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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
June 30, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Iraq Battles for Tikrit as Caliphate Is Declared

Iraqi troops battled to wrest control of Tikrit on Monday (Reuters), a day after the insurgency's leader declared the establishment of a transnational caliphate, Islamic State (FT), with authority over all jihadi organizations worldwide. Meanwhile, Russian military advisers arrived in Baghdad to train Iraqi forces on twelve new warplanes, as Iraqi officials complain that the United States has been too slow in supplying F-16s and attack helicopters (NYT), whose delivery was stalled amid fears in the U.S. Congress that Baghdad would use the U.S. arms to suppress its domestic political opponents. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an address seizing on the rise of Islamic extremism in Iraq and Syria to expand his security requirements in future talks with the Palestinians, calling for a long-term security presence in the West Bank. The Israeli premier also endorsed Kurdish aspirations for independence (NYT).


"Sunni extremists' efforts to stir sectarian strife through brutal atrocities against Iraqi Shia will no doubt make the Iraqi government and the country's majority Shia population more amenable to overt Iranian assistance and influence in the country. But they were already fairly amenable to begin with: Maliki has already demonstrated as much by pursuing anti-Sunni sectarian policies that helped fuel support for ISIS to begin with. And his long-standing ties to Iran are likewise no secret; many attribute his resistance to a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq after 2011 to Iranian influence. To think that any outcome in Iraq would leave Iran without considerable influence is foolish. But with ISIS gains threatening to lead to a de facto partition of the country, Iranian influence might actually be more contained than it has been in recent years," writes Dalia Dassa Kaye in Foreign Affairs.

"The critical criterion for supporting a foreign group of fighters or politicians is local legitimacy, not 'moderation' defined in distant lands. But legitimacy is an issue that the United States, Iran, Arab powers and all foreign armies ignore as they march into battles in foreign lands. This is why they leave behind such ravages and chaos when they march home a few years later, staggered and bewildered at the furies they encountered and the sandstorms and cultural forces that momentarily blinded them," writes Rami G. Khouri in the Cairo Review.

"Iraqis from all sects and ethnicities will be stupidly self-destructive if they don't come to terms with one another quickly. They still have a chance to reverse course, reallocate power and repair political rifts in a way that Syria almost certainly cannot if Mr. Assad stays in power. They also have international interest in helping make it happen, as controversial as any form of outside diplomatic or military assistance may be. The alternative is the Lebanon situation, in which politics was hijacked by warlords, security forces were marginalized by law-defying militias, the economy survived off smuggling, and daily life was Darwinian," writes Robin Wright in the New York Times.


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North Korea Offers Conciliation After Firing Missiles

North Korea on Monday proposed that the two Koreas suspend hostilities, an overture that follows its firing of two short-range missiles and precedes a visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping to Seoul (Yonhap). Meanwhile, North Korea said it would put two U.S. tourists on trial (Reuters), while Japan is set to move ahead with talks Tuesday on past abductions and possible sanctions relief (Asahi Shimbun).

CHINA: Senior military official General Xu Caihou was expelled from the Communist Party on Monday and his case referred to prosecutors as President Xi Jinping widens his campaign of rooting out graft (SCMP).



Pakistan Begins Ground Offensive in Tribal Area

Pakistan on Monday launched a ground offensive in North Waziristan, two weeks after it began airstrikes in the tribal region to root out Pakistani Taliban militants, the military said (AP). The operation has displaced nearly half a million residents (Express Tribune), testing official and nongovernmental providers of aid (WSJ) as Ramadan begins.

CFR's interactive Global Conflict compiles resources on instability in Pakistan.

AFGHANISTAN: Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah said Sunday he would not cooperate with the Afghan electoral commission (NYT), a day after the body rejected his demands (TOLO) that he said would curb alleged electoral fraud. Preliminary results are expected to be announced on Tuesday.



MERS Outbreak Tests Saudi Arabia’s Public Health Capacity

The numbers of cases and deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have more than tripled since the end of 2013, raising questions about Saudi Arabia's ability to manage the outbreak as pilgrims have carried it far beyond the kingdom's borders (NYT).



DRC Militia Disarms

Gunmen from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a militia composed of ethnic Hutus from Rwanda, have begun disarming in the Democratic Republic of Congo under UN auspices, seeking to negotiate power-sharing with the Rwandan government (NYT). Rwanda has accused the UN of trying "to sanitize FDLR genocidaires."

SOUTH AFRICA: Health officials will ask donors for additional funding at a UN conference on maternal health that opens in Johannesburg on Monday as two large studies question the efficacy of UN-sponsored interventions (AP).

CFR's Global Governance report card evaluates international performance on public health.



Ukrainian Protestors Demand Firmer Action in East

Several hundred soldiers and activists in Kiev on Sunday demanded President Petro Poroshenko take more decisive action to quell fighting in the country's east (FT) after he extended a cease-fire to Monday night. The protests came as Poroshenko spoke to the leaders of Russia, Germany, and France. New European sanctions on Russia looked unlikely as modest progress was made on EU demands (NYT).

EU: British prime minister David Cameron and European Commission president-designate Jean Claude Juncker sought to mend relations on Sunday (EUobserver). German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble pledged to keep the UK in the EU (FT).



White House Seeks to Speed Deportations and Bolster Border Security

President Barack Obama is expected on Monday to ask Congress to grant him authority to speed deportations (LAT) of thousands of Central American children arriving at the southwest border and approve $2 billion in emergency appropriations for border enforcement and humanitarian assistance. Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss the migrant influx with the leaders of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala on Tuesday.

This CFR Timeline tracks milestones in U.S. immigration policy.

ARGENTINA: Argentina is poised to enter a technical default on Monday as a $539 million debt payment comes due (Bloomberg).



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