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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 19, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Iranian Diplomat Killed in Beirut Bombing

More than twenty people were killed, including an Iranian diplomat, in twin suicide bombings outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut (BBC). An al-Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it will continue to target Hezbollah until it withdraws from Syria. An Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman blamed Israel for the attack, while Syrian and Hezbollah officials indirectly held Saudi Arabia responsible (AP). Meanwhile, as officials head to Geneva to resume talks about Iran's nuclear program, parliamentarians in Tehran gathered signatures to demand that the government continue to enrich uranium to levels of 20 percent, a move that could complicate negotiations this week (Reuters).


"Recent diplomatic breakthroughs, however, are anything but a success. They will entail more death in Syria, starting from Aleppo, Qalamoun, and eventually spreading to the Damascus suburbs. [Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah only cares about his party's interests first, which is an unceasing control over Lebanon and Syria. Unfortunately, his ambitions will only entice more sectarian hatred," Hanin Ghaddar writes for Now.

"More and more Lebanese might argue that if Hezbollah is working primarily on Syrian, Iranian, Palestinian and anti-takfiri issues, it would be best for it to base itself in the epicenter of those resistance challenges on frontier territories among Syrian-Iraqi-Iranian lands. The more Hezbollah accentuates its military actions abroad in the service of preserving the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah Resistance and Deterrence Front, the greater will be the criticism it generates inside Lebanon accusing it of being mainly an agent of Iran," Rami Khouri writes in the Daily Star.

"Even a permanent settlement would be unattractive to Israel if it meant that the United States would step back from the regional conflict spawned by Iran's decades-old effort to gain hegemony over the Middle East. Like Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab governments, Israel does not wish to be left alone to face Iranian aggression in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon or its terrorist activities across the region," the Washington Post writes in an editorial.


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Bad Loans Threaten China's Banks

A $6.6 trillion credit binge by Chinese companies over the past six years, encouraged by Beijing policymakers as stimulus to combat the global economic slowdown, has led to industries with excess capacity and a tripling of bad loans at Chinese banks (Bloomberg).

PHILIPPINES: The cost of rebuilding homes, schools, and roads in the Philippines could reach $5.8 billion, making it likely that the government will tap loans from development agencies (Reuters).



Afghanistan-U.S. Talks at Impasse

The Afghan government is refusing to allow U.S. forces to enter homes after combat operations end this year, putting a security agreement between both countries in doubt just days before Afghan leaders gather in Kabul to consider the deal (BBC).

NEPAL: Three people were injured in a bomb blast at a voting station as the country headed to the polls to elect a Constitutional Assembly in the second election since civil war ended in 2006 (al-Jazeera). The country has faced scattered violence in recent days, with thirteen people injured in an attack on a bus on Friday.



Protestors Damage Cairo Memorial

Protestors vandalized a controversial memorial in Cairo's Tahrir Square just hours after it was inaugurated by the country's prime minister (NYT). Egypt's revolutionary groups plan to mark the two-year anniversary of deadly clashes with security forces on Tuesday by marching in the square.



Shabab Attacks Somalia Police Station

Somalia's al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab has taken control of a police station in the center of the country and has reportedly killed a number of African Union soldiers who are part of a force helping the Somalian government secure the country (al-Jazeera).

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

NIGERIA: Police are investigating the deaths of eight civilians allegedly killed by government-backed vigilantes hunting Islamic militants from Boko Haram (AP).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and growth of Boko Haram.



OECD Cuts Global Growth Forecasts

The Paris-based OECD reduced its forecast for the global economy by almost half a percentage point to 2.7 percent in 2013 and 3.6 percent in 2014, blaming weaker emerging markets, the showdown over the U.S. debt ceiling, and concerns over the Fed's taper for the downgrade (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the eurozone crisis.

RUSSIA: A judge released a Brazilian Greenpeace activist who was detained during a protest at an oil rig in September. Brazil's foreign minister is scheduled to visit Moscow on Wednesday (Moscow Times).



Kerry Stresses Partnership With Latin America

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington's relationship with other American countries will be based on partnership and a relationship of equals, adding that the Monroe Doctrine, an 1823 policy that stated the United States would intervene against European influence in Latin America, is over (AFP).

CANADA: A New Brunswick judge ruled against an injunction to suspend shale gas exploration, dealing a blow to the Elsipogtog First Nation, which fears that fracking will harm its land and water (National Post).

This CFR Backgrounder explains hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and its economic and environmental impact.



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