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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
January 10, 2014
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Top of the Agenda

CAR President, PM Reportedly Resign Amid Worsening Crisis

The Central African Republic's interim president, Michel Djotodia, and his prime minister have resigned, according to a statement issued after a summit in neighboring Chad. Regional leaders there pushed for the resignations amid a deteriorating security situation in the CAR, with an estimated one million people displaced in interreligious violence (Reuters). The development follows Rwanda's announcement on Wednesday that it would bolster African Union and French forces there with an additional battalion of eight hundred troops (Mail & Guardian). EU diplomats, meanwhile, were briefed on draft plans for a European military mission of some five hundred troops that would deploy rapidly. Member states must unanimously consent to such a mission, and a first discussion is expected on Friday (WSJ).


"The deployment of French troops and the bolstering of African Union troops in the CAR has done little to ease tensions; sectarian driven attacks continue to tear the country apart. In the capital, Bangui, religious strife has pushed half of the citizens out of their homes. The number of people congregating in makeshift camps outside the airport has doubled to 100,000 in the past week. The situation in Bangui, where most foreign troops are based, appears 'to be out of control' and violence is forcing medical charities to cut services to a minimum at airport clinics, said Médecins Sans Frontières," writes the Economist.

"There are serious downsides to treating situations like the current crisis in C.A.R. as a genocide. Misdiagnosing the problem can mean taking the wrong actions to resolve it. The playbook for an international response operation to mass atrocities calls for neutralizing perpetrators and protecting unarmed civilians; it is not designed to manage a conflict among many armed actors, each with a distinct civilian constituency," writes Alex de Waal in the New York Times.

"The African Standby Force was designed to provide the African Union with exactly the kind of military capability it needs to respond rapidly to critical situations of these kinds….But the force, with its 5 regional Standby Brigades, has failed to materialise. The concept has been a signal failure. Differences between African states run far too deep for them to be used in the continent's many crises. When Ivory Coast and Mali fell apart it was the old colonial power – France – that came to the rescue," writes Martin Plaut in African Arguments.


CFR's Global Conflict Tracker

The Center for Preventive Action's Global Conflict Tracker is an interactive guide to U.S. conflict prevention priorities in 2014. It provides an up-to-date overview of each ongoing or potential conflict featured in the most recent Preventive Priorities Survey and features additional background information. Take a look.

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Pacific Rim

South Korea Presses North on Family Reunions Proposal

Seoul pressed Pyongyang on Friday to accept a proposal to facilitate the reunion of families separated after the Korean War during the upcoming Lunar New Year (Yonhap). North Korea rejected the proposal on Thursday, citing the South's upcoming joint military exercises with the United States as a provocation.

CHINA: Beijing is developing regulations for trading pollution permits in the hope that a market-based mechanism can help clean up its environment, the environment minister said (Reuters).

CFR's Elizabeth Economy discusses bottom-up pressure for environmental protection in China.


South and Central Asia

Afghanistan to Move Ahead With Prisoner Release

President Hamid Karzai ordered the release of seventy-two detainees on Thursday, defying the Obama administration, which has said that many of the prisoners set to be released are dangerous Taliban militants (NYT). U.S. officials said the move will not jeopardize a bilateral security agreement Obama has urged Karzai to conclude.

PAKISTAN: A senior police investigator known for running operations against militant groups and criminal enterprises in Karachi was killed in attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban (Express Tribune).

CFR's Center for Preventive Action offers a Conflict Brief on rising security threats in Pakistan.


Middle East

Iran, Russia Said to Be Negotiating an Oil-for-Goods Swap

Iran and Russia are reportedly negotiating an oil-for-goods agreement worth $1.5 billion a month that would defy Western sanctions on oil exports (Reuters). The news comes as Iranian-European Union technical talks on the nuclear deal began Thursday in Geneva.

BAHRAIN: The Sunni-led government in Manama suspended national reconciliation talks meant to resolve tensions after the government repression of mass protests in 2011. The talks had been long stalemated and boycotted by the main Shiite opposition group (BBC).



South Sudanese Army Prepares Bentiu Offensive

The South Sudanese army told all civilians to evacuate the oil hub of Bentiu as it prepared to retake the city from rebel forces (BBC). The International Crisis Group said Thursday that the death toll there was approaching ten thousand, a figure significantly higher than recent UN estimates (NYT).



Olympics Security on Combat Alert

Five corpses and an explosive device were found in a gateway to the North Caucasus, prompting Russian authorities to put security forces on combat alert (Reuters). Meanwhile, the FBI said Thursday it is dispatching several dozen agents to help secure the Olympics (WaPo).

Carnegie Moscow Center director Dmitri Trenin explains the root causes of the North Caucasus insurgency.

FRANCE: Far-right leader Marine Le Pen promised that nationalist parties, expected to make gains in May's European Parliament elections, will block further EU integration (FT).



First Guantanamo Parole Board Clears Yemeni for Eventual Transfer

A Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo was recommended for transfer by a board that met in Washington, the Pentagon said Thursday. The Obama administration had classified Mahmud Mujahid among the prisoners it said could not be prosecuted but was too dangerous to be released; he is the first of this group to be approved for transfer (Miami Herald).

UNITED STATES: Tracking Americans who have fought with extremist Islamist groups in Syria has become one of the FBI's highest counterterrorism priorities, said the bureau's director, James Comey (NYT).



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