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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 18, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Calls for Probe on Airliner Downing in Eastern Ukraine

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Friday called on the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists to lay down their arms and hold direct talks (AP), as the rebels offered a truce to allow investigators to work at the wreckage of a civilian Malaysian Airlines jet that was downed the day before, killing all 298 people on board (WaPo). World leaders called for an international investigation and the UN Security Council prepared to go into emergency session as the Russian defense ministry denied any involvement in the crash. U.S. officials said the plane was brought down by a Russian-made antiaircraft missile (NYT).


"An immediate conclusion of this disaster should be the pressing need to dial down tensions in the region. The conflict is clearly escalating and becoming more dangerous; the risk of civilian casualties and spillover will only increase. There must be serious interesting shown by Western Europe to resolve the crisis—since it is literally happening in NATO nations' backyards, just three to four hours away from European capitals who to date have dragged their feet in instituting biting sanctions," writes CFR's Janine Davidson.

"Even if the shooting down of the Malaysian aircraft was accidental and not ordered by the Kremlin, as seems likely, Vladimir Putin is nevertheless ultimately responsible. If you hand a bazooka to a hyperactive teenager and he destroys your neighbor's house, the person providing the weapon is just as culpable as the one firing it," writes CFR's Max Boot for Commentary.

"I suspect that when the histories are written, this will be deemed the day the insurgency lost. Or at least began to lose. Especially given the presence of Americans and other Westerners on MH17, the Kremlin will, for all its immediate and instinctive bluster and spin, have to definitively and overtly withdraw from arming and protecting the rebels," writes Mark Galeotti.



Ousted Thai PM Will Not Flee Charges

Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra pledged on Friday not to flee prosecution, a day after an anti-graft panel indicted her on charges related to a rice subsidy (Bangkok Post). The press conference was Yingluck's first since the military deposed her in May.

INDONESIA: Presidential candidate Joko Widodo offered to reconcile with his rival, Prabowo Subianto, in Indonesia's tightly contested election (Jakarta Post) as Prabowo alleged massive fraud (AP).



Haqqanis Evade Pakistani Targeting

The Pakistani military is not targeting the Taliban-linked Haqqani network (WSJ) in its ongoing North Waziristan offensive against militants, local tribesmen and U.S. officials say. Pakistan's failure to target the Haqqanis could jeopardize U.S. aid.

AFGHANISTAN: Afghan election workers on Thursday began their audit of the nearly eight million votes cast in the presidential election (NYT) under the supervision of domestic and international observers (TOLO).



Israel Launches Gaza Ground Offensive

Israel warned of a possible expansion of ground operations (Haaretz) in Gaza after its forces entered the Palestinian enclave overnight with orders to dismantle tunnels into Israeli territory. Twenty-seven Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed, while the IDF called up 18,000 additional reservists (NYT).

In Foreign Affairs, Hussein Ibish discusses prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conduct of the war.

IRAQ: At least 5,576 Iraqi civilians have been killed this year in violence (Reuters), the United Nations said Friday. The report details violations of international law by the militant group ISIS and government forces.

A new CFR InfoGuide delves into the historical origins and geopolitical consequences of the Sunni-Shia divide.



Hollande Tours West Africa

French president Francois Holland has kicked off a three-nation visit to West Africa (France24), days after France announced that it would reorient its military to an expanded regional counterterrorism mission.

NIGERIA: The National Assembly on Friday recessed for two months (BBC) without acting on the request for a $1 billion loan that President Goodluck Jonathan sought to bolster the military (Vanguard).



U.S. Spy Chief Departs Germany

The Central Intelligence Agency's Berlin station chief departed Germany on Thursday, U.S. and German officials said (Deutsche Welle). Germany expelled the spy chief amid investigations of German nationals alleged to have passed secrets to the United States.

Though U.S.-German relations are at a low point, they will survive the espionage controversy, says Karen Donfried.



Senate Backs Terrorism Insurance Program’s Extension

The U.S. Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to extend federal guarantees for insurance to protect companies against losses from acts of terrorism. The bill now goes to the House, where some Republicans have raised objections (Bloomberg).

CUBA: Russian president Vladimir Putin dismissed media reports that Moscow had reached a deal with Havana to reopen an electronic eavesdropping base in Cuba (Miami Herald).



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