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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 11, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Peace Prize Goes to Chemical-Weapons Watchdog

The global chemical-weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is tasked with destroying Syria's arsenal in the midst of a civil war, has won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize (Telegraph). The Hague-based organization's head, Ahmet Uzumcu, said inspectors in Syria are on track to destroy all Syrian chemical-weapons production facilities by November 1 as long as all parties to the conflict cooperate with the group (al-Jazeera). The Pentagon has suggested that OPCW use a U.S.-made mobile destruction unit to neutralize Syria's stockpiles (Reuters).


"It is not uncommon for organizations to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It has happened 24 times since 1901. Non-proliferation has been an occasional theme, with campaigners for nuclear disarmament and against land mines among those recognized," Paul Adams writes for the BBC.

"Most of the ingredients for sarin are extremely sensitive to water, and some are highly flammable. There is great potential for explosive reactions. Another difficult step is refining the excess hydrogen fluoride out of the mix, which makes the gas storable. A short shelf life may not matter to a terrorist, but it certainly matters if the gas is being produced a little at a time to prepare a major attack," writes Dan Kaszeta for Bloomberg.

"In awarding its peace prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Nobel committee has recognized more than sixteen years of difficult, dangerous and largely unsung work and one of the greatest success stories in the long, patchy history of multilateral efforts to make the world a safer place," writes Julian Borger in the Guardian.



China Opposes Arbitration in South China Sea Dispute

Chinese premier Li Keqiang criticized unilateral moves by claimants to the South China Sea to use international arbitration (China Daily), a method favored by the United States. U.S. secretary of state Kerry has backed the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, which brought a case against China before a UN Convention on the Law of the Sea panel.

This CFR InfoGuide examines maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas.

NORTH KOREA: The mother of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary jailed in North Korea last year, was allowed to visit her son on Friday (Kyodo).



U.S. Losing Patience for Afghanistan Deal

Washington appears willing to abandon plans for a long-term partnership with Afghanistan as President Barack Obama's October 31 deadline for reaching an agreement with Kabul on maintaining a U.S. military presence after 2014 looms (WaPo).

PAKISTAN: Malala Yousafzai, the celebrated Pakistani schoolgirl and activist who survived an attack by the Taliban last year, is resented by many of her Swat Valley neighbors and friends (Reuters).



Syrian Rebels Accused of Civilian Massacre

Syrian rebels affiliated with al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups were accused of killing 190 people during an offensive against villages loyal to the Assad regime last month, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Friday (NYT).



African Union Mulls ICC Pullout

African leaders will meet Friday to discuss withdrawing from the International Criminal Court on the grounds that the court has unfairly targeted members of the African Union (al-Jazeera). On Thursday, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta called for his crimes-against-humanity trial to be thrown out.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and functions of the ICC.

MADAGASCAR: Health experts warned that Madagascar is at risk of an outbreak of the bubonic plague unless it cleans up its rat-infested jails (Guardian).



European Stocks Rise on U.S. Debt Ceiling Progress

European stocks continued their rally on Friday, lifted by optimism over Washington's progress toward resolving political stalemate after House Republicans offered to raise the government's debt limit for six weeks while budget negotiations resume (WSJ).

SPAIN: A Spanish court decided to hear a case brought against former Chinese president Hu Jintao for allegedly committing genocide in Tibet between 1988 and 1992 (AFP).



G20 Hopes Grow for U.S. Debt-Limit Deal

Top finance officials from the leading economies that comprise the G20 will focus on the receding risk of a U.S. default at talks on Friday. They warned that failure by Congress to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling would wreak havoc on the global economy (Reuters).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the U.S. debt ceiling and the potential costs and consequences of default.

UNITED STATES: Congress and the Obama administration are heading to a weekend on the brink ahead of the expected cash shortfall that will hit the Treasury on October 17 (WaPo). President Obama will host Senate Republicans at the White House on Friday.



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