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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 21, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: France Says West Must Stand Firm on Iran

France and Iran traded tough words as talks to curb Tehran's nuclear program continued in Geneva, with Paris urging the West to hold firm on suspending the program and Iran complaining about a loss of trust (Reuters). Iran's deputy foreign minister said momentum has slowed, and Western diplomats said there was a good chance that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will join the negotiations to help hammer out a deal (AP). Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow to make a case for a tougher deal (Bloomberg).


"No honest person can know whether the nuclear negotiations with Iran will produce a sound agreement, least of all the know-it-alls who are fighting to prevent it. Maybe, the West will have to further strengthen economic sanctions. Perhaps, Iran will make threatening moves that justify a Western military strike. But the arguments against a full and serious drive to try staying the dogs of war are sheer, dangerous nonsense," writes CFR President Emeritus Leslie Gelb for the Daily Beast.

"The claim that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is pandering to Israel is downright wrong. Recall that, while Hollande was dragging his feet, Fabius secured France's vote in favor of Palestine's upgrade to 'non-member observer' status at the UN—a move that displeased Israel's government and the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions. Yes, Fabius took a firm stance during the recent talks with Iran, but not to please the Israelis," writes Pascal Boniface for Project Syndicate.

"The French were right on the merits. A freeze on Iran's nuclear program needs to include a freeze on construction work at Arak. France's insistence on a real suspension won't scuttle the deal. The parties are almost certain to work out some compromise on Arak this week, as part of a broader freeze on Iran's nuclear program. The deal will be better for France's intransigence," writes Jeffrey Lewis in Foreign Policy.


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Australia Spying Row With Indonesia Continues

Hackers attacked the websites of the Australian police and reserve bank amid an ongoing row over reported Australian spying on Indonesian officials (BBC). About two hundred people marched toward the Australian embassy in Jakarta, burning flags, to demand an apology for the spying.

NORTH KOREA: An eighty-five-year-old U.S. citizen has reportedly been detained in North Korea for three weeks after travelling to the country on a tourist visa (Yonhap).



Afghans, U.S. Reach Security Agreement

The United States and Afghanistan finalized the wording of a security agreement that would allow for an American military presence in the country through 2024 (NYTimes). The deal will be discussed by a council of Afghan elders for approval starting on Thursday.

PAKISTAN: A suspected U.S. drone strike killed six people, including a senior Afghan insurgent commander of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, in northwestern Pakistan (Dawn).



Iraq Car Bomb Kills Dozens

A car bomb exploded in a food market north of Baghdad, killing thirty people and bringing the total death toll in Iraq to over 5,800 in 2013 (AFP). The violence has raised concerns over a resurgent al-Qaeda, emboldened by the civil war in Syria.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and evolution of al-Qaeda in Iraq.



African, Arab Leaders Urge Closer Economic Ties

African and Arab leaders ended a two-day summit in Kuwait, calling for closer cooperation on political and economic issues, as well as in the fight against terrorism (Deutsche Welle). Kuwait pledged $1 billion in low-interest loans and the same amount in investment to African states.

BOTSWANA: The Botswana government said it approved the use of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas exploration, but added that fracking isn't currently deployed in production (All Africa).



Hollande Promises Tax Reform, But No Tax Cut

France's socialist government, facing demonstrations by farmers, truck drivers, and traders over imminent increases in taxes, said it will open talks on "deep reform" to the tax system, but didn't commit to cutting the tax burden (WSJ).

SLOVENIA: Bad loans at Slovenian banks, equivalent to a fifth of the country's economic output, has place Slovenia at risk of requiring a eurozone bailout (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the eurozone crisis.



Debt Ceiling Deadline Pushed Back

The Congressional Budget Office said the Treasury Department's use of extraordinary measures could extend the borrowing capacity of the United States until June, adding months of breathing room to the February 7 debt ceiling deadline that Congress agreed on in October (Politico).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the U.S. debt ceiling.

UNITED STATES: The United Kingdom allowed the U.S. National Security Agency to keep data on British citizens who were not suspected of criminal activity, according to the latest Snowden leak (Guardian).



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