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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 18, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Berlin Talks Stall as Luhansk Sees Fire

Russia said Monday that objections to the humanitarian convoy it sent to Ukraine had been resolved (Reuters) during talks between Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine on Sunday, but said there had been no progress in the Berlin talks toward a cease-fire between government and rebel forces in the east of the country. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military reported that rockets hit a convoy of vehicles (BBC) transporting refugees from the Luhansk area of eastern Ukraine, causing casualties. The Ukrainian military moved into the heart of the separatist hub for the first time on Sunday (NYT).


"It is possible that Putin recognizes that continued escalation is not in his medium to long term interest and that invading eastern Ukraine may only lead to a military quagmire that he needs to avoid. But having whipped Russian public opinion into such a 'do-something' state, he cannot be seen as backing down," writes CFR's Janine Davidson.

"There has also been much plotting and politicking within the separatist leadership of late, which could just be business as usual for an inscrutable and self-cannibalizing movement, or signs that a Soviet-style purge is underway at the behest of Moscow Center," writes Michael Weiss for Foreign Policy.

"If the Ukrainians' calculations about Mr. Putin's willingness to engage directly are wrong, Mr. Obama and other Western leaders will face yet another crisis at a time of mounting danger in Iraq and as hostilities between Israel and Hamas continue," writes Andrew Kramer for the New York Times.



Pope Francis Ends Korea Visit

Pope Francis wrapped up his visit to South Korea on Monday, urging the region to unite during a special inter-Korean reconciliation mass in Seoul (AFP). During his visit, which marked the first papal visit to Asia in fifteen years, Francis also reached out to North Korea and China, which have no formal relations with the Vatican.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea and the United States began on Monday their annual two-week joint war drills (Yonhap) aimed at improving defense against North Korea, which recently fired rockets into the East Sea.



Protests Take Over Islamabad

Pakistan's opposition leader Imran Khan warned the government that his supporters will storm Pakistan's parliament if his demands for its immediate resignation were not met (Guardian). The protests, led by Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, have crippled the capital of Islamabad.

AFGHANISTAN: Afghan police are continuing to search for five local Red Cross employees kidnapped by gunmen in the western province of Herat, the latest targeting of aid workers (al-Jazeera).



Iraq Reclaims Mosul Dam

Iraq's army spokesman said Monday that its security forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have taken back the strategic Mosul Dam (AP) from ISIS militants who captured it less than two weeks ago. The troops were backed by aerial support, but it remains unclear whether U.S. airstrikes aided in the battle.

ISRAEL: Israeli officials voiced doubt over the success of Cairo negotiations as the cease-fire winds down to its Monday night expiration, but said that discussions could continue if Hamas withheld its fire (Haaretz).

CFR's Robert Danin discusses how to end Gaza's isolation in this Policy Innovation Memorandum.



Liberian Quarantine Center Looted

Seventeen suspected Ebola patients disappeared after a mob looted a quarantine center (BBC) in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. While a senior health official said the patients had been relocated to another facility, other reports said that the patients had escaped and were taken away by their families.

The world is not nearly scared enough of Ebola, writes CFR's Laurie Garrett in this new op-ed.

MALI: Two United Nations peacekeepers were killed in a suicide attack on a patrol base in northern Mali (France24), where French troops intervened last year in a bid to drive back radical Islamists.



U.K. Prepared to Aid Fight Against ISIS

Prime Minister David Cameron said the U.K. would be prepared to use diplomatic and military means to help combat ISIS in northern Iraq (Guardian), a statement that Defense Secretary Michael Fallon followed by confirming that British warplanes are flying deeper into Iraq in a mission that could last months.

This CFR Infoguide delves into the Sunni-Shia divide fracturing the Middle East.



Brazil Mourns Campos

Brazil's Socialist party is expected to appoint former environment minister Marina Silva as a replacement candidate (Reuters) for the late presidential candidate Eduardo Campos, who died in a plane crash last Wednesday. More than 100,000 people gathered for Campos' funeral mass on Sunday (BBC).

ECUADOR: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced he plans to leave the Ecuadorian embassy (Telegraph) in London after it emerged that he developed a heart defect and a chronic lung condition during his two-year confinement.



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