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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 7, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: A Reelected Obama Faces Tough Hurdles

President Barack Obama was reelected to a second term (WashPost), winning a majority of both the electoral vote and the popular vote. In CNN exit polls, 60 percent of voters named the economy as their top issue. The U.S. House will continue to have a Republican majority, while Democrats retained control of the Senate, complicating prospects of reaching a deal on the so-called "fiscal cliff" (Politico). Obama also could face a number of near-term challenges on Iran and Syria (CS). In his acceptance speech last night, the president said he would seek to work with leaders of both parties on reducing the deficit, reforming the tax code, fixing the country's immigration system, and "freeing ourselves from foreign oil."


What faces President Obama next is not "overinflated expectations of partisan, racial and global healing, but granular negotiations over spending cuts and tax increases plus a looming showdown with Iran," writes Peter Baker in the New York Times.

"President Barack Obama's reelection will provide him with little time to celebrate in the face of an array of global problems that include challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program and widening political instability in the Middle East, which is fueling sectarian conflict and chaos from Syria to North Africa. Behind these front-burner problems, Mr. Obama in his second term likely will have to refine U.S. policies toward China, in light of its growing economic might and military power in the Pacific," writes Jay Solomon in the Wall Street Journal.

Foreign Policy asked fourteen top analysts to peer ahead at the longer-term issues confronting the United States, noting that the incoming president faces "a daunting list," including Europe's debt morass, North Korea's nuclear program, sagging U.S. competitiveness, and worsening climate change.

BBC correspondents around the world give their thoughts on what an Obama victory means for nations from Iran to China to Pakistan.



China Party Vows Campaign Against Corruption

China's ruling Communist Party will redouble efforts against corruption (Xinhua) after learning "profound" lessons from the case of former top official Bo Xilai, a party spokesman said Wednesday. The comments came on the eve of the party Congress that will choose new leadership.

JAPAN: The operator of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear plant said Wednesday that the cost of cleaning up the site could double beyond the $63 billion allocated (AP) so far and has appealed for more government financial support.



Thailand and Myanmar Show Support for Dawei Economic Zone

Ministers from Thailand and Myanmar convened in Bangkok to demonstrate their support for the struggling Dawei economic zone (Reuters) in Myanmar. The meeting aimed to find ways to gather greater private sector interest in the initiative.

PAKISTAN: A suicide bomber struck a market in the northwestern city of Peshawar (CNN), killing five others and wounding more than thirty.



Bombings Rock Syrian Capital

At least ten people were killed in two separate bombings in Damascus (BBC). The first struck an area mostly populated by President Bashar al-Assad's minority Alawite sect, while the second hit in a largely Sunni district.

ISRAEL: Israel is preparing to oppose a Palestinian bid (al-Jazeera) for upgraded status at the UN, convening its ambassadors in Vienna this week to discuss a diplomatic course.



Mali Islamists Allow Aid Delivery

Militant Islamist group Ansar Dine agreed to allow humanitarian aid groups into its territory in the northern part of Mali, while vowing to pursue peace talks (BBC) with Mali's government and observe a cease-fire.

SUDAN: President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, reportedly underwent a "small, successful" surgery (Reuters) in Saudi Arabia, Sudanese state media said.



Greece Prepares for New Austerity Vote

Coinciding with a forty-eight-hour general strike that paralyzed Athens on Tuesday, Greece's tenuous coalition government will vote on fresh austerity measures on Wednesday (Guardian). While Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has implored lawmakers to back the $23 billion package in new cuts, some MPs have threatened to vote down the unpopular measures (NYT), which could potentially imperil the country's future in the eurozone.

FRANCE: On Tuesday, the Socialist government of President Fran├žois Hollande announced $25.6 billion worth of proposed tax breaks for businesses (France24) to boost competiveness.



Argentinean President Pressures Media Conglomerate

Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has given media giant Grupo Clarin SA until December 7 to divest itself of certain assets or have them auctioned off by the government, a move that could have implications for free speech (WSJ) in Argentina.

MEXICO: Mexican economist Alejandro Werner (MercoPress) was appointed to be the director of the International Monetary Fund's Western Hemisphere Department, IMF chief Christine Lagarde announced yesterday.



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