to deal with North Korea's potential use of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction, and agreed to review the timing of a scheduled 2015 transfer of command control of their combined forces in the peninsula (Yonhap).

This Backgrounder explains the Six Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

HONG KONG: The Asian Development Bank cut its growth forecast for Asia due to economic slowdown in China and India and skittish regional financial markets as the U.S. Federal Reserve's taper looms (Hindu).



Afghan Election Race Begins

Afghan opposition politician Abdullah Abdullah, the runner-up for the presidency in 2009, won the backing of important warlords and an Islamist party, and became the first high-profile candidate to register for the April elections (WSJ).

MYANMAR: Buddhist mobs killed a ninety-four-year-old Muslim woman and burned dozens of homes in western Myanmar as President Thein Sein toured the troubled region to press for peace (AP).



Netanyahu Warns of Iran's New Tone

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his speech at the final session of the annual UN General Assembly meeting to dismiss Iran's recent overtures to the United States, saying that Tehran's softer rhetoric on its nuclear ambitions is nothing more than a "ruse" (PBS).

CFR Senior Fellow Elliott Abrams explains how Israel can make sure a deal with Iran isn't too lenient in this Foreign Affairs article.

TURKEY: Amnesty International said that Turkey committed human rights abuses on a "massive scale" earlier this summer when dealing with protestors in Istanbul (Telegraph).



ICC Seeks Arrest of Kenyan Journalist

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for a Kenyan journalist who allegedly offered bribes to witnesses in the trial of Kenya's deputy president William Ruto (BBC). Prosecutors accused the journalist of being part of a wider network intent on sabotaging the case.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Less than half the programs funded by $2.5 billion in assistance by the European Union to the Democratic Republic of Congo have been found to be effective, according to a European audit (UPI).



Italy Braces for Parliament Showdown

Prime Minister Enrico Letta urged lawmakers to keep his coalition government in office hours ahead a confidence vote that was called after Silvio Berlusconi ordered ministers in his center-right People of Freedom party to leave the government (France24).

RUSSIA: Five Greenpeace activists were charged with piracy in a Russian court over a protest against Arctic oil drilling and could face up to fifteen years in prison (MoscowTimes).



U.S. Health-Care Exchanges Open With Glitches

More than 2.8 million visitors accessed a website to tap into the health insurance marketplace at the center of President Obama's health-care overhaul. The volume overwhelmed servers and many consumers weren't able to purchase coverage (LATimes).



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