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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 11, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Turkey's Erdogan Claims Presidential Victory

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the country's first direct election for president on Sunday, with tallies showing him claiming just under fifty-two percent of the vote (Hurriyet). Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, his main challenger, followed up with 38.3 percent of the vote, while Selahattin Demirtas, a young Kurdish politician running on a left-wing platform, came in third with 9.7 percent. In his campaign, Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, vowed to transform the presidency (FT) from a largely ceremonial post to one of influence and power. On Monday the country's ruling AK Party, which Erdogan founded, will begin deliberations on the shape of the next government (Reuters), including the selection of a new party leader—likely to be a staunch loyalist.


"A year ago, it looked as though protests could bring down the administration, but the political fallout has proved to be relatively modest. Erdogan has a knack for portraying himself as a political victim forced to crack down harshly on those who use lies and conspiracies to undermine his government," writes Soner Cagaptay for The Los Angeles Times.

"The dividing lines in the presidential race have nothing to do with religion, but rather revolve around the role of the state, Turkey's place in the West, its treatment of minorities, and economic inequalities. Those looking for staunch defenders and guardians of a secular tradition that never really existed to begin with are fated to be eternally disappointed," write Michael Koplow and Steven Cook for CFR.

"The challenge for Washington is how to navigate the choppy Turkish domestic waters as Erdogan tries to consolidate power; he will not hesitate one bit to blame outsiders, including the Americans and the Europeans in the event he finds the headwinds too strong," says Henri J. Barkey in a CFR interview.



U.S. Will Monitor South China Sea

A U.S. State Department official said on Monday that the United States will monitor the South China Sea to see whether "de-escalatory steps" are being taken (Reuters). The remark comes as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Sydney for a meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Australian officials on increased defense and cyber security cooperation.

CFR's Infoguide on China's Maritime Disputes discusses the history and policy implications of the ongoing territorial conflict in the East and South China seas.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea, acknowledging the need to improve ties with North Korea, offered to hold high-level talks (Yonhap) with Pyongyang next week on the reunion of families separated by the Korean War and other issues.



Report Condemns Afghan Civilian Deaths

International rights group Amnesty International said Monday in a new report that the U.S. failed to properly investigate civilian killings—including possible war crimes—that occurred during its military operations in Afghanistan. NATO said it would review the report (AP).

MYANMAR: Authorities lifted the curfew on Monday in Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city, where sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims killed two people last month (Bangkok Post).

CFR's Global Conflict Tracker gives extensive coverage and analysis of the increased sectarian violence in Myanmar.



Gaza Sees New Cease-Fire

Another three-day cease-fire, agreed upon by Israel and Hamas, took effect at midnight on Monday as an Israeli delegation traveled to Cairo for negotiations on a more permanent truce with Palestinian factions (Haaretz). Roughly two thousand people have died in the conflict, which began on July 8.



Central African Republic Appoints Muslim Prime Minister

The interim president of the Central African Republic appointed Mahamat Kamoun, an economist, as the majority-Christian country's first Muslim prime minister (BBC). The move comes in the wake of an agreement between rival militias last month aimed at ending more than a year of religious conflict.

LIBERIA: Liberia's foreign minister said that its health system is collapsing from the Ebola epidemic (HL), with hospitals closing down and medical workers fleeing. The country entered the epidemic with roughly fifty doctors for four million people, he said.



France Considers Arming Kurds

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday that France, in consultation with EU partners, is looking at supplying arms to Iraq's Kurds (France24) in the fight against the ISIS insurgency. France and Britain have pledged support for a U.S.-led operation to help Iraqi civilians, many of them of the Yazidi minority, who are fleeing the crisis.

UKRAINE: Ukraine stepped up a military assault on rebel capital Donetsk on Sunday with its most intensive artillery bombardment of the rebel capital yet (NYT).

CFR President Richard N. Haass addresses U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine in this new op-ed.



Fed Vice Chairman Calls Global Economic Recovery "Disappointing"

U.S. Federal Reserve vice chairman Stanley Fischer said on Monday that the U.S. and global recoveries have been "disappointing," and may point to a permanent decrease in economic potential (Reuters). A slowing of productivity, declining labor force participation, and other factors may have scarred the U.S. economy, he added.

ARGENTINA: A judge from Argentina's supreme court lashed out at the U.S. Supreme Court for declined to hear Argentina's appeal over its battle with hedge funds that refused participate in its 2005 and 2010 debt restructurings (MercoPress).



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