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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 22, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Violence Flares in Lebanon

Lebanese troops and gunmen exchanged fire (WashPost) in Beirut's southern suburbs on Monday in an escalation of sectarian tensions after the Friday assassination of Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, a Sunni intelligence chief vocally opposed to the Syrian leadership and Lebanese ally Hezbollah. Thousands attended Hassan's state funeral on Sunday in Beirut, where the event became a political rally against both Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Syria, which opposition politicians blame for the assassination. At least three people were killed overnight (AlJazeera) in the northern city of Tripoli, where residents on either side of the Syrian conflict have clashed. Mikati's offer to resign on Saturday was rejected by President Michel Suleiman, who said it was in the national interest (BBC) for him to stay on.


"If the goal [of the bombing] was to divert attention from the events in Syria, then people should remember this well and head off any attempt to take Lebanon further into tension and civil strife. The leaders of all major political parties and movements must act decisively to clamp down on any possibility that even more violence will result," writes a Daily Star editorial.

"It is not easy for either Turkey's or Lebanon's opposition to confront the Syrian provocations. But, as western governments are advising them, their interests lie in not overreacting and in preventing Damascus from drawing them closer into its mess. As the neighbours are discovering, a desperate Mr Assad is also a more dangerous enemy, to his own people and to the region," writes Roula Khalaf in the Financial Times.



Chinese Leftists Defend Bo Xilai

A group of Chinese leftists issued a public letter, signed by more than 300 academics and former officials, calling on the parliament's standing committee not to expel (Reuters) disgraced former top leader Bo Xilai from its ranks.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korean police blocked a group of North Korean defectors on Monday from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border (Yonhap).

CFR's Scott Snyder discusses North Korea's next provocation in this blog post.



UK High Commissioner Visits Gujarat Chief

James Bevan, the UK's high commissioner in India, met Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat state, ending a ten-year boycott (BBC) of the leader since his alleged complicity in the 2002 communal riots against Muslims, in which hundreds were killed by Hindu nationalists.

MYANMAR: Glyn Davies, the U.S. envoy for the North Korean nuclear dispute, affirmed on Monday the United States' belief that Myanmar is on the right track (Reuters) toward giving up its remaining military ties with North Korea.

This blog post from CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick delves into North Korea-Myanmar ties.



Jordanian Soldier Killed at Syrian Border

A Jordanian soldier was killed on Monday during a shootout with militants attempting to cross the border to join Syrian rebels, marking the first Jordanian fatality (AP) linked to the current crisis.



Nigeria's Potiskum Attacked

More than thirty people were killed in the northeastern Nigerian town of Potiskum since Friday as violence continued (DailyTrust) between Nigerian security forces and Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which is fighting to overthrow the government.

SOMALIA: German soldiers are participating in a European Union mission (DerSpiegel) in Uganda to train Somali soldiers in an effort to combat militant violence in the horn of Africa.



Russian Forces Kill Forty-Nine Rebels in North Caucasus

Russia's security services killed forty-nine rebels and captured dozens in a counterterrorism offensive in the North Caucasus region, where rebels aim to establish an Islamic state (NYT). The southern city of Sochi, bordering the turbulent region, will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

SPAIN: Spain's governing Popular Party retained control of Galicia (FT) in local elections, giving Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy some breathing room as he advances unpopular austerity measures.



Fidel Castro Makes First Public Appearance in Months

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro met with former vice president of Venezuela Elias Jaua in Havana, in his first public appearance (LAHT) in months after rumors about his possible death circulated.

HAITI: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to northern Haiti on Monday, where she and former president Bill Clinton will inaugurate a new $300 million industrial park (MiamiHerald) in an effort to create jobs.

UNITED STATES: The International Cycling Union stripped Lance Armstrong of all seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life on the heels of a damning report from U.S. officials that concluded he cheated throughout his career.



Candidates to Debate Foreign Policy Tonight

President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney will meet for their third and final debate tonight, which will focus on foreign policy topics (NYT).

Citing unnamed Obama administration officials, the New York Times reported Saturday that Iran and the United States had agreed "in principle" to bilateral negotiations over Iran's nuclear program after the election. Both countries denied that any deal has been reached (AFP), but advisers for the Obama and Romney campaigns clashed over the issue (LAT) on Sunday talk shows, and it is also likely to arise in tonight's debate.



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