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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
January 14, 2014
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Egyptians Vote on New Constitution

Egyptians began voting Tuesday in a two-day referendum on a new constitution that aims to replace the charter passed under President Mohammed Morsi in late 2012 before he was ousted by the military in July (BBC). The latest constitution—which was drafted without input by Morsi's political group, the Muslim Brotherhood, now deemed a terrorist organization—limits the scope of Islamic law and expands the powers of the military in politics (AP). Meanwhile, after cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the military now plans to take on the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which runs the neighboring Gaza Strip (Reuters).


"The referendum is being staged in a climate that makes a fair ballot impossible. Activists who have tried to peacefully campaign for a no vote have been arrested and prosecuted on charges of trying to change the constitution's 'principles.' Public demonstrations are banned, and police have killed 27 people and arrested 703 who tried to protest on the past three Fridays, according to Human Rights Watch," writes the Washington Post in an editorial.

"Most of those who'll vote in favor are not only backing the constitution but also the toppling of a person they view as the worst president in their country's long history. This is their chance to show their gratitude to the chief of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defense, Gen. Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi, who, they believe, took a courageous decision to rescue Egypt from a downward spiral that could have resulted in civil war," writes Linda Heard in the Saudi daily Arab News.

"The 2013 constitution fails on both benchmarks. It is far below aspirations for a new contract for a new Egypt. It does not pave the road for a new future that reflects the new reality. On the contrary, it is an attempt to repackage the old reality. Its place in history will not differ substantially from its predecessors," writes Samer Atallah for al-Jazeera.


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Pacific Rim

Thai Protestors Threaten Stock Exchange

Antigovernment demonstrators blocked major intersections in Bangkok for a second day and threatened to enter the stock exchange. Protestors have tightened a blockade around ministries in an effort to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her government (Reuters).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains in this blog post the dwindling prospects for a peaceful resolution in Thailand.

CHINA: A Chinese obstetrician received a suspended life sentence for allegedly tricking parents into giving up their babies and then selling them to child traffickers (BBC).


South and Central Asia

India’s Rahul Gandhi Shows Interest in PM Role

Rahul Gandhi suggested in an interview that he would be ready to serve as prime minister if his Congress party wins elections in May. This is the first time that Gandhi, whose father, grandmother, and great-grandfather were all prime ministers, has indicated his interest in the position (Hindu).

AFGHANISTAN: The Washington Post profiles a policeman known as Afghanistan's most honest man in a country tied with North Korea and Somalia in corruption rankings.


Middle East

Iran Says Nuclear Agreement Includes Secret Side Deal

Abbas Araqchi, Iran's chief negotiator, said the interim nuclear agreement reached with Western powers over the weekend includes a thirty-page, informal side agreement that details the deal's implementation and Tehran's right to continue nuclear research and development (LATimes).

CFR's Ray Takeyh explains in this op-ed that a deal that curbs Iran's nuclear ambitions doesn't mean the United States shouldn't also check Tehran's regional ambitions.



Tent City Swells in Central African Republic

More than 100,000 people moved into a tent city near the airport in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. More than two-thirds of Bangui's residents have fled, underscoring the simmering civil war despite recent steps at political settlement (NYTimes).

SOUTH SUDAN: Rebels in South Sudan led by the country's former vice president have entered Malakal, a strategic oil town that produces about 200,000 barrels per day (WSJ).



Russia Expels U.S. Journalist

David Satter, an American journalist and expert on Russia who first visited Moscow in 1969, has been expelled from Russia. The U.S. ambassador in Moscow issued a diplomatic protest and asked Russian officials for an explanation, but authorities declined to explain the decision (Guardian).

NETHERLANDS: The U.S. Department of Justice charged three bankers at Dutch lender Rabobank for allegedly manipulating Libor and other interest rates (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Libor scandal.



Supreme Court May Curb Obama’s Appointment Power

The U.S. Supreme Court may rein in President Barack Obama's power to temporarily fill senior government positions without Senate approval, a maneuver that has been used extensively in recent years to bypass a gridlocked Congress (al-Jazeera).

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

UNITED STATES: Negotiators in the two chambers of Congress unveiled a $1.1 trillion spending bill that aims to restore order to government funding over the next year (Politico).



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