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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 7, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Global Powers Agree to Iran Talks

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany agreed to resume talks with Iran over its nuclear program (NYT), EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday. Ashton's announcement came in response to an Iranian offer last month to restart nuclear negotiations, amid rising tensions between the West and Tehran. The United States and the EU, both of which contend Iran's nuclear program is intended for manufacturing weapons, have imposed strict economic sanctions on the country. The decision to press forward with diplomacy came as U.S. President Barack Obama urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off from carrying out a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.


"In the context of improving global growth, removing too much Iranian oil from the world's energy supply could cause an oil price rise that would halt the recovery even as it does some economic damage to Iran. For perhaps the first time, sanctions have the potential to be 'too successful,' hurting the sanctioners as much as the sanctioned," write Ian Bremmer and Clifford Kupchan for the Financial Times.

"The dispute with Israel is chiefly over timing and when, exactly, Iran will be deemed to have crossed the red line: is the crucial moment when Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear weapon or when it has actually done so? The danger is that this public negotiation unleashes a dynamic of its own," writes the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland.

"Every Israeli and friend of Israel should be thankful to the president for framing the Iran issue this way. It is important strategically for Israel, because it makes clear that dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat was not Israel's problem alone. And it is important politically, because this decision about whether to attack Iran is coinciding with the U.S. election," writes the New York Times' Thomas Friedman.



South Korea Threatens Retaliation

South Korea would launch a forceful retaliation against North Korea in the event of an anticipated military provocation (Yonhap), South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said in a visit to Yeonpyeong Island, the site of a deadly North Korean artillery attack in 2010.

This CFR Crisis Guide provides an interactive multimedia overview of the dispute between North and South Korea.

CHINA: A senior official in Sichuan province said that the "Dalai Lama clique" would not halt development (BBC) in China's southwestern Tibetan-populated regions, during a week in which three Tibetans were killed in self-immolation protests against Beijing.



British Soldiers Missing in Afghanistan

A bomb explosion hit an armored vehicle carrying six British soldiers (Guardian) in Afghanistan's southwest Helmand province. The soldiers were reported missing, and are believed to be dead.

INDIA: Police arrested an Indian journalist (AP) who was allegedly in contact with a suspect believed to have attached a car bomb to an Israeli diplomat's car in New Delhi last month. The subsequent explosion wounded the diplomat's wife and her driver.



UN Humanitarian Chief Arrives in Damascus

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos arrived in Damascus for two days of talks with Syrian government officials, aimed at persuading them to "allow unhindered access for humanitarian relief workers" (al-Jazeera) to civilian areas devastated by the military in their deadly crackdown on opposition forces.



South African Workers in National Strike

Tens of thousands of South Africans participated in a national strike today called by the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (Reuters), bringing much of the mining industry to a standstill. The strike also signaled COSATU's continued political clout ahead of party elections for the ruling African National Congress later this year.

SEYCHELLES: The U.S. Navy transferred fifteen suspected Somali pirates (NYT) from their custody in Djibouti to the island nation of Seychelles for trial. The Navy had captured the pirates after rescuing a hijacked Iranian fishing vessel in January.



Putin Dismisses Allegations of Protesters

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, elected on Sunday to once again serve as the country's president, dismissed the opposition's allegations of electoral fraud as political tactics (WSJ), while cracking down more forcefully on anti-government protesters.

On the eve of the Russian elections, journalist Masha Gessen and CFR's Stephen Sestanovich discussed Putin's anticipated post-election strategy in this CFR Video.

FRANCE: President Nicolas Sarkozy said there are "too many immigrants in France" (Telegraph) as he sought to court the far-right vote in his bid for reelection against Socialist candidate Fran├žois Hollande.



Brazil's Economy Overtakes Britain's

Brazil's economy grew 2.7 percent last year, surpassing the UK as the sixth-largest economy (BBC) in the world, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said.

CUBA: Prominent New York Rabbi Arthur Schneier visited Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen serving a fifteen-year sentence (CBS) in a Havana prison for allegedly working with a U.S.-funded democracy-building initiative in Cuba.

Under President Raul Castro, Cuba has begun economic and political reforms while bolstering ties with Brazil and the Vatican. But Washington has failed to seize on opportunities for expanding relations, says CFR's Julia E. Sweig in this CFR Interview.



Exit Polls Show Voters' Concern About the Economy

Exit polls from Super Tuesday show the economy is the biggest issue on voters' minds with the election a little more than seven months away. In general election battleground states such as Virginia and Ohio, where GOP candidate Mitt Romney won last night, about half of voters polled by CNN said the economy it was their biggest concern. The New York Times' polling found similar results in four states--Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, and Massachusetts.

In a speech last night, Romney said jobs would be his highest priority (WashPost) and his economic plan would "deliver more jobs, less debt, and smaller government." A new paper from the Brookings Institution looking at what the president should do about the economy after the election in 2013 says that if the economy remains weak, more stimulus for jobs and the housing market will be needed.

Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.



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