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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 26, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Egypt Faces Crisis as Morsi Meets With Judges

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is set to meet senior judges on Monday in an attempt to ease a mounting crisis (BBC) over a package of decrees announced Thursday that grants him sweeping powers and places him above court oversight. The decree sparked violent protests nationwide as activists camped in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a third day on Sunday (AlJazeera), blocking traffic with barricades to protest what they said was a power grab by Morsi. Several prominent opposition leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, have said they will not engage in dialogue with the president until he rescinds the measure.


"The transition was already in crisis: most non-Islamist forces had withdrawn from the panel writing the constitution, and some were hoping that it would be dissolved by the constitutional court which was to rule in early December. Mr Morsi's decisions gave the panel two more months to complete its work, as liberals had demanded; but it also protected an assembly dominated by Islamist forces," writes Roula Khalaf for the Financial Times.

"A full-blown retraction of the decree might be seen as an unbearable blow to Morsi's credibility, but he may be persuaded to scale back some of its more problematic provisions. Much also depends on whether protesters are willing to back down from their bottom-line demand -- Morsi's removal -- and settle for a more realistic compromise," writes Mara Revkin for Foreign Policy.

"[T]here is an accusation that the underlying aim is to enable the constitutional assembly - currently dominated by Islamists - to write an Islamist constitution for Egypt. That is why President Mursi's move has produced such bitter, and potentially dangerous, divisions in the country," writes Jon Leyne for the BBC.



Vietnam Rejects New Chinese Passports

Vietnam's passport control offices are refusing to stamp visa pages (VOA) in new Chinese passports that contain a map showing islands in the South China Sea as part of Chinese territory, issuing instead separate visa sheets. Vietnam and four other governments have claims to territories like the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea region.

AUSTRALIA: Australia's defense minister Stephen Smith apologized to military personnel who were sexually abused or mistreated during their service (AP), launching an inquiry into hundreds of allegations of abuse over six decades.



Bangladesh Fire Kills More Than 100

A fire that swept through a garment factory near Bangladesh's capital of Dhaka killed at least 117 people (CNN), marking the latest in a series of deadly incidents in Bangladeshi clothing factories in recent years. Garment workers have also clashed with police in recent months over better working conditions.

AFGHANISTAN: The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration wants to keep around 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after formal combat ends in 2014, cementing a limited, long-term American military presence in the country if Kabul agrees.

CFR's Max Boot examines the U.S. role in Afghanistan in this interview.



Israeli Defense Minister Announces Retirement

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former military chief of staff who served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001, announced Monday that he will retire from political life (Haaretz) and will not run in the upcoming Israeli elections. The resignation could mark the departure of a moderating influence in Israeli politics.



DR Congo Will Not Negotiate With Rebels

The Democratic Republic of Congo said on Sunday it would not negotiate with M23 rebels until they pulled out of Goma (Reuters), but a rebel spokesman said Kinshasa was in no position to set conditions on peace talks. The announcement came after Congolese President Joseph Kabila met with M23 for the first time on Saturday, giving the rebels two days to leave the city.

NIGERIA: Gunmen have attacked a Nigerian police base in Abuja, where Boko Haram Islamist militants are often held (BBC), a day after a double suicide bombing killed eleven people in a church inside military barracks north of the capital.

This CFR Backgrounder explains Boko Haram.



Catalan Separatists Gain Ground

Political parties favoring Catalan independence in northern Spain won a majority in the regional parliament in a vote that saw more radical pro-independence parties gaining ground (FT). Esquerra Republicana, a left-wing separatist group, became the second-largest party in the Catalan parliament for the first time.

EUROZONE: Finance ministers are making a third attempt (AP) to agree on a deal over Greece's debts at a meeting in Brussels today after the group failed twice in the last two weeks to reach an agreement for the release of some $56.8 billion for the cash-strapped country.

CFR's Sebastian Mallaby discusses the acrimony over the new EU budget in this interview.



Brazil's Rousseff Sacks Top Government Officials

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff fired top officials after police raided government offices and arrested six people for running an influence-peddling ring that sold government approvals to businessmen in return for bribes (MercoPress). The scandal emerges on the heels of Brazil's biggest political corruption trial that saw some of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's closest aides sent to prison.

CANADA: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged Mahmoud Abbas to drop the Palestinian Authority's bid (Globe&Mail) for upgraded status at the United Nations in a September sideline meeting in New York.



Filibuster Rule Changes Could Cause Senate Gridlock

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's proposed changes to filibuster rules could provoke a Republican backlash and effectively shut down the Senate, reports Politico. The proposed changes come amid a filibuster threat from Republican Sen. John McCain on UN Ambassador Susan Rice's potential nomination as secretary of state (NationalReview).

In a softening of their positions, Sens. McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), two of the most vocal opponents of a Rice nomination, indicated that they now "want to hear her out" on her role in the events following the attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya in September (TPM).



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