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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 25, 2014

Top of the Agenda

France Dissolves Government

French president Francois Hollande dissolved the government on Monday, marking the second reshuffle (FT) of his beleaguered Socialist government in six months following an internal cabinet dispute over the direction of the country's stagnant economy. The move comes after the resignation of Prime Minister Manuel Valls (Guardian), who accused the outspoken economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg, of crossing a line with his blunt criticism (AFP) of the government's policies. France, with an unemployment rate of roughly ten percent and virtually no growth, is under heavy pressure from the European Union (France24) to adopt austerity measures in order to kick-start its growth.


"More and more, however, France's crisis is about the presidential system of government and the Fifth Republic itself," writes the Financial Times.

"It is possible to argue, as Paul Krugman has been doing lately, that the French crisis is overstated, even by the French, and that the top-heavy French state—which we are all supposed to sneer at and mock as we drive around in our Cadillacs—is actually performing pretty well through the crisis, at least as well as the grimly austere one of Britain," writes Adam Gopnick for the New Yorker.

"Polls suggest that Mr Sarkozy would beat Mr Hollande if a run-off between them were held today—and do better that Mr Hollande against the National Front's Marine Le Pen were she the rival second-round candidate," writes the Economist.



Thailand's Junta Leader Takes PM Position

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand's junta leader who seized power in a coup three months ago, was sworn in as prime minister (AP) on Monday after an endorsement from King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The move is the latest by the military to consolidate power after adopting a newly written constitution in July.

EAST ASIA: South Korea, China, and Japan will hold a fresh round of free-trade talks (Yonhap) later this week in Beijing despite fraught diplomatic relations between Japan and its two neighbors.



Afghan Election Impasse Costing Billions

Afghanistan's finance minister said the deadlock over the presidential election is costing the economy around $5 billion, adding that he would be forced to cut salaries and lay off government workers if candidates cannot work out a resolution to the crisis by the end of the month (BBC).

PAKISTAN: Pakistani opposition leader politician Imran Khan gave a new ultimatum for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as antigovernment protests continue in Islamabad (RFE).



ISIS Fighting to Take Syrian Air Base

ISIS militants reportedly took control of the Tabqa military air base (al-Jazeera), the last remaining stronghold of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's government in Raqqa province. Meanwhile, U.S. journalist Peter Theo Curtis was freed after being held hostage for almost two years by an al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria (WSJ).

The growing threat of ISIS requires military action against the group in Syria, says CFR's Elliott Abrams.

ISRAEL: Israel renewed air strikes on Gaza on Monday after an intensification of attacks from Gaza on border communities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the operation would continue until its goals were reached (Haaretz).



DRC Confirms Ebola Cases

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has confirmed two Ebola deaths, raising concerns of further spreading of the virus (VOA). So far, there have been 2,615 confirmed cases in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

It's time to reconsider the mandate of the World Health Organization, writes CFR's John Campbell.

MOZAMBIQUE: Mozambique's government and rebel group Renamo signed an agreement ending their armed conflict after a year-long negotiation process (DW). The deal comes ahead of presidential elections in October.



Ukraine Clashes With Rebels Near Russian Border

Ukrainian government forces fought with separatists near the border town of Novoazovsk in the latest escalation of fighting (Reuters), which has thus far been concentrated around rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia also announced plans on Monday to send a second aid convoy into rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

CFR's Global Conflict Tracker offers a guide to the Ukraine crisis.



White House Officials to Attend Michael Brown Funeral

Three White House officials will on Monday attend the funeral of Michael Brown (WashPost), the unarmed Ferguson teen shot by a police officer in early August. Attorney General Eric Holder visited the town on Wednesday, vowing a thorough probe from the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

BRAZIL: Rioters in a Brazilian jail in the southern city of Cascavel have killed four fellow inmates and injured several others in an uprising involving at least 700 prisoners (BBC).



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