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April 19, 2017

Daily News Brief

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U.S. to Review Iran Nuclear Agreement

The White House notified Congress that Iran is complying with its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama. At the same time, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told House Speaker Paul Ryan that the administration will conduct a review of U.S. sanctions relief. Tillerson called Iran "a leading state sponsor of terror" (Bloomberg) and said the administration will review whether the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Guardian), is "vital" to national security. The announcement comes one day after Iran and the European Union signed a $2.7 billion nuclear safety project (EU) to boost the Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority.


"Tougher U.S. sanctions would make for a tougher reelection fight for President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who championed the 2015 nuclear deal but is under pressure to show Iranians a notable improvement in the economy. And a harder line on sanctions also could drive a wedge between Washington and its European allies," Dan De Luce writes for Foreign Policy.

"Without addressing the broader political antagonism that pits Iran against its neighbors and the West, the agreement at best will remain fragile and its implementation halting, but without full implementation, resolving the underlying political antagonism is likely impossible. Trump could seize on this dilemma to strike a better bargain," Ali Vaez writes for Foreign Affairs.

"Trade between the EU and Iran has risen by a staggering 63% over the first three quarters of last year. After more than 30 years of a diplomatic ice age, the EU and Iran are also discussing cooperation on matters as diverse as the economy, protection of the environment, migration, and culture—and the list could continue," EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini writes in the Guardian.


U.S. Aircraft Carrier Was Not Heading Toward North Korea

A U.S. flotilla was sailing not toward North Korea (NYT) but in the opposite direction when President Donald J. Trump said last week that the United States was "sending an armada" in reference to North Korean threats. A Pentagon spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the aircraft carrier is now moving north toward the Korean peninsula.

A CFR task force argued that the new U.S. administration should prioritize Chinese policy toward North Korea.

INDONESIA: Conservative Muslim candidate Anies Baswedan is projected to beat incumbent Christian Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in Jakarta's runoff election Wednesday (WSJ).


Casualties in Afghanistan Bombing Identified

The U.S. bombing of a cave network allegedly used by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Afghanistan killed ninety-six suspected militants (RFE/RL) from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, among other countries, according to an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman.

INDIA: India's top court ordered four senior members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to stand trial over a 1992 attack on a historic mosque (BBC) and subsequent rioting that left nearly two thousand people dead. Investigators accuse the leaders of making inflammatory speeches to incite violence (AP)


Mattis Visits Riyadh on Regional Tour

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Saudi Arabia for his first stop on a five-country tour that will also bring him to Djibouti, Egypt, Israel, and Qatar (WSJ). Mattis is expected to discuss a political settlement of the war in Yemen.

CFR's Micah Zenko calls the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed intervention in Yemen a "shameful war" in Foreign Policy.


UN Staff Taken By Refugees in DRC Released

Sixteen UN staff members taken hostage on Tuesday by unarmed South Sudanese refugees at a camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo were released unharmed (Al Jazeera). The refugees were demanding to be moved to another country (Reuters).

ETHIOPIA: The state-affiliated Human Rights Commission reported that 669 people, including sixty-three police officers, died in antigovernment protests that began in late 2015 (BBC). The report blames the Oromia Media Network, a news organization, for inciting violence.


Italian Antiestablishment Party Presents Foreign Policy Agenda

The Five Star Movement presented a foreign policy platform (EUobserver) that includes removing U.S. nuclear weapons from Italy, pulling out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, dropping sanctions against Russia, and recognizing Palestinian statehood. General elections are scheduled for early 2018.

TURKEY: Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said debate over fraud in the recent Turkish referendum on boosting presidential powers is "over." The statement followed the European Council's call to investigate vote manipulation, which may involve as many as 2.5 million ballots (VOA).

CFR's Steven A. Cook says the outcome of Turkey's constitutional referendum will lead to further destabilization in Foreign Policy.


Maduro to Seek Expanding Civilian Militias

President Nicolas Maduro said he will seek to expand the country's civilian militias (WaPo) to half a million members. The announcement came ahead of demonstrations scheduled for Wednesday, which Venezuela's opposition is calling "the mother of all marches" (VOA).

CFR's Matthew Taylor discusses the international response to Venezuela's political crisis.

MEXICO: Mexico rose one place in A.T. Kearney's foreign direct investment confidence index (WSJ) for 2017, reflecting decreased concerns over possible trade renegotiations with the United States.

CFR's Shannon K. O'Neil discusses Mexico's strategy with the United States during the Trump presidency.


Russian Bombers Fly Near Alaska

The U.S. Air Force scrambled jets to intercept two Russian bombers (NYT) that flew about a hundred miles off the coast of Alaska Monday night. The jets flew alongside the bombers for several minutes until they turned to return to their Russian base.


IMF Boosts Global Growth Forecast

The International Monetary Fund raised slightly its prediction for global economic growth (WSJ) in 2017 to 3.5 percent, which would be the fastest in five years.