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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 7, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Iran Nuclear Talks Begin in Geneva

Iran and six world powers began two days of negotiations on Thursday with the aim of discussing specific steps that Tehran can take to limit its ability to make nuclear weapons in exchange for relief from sanctions that have devastated the Iranian economy (AP). Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said after a breakfast meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (Reuters) that a deal in Geneva is conceivable. The Obama administration indicated that the United States is willing to offer "very limited, temporary, reversible sanctions relief" if Tehran agrees to a six-month freeze of its nuclear program (Hill).


"Should the negotiations not yield an accord in a timely manner, it is Khamenei, not President Obama, who would face a popular backlash. A disenfranchised and dispossessed population is an explosive political problem for Khamenei. The Western powers should not be afraid to suspend negotiations or walk away, should the Iranians prove intransigent. Ironically, stalemated negotiations are likely to pressure Iran into offering more concessions," CFR Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh writes in the Washington Post.

"The bottom line is that Iran does not want to suspend uranium enrichment, the process which makes what can be fuel for civilian power reactors or the explosive core of atom bombs. The United States, leader of the six nations negotiating with Iran, wants to see enrichment reined in enough to guarantee that the Islamic Republic cannot 'break out' and in a dash make enough weapon-grade uranium to produce a nuclear weapon," Michael Adler writes for Breaking Defense.

"To Western nuclear experts, such an agreement would have to cover a daunting list of issues. It would need to eliminate Iran's stockpile of highly enriched uranium, either by shipping it out of the country or by reducing it to a less dangerous form. It would need to limit Iran's ability to enrich nuclear fuel by reducing the number of centrifuges in the country. It would need to stop the new Arak nuclear reactor from producing plutonium. And it would need to impose intrusive international monitoring to ensure that the agreement was kept," Doyle McManus writes in the Los Angeles Times.


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Rural China Seeks Economic Growth Online

Chinese villages and towns are creating tens of thousands of jobs by selling products online, usually through the e-commerce site Alibaba, a development that is helping slow the flow of Chinese moving to cities for work (Bloomberg).

TAIWAN: Taipei has signed a free-trade agreement with Singapore, its first with a Southeast Asian economy, in a move that lessens the island's dependence on China (WSJ).



Pakistan-Saudi Nuclear Ties Reported

Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, and some intelligence reports indicate that Pakistan has already manufactured weapons for the kingdom that are ready for delivery (BBC).

PAKISTAN: Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has been released from house arrest after he was granted bail in four cases against him, including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (Dawn).



Leaders of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Regroup Abroad

The few leaders of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood who escaped the military crackdown have found refuge in Istanbul, London, Geneva, and most significantly in Qatar, where the Brotherhood has support from the state and al-Jazeera TV network (WaPo).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the rise and fall of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.



DR Congo's M23 Rebel Chief Surrenders

Sultani Makenga, the commander of the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has surrendered in Uganda along with hundreds of other M23 fighters. The rebels said earlier this week that it was ending its nineteen-month insurgency hours after the government declared military victory (AP).

MALI: Al-Qaeda's North African affiliate claimed responsibility for the murder of two French journalists who were abducted in northern Mali last week (DeutscheWelle)



Ireland Heading Toward Final Bailout Review

Ireland will exit its International Monetary Fund and European bailout on December 15 after completing its final review of the tough financing regime imposed by the lenders (IrishTimes). But Dublin may still require a financial backstop after December 15.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the economic crisis in the eurozone.

GERMANY: The European Central Bank cut interest rates to a record low Thursday, one of the ECB's final conventional monetary tools (Bloomberg).



Senate Nears Historic Vote on Gay Rights Bill

The Senate is heading toward a historic vote on a law that outlaws workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, legislation that if passed would cap a momentous year for gay rights activists after the Supreme Court affirmed gay marriage in June (Politico).

This CFR Backgrounder compares global same-sex marriage laws.

COLOMBIA: FARC rebel leaders and the Colombian government agreed on conditions that would allow the rebels to create new political parties should a peace deal be reached (Guardian).



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