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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 27, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: African Leaders Meet on South Sudan

East African leaders, meeting in Kenya to discuss growing violence in South Sudan that has killed more than a thousand people in two weeks, said they will not accept the overthrow of the government. The meeting follows a visit by Kenya's president and Ethiopia's prime minister with South Sudanese president Salva Kiir in Juba (BBC). Rebels in South Sudan, led by former vice president Riek Machar, have seized some oil wells and captured half of Malakal, the capital of the country's main oil-producing state (Reuters). A senior South Sudan government official said that Machar, whose whereabouts are unknown, must renounce the rebellion before political negotiations can begin (al-Jazeera).


"Mr. Kiir comes from South Sudan's largest tribe, the Dinka, while his former vice president, Riek Machar, comes from the second-largest tribe, the Nuer. These two groups have a history of economic and political rivalry, and of bloody confrontation," writes Andrew Natsios in the New York Times.

"Machar, who once harbored ambitions to replace Kiir, almost surely has sabotaged his political career by pushing for the president's unlawful removal. The best future for him now is to be the Nuer leader who led South Sudan away from the precipice of civil war. It's up to Kiir to be clever enough to take that walk with him," Bloomberg writes in an editorial.

"Having invested so heavily in South Sudan's independence, the international community will not stand by—and while responding to the humanitarian crisis should make it clear that long-term support and investment requires stable and accountable government. What is most depressing for South Sudan is that whether Kiir succeeds militarily over Machar or there is a negotiated compromise, the country is likely to become more autocratic," writes Alex Vines in the Guardian.


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Thai Government Refuses to Delay Elections

Thailand's government refused to postpone upcoming elections as clashes between security forces and antigovernment protesters escalated. Protesters are seeking the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra before the early elections, but she insisted that the vote be held (al-Jazeera).

JAPAN: Officials in Washington hailed a Japanese decision to allow the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa to a less populated part of the island (WaPo).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the U.S.-Japan security alliance.



Pakistan Condemns North Waziristan Drone Strike

Pakistan's Foreign Office condemned Wednesday's drone strike and said Islamabad will introduce a resolution against such strikes at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (Tribune Express), citing building domestic and international consensus.

INDIA: At least thirty-four children died in the aftermath of riots in September at relief camps that were set up to house people who fled their homes during Hindu-Muslim clashes in the northern province of Uttar Pradesh, a government panel found (Hindu).



Egypt Broadens Crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood

After declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization on Wednesday, Egypt's military-backed government announced the arrests of dozens, and the seizure of land, financial assets, and vehicles belonging to the Islamist group's members (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and struggles of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

LEBANON: A car bomb in the center of Beirut killed four people, including Mohammed Chatah, a former finance minister and a prominent politician in a pro-Western bloc opposed to the Iran-backed group Hezbollah (AP).



Attack on Presidential Palace Repelled in CAR

An attack on the presidential palace in the capital of Bangui was thwarted on Thursday as fighting continues in the country. Truckloads of decomposing bodies of minority Muslims were picked up by international forces deployed to restore order (Guardian).



European Companies Eye Iranian Market

German pharmaceutical company Merck is seeking a partnership with an Iranian manufacturer to produce medicines in the country, and dozens of other companies based in Germany, France, Italy, and Austria have visited Tehran in anticipation of easing sanctions amid nuclear diplomacy (FT).

UKRAINE: Pro–European Union demonstrations in Kiev, which had lost steam after Russia offered Ukraine a $15 billion bailout, gained momentum after the beating of opposition journalist Tetyana Chornovil (Reuters).



Obama Signs Budget Bill

President Obama signed a bill that outlines the federal budget through 2015 and reduces some of the sequestration cuts (Politico). The law restores $63 billion in discretionary funding to the Department of Defense and some domestic agencies.

This CFR Backgrounder explains U.S. debt, deficits, and the defense budget.

U.S.: Hospice-care firms, which provide comfort to terminally ill patients, are admitting healthier patients. The practice is draining billions from Medicare, the Washington Post found in an investigation.



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