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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 12, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: U.S. Ambassador to Libya Killed in Attack

An attack by an armed mob on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi (NYT) last night killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff, U.S. and Libyan officials said today. The mob was apparently responding to a U.S.-made video that was critical of Islam, prompting a similar attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Stevens, appointed to his post earlier this year, had served as an envoy to the Libyan rebels who overthrew longtime leader Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011. In a statement, President Barack Obama praised Stevens for having "supporting Libya's transition to democracy."


"It is a tragic irony that the U.S. diplomat who had done so much to free Benghazi from the grip of a dictator that it despised would die at the hands of that city's residents only months later, in a spasm of religion-fueled hatred," writes David Kenner for

"Some [protesters] seemed to be under the impression that the video was being widely broadcast on multiple American television channels--when in truth most Americans probably never heard of this video until the embassy was attacked. This was essentially a case of an American group of fringe Christian fundamentalists successfully provoking and enraging a similar group of fringe Muslim fundamentalists," writes TIME's Ashraf Khalil.

"The movie, like Terry Jones himself and his earlier Koran-burning stunt, have received attention far beyond their reach, which would be modest if not for obsessively outraged media. And yet, here the movie is, not just offending apparently significant numbers of people, but producing real-world damage," writes the Atlantic's Max Fisher.



U.S. Urges Calm in Japan, China Islands Dispute

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell yesterday called for "cooler heads to prevail" (Reuters) in an escalating spat between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea. The Japanese government bought the islands from a private owner this week, prompting China to deploy two patrol ships to the surrounding waters.

CHINA: Court-appointed bailiffs yesterday evicted the remaining protesters at the Occupy Hong Kong site (WSJ) at HSBC bank's headquarters, which began eleven months ago in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York.



Fires at Pakistani Factories Kill More Than 300

Fires broke out at factories in Karachi and Lahore yesterday, leaving at least 314 people dead (AP). Firefighters continued Wednesday to battle the deadlier fire in Karachi, which is already being labeled one of the worst industrial accidents in Pakistan's history.

INDIA: A Mumbai court today granted bail to political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi (TimesofIndia), who was arrested and jailed on sedition charges for drawings that mocked Indian government corruption.



Israel's Netanyahu Criticizes Obama Over Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday faulted the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama for not specifying at what point Iran's nuclear program (NYT)--which the West and Israel allege is for manufacturing nuclear weapons--would trigger a U.S. military strike, saying it "did not have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."



Mining Strikes Spread in South Africa

Ongoing strikes at South Africa's mines--triggered last month when police shot dead thirty-four protesting workers at the Marikana platinum mine--today spread to the world's top platinum producer (Reuters), Anglo American Platinum, sending the price of platinum up by 1.5 percent.

CFR's John Campbell discusses the impact of the mining unrest on South Africa's ruling African National Congress on his blog, Africa in Transition.

KENYA: Ongoing clashes over land and water between two ethnic communities in Kenya's coastal region left four more people dead yesterday, as Prime Minister Raila Odinga vowed "decisive action" (WSJ). Weeks of revenge attacks between the two groups have killed 116 people.



German High Court Approves Bailout Fund

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court today approved the country's ratification of the permanent euro rescue fund, paving the way for the seventeen-nation eurozone to establish the European Stability Mechanism (DerSpiegel) and implement an EU fiscal compact.

NETHERLANDS: Dutch voters are going to the polls today (BBC) to select a new prime minister amid concerns over the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis. It is expected to be a close race between the center-right Liberal party's Mark Rutte, the current prime minister, and the center-left Labor party's Diederik Samsom.

The eurozone, once seen as a crowning achievement in the decades-long path of European integration, is buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed, explains this CFR Backgrounder.



U.S. Identifies Guantanamo Detainee

The U.S. military yesterday publicly identified Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif (NYT) as the detainee who died at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay this past weekend. Latif, among the first detainees to be taken to the prison, was captured along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2001.

MEXICO: The government yesterday extradited Jesus Rejon, one of the founders of the Zetas drug cartel (Telegraph), to the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Since 2006, the Mexican government has been in embroiled in a bloody drug war, which has failed to significantly curb trafficking, explains this CFR Backgrounder.



Romney Discusses Afghanistan Plans

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney discussed his plans for Afghanistan in a speech at the National Guard Convention Monday that some say "drew only subtle contrasts with the president's foreign policy" (WashPost) and mainly "echoed the current U.S. policy" (Politico).

Foreign Policy's Uri Friedman questions whether President Barack Obama would be doing well with voters if he had not ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.



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