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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
June 23, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Egyptian Court Sentences Al Jazeera Journalists

An Egyptian judge on Monday sentenced three journalists from the Qatar-sponsored network Al Jazeera to seven to ten years in prison (NYT) for allegedly collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood by fabricating news reports. The verdict, which drew international criticism as prosecutors did not make public any evidence supporting the charges, comes a day after U.S. secretary of state John Kerry stopped in Cairo on a tour of the Middle East, where he expressed support for Egypt's newly installed president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and said Washington would release military aid partially frozen after Egypt's coup (WSJ). The journalists are part of a broader judicial crackdown against dissidents. Rights groups estimate up to four hundred Egyptians have been disappeared, among at least sixteen thousand political prisoners taken since the regime change last summer (Guardian).


"It is easy to paint a picture of a planned organized campaign to repress freedom of speech and press, but is this systematic? It may seem so at first glance, but upon closer look, one discovers that the situation is far pettier than that. What unites these three very different men—Metwally, Fahmy and Youssef—is that they are victims of a state whose different institutions are exercising personal pettiness that is shared by a significant segment of the population. … The scary part of all this is not that the police state is active and is operating efficiently and according to a plan, but that the situation is random and manic, based on personal feelings and likes, and appeals to the angry, insecure and frightened mob to showcase that the state is strong," writes Mahmoud Salem in al-Monitor.

"The present regime of political violence, which began with and remains most fiercely directed against the Muslim Brotherhood, is increasingly focused on silencing all remaining revolutionary voices associated with the January 25-February 11, 2011 uprising. As we have seen in so many other countries, these policies require the demonization of more and more citizens as 'terrorists,' 'traitors' and 'enemies,' against whom all manner of violence and repression are justified. In Egypt as elsewhere the end result of such policies, which have occurred with the acquiescence and even support of Egypt's regional and international allies and patrons, will inevitably be the disintegration of bonds of common citizenship and intensifying of social, political and economic conflict," write academics in an open letter to the Obama administration.

"Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has campaigned on a platform that, vague as it is, seems to rule out inclusiveness. It is not simply his words for the Brotherhood, harsh as they are—he seems to verge on expressing the paternalistic view that he knows Egyptians' needs and therefore will not require a democratic process for them to inform and guide him. Will he reverse himself in office? There will certainly be strong pressures for him to do so. An attempt to turn his popular mandate into a blank check to rule as he sees fit is likely to fail," writes Nathan J. Brown for Al Jazeera.



South Korean Army Shooter Detained

The South Korean army on Monday arrested an enlisted solider who went on the run after killing five comrades, setting off a standoff near the North Korean border (Yonhap).

HONG KONG: Hong Kong's referendum on suffrage, which is nonbinding and not recognized by Beijing, has drawn unexpectedly high turnout, with more than seven hundred thousand ballots cast so far (SCMP), despite a barrage of cyberattacks (SCMP).



Mass Exodus from Pakistan’s Tribal Areas Poses Humanitarian Challenges

The World Food Program on Monday began distributing aid to some four hundred thousand North Waziristan residents who are fleeing a government offensive against militants (AFP). The mass exodus threatens to spread the polio virus, which Pakistan has struggled to contain amid Pakistani Taliban threats to vaccinators, but also may make the vaccine available to previously unreachable children (WSJ).

AFGHANISTAN: Elections chief Ziaulhaq Amarkhil reportedly resigned his post (Khaama Press) after presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday released recordings purporting to implicate him in mass ballot stuffing on behalf of rival candidate Ashraf Ghani (TOLO).

CFR's Catherine Powell urges against backsliding in women's rights in Afghanistan amid the U.S. drawdown and electoral transition.



Kerry Visits Baghdad as Rebels Take Border Crossings

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry arrived in Baghdad on Monday (NYT) after signaling the United States remained open to a new prime minister. Militants have captured border crossings shared with Jordan and Syria (Guardian), and U.S. advisers will find a military outgunned by insurgents and in a state of "psychological collapse" (WaPo).

The United States should partner with Iran and Russia to counter mutual threats in Iraq and Syria, says CFR President Emeritus Leslie Gelb.

SYRIA: The Israeli air force struck nine military targets inside Syria (Haaretz), killing ten, according to a Syrian activist group. The strikes were conducted in retaliation for a missile that killed an Israeli teen and wounded three other civilians in the Golan Heights.



Land Mine Treaty’s Successes Celebrated at Conference

The Mine Ban Treaty's review conference convened in Mozambique on Monday to discuss strengthening the agreement as the treaty's monitoring group celebrated success over the past fifteen years in stigmatizing the use of landmines and dismantling old ones (NYT). The United States, which is not party to the treaty, will attend as an observer; U.S. military leaders oppose the pact, and the Obama administration has yet to complete a review of U.S. policy begun early in its first term (Globe).

CFR's International Institutions and Global Governance program grades international actors on conflict management efforts. The United States gets a C+.



Tapes Purport to Show Polish FM Disparaging United States

Newly released recordings purportedly of backroom conversations among Poland's highest officials include Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski saying Poland's security alliance with the United States is "worth nothing" (Warsaw Voice). Opposition leaders have called for the government to resign since the scandal broke last weekend, and Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said he may call elections (NYT).

EUROPEAN UNION: British prime minister David Cameron attempted Monday to block Jean-Claude Juncker's appointment to the European Commission presidency, saying he would force a vote at the EU summit at the end of the week (FT).



GOP Split Jeopardizes Export-Import Bank

The U.S. Export-Import Bank's charter may be allowed to expire in September (WSJ) as Congressional Republicans, amid a leadership transition that has laid bare a rift in the party, are divided over the trade agency, which guarantees loans to foreign buyers and insures credit.

HAITI: Lawyers representing hundreds of Haitian cholera victims who charge that UN peacekeepers are responsible for the disease's outbreak said they served Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with a lawsuit on Friday (Miami Herald). UN spokesmen denied the claim.



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