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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 17, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Fragile Calm Between Israel and Hamas

Representatives of Israel and Hamas gathered in Cairo on Thursday, along with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and Mideast peace envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair, to negotiate a comprehensive cease-fire (Haaretz). Various Hamas and Israeli officials denied an agreement had been reached (AFP), contradicting an initial report from the BBC (Times of Israel). The meetings came amid a five-hour humanitarian truce pushed for by the UN, which went into force Thursday morning (WaPo) and appeared to hold despite early mortar fire. Israel said it thwarted a major assault from Gaza prior to the truce.


"Exiled and subjugated communities like the Palestinians today usually behave in ways that seem strange to middle class consumers in faraway lands, including fighting apparently futile battles and subjecting their populations to prolonged suffering and death — and then doing the same thing again a few years later. This can only be understood by appreciating the nature of 'resistance' and the allure of 'liberation,'" writes Rhami G. Khouri in the Daily Star.

"What the Obama Administration seems unable to grasp, or finds inconvenient to admit, is that the peace process cannot just be paused; to say that the parties to the conflict must want peace more than Americans is to condemn them to leaders who, in the short run, benefit from conflict, and hand Americans, and everyone else, an insufferable future," writes Bernard Avishai for the New Yorker.

"So what does the current round of violence mean for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following the recent round of violence? Our research as well as other studies would suggest a pessimistic outcome. Given the increase in the number of Israelis who are within the range of rockets, and the high number of Palestinian casualties, the recent round of fighting is likely to cause individuals on both sides to harden their attitudes towards each other, making a peaceful resolution of the conflict less likely," write Anna Getmansky and Thomas Zeitzoff for the Monkey Cage.



Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

Australia's senate on Thursday repealed the carbon tax levied on the country's biggest polluters, making it the first country to make such a retreat on climate policy (SMH). The repeal, a central pledge of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's campaign, was decried by environmentalists (NYT).

CFR's report card on climate change governance evaluates Australia as a "truant."

CHINA: China's first-ever participation in the Rim of the Pacific naval exercises raised unprecedented legal and political challenges for its U.S. organizers (WSJ).



Afghan Taliban on Offensive

The Afghan Taliban on Thursday were repelled after a nearly five-hour-long assault on Kabul International Airport (BBC). Meanwhile, Taliban insurgents ambushed President Hamid Karzai's security team in Paktia province (TOLO).

The Taliban insurgency remains resilient as international forces prepare to draw down, this Backgrounder explains.



Pentagon Outlines Plan to Aid Syrian Rebels

U.S. military officials gave a closed-door briefing to Congress on a plan to train and equip Syrian rebels, which calls for a 2,300-man force and likely would not begin until next year (WSJ). However, Pentagon officials said the proposal was still evolving. Meanwhile, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was sworn in Wednesday for an additional seven-year term (Daily Star).

TURKEY: Istanbul governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said Turkey will take "drastic measures" (AFP) to deal with the estimated 67,000 Syrian refugees in the city, possibly expelling them to refugee camps in the country's southeast (Hurriyet).



Tunisian Forces Ambushed

At least fourteen Tunisian troops were killed Wednesday night in an ambush near the Algerian border, where they were deployed to root out Islamist militants (Reuters).

NIGERIA: President Goodluck Jonathan urged lawmakers to approve a $1 billion loan from the United States to better equip the military for combating the Boko Haram insurgency (This Day).



Ukraine Jet Downed as U.S., EU Broaden Sanctions

A Ukrainian fighter jet was downed Thursday by a missile fired from a Russian plane (AP), Ukraine said Thursday. This comes a day after the United States levied new sanctions on powerful Russian banks and major energy and defense firms, and EU leaders agreed to blacklist companies and halt lending for public-sector projects (Bloomberg).

CFR's Robert Kahn notes the gap between the latest rounds of U.S. and European sanctions.

EU: A Brussels summit of European leaders failed to agree on appointments to two top EU jobs: foreign policy chief and European Council president (EUobserver). They are expected to try again in six weeks.



China’s Xi Begins Goodwill Tour

Brazil on Thursday will host Chinese president Xi Jinping for a state visit before he launches the China–Latin America Forum (AFP) at a summit with the CELAC group of Latin American and Caribbean states. Venezuela, Cuba, and Argentina are also on his itinerary.

Lauren Dickey and Sharone Tobias preview the Chinese leader's economic and strategic ambitions for the trip.

UNITED STATES: The Pentagon has reportedly notified Congress of its intent to transfer six Guantánamo Bay detainees to Uruguay (NYT).



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