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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 3, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Egypt's Judges Boycott Morsi Referendum

Judges in Egypt have refused to oversee a vote (AlJazeera) on the country's new draft constitution that will be held in two weeks as tensions heighten between Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court and supporters of President Mohammed Morsi. Several hundred Morsi supporters protested (Guardian) outside the court on Sunday ahead of a session expected to examine the legality of parliament's upper house and the assembly that drafted a new constitution. The incidents cast a legal shadow over Morsi's efforts to navigate a crisis sparked by a November 22 decree that expanded his powers and led to nationwide protests against him and his Muslim Brotherhood group.


"There is no doubt that the constitutional court's original annulment of the whole of the Islamist-dominated parliament – when the objections were to only one portion of the seats – suited the supreme military council's purposes. And there was nothing to assume the court would not have annulled the constituent assembly that was appointed by that parliament, rendering the draft invalid as well," writes a Guardian editorial.

"To be fair to Mr Morsi, there is still an unresolved power struggle in Egypt. The army and security services, the backbone of the Mubarak regime, are, for now, quiescent – and no doubt rubbing their hands. But there are still no clear lines between the executive, legislature and judiciary. Liberals and the left need to get organised politically beyond their impressive ability to fill public squares," writes a Financial Times editorial.

"Judging by the results of the last parliamentary election, Islamists are possibly in a minority in Egypt, certainly not an overwhelming majority. However, they are much better organised than the liberals, and may be better at getting their supporters to the polls," writes Jon Leyne for the BBC.



North Korean Missile on Launch Pad

North Korea has placed the first stage of its long-range rocket on a launch pad in the latest indication (Yonhap) that Pyongyang will follow its plan to fire the rocket this month in defiance of international warnings. Russia and China on Monday urged North Korea to halt its launch.

CHINA: Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng issued a taped statement from exile urging Communist Party chief and president-in-waiting Xi Jinping to effect political reform (AP) or risk a violent political transition.

This CFR Backgrounder explains China's Communist Party.



Taliban Hits U.S.-Afghan Air Base

Suicide bombers attacked a major U.S.-Afghan air base in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday, sparking a firefight with Afghan and NATO forces inside and killing nine (WashPost). It marks the third high-profile suicide attack by the Taliban this past month as the departure of NATO troops looms and bilateral talks with the United States on its long-term military role in Afghanistan advance.

INDIA: Fitch Ratings cut India's economic growth forecast on Monday, saying the country's recent economic reforms (WSJ) will need time to show results, and that implementation will face political challenges.



Europe to Act on Israeli Settlement Plans

Britain, joining France, is considering "severe actions" (Haaretz) in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to push forward on settlement construction in East Jerusalem, including a possible recall of its ambassadors and suspension of EU-Israel trade agreements.



Boko Haram Suspected in Nigerian Violence

Suspected Islamist fighters of Boko Haram killed ten Christians in an attack in northeast Nigeria before targeting government buildings and churches near the border with Cameroon, killing five policemen. Boko Haram, which human rights groups say has killed more than 3,000 people since 2010, is fighting to overthrow the government and impose an extreme form of Sharia law (BBC).

This CFR Backgrounder outlines the evolution of Boko Haram.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: M23 rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo said they will retake the city of Goma (AlJazeera) if the government does not agree to negotiations by Monday. The group completed its withdrawal from the city on Saturday.



Putin to Visit Turkey Over Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin heads to Turkey on Monday for a one-day trip, focused on trade, which could be overshadowed by the countries' widening rift over Syria (Bloomberg). Tensions have escalated since Putin postponed a trip to Turkey in October on the same day that a Turkish jet grounded a Syrian airplane flying from Moscow.

SLOVENIA: Former center-left prime minister Borut Pahor was elected to the Slovenian presidency (Reuters) on Sunday against a backdrop of rising unrest in the recession-hit eurozone state.



FARC Rebels Killed in Colombia

The Colombian military launched bombing strikes against FARC rebel camps near the border with Ecuador, killing at least twenty FARC rebels (AFP). The strike came as Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday gave FARC leaders less than a year to reach a negotiated end the insurgency.

MEXICO: Roughly 100 people were injured and nearly 100 others arrested in clashes in Mexico City between police and protesters retaliating against Saturday's inauguration (LAHT) of new President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Mexico's former foreign minister Jorge Castañeda and CFR's Shannon O'Neil discuss Nieto and U.S.-Mexico relations on this media conference call.



Obama to Announce Cabinet Nominations Soon, Officials Say

President Obama could announce his cabinet choices (AP) as soon as next week, much earlier than expected, according to senior administration officials. His defense secretary and secretary of state nominations, as well as his choice of a new CIA leader, will be watched worldwide as a "signal of how he will pursue national security in a second term," reports the Associated Press.

The post-election bipartisan push to accomplish immigration reform has hit a snag already, with some Republicans advocating piecemeal legislation and some agreeing with Democrats that a comprehensive bill is the way to go, reports Politico.



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