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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 30, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Iraqi PM Maliki Seeks U.S. Arms

Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki is in Washington for three days of talks that will culminate at the White House on Friday, and will ask for U.S. weapons to fight an upsurge in sectarian violence spilling over from the war in Syria (Reuters). A bipartisan group of foreign policy leaders in the Senate sent an open letter to President Obama that said Maliki's government is dominated by Iranian influence, and that its mistreatment of the Sunni minority is contributing to the rise in sectarian violence (WaPo). Thousands of Iraqis, mostly Shiites, have been killed in attacks by al-Qaeda Sunni extremists this year, prompting calls from Shiite leaders to take up arms (AP).


"Various actions by the Iraqi government have undermined the reconciliation initiatives of the surge that enabled the sense of Sunni Arab inclusion and contributed to the success of the venture. Moreover, those Iraqi government actions have also prompted prominent Sunnis to withdraw from the government and led the Sunni population to take to the streets in protest. As a result of all this, Iraqi politics are now mired in mistrust and dysfunction," David Petraeus writes for Foreign Policy.

"It has been almost two years since American troops withdrew from Iraq. And despite the terrorist threats we face, we are not asking for American boots on the ground. Rather, we urgently want to equip our own forces with the weapons they need to fight terrorism, including helicopters and other military aircraft so that we can secure our borders and protect our people," writes Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki in the New York Times.

"In the early morning hours of Sept. 1, Iraqi gunmen raided a camp in the hinterlands of Iraq where 100 members of an Iranian opposition group lived. Unarmed civilians were running around trying to not get shot while their assailants systematically gunned them down. The attackers were not there to talk. They were there to kill. And they succeeded," Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) writes for The Hill.


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North Korea Accused of 'Gross Human Rights Violations'

The UN's first-ever human rights investigation into North Korea reported "gross human rights violations" in the country. The reported atrocities included a woman forced to drown her own baby and children imprisoned from birth and starved (BBC). The UN inquiry panel interviewed witnesses in South Korean, Japan, and the UK, and was not given access to North Korea.

CHINA: European and Asian financial hubs are competing to become the global center for renminbi trading despite the limited investment options that China allows with its currency (FT).



Afghans to Visit Pakistan for Taliban Talks

Senior Afghan officials plan to begin talks with former Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Pakistan with hopes of restarting a stalled peace process. Baradar, a close friend of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, is believed to have enough influence to make peace (ExpressTribune).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and resilience of the Taliban.

INDIA: India's defense minister said the "unusual increase" in cease-fire violations on the border with Pakistan was due to "tacit support" from Islamabad (Hindu).



Assad Regime Reportedly Using Starvation as a Tactic

Syrian soldiers have allegedly blocked food and medicine from reaching besieged areas in Syria, many of which were attacked with chemical weapons on August 21, as part of a war tactic dubbed the "Starvation Until Submission Campaign" (Reuters).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the conflict in Syria and the global response.



Four French Hostages Freed in Niger

Four French hostages who were kidnapped by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Niger in 2010 were released. The four men were employees of French nuclear company Areva, which operates a uranium mine in Niger (AFP).

KENYA: Two Kenyan soldiers have been discharged and jailed for looting during last month's terrorist attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi (al-Jazeera).



NSA Says European Agencies Collected Calls

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander said the reports of the agency gathering millions of European phone records were "false," saying the data were collected by foreign intelligence agencies and didn't target European citizens (CSMonitor).

UK: Britain's prime minister said his government may act to stop newspapers from publishing leaks from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden (Guardian) if the publications did not show "social responsibility" in reporting the files.



Obama Limits NSA Spying on the UN

President Barack Obama recently ordered the National Security Agency to curb its surveillance on the United Nations headquarters in New York as part of a recently announced review of the U.S. electronic spying program (Reuters).

CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot argues in this op-ed that the Obama administration is demoralizing the intelligence community by stigmatizing its efforts to gather information.

BRAZIL: Oil company Petrobras is nearing an agreement to sell assets in Peru to the China National Petroleum Corp. in a deal valued at more than $2 billion (MercoPress).



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