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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 20, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Video Stirs Renewed Concern Over ISIS

ISIS militants released on Tuesday a video, titled "A Message To America," that purported to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley (Reuters) in retaliation against recent U.S. airstrikes on the militant group in Iraq. The video also showed Steven Sotloff, another U.S. journalist, whose life militants said depended on future U.S. actions in Iraq (NYT). While the White House said it was "appalled by the brutal murder," U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond raised concerns about the apparent British identity (AP) of the masked fighter in the video. Foley, a reporter for Global Post, had been kidnapped in northern Syria in 2012.


"Their capture and Foley's apparent execution raise fresh questions about how important conflicts across the globe are covered—and the dangers freelance journalists, eager for bylines, face to report them," writes Terrence McCoy for the Washington Post.

"Suddenly, a common enemy has joined mutually distrustful players in the making of a coalition against ISIS—just the kind of multilateralism that the President favors. As this month's events bore out, such an effort requires American leadership," writes George Packer for the New Yorker.

"In Syria, IS militants and their predecessors have killed countless people in recent years, and over 160,000 in total have died during the Syrian civil war. Yet it is only now that the world is waking up, now that the conflict has spilled into Iraq, where the Islamic State also appears to be spreading its tentacles without much resistance," writes Der Spiegel.



Malaysia Foils Bombing Plot

Malaysian counter-terrorism officials said they uncovered a plan for a series of pub and brewery bombings (AFP) by radical Islamic militants inspired by the militant ISIS jihadist group. Officials said the group strove to form a Southeast Asian Islamic caliphate spanning Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore.

This CFR Backgrounder delves into the history and evolution of ISIS.

JAPAN: Thirty-two died and nine remain missing on Wednesday after landslides and flooding triggered by torrential rain hit residential areas in Hiroshima, in western Japan (KyodoNews).



Pakistan's Army Urges Talks

The Pakistani army broke its silence and publicly urged both the government and demonstrating parties to negotiate a political solution through dialogue (Dawn). Tens of thousands of protesters marched on Pakistan's parliament Wednesday in a bid to depose prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

CFR's Daniel Markey explains why street protests work in this new op-ed.

INDIA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi called off foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan (HindustanTimes) less than three months after Modi invited Sharif to his inauguration in a gesture of goodwill.

CFR's Alyssa Ayres gets into the substance of Modi's style.



Cairo Talks Crumble

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators traded blame on Wednesday for the collapse of the Cairo negotiations as rocket fire erupted on Tuesday (Haaretz). Hamas claims that Israel attempted to assassinate the group's military chief, while Israeli officials say it was forced to resume strikes on Gaza in response to rocket fire.



Liberia Enforces Curfew

Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf imposed a night-time curfew (FPA) and quarantined the West Point area of the capital of Monrovia in an effort to slow the Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa. Sirleaf said that cultural burying practices and disregard for the advice of health workers have exacerbated the crisis.

NIGERIA: A group of soldiers in Nigeria said they have refused to fight Islamist Boko Haram militants until better equipment arrives (BBC). A state of emergency was declared in three northeastern states last year.



Putin to Meet Poroshenko

Russian president Vladimir Putin will meet Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko next week at a top-level summit in Minsk for the first time in two months (WSJ), marking a diplomatic push. Calls for a cease-fire from both Russia and Europe have intensified amid a deepening humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine.

FRANCE: Veteran French politician Alain Juppé announced his candidacy in the right-wing UMP party's primary race for the 2017 presidential election (France24). Juppé has served as prime minister, foreign minister, and defense minister.



Argentina Proposes Debt Swap

Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced a voluntary debt swap (FT) in a bid to avoid a U.S. court ruling that triggered the country's second default in less than thirteen years last month. Fernández said Argentina would cease using Bank of New York Mellon as a trustee, and instead make payments via Banco de la Nación.

URUGUAY: The United Nations accepted a proposal by the Uruguayan government to extend the country's continental shelf from 200 to 350 miles, making Uruguay the first South American nation to receive such approval (MercoPress).



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