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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 24, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Official: Iran Slows Enrichment

Iran has stopped enriching uranium to 20 percent, according to a senior Iranian parliamentarian, a development that, if verified, would settle a main concern over Tehran's nuclear program (Reuters). While Washington allies Saudi Arabia and Israel share the objective of denying Iran a nuclear weapon, both are concerned that United States will allow Iran to keep its enrichment capabilities (LAT). Influential Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal delivered strong criticism of the Obama administration's Syria policy, highlighting a deepening rift between Washington and Riyadh (Express Tribune).


"The administration' lack of communication with the Saudis and other Arab allies is mystifying at a time when the U.S. is exploring new policy initiatives, such as working with the Russians on dismantling chemical weapons in Syria and negotiating a possible nuclear deal with Iran. Those U.S. policy initiatives are sound, in the view of many analysts (including me), but they worry the Saudis and others—making close consultation all the more important," writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post.

"In a lawyerly way, the Obama administration has isolated the nuclear issue from the broader context of Iran's behavior in the region. A new dawn in the history of the theocracy has been proclaimed, but we will ultimately discover that Iran's rulers are hellbent on pursuing a nuclear-weapons program while trying to rid themselves of economic sanctions," writes Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal.

"By keeping America out of Syria, President Obama may have preserved his ability to intervene in Iran. I believe that he does not want Iran to gain possession of a nuclear weapon; whether he can actually prevent this from happening is another story. But he has a greater chance of escaping that fate if he avoids over-extension in other parts of the Middle East," writes Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg.


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North Korea Increases Activity at Nuclear Test Site

North Korea is digging new tunnel entrances at its main underground nuclear test site in what appears to be preparation for a new nuclear test (NYT). Pyongyang said Wednesday that it would expand its nuclear arsenal.

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

CHINA: A campaign by a Guangdong newspaper calling for the release of detained journalist Chen Yongzhou continued for a second day despite a media gag order (SCMP).



Memos Show U.S.-Pakistan Agreement on Drones

Top Pakistani officials have secretly endorsed CIA drone strikes in the tribal region despite repeatedly denouncing the program, according to top-secret documents (WaPo). The files describe strikes and casualty counts, asserting that no civilians were harmed.

PAKISTAN: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged President Obama in a White House meeting on Wednesday to end drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas (Dawn).

CFR's Daniel Markey and Ambassador Cameron Munter discuss Sharif's visit to Washington.



Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Plans Protest over Morsi Trial

Supporters of Mohammed Morsi called for mass demonstrations on November 4 to protest the start of the deposed president's trial on charges of inciting murder (Reuters). The trial may further inflame tensions between the Brotherhood and Egypt's military rulers.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the history of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.



UN Troops Killed in Mali

Two United Nations peacekeepers from Chad were killed along with a civilian Wednesday in a suicide attack on a checkpoint in northern Mali (AFP). The UN made an urgent request for more troops to bolster its peacekeeping force ahead of national elections.

SOMALIA: Nearly fifty people from Britain have links to al-Shabab, according to the BBC, and most have travelled to Somalia to fight or attempted to do so (BBC).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and evolution of al-Shabab.



Merkel Calls Obama over NSA Spying

German chancellor Angela Merkel called President Barack Obama to demand an explanation over reports that the U.S. National Security Agency was monitoring her mobile phone (Guardian). The outrage in Berlin follows French concerns over U.S. surveillance.

NETHERLANDS: A Dutch court convicted two men of "preparing to commit murder" because they planned to join rebels fighting against the Assad regime in Syria (al-Jazeera).



Health-Care Website Contractors Blame Obama Administration

Executives from two contractors responsible for the U.S. government's insurance website will testify before Congress today as politicians point fingers over who is responsible for computer problems that are keeping Americans from signing up on online markets (AP).

ARGENTINA: A consortium led by Total plans to invest $1.2 billion in a natural gas project that will be the largest offshore investment in the country's history (MercoPress).



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