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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 5, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Seventy-Two Hour Cease-Fire Initiated in Gaza

Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza entered a seventy-two-hour humanitarian cease-fire on Tuesday (al-Jazeera), executing a temporary truce brokered by Egypt as a step toward negotiating a more enduring solution to weeks of heavy fighting. Meanwhile, Spain announced it would temporarily freeze arms exports (Haaretz) to Israel on Monday, following a similar move by Britain, which announced it was reviewing its arms export licenses to Israel. The United Kingdom's foreign office minister Baroness Warsi resigned over the conflict (FT), citing her opposition to the government's policy in Gaza. An Israeli delegation is expected to arrive in Cairo in the next few days to attempt to negotiate a more permanent agreement (AP).


"America's willingness to entangle itself in Middle Eastern conflicts is declining. That means that, long term, Israel's security can only be guaranteed by achieving peace with its neighbours," writes Gideon Rachman for the Financial Times.

"Perhaps the greatest challenge lies in convincing the American and especially Israeli leaders of the need to overcome their resistance to Hamas' involvement in Palestinian politics," writes Khaled Elgindy in Foreign Affairs.

"Here in Israel, as soon as the war is over, we must begin the process of creating a new partnership, an internal alliance that will alter the array of narrow interest groups that controls us," writes David Grossman for The New York Times.


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.


Japanese Defense Report Highlights Territorial Disputes

Japan's defense ministry warned in its annual white paper that it is deeply concerned (JapanTimes) about China's rapidly expanding maritime and airspace activities around the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. It also reasserted its claim over Seoul's easternmost islets of Dokdo, a move that South Korea strongly denounced (Yonhap).

CFR's Sheila Smith explores Japan's new politics and what it means for the U.S.-Japan alliance in this new report.

CHINA: China dismissed a suggestion by the United States and the Philippines that it suspend development (SCMP) in the disputed South China Sea ahead of a regional summit this week.



Western Troops Shot at Afghan Base

A man dressed in Afghan military uniform fired at foreign troops at a military base (RFE), causing casualties, according to Afghanistan's defense ministry. NATO said it was investigating an incident involving both Afghan and international troops at Camp Qargha, a training base for Afghan forces to the west of Kabul.

BANGLADESH: Nearly 120 people are still missing after a heavily overloaded ferry capsized (AFP) thirty kilometers south of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Monday.



Iraq Orders Air Force to Support Kurds

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki ordered Iraq's air force to support Kurdish forces (NYT) fighting Sunni extremist group ISIS in the north, a move that signaled a thaw in the fraught relations between the central government and Kurdish leaders.

CFR's Stephen Biddle assesses the U.S. government's options for responding to ISIS in Iraq in a testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.



Obama to Announce $14 Billion in Africa Deals

President Barack Obama is expected to announce on Tuesday that U.S. companies will commit to investing $14 billion (Bloomberg) in sectors including construction, clean energy, banking, and information technology across Africa. The president is hosting a three-day Africa summit in Washington this week.

CFR's Jendayi Frazer gives insight into what to expect from Obama's Africa summit in this interview.

WEST AFRICA: The World Bank pledged as much as $200 million in emergency funding (WSJ) to help Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone fight the Ebola epidemic following requests from the World Health Organization and West African governments.



Azerbaijan and Armenia Clash Over Territory

Azerbaijan's defense ministry said that fourteen of its soldiers had been killed in multiple confrontations with Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh (EurasiaNet). The presidents of both countries are slated to meet this week in a bid to calm tensions after the bloodiest clashes since the two sides signed a ceasefire in 1994.

BULGARIA: Bulgaria named Georgi Bliznashki, a law professor and former Socialist lawmaker, as the country's interim prime minister until elections on October 5 (Reuters). The appointment follows the resignation of the Socialist-led coalition at the end of July as the Balkan state grapples with its worst banking crisis since the 1990s.



U.S. Rabbis Press for Release of Cuba Contractor

A group of American rabbis have urged President Barack Obama to negotiate the release of Alan Gross (BBC), a U.S. Jewish contractor detained in Cuba since 2009. Gross is serving a fifteen-year term for illegally taking internet equipment to Cuba; his imprisonment has hampered efforts at diplomacy between the two countries.

ARGENTINA: A U.S. judge on Monday dismissed a bid (AP) by Argentina to remove the court-appointed mediator in the dispute with creditors that triggered the country's default last week.



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