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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 14, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Kurds, Syrian Opposition Split Deepens

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the de facto rulers of Kurdish areas in Syria, announced the formation of an interim autonomous government in its territory, and the party's leader said he is willing to attend peace talks in Geneva as a separate delegation from the Syrian National Coalition (CSMonitor). The Coalition elected its government of nine ministers earlier this week, receiving a pledge of $300 million from Saudi Arabia to provide services in rebel-controlled territory, and also agreed to attend the Geneva conference (al-Jazeera). Meanwhile, Syrian government forces backed by Iraqi and Lebanese Shiite Muslim militias advanced on rebels in the contested northern city of Aleppo (Reuters).


"Talks must be based on existing commitments. The document known as the Geneva communiqué obligates the regime to take a number of vital steps to lessen the violence, increase the flow of aid, release prisoners and form a transitional authority. It must be clear to the regime that evading the commitments agreed to in the communiqué will have serious consequences," Louay Safi writes in the Guardian.

"Washington's theory of the case seems to be that political transition must precede all else, including those humanitarian de-escalatory steps that Kofi Annan thought had to happen first in order for serious talks about transition to take place. Mr. Kerry's words in Paris seem to suggest the belief that if Bashar al-Assad reads and understands the Final Communiqué and then sends a team to Geneva, political transition will occur as a matter of course," Frederic Hof writes for the Atlantic Council.

"If we continue to delay military action, we will have to intervene with greater force when the carnage spreads to Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. Indeed, Lebanon, following the collapse of former Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government, is already on the brink of civil war as direct intervention in Syria by Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanese proxy, to prevent Assad's overthrow has exacerbated the country's own longstanding sectarian tensions," Turki al-Faisal writes in the Moscow Times.


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Japan's Growth Slows

Japanese companies reduced capital spending and didn't increase exports in the third quarter, contributing to a slower annualized gross domestic product growth of 1.9 percent, down from 3.8 percent in the previous quarter (Bloomberg).

This CFR Backgrounder explains Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic vision for Japan.

CHINA: JPMorgan Chase paid $1.8 million over two years to a small consultancy run by the daughter of Wen Jiabao, China's former prime minister, to win business in the country (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains China's ruling party's origins and the challenges it faces.



Taliban Militants Killed in Karachi

At least three suspected Taliban militants were killed in a shootout in the southern city of Karachi (BBC). Pakistan's Ranger force is playing a larger role in law enforcement in Karachi and is now operating in lawless areas known for its Pakistan Taliban presence.

BANGLADESH: Garment factory owners agreed to a proposed 77 percent hike in Bangladesh's minimum wage to $68 a month, but workers continued to protest for a larger increase (Reuters).



Iran Hardliners Block Rouhani's Domestic Agenda

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is facing strong opposition on his domestic agenda from a conservative parliament, which has rejected his third nominee for minister of sport last week, raising concerns over whether Rouhani has the support to effect reform in the country (FT).



African Government Failing Corruption Battle

A comprehensive public opinion survey of thirty-four African countries found that most Africans say their governments are failing in the fight against corruption (All Africa). One-fifth of respondents said they paid a government official a bribe in the past year.

DR CONGO: The Democratic Republic of Congo said it's ready to sign a declaration reflecting the defeat of M23 rebels, but maintained that peace broker Uganda had taken sides in the talks (Deutsche Welle).



Eurozone Economic Growth Slows to 0.1 Percent

The eurozone grew for the second consecutive quarter, but expansion slowed to 0.1 percent in the third quarter, down from 0.3 percent in the earlier period (AFP). Economies in France and Italy contracted 0.1 percent, while German growth slowed to 0.3 percent.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the eurozone crisis.

RUSSIA: The United States decided to end its relationship with Rosoboronexport, Russia's main arms dealer, but will complete an existing deal to supply helicopters to the Afghan air force (Foreign Policy).



Yellen to Defend QE in Confirmation Hearing

Janet Yellen, President Obama's nominee to lead the U.S. Federal Reserve, is expected to defend the unconventional monetary policy adopted by the Fed known as quantitative easing at a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday (AP).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the role of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

UNITED STATES: Only 106,185 people selected a health insurance plan in the first month of Obamacare, an enrollment rate that's far slower than the goal of covering seven million Americans in a year (Politico).



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