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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 3, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Shutdown Continues as Focus Shifts to Debt Ceiling

The debate over the partial U.S. government shutdown has shifted toward raising the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, which is expected to be breached on October 17 (WaPo). President Obama met with Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress on Wednesday but wasn't able to break through the deadlock over the budget (Reuters). U.S. intelligence officials say the shutdown is harming the intelligence community's ability to protect the nation against threats after 70 percent of intelligence workforce has been furloughed (al-Jazeera).


"[The shutdown] reinforces the sense that this institution called Congress, which happens to be central to American governance, can't be counted on with any degree of confidence to be a consistent partner for the president when it comes to American foreign policy," CFR President Richard Haass says in this interview.

"The U.S. will pay its bills, but a short-term miscalculation is possible. A President who really wants to limit the chance of default would take the GOP up on its Full Faith and Credit offer. Mr. Obama's refusal suggests that his real goal is to go to the edge of default, gambling that he can then either coerce total surrender or blame a default on Republicans and use it to take back control of the House in 2014," the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial.

"Imagine you're the president of the Philippines, and you receive a call from Obama (as Benigno Aquino just did) telling you that, because a handful of Republicans in Congress are holding the government hostage because of their displeasure with aspects of a new health-care law, he can no longer visit. You might be tempted to think that the U.S. is not a very serious place anymore," writes Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg.



U.S., Japan Revise Defense Cooperation

The United States and Japan agreed to modernize their defense alliance to counter North Korea's nuclear program, global terrorism, cybersecurity, and other threats (Kyodo). The countries said some marines will be transferred from Okinawa to Guam in the first half of the 2020s.

The U.S.-Japan alliance has been the cornerstone of Washington's security policy in East Asia, but rising threats from China, North Korea, and economic recovery in both countries have raised questions about the future of the rapport, explains this Backgrounder.

JAPAN: The Fukushima nuclear reactor has a new leak of radioactive water after workers overfilled a storage tank (JapanTimes).



Taliban Launch Suicide Attack on Pakistani Militia

A suicide bomb attack on a militant commander's compound in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region killed seventeen people (Dawn). The commander, Nabi Hanafi, had been fighting against a branch of the Pakistani Taliban.

AFGHANISTAN: Coalition and Afghan military officials are facing a surge in roadside bombs, and insurgents are using the devices to recapture territory as foreign troops withdraw (AP).



Syrian Town Under Siege After Gas Attack

The Syrian military has tightened its siege of a town near Damascus that was hit by chemical weapons in August (WSJ). An aid organization that works with the UN says the Assad regime hasn't allowed access to the town, and the last attempt to deliver aid was in June.

This Backgrounder explains the global response to the Syrian conflict.

SAUDI ARABIA: The kingdom's health ministry is advising Muslims attending the annual pilgrimage to wear face masks to protect themselves from the MERS virus (ArabNews).



Gambia Withdraws From British Commonwealth

President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia has unilaterally withdrawn from the British Commonwealth, saying the country can't be part of "any neocolonial institution" (AllAfrica). Some analysts say Britain's threats to withhold aid due to Jammeh's anti-gay stance sparked the decision.

NIGERIA: Education officials in Nigeria have blamed their government for failing to prevent the murder of forty-two university students by suspected members of Boko Haram (Vangaurd).

CFR's John Campbell explains whether Boko Haram poses a threat to the United States in this blog post.



Greece Jails Far-Right Golden Dawn Leader

The leader of the far-right Golden Dawn party has been jailed pending trial on charges of operating a criminal gang (Guardian). Charges include founding a political group that subscribes to Nazi ideology and actively using violence against minorities, immigrants, and political opponents.

ITALY: The Italian Coast Guard says at least ninety-four people were killed when a boat crowded with African refugees capsized and caught fire off the coast of the island of Lampedusa.



Colombia Ready to Reintegrate Rebels

Colombia said it's ready to receive up to forty thousand ex-combatants and reintegrate them into society as talks between FARC rebels and the government enter their fifteenth round (BBC). The government estimates that there are less than ten thousand active FARC and ELN rebels.



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