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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 16, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Egypt Defends Gaza as Violence Escalates

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi pledged to support (BBC) Gaza against Israeli attacks as fierce fighting escalated for a third day, condemning what he called Israel's "blatant aggression" hours after his prime minister visited Gaza. Cairo recalled its ambassador in protest and dispatched Prime Minister Hesham Kandil to the Palestinian territory Friday in a show of solidarity (Reuters) with Hamas, while Israel indicated it was considering an invasion of Gaza by mobilizing reserve troops (NBC). The latest upsurge in the violence came Wednesday when Israel killed Ahmed Jabari, Hamas's military chief, in an airstrike, and began shelling Gaza, following an upsurge in rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza.


"Faced with an area in which they lack authority and an issue on which there is a consensus of public support − to oppose the military operation in the Gaza Strip would be political suicide – [Netanyahu election opponents] Yacimovich and Lapid have jumped on the Barak-Netanyahu bandwagon. They will ride it out, shouting their enthusiastic support while waiting for the national agenda and the election season to return to the issues they hold dear," writes Yossi Verter for Haaretz.

"Perhaps more importantly it will also answer angry demands from Mr Mursi's own supporters for stronger action against Israel than the country has taken in the past. And that, of course, is a reminder that it is going to be much harder for an Egypt which is democratising to maintain its working relationship with Israel than it was for an authoritarian Egypt where the leaders did not have to worry too much about what their own people thought," writes Kevin Connolly for the BBC.

"Israel's exclusive rights to the term 'self-defence' and institutionalised habit of inverting logic have resulted in the construction of a narrative according to which the fatal bulldozing of American peace activists in Gaza and the murder in international waters of Gaza-bound humanitarian workers armed with construction tools, marbles and a metal pail are excused as defensive manoeuvers," writes Belen Fernandez for Al Jazeera.

"The choice is largely that of Hamas. Its leaders deliberately provoked this conflict, once again treating Gazan civilians as nothing more than useful victims. Israel would prefer to avoid entering Gaza in the ground, and would prefer to end this round of exchanges. So far, it seems Hamas's leaders want to keep it going," writes CFR's Elliott Abrams on his blog Pressure Points.



Barack Obama to Meet China, Japan Premiers

U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Tuesday on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit (AFP) in Cambodia. The visit comes at a time of high tensions between China and Japan, which have been in a public dispute over claims to islands in the East China Sea in recent months.

This CFR Backgrounder outlines the history and role of ASEAN.

JAPAN: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who has been in power since August 2011, dissolved parliament ahead of a general election (JapanTimes) and will face newly elected opposition leader Shinzo Abe in the polls.



Pakistan Unaware of Bin Laden's Location, Assessment Reports

The commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said that a post-raid assessment found no evidence (ExpressTribune) that the Pakistani government knew the whereabouts of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden when he was killed during an operation in May 2011. The Pentagon faced mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers in the aftermath of the raid to seek the level of Pakistan's intelligence on the matter.

This CFR Backgrounder delves into Pakistan's new generation of terrorists.

AFGHANISTAN: The United States and Afghanistan began talks on Thursday (NYT) regarding a security agreement that would authorize an American troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014, when international forces are set to leave the country.



European Nations Discuss Syria Arms Embargo

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said European nations are discussing the option to overturn an arms embargo (AP) on Syria after meeting in London with Moaz al-Khatib, head of the new Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces. The UK has not yet joined France in officially recognizing the opposition group.

There are no easy answers in Syria, says CFR's Ed Husain in this interview.



UN Chief Welcomes New Somali Cabinet

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the swearing-in today of cabinet ministers (UNNS) set forward by Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon and endorsed by the country's parliament. Somalia has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process in recent months, ending nine-year political transition period.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: More than 150 M23 rebels have been killed in fighting (BBC) with government forces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where nearly 500,000 people have fled their homes since April when the rebels mutinied from the army.



Court Overturns Sentences for Croatian Generals

A war crimes court in The Hague overturned the sentences (Bloomberg) of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, two Croatian generals convicted of atrocities against Serbs in 1995, relieving them of their twenty-four- and eighteen-year sentences, respectively. The men were convicted in 2011 over the killing of ethnic Serbs in Operation Storm, which ended the war following Croatia's 1991 independence from Yugoslavia.

FRANCE: France's finance minister Pierre Moscovici seized on better-than-expected economic growth figures to reject concern (FT) that France could become the next focus of the eurozone crisis.



UK, Chile Discuss Cooperation

Chilean president Sebastian Piñera met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron in London on Thursday, pledging increased bilateral trade (MercoPress) between the two countries from the current £1.73 billion and acknowledging their views on the Falkland Islands, a British territory whose sovereignty is disputed by Argentina.

CUBA: Havana offered a draft agenda for U.S.-Cuba negotiations that almost directly offers to swap Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor serving a fifteen-year prison sentence, for five Cuban spies (MiamiHerald).



GOP House Armed Services Committee Members Oppose Defense Cuts

Despite the softer tone of their party leaders, some Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee continue to voice opposition to any defense spending cuts, reports Politico.

According to a new Gallup poll, a majority of Americans are optimistic about the economic prospects of Obama's second term (ABC), although they are much less optimistic about his ability to reduce the deficit or avoid raising "your" taxes.



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