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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 19, 2014

Top of the Agenda

UN Launches Aid Operation in Iraq

The United Nations' agency for refugees is launching a major aid operation (BBC) to send supplies to more than half a million civilians displaced by the fighting between the militant ISIS group and Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the north. The agency will send supplies by air, road convoys, and sea shipments through Turkey, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran. Meanwhile, Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Tuesday (Reuters) to drive ISIS fighters out of Tikrit, the hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein. President Barack Obama had announced on Monday that Iraqi and Kurdish ground troops reclaimed Iraq's largest dam with the aid of a bombing campaign by U.S. warplanes (NYT).


"Taken together, the moves highlight the fact that the Islamic State, already the best-armed and best-funded terror group in the world, is quickly adapting to the challenges of ruling and governing. That, in turn, dramatically reduces the chances that the extremists will face homegrown opposition in what amounts to the world's newest territory," writes Yochi Dreazen for Foreign Policy.

"Any expanded direct support for the Peshmerga could further strain the relationship with the central government in Baghdad. The battle for the dam was an important test of new cooperation between Kurdish and Iraqi forces, with the guidance of American advisers," write Nour Malas and Tamer el-Ghobashy for the Wall Street Journal.

"Although Washington has long been wary of Kurdish nationalism, it is a powerful mobilizing force. It also converges with America's strategic interests. The Kurdish groups from Syria and Turkey reject radical Islamism. They are secular nationalists and natural American allies," write Aliza Marcus and Andrew Apostolou for the New York Times.



Two Die After Tibetan Protests

Rights groups have said that two people have died (Reuters), including one who committed suicide in protest in jail, after police opened fire on a demonstration in a Tibetan region of China. The protest erupted over the detention of a respected village leader in the Ganzi prefecture of Sichuan province.

CHINA: Pope Francis renewed overtures to China on Monday (SCMP), saying he wanted to visit the country and expressing his wish to mend ties that were cut off more than half a century ago.

Kurt Martens leads a conversation on Pope Francis's leadership of the Catholic Church in this CFR Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series.



Sri Lanka Bars UN Investigators

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Tuesday he would deny visas to United Nations investigators probing war crimes (AFP) allegedly committed during the country's decades-long separatist conflict. The UN Human Rights Council voted in March to investigate charges that the military killed 40,000 civilians.

AFGHANISTAN: A group of powerful Afghan government ministers and officials with ties to security forces threatened to seize power if an election impasse, which has paralyzed the country, is not resolved (NYT).



Israel, Palestinian Factions Extend Deadline

Negotiators reached a last-minute agreement to extend the Gaza deadline by twenty-four hours in order to reach a truce, although officials remarked that the outlook for progress looked bleak (Haaretz).



Ebola Cases Surpass 2,000

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday Cases that cases in West Africa's Ebola outbreak this year have risen to 2,240, which includes 1,229 deaths (Reuters). The organization is working with a United Nations program to deliver food to one million people living in quarantine zones in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Aid needs to come first from simple, on-the-ground manpower, CFR's Laurie Garrett writes in this op-ed.

SOUTH SUDAN: South Sudan's former vice president Riek Machar rejected President Salva Kiir's latest peace offer to incorporate the rebel leader into a transitional unity government before next year's elections (allAfrica).



Dozens Killed in Convoy Attack

Ukraine accused pro-Russian separatists of killing dozens of civilians by firing on a refugee convoy on Monday (WSJ)—a claim and incident the rebels denied. The U.S. State Department condemned the "shelling and rocketing" of the convoy, but said it was not able to identify responsibility.

GERMANY: Turkey summoned Germany's ambassador over a report that Berlin had been spying on Ankara since 2009 (DeutscheWelle), saying that such spying would be "a serious matter" if the report were true.



Ferguson Faces More Unrest

Police arrested thirty-one people overnight on Monday (LATimes) as another round of violent protests erupted in the town of Ferguson, Missouri after the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on August 9. Governor Jay Nixon deployed National Guard units early Monday.

CUBA: The daughter of President Raul Castro, Mariela Castro, rejected a workers' rights bill that she felt wasn't sufficient to prevent discrimination against people with unconventional gender identities (AP).



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