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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 31, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Israel Vows to Destroy Gaza Tunnels

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday ruled out any cease-fire that would prevent Israel from continuing to destroy Hamas' tunnel network under the Israel-Gaza border (Haaretz), a condition that Hamas' military wing signaled it would reject. The announcement comes as the Israeli military called up an additional sixteen thousand reservists (WSJ). Meanwhile, the United Nations and United States condemned the shelling of a UN school where Gazans had taken shelter, while the Pentagon opened a local cache to rearm the Israeli military (AFP). While Israeli and Palestinian delegations travel to Egypt (Haaretz), a coalition of Arab states effectively aligned with Israel in the current fighting is seen as changing the dynamics of diplomacy (NYT).


"Over the last three weeks of conflict, Hamas has only burnished its nationalist credentials, established that it cannot be defeated, and that it has a reservoir international support. It is also hard to understand how partnership with Israel will help Abbas after Operation Protective Edge has caused so much damage and killed so many Palestinians. Abbas hates Hamas, but he cannot be seen as a quisling of Jerusalem. All in all, Hamas is in much better shape than it was when its leaders reluctantly sought a lifeline from Abbas and the PA," writes CFR's Steven Cook in the Times of Israel.

"Immiserating the people of Gaza is not an Israeli or American objective, and we should be open to all sensible ways of ameliorating the awful situation in which they live. We should draw up or applaud generous plans and leave it to Hamas to reject them or make them impossible by refusing to disarm. But those Israeli proposals will not, of course, work, nor will any proposals that require disarming Hamas as a precondition for aid to Gaza," writes CFR's Elliott Abrams in the Weekly Standard.

"Like the present Israeli government (or, better, its leading members), Hamas doesn't believe in a Palestinian state alongside Israel. These two bitter enemies are actually helping one another. Every rocket that Hamas fires weakens the Israeli left and makes it more difficult for ordinary Israelis to contemplate a withdrawal from the West Bank—since rockets from there could make all of Israel uninhabitable. And every new settlement, every 'price tag' attack on the West Bank, weakens Fatah and the PA and lends credence to Hamas's claim that violence is the only way," writes Michael Walzer in the New Republic.


Explore CFR’s Interactive on the Sunni-Shia Divide

Sectarian conflict is becoming entrenched in a growing number of Muslim countries. Tensions between Sunnis and Shias could reshape the future Middle East. Click on the Sunni-Shia Divide to learn more.


China to Revise Household Registration System

Beijing on Wednesday issued proposals to scrap the household-registration system that ties access to entitlements to whether a person's official residence is urban or rural (SCMP).

NORTH KOREA: The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday blacklisted two North Korean companies for shipping Cuban weapons to Pyongyang in violation of a UN arms embargo (Miami Herald).



Kerry Urges Afghan Candidates to Implement Power-Sharing Agreement

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry urged Afghanistan's presidential contenders to implement the power-sharing deal he brokered to defuse an electoral crisis in an op-ed published in Dari and Pashto on Wednesday (TOLO) amid conflicting reports about the still-secret 'terms of the accord (WaPo).

INDIA: The United States is "very disappointed" with India's opposition to the World Trade Organization's Doha round, U.S. commerce secretary Penny Pritzker said ahead of meetings at the bilateral strategic dialogue in New Delhi on Thursday (Hindu).

CFR's Alyssa Ayres explains New Delhi's reticence on the deal.



Iraqi Militants Prompt Backlash with Destruction of Monuments

Sunni extremists from the militant group ISIS have begun destroying monuments of Mosul's cultural heritage (NYT), possibly a turning point, galvanizing resistance to their de facto rule (AFP).

Alarmist reporting contributes to the inflation of perceived threats, writes CFR's Micah Zenko.



Sierra Leone Declares Ebola Emergency

Sierra Leone on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, under which its security forces will enforce a quarantine of affected areas, following the lead of Liberia, where schools were closed this week (BBC). President Ernest Bai Koroma and his Liberian counterpart Ellen Sirleaf Johnson said they will pull out of a summit in Washington next week to manage the crisis.

MOZAMBIQUE: A peace agreement between the Mozambican government and rebel group RENAMO has been unexpectedly delayed (Deutsche Welle). The deal would allow the rebels to contest elections in exchange for disarming.



Russia Reacts to Newest Sanctions

Moscow lashed out at the European Union for imposing sectoral sanctions in coordination with the United States, warning that Europe would face higher energy prices (FT). Exemptions in the U.S. and EU sanctions are likely to dampen their short-term impact, however (WSJ).

CFR's Janine Davidson considers Putin's strategy in Ukraine.

RUSSIA: The European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to pay shareholders of the oil firm Yukos $2.6 billion in damages (Reuters) for failing to "strike a fair balance" and charging the company excessive fees. Yukos was once run by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent ten years in prison before his release last year.



Argentina Defaults

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's designated Argentina to be in "selective default" after last-minute talks between the government and holdout creditors failed to yield a settlement on Wednesday (FT). The default may worsen an ongoing recession and put pressure on the country's foreign reserves (MercoPress).

UNITED STATES: A data-processing glitch has hampered the U.S. State Department's ability to issue visas around the globe (WSJ).



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