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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 16, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Israel Ramps Up Gaza Campaign

Hundreds of Gazan families evacuated their homes on Wednesday following warnings of further airstrikes (AP) as Israel threatened to launch ground operations (Reuters) in the Palestinian enclave. Overnight Tuesday, Israel bombed the homes of Hamas political leaders, while Gaza-fired rockets were intercepted over Tel Aviv, following an abortive cease-fire (NYT). Palestinian deaths in the current round of fighting surpassed two hundred, according to health officials, while Israel suffered its first fatality. Meanwhile, reports emerged that Egypt's cease-fire proposal was hammered out without the knowledge of much of the Israeli cabinet, and took Hamas officials by surprise (Haaretz).


"In the absence of effective Egyptian participation, and with Hamas's political leadership holed up in Doha, a vital key to a cease-fire seems unavailable. Hamas is therefore on autopilot, trying to wrest any tangible win from a slugging match that has barely damaged Israel, while exposing the Gazan people to constant air assault and the possibility of a costly ground invasion. It has no outside allies to call upon; no friendly power it can claim has compelled it to back down," writes Steven Simon for the Middle East Institute.

"For Hamas, Egypt's involvement must go further than reinstating a simple cease-fire based on 'quiet-for-quiet' between the two sides, while leaving political developments for future discussions. The recent proposal is strikingly similar to the 2012 agreement, which began to fall apart soon after it became clear that the promised normalization of Gaza would not be forthcoming. Stability between Hamas and Israel will require a long-term political approach for Gaza," write Benedetta Berti and Zack Gold in Foreign Affairs.

"Mr Netanyahu's problem is not victory per se – but, rather, victory to what end? His difficulty in closing out this latest round originates from his lack of an end game, in either Gaza or the West Bank – at least not one he will acknowledge publicly. He does not want to reoccupy Gaza and to formally reassume responsibility for its 1.7m inhabitants. He knows responsibility cannot be forced on Egypt and he has no interest in handing Gaza to Mr Abbas in order to strengthen the moderate Palestinian camp," writes Daniel Levy in the Financial Times.



China Moves Provocative Oil Rig

China's state-owned oil firm is moving a drilling rig (WSJ) out of the contested South China Sea waters where it has provoked clashes between Vietnamese and Chinese vessels. Beijing maintained its right to explore in the area.

CHINA: China's economy grew at 7.5 percent in the second quarter, on track to meet the government's target (SCMP), Beijing said. A "mini-stimulus" was put in place after Beijing was alarmed by slow first-quarter growth (FT).



Pakistan Said to Capture Taliban Commander

Pakistani forces have reportedly captured a major commander in the Pakistani Taliban (Dawn), a month into their tribal-belt offensive. Meanwhile, the Pakistani air force (Dawn) and a suspected U.S. drone (Express Tribune) conducted airstrikes.



Iraqi Forces Fall Back, but Political Deadlock Broken

Iraqi forces on Wednesday retreated from Tikrit under insurgent fire. The setback comes a day after lawmakers named a moderate Sunni Islamist as speaker of parliament, the first step toward forming a new government (Reuters).

A new CFR InfoGuide explains the origins of the Sunni-Shia divide and its geopolitical ramifications.

IRAN: U.S. secretary of state John Kerry and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif signaled that nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers would likely be extended beyond a July 20 deadline (WSJ).



Separatists Begin Peace Talks with Mali Government

Tuareg separatists on Wednesday began peace talks in Algiers with the Malian government (France24). The negotiations come a day after a French soldier was killed in Mali's north, and as France, touting its success in Mali, transitions to a regional counterterrorism operation (Reuters).

SOMALIA: A UN panel has accused Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a former minister, and a U.S. law firm of conspiring to divert recovered overseas assets, Reuters reports.



EU Expected to Widen Russia Sanctions

The EU summit got underway in Brussels on Wednesday with the bloc expected to expand sanctions against Russia (EUobserver) to focus on whole industries. EU leaders will also fill the positions of foreign policy chief and European Council president (BBC).

CFR's Steven Sestanovich explains what the U.S. Senate gets wrong about Ukraine.

NETHERLANDS: A civil court ruled that the state was liable for the deaths of three hundred Muslim men during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre (Deutsche Welle). Those killed had sought sanctuary at a compound held by Dutch UN troops.



BRICS Leaders Agree on Bank Structure

Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa meeting in Brazil agreed on how to distribute power (Economic Times) in a new Shanghai-based development bank meant to be a counterweight to Western-dominated financial institutions.

CFR's Julia Sweig and Robert Kahn discuss the BRICS bank.

MEXICO: Under U.S. pressure to stem the tide of Central American immigration, Mexico's Interior Ministry on Tuesday appointed a border-control czar (LAT), but there is little evidence of increased enforcement at its southern border (AP).



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