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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
June 26, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Iraq to Form New Government Next Week

The Iraqi parliament will convene on Tuesday to try to form a new government, Iraq's vice president said Thursday (AP). Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads the powerful Mahdi army, echoed Western diplomats in calling for an emergency national unity government, a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rebuked such demands (Al Jazeera). Iran is flying surveillance drones over Iraq and supplying Iraqi armed forced with materiel, U.S. officials said (NYT), while policymakers in Tehran are debating the merits of supporting besieged allies in Baghdad and Damascus (WSJ). Meanwhile, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry is seeking to muster support from Arab allies to peel Sunni tribesmen from their tactical alliance with ISIS (WSJ).


"U.S. President Barack Obama, a man who campaigned on extricating the United States from 'dumb' wars in the Middle East, finds himself potentially embroiled in another one. He is sending a small contingent of special forces to work with the Iraqi military, but many in Washington are urging him to take more decisive action against the ISIL militants sweeping across Iraq, seizing territory and oil facilities and threatening to sow chaos in Baghdad and beyond. This was not inevitable. The Syrian revolution—and the hesitant, confused international reaction to it—paved the way for the resurrection of a militant Islam that would turn vast regions of Iraq and Syria into borderless jihadi strongholds and inch closer to redrawing the map of the Middle East—in practical terms if not on paper," writes Rania Abouzeid in Politico Magazine.

"Simply bombing ISIS strongholds won't do the trick. In fact, military action alone will only further alienate the Sunnis—and reinforce the notion that America serves as Maliki's air force. Advocates of American military action worry that an unchecked ISIS might someday launch terrorist strikes against the United States or Western Europe. Maybe so. But another way to inspire such attacks is to bomb ISIS positions (and probably kill some Sunni civilians in the process) while doing nothing to reform Iraqi politics," writes CFR's Fred Kaplan in Slate.

"Iraq's parliamentary elections, which were held at the end of April, may open the way to getting rid of Maliki and reconfiguring power in a new national-unity government. But the country's squabbling politicians are obstinate. After the previous elections, in 2010, the parliament broke a world record for the longest time taken to form a new government, bickering for a full nine months until Maliki, whose alliance had come in second in popular votes, and his thirty-four-member cabinet were approved. Maliki prevailed by simply holding out longer than the others; the same intransigence has characterized his style of governance ever since," writes Robin Wright for the New Yorker.


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U.S. Disbands Philippines Counterterrorism Operation

The United States is disbanding a decade-long counterterrorism operation involving hundreds of elite U.S. troops in the southern Phillippines after determining that Abu Sayyaf and other armed groups have largely been crippled, officials said Thursday (AP).

SOUTH KOREA: President Park Geun-hye rejected Prime Minister Chung Hong-won's resignation, deciding to retain him after two nominees for the position withdrew (Korea Times).



Pakistanis Displaced by Tribal Belt Offensive Avoid Camp

Pakistan's North Waziristan ground offensive got underway on Thursday. Nearly half a million residents have been displaced (Dawn), but the government-run camp is nearly empty as residents have fled to cities instead (Al Jazeera) for reasons of culture and safety. Airlines, meanwhile, have halted service to Peshawar (BBC).

INDIA: A Delhi court issued summons to the top Congress party leaders Sonia and Rahul Ghandi for "misappropriating the funds" of a shuttered newspaper (Times of India).

The United States can boost its relations with India by supporting its bid for membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, CFR's Alyssa Ayres writes in a new Policy Innovation Memorandum.



Lebanon Reacts to Multiple Bombings

Lebanese security forces on Thursday clamped down around the Dbayieh Palestinian refugee camp and raided Beirut hotels (Daily Star) a day after a Saudi suicide bomber blew himself up in Beirut to evade arrest, the third blast in Lebanon in less than a week. The crackdown comes as the al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades urged attacks targeting the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah (Reuters).

JORDAN: A Jordanian military court on Thursday acquitted the cleric Abu Qatada of conspiracy charges related to a foiled 1999 plot against an U.S. school in Amman (AP). He awaits a verdict on other charges.



West African Ebola Outbreak ‘Out of Control’

This year's Ebola outbreak is the largest ever, with 350 deaths spread across Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia since the beginning of the year. The epidemic is "out of control," Doctors Without Borders said (Deutsche Welle), but some doctors say it is unlikely to ravel beyond West Africa (NPR).

NIGERIA: A blast on Wednesday at an Abuja shopping mall left twenty-one dead, marking the third attack on the capital in two months (Vanguard); the previous two were claimed by extremist sect Boko Haram. In the country's north, many villagers are moving toward self-protection (WSJ).

Emily Mellgard and Amanda Roth blog on the hazards faced by Nigerian and Kenyan World Cup spectators.



Turkey Moves Forward on PKK Talks

The Turkish government on Thursday submitted a bill to parliament that would provide a legal framework for peace talks with Kurdish militants (Hurriyet). This latest push comes ahead of Turkey's first direct presidential election in August, in which Kurdish support could give Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a decisive win (Reuters).

UKRAINE: U.S. secretary of state John Kerry on Thursday called on Russia to demonstrate "within hours" its commitment to disarming separatist militants in eastern Ukraine (BBC), a day before a shaky cease-fire is due to expire (Kyiv Post). The United States and EU have threatened further sanctions.



U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Warrantless Cell Searches

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that police need warrants to search the cell phones of people they arrest (WSJ). The ubiquity of cell phones in modern life and vast amount of personal data stored on them make them distinct from other items that might be searched during an arrest, wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts in a unanimous opinion.

UNITED STATES: The Obama administration's embrace of targeted killings via armed drones puts the United States on the path to war without end, a bipartisan panel of former intelligence and defense officials said in a report to be released Thursday (NYT).



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