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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 18, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama Signals Immigration as Policy Priority

President Barack Obama has outlined three items to tackle with Congress before the end of the year: immigration, farm legislation, and a budget (AP). Republican and Democratic negotiators held their first meeting to resolve budget differences on Thursday, but many fear that another standoff is looming (Reuters). For U.S. consumers, the debt deal and end of the government shutdown is expected to boost confidence ahead of the holiday shopping season, helping households shrug off the dysfunction in Washington (Bloomberg).


"Cold fear that a US default could tip the world back into a slump jostled with schadenfreude as Europeans recalled the stern American lectures on their handling of the euro crisis. The eurozone may be dysfunctional, but so too is the U.S. Humility is called for: the eurozone has danced the edge of the economic precipice for three years. The latest episode in America's fiscal tragicomedy ran for three weeks," writes Philip Stephens in the Financial Times.

"By most accounts, the past few weeks have exposed a drastic maturity gap between the U.S. and Chinese governments. The purported icon of democracy watched its system descend into chaos and petty political gamesmanship, coming within hours of a default that would have sparked global economic disorder," writes Damien Ma for Bloomberg.

"Forget the consultants, the pundits and the pollsters; good policy is good politics. If the Republicans had not fought on ObamaCare, the compromise would have been over the budget sequester. Instead, they have retained the sequester and for the past three months ObamaCare and its failings have been front and center in the national debate," writes Jim DeMint in the Wall Street Journal.



China's Growth Accelerates

China's economy grew 7.8 percent in the third quarter compared to the same period a year earlier, reversing the slowdown from this year's first two quarters. The rebound validates Beijing's infrastructure investments and looser monetary policy (FT).

JAPAN: Japanese lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine, a war memorial, on Friday, sparking a sharp reaction from China. Beijing accused Tokyo of undermining ties between the countries (Xinhua).



India, China Near Deal to Ease Border Tensions

India and China are close to an agreement to end tensions on their contested border, which includes large areas of the Himalayas (Hindu). The deal is set to be signed when Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh visits Beijing next week.

CFR Military Fellow William J. Parker III writes about China's militarism in this blog post.

MALDIVES: The Maldives will vote for a president on Saturday after judges annulled last month's election results, which international monitors said were free and fair (Times of India).



Saudi Arabia Rejects Security Council Seat

Saudi Arabia rejected a seat on the UN Security Council that it won on Thursday, saying the body is incapable of resolving conflicts such as the Syrian civil war (AP). The kingdom said the Council enabled the Assad regime to kill its people with impunity.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Security Council's structure, history, and prospects for reform.

SYRIA: General Jamaa Jamaa, a top military intelligence officer who had commanded Syrian forces in Lebanon and was questioned about the Rafik Hariri assassination in 2005, was killed in eastern Syria (AFP).



Rights Group Accuses Ethiopian Police of Torture

Ethiopian authorities torture and mistreat prisoners to extract confessions, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Friday (BBC). The group accused Ethiopia of using counterterrorism laws to stifle dissent, but the government dismissed the report as biased and lacking credible evidence.

SOMALIA: Maritime piracy has declined to its lowest level since 2006, the International Chamber of Commerce said, but threats remain in the waters off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea (All Africa).



Ukraine Leader to Release Opponent

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich said he will allow jailed opponent Yulia Tymoshenko to seek treatment abroad. Tymoshenko's imprisonment jeopardized the signing of a historic trade agreement between the Ukraine and the European Union (Reuters).

GEORGIA: A 1.8-million-year-old human skull discovered in Georgia proves that humanity's early ancestors emerged from Africa as a single species (WSJ), an international team of researchers said Thursday.



Obama to Nominate New Head of Homeland Security

President Barack Obama plans to nominate Jeh Johnson, former general counsel at the Department of Defense, as the new secretary of homeland security (Politico). The announcement is expected Friday afternoon.



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