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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 22, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Saudi-U.S. Rift Seen Over Syria Policy

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, told European diplomats the kingdom will scale back its cooperation with the United States to arm Syrian rebels and work instead with allies such as France and Jordan in an effort to topple the Assad regime (Gulf News). Secretary of State John Kerry met in Paris with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, to calm tensions in the long-standing alliance and advocated the advantages of membership in the UN Security Council, which Riyadh spurned after being elected to a seat last week (Reuters). The United States reportedly cancelled delivery of drones to Turkey, highlighting another rift in U.S. relations with a Middle Eastern ally (JPost).


"The main driver for the Saudis in this is rolling back Iranian influence. Most people see this in a sectarian light: the Saudis are Sunni, the Iranians are Shia, Bashar al-Assad is a Shia. But I think that for the top levels of the Saudi decision-making structure, the sectarian issue is not nearly as central as the pure balance of power logic," says Gregory Gause in a CFR Interview.

"As we saw from the debate here in late August/early September, there's not a lot of enthusiasm about the United States getting directly involved in Syria. So there is no agreement at all with Turkey on this major issue," says Senior Fellow Steven Cook in a CFR Interview.

"Has Turkey, a member of Nato for 61 years, parted company with the west? It is a question Turkey's allies have begun to face. Three issues have converged to create the doubt: Ankara's decision to buy a Chinese missile defense system; its alleged ambivalence towards al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Syria; and, most recently, allegations that Turkey betrayed Iranians spying for Israel to Tehran," writes Daniel Dombey in the Financial Times.


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China Stays the Course on Tibet Policy

Beijing intends to continue its rule of Tibet, a policy paper released Tuesday indicated, dispelling the notion that President Xi Jinping, whose father had close ties to the Dalai Lama, would take a softer line on the restive region (Reuters).

SOUTH KOREA: North Korea has about 130 deployable hovercrafts in its coastal water and its leader has observed naval training sessions aimed at South Korea (Yonhap).

CFR's Scott Snyder explains in this blog post South Korea's maritime interests and security concerns.



Rights Groups Slam Drone Strikes

Amnesty International said CIA drone attacks in Pakistan are responsible for unlawful killings and perhaps war crimes (BBC) in a report released Tuesday. Human Rights Watch said two attacks in Yemen killed civilians at random in a separate report also released Tuesday.

CFR Senior Fellow Daniel Markey explains in this op-ed that the United States can help Pakistan's peace talks with its homegrown Taliban insurgency by temporarily halting drone strikes.

INDIA: After years of delays and protests, India's Kudankulam nuclear power plant was connected to the grid. It will supply up to one thousand megawatts of electricity (Hindu).



Bahrain Seeks Tear Gas Supply as Protests Continue

Bahrain is looking for new supplies of tear gas and stun grenades after the United States barred exports of the substances due to human rights concerns. The island monarchy has used almost two million tear-gas projectiles since 2011 to quell demonstrations led by the majority Shia population (FT).



High Taxes, Bad Roads Hinder Growth in Ivory Coast

After a decade of crisis, Ivory Coast has bounced back to growth since 2011, but high corporate taxes and poor infrastructure is limiting the country's ability to attract foreign capital, the commerce minister said (Bloomberg).

DR CONGO: UN envoys reported progress in peace talks between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and M23 rebels to the Security Council on Monday, but the parties remain divided on amnesty for rebels (All Africa).



France Angered by NSA Snooping

France has become the latest nation to demand an explanation from Washington over the scope of National Security Agency surveillance, joining Germany, Brazil, and Mexico in its objection to U.S. spying activities (AP).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the U.S. domestic surveillance system.

NETHERLANDS: Dutch officials asked the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to order Moscow to release a Greenpeace ship and its activists held by Russia since September (al-Jazeera).



Obama Frustrated with Health Insurance Site

President Obama acknowledged in a speech Monday technical failings of a new federal website through which millions of Americans are supposed to sign up for health insurance (Boston Globe).

BRAZIL: A consortium led by Shell, Total, and PetroChina won the bid for Brazil's Libra deep-water oil field, which could hold up to 12 billion barrels of reserves (Guardian).



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