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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 29, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Palestinians Set to Win UN Enhanced Status

Palestine is likely to secure indirect UN statehood recognition in a vote on Thursday that would change its UN observer status from an "entity" to a "non-member state," implicitly recognizing (Reuters) the sovereign state of Palestine. The vote could possibly result in Palestinian membership to the International Criminal Court, as well as other UN agencies. The vote is expected to pass easily in the 193-nation General Assembly, although Israel and the United States, which have consistently opposed the resolution, are expected to vote against it. Thousands of Palestinians gathered (AlJazeera) across the West Bank and Gaza to demonstrate support for the fresh attempt after a bid for full UN membership failed last fall when the United States announced it would veto the effort until there was a negotiated peace deal with Israel.


"Some are questioning what Palestine's oft-termed 'UN bid' represents. The enhancement of Palestine's status at the UN is our sovereign right, anchored in the spirit and letter of international law. Self-determination is an inalienable right, enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," writes Nabil Shaath for Haaretz.

"After the United Nations vote, Abbas will presumably return to his West Bank headquarters where the realities will be exactly as he left them: Israel occupies all of Jerusalem and the majority of the West Bank. Nothing that happens in New York will have changed that. The Palestinians will have forfeited their 65-year long moral claim as that of a stateless people. Now, they will have a virtual state, but not one where it counts–on the ground," writes Robert Danin for CFR.

"Regardless of what the Palestinian president achieves on paper at the UN, when the celebrations are over he will have to revise a political strategy that has so far failed to translate the Palestinian dream of statehood into a reality on the ground," writes Barbara Plett for the BBC.



China to Consider Attending U.S. Military Drill

China's Defense Ministry said on Thursday it was considering a U.S. invitation to attend military drills (Reuters) in the Pacific following a visit from the U.S. navy secretary to Beijing. The invitation comes after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged China in September to expand military relations with the United States.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea's top nuclear envoy left for China Thursday for a two-day trip (Yonhap) to discuss North Korea's recent preparation for the launch of a long-range missile.

CFR's Scott Snyder discusses South Korea's launch and North Korea's satellite envy in this blog post.



Myanmar Cracks Down on Protestors

Myanmar on Thursday launched a raid on hundreds of Buddhist monks and villagers protesting the expansion of a Chinese-led copper mine project (NYT) in central Myanmar, marking the largest crackdown on demonstrators since the civilian government of President Thein Sein came to power twenty months ago.

PAKISTAN: Taliban leader Mullah Nazir was injured in a suicide attack (Dawn) that killed six people in South Waziristan on Thursday. The attack appeared to have been an attempt on Nazir's life.



Egypt Anticipates Drafted Constitution

Egypt's assembly, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, says it hopes to vote on a draft of the country's constitution as early as Thursday (BBC). The news comes as the constitutional court said it would rule on Sunday whether to dissolve the assembly, as Egypt's judiciary continues its standoff with President Mohamed Morsi over a decree that grants him sweeping new powers.

CFR's Isobel Coleman delves into the debate over Egypt's draft constitution in this blog post.



DRC Rebels Retreat

A rebel spokesman in the Democratic Republic of Congo said his fighters have retreated (AP) several miles to the town of Sake, and will leave the eastern city of Goma on Friday in accordance with a deadline imposed by the country's neighbors. Sake was taken last week by the M23 rebels right after the fall of Goma, along the Rwandan border.

UGANDA: U.S. spokeswoman for the State Department Victoria Nuland urged Uganda not to pass an anti-homosexuality bill (TheIndependent), which resurfaced this year in February and prescribes life imprisonment to "aggravated homosexuality."



Kosovo Ex-Premier Cleared of War Crimes

Ramush Haradinaj, a former guerrilla fighter in Kosovo and former prime minister, was acquitted of war crimes for a second time on Thursday, clearing the way for his return to mainstream politics. The verdict, following an acquittal two weeks ago of two top Croatian generals, could undermine (TheTelegraph) the EU's efforts to mend ties between Serbia and Kosovo.

PORTUGAL: Portugal's Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said that his country's 2013 austerity budget may pose risks to its economy (FT), but that the government will adhere to the recovery plan agreed to with its international creditors.



Chavez Returns to Cuba for Treatment

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned to Cuba for cancer-linked medical treatment six months after a stay in Havana for a regimen of radiation therapy (LAHT). The Venezuelan leader has stated that he has recovered from his cancer and is in good health.

This CFR Backgrounder explains Chavez's fourth term.

COLOMBIA: Colombia withdrew from a treaty (MercoPress) that binds it to the UN International Court of Justice in retaliation to a ruling that deemed some of its resource-rich waters as Nicaraguan territory.



Engel Likely to Become House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member

American Samoa delegate Eni Faleomavaega, who does not have voting privileges on the House floor because of his delegate status, has given up his bid to become the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The move, together with California Rep. Brad Sherman's withdrawal, leaves New York's Eliot Engel poised to take the spot, reports Politico.

Former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel, co-chair of President Barack Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board, is being vetted for a possible top national security position, reports Foreign Policy. If appointed, Hagel would likely be the only Republican in Obama's second-term cabinet.



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