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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 5, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Morsi Returns to Palace as Confrontation Looms

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi returned to his palace on Wednesday to camped out protestors as the Muslim Brotherhood called for a supporting rally (AlJazeera), escalating tensions surrounding the president's controversial push to ratify a new constitution in a snap referendum set for December 15 (Reuters). Morsi had left the palace in northern Cairo on Tuesday evening after tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounded it, clashing with police. The president has said he will give up his new powers, which he expanded via decree in November, once Egypt ratifies the new constitution.


"This would be an enormous lost opportunity for Egypt. While the poorly organized opposition, having lost repeatedly at the polls, is showing clear signs of obstructionism, the fact is that the constitution falls down on several critical issues, namely the protection of women's rights, religious freedom, and freedom of the press," writes CFR's Isobel Coleman.

"Far earlier than claiming legislative powers for himself, Morsi attempted to reinstate the elected parliament, only to be overruled by the Supreme Constitutional Court. Moreover, the timing of the recent move coincided with the expectation that the high court was to dissolve the upper chamber of parliament, along with the Constituent Assembly, placing immense pressure on Morsi to unilaterally appoint a new committee to write Egypt's constitution," writes Abdullah Al-Arian for Al Jazeera.

"Morsi's miscalculation -- which both he and the Brotherhood later compounded -- was to think that everyone understood the results of the Egyptian elections the way the Brothers did. In other words, that they gave him and his party a mandate to rule with little regard for those who might disagree," writes CFR's Steve Cook for Foreign Affairs.



China Begins Crackdown on Corruption

China's anti-corruption body opened an investigation (NYT) on a deputy party secretary of Sichuan Province, making him the first senior official to be targeted by the commission since new leadership took power three weeks ago. Xi Jinping, the new general secretary, is pushing an anti-corruption campaign.

This CFR Backgrounder outlines China's power handover.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea's presidential candidates clashed over policies (Yonhap) on political reform, inter-Korean relations, and foreign policy in the first televised debate two weeks before voters hit the polls.

PHILIPPINES: A typhoon that hit the southern Philippines has killed more than 280 people (AP) after hitting Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. More than 170,000 fled to evacuation centers.



U.S. Pledges Defense Spending for Pakistan

The United States agreed on Tuesday at a Pakistan-U.S. defense summit to help fund Pakistan's defense needs (Dawn) in the fight against militants, although it was not clear what military hardware would be provided. The statement came after Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met for talks in Brussels on Monday.

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

AFGHANISTAN: The British defense secretary has been asked to launch an inquiry (Guardian) into claims that British forces killed four teenagers in a counter-insurgency operation in Afghanistan.



Israel Advances Settlement Plans

Israel will push ahead with plans (Haaretz) to construct 3,400 new homes in East Jerusalem as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Berlin, where he is expected to face heat over the country's contentious construction plans. Various European countries have summoned Israeli ambassadors to express condemnation of Netanyahu's decision.



Mali Holds Talks With Rebel Groups

Mali officials held their first direct talks (BBC) on Tuesday with Islamist rebel groups and Tuareg nationalists, resulting in Tuareg rebels confirming they were renouncing hopes for an independent state in the north. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon backed a one-year deployment last week after the West African group Ecowas pledged 3,300 troops to reclaim rebel-held territory.

This CFR Backgrounder discusses Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

TUNISIA: Supporters of Tunisia's ruling Islamist party on Tuesday attacked a demonstration (AFP) by the country's main labor union in the latest unrest two years after the revolution.



Serbian NATO Envoy Jumps to Death

Branislav Milinkovic, Serbia's ambassador to NATO, committed suicide Tuesday by jumping from a parking garage (Reuters) at the Brussels airport during a conference of NATO foreign ministers. Milinkovic was appointed ambassador to the group in 2009, but had been in Brussels since 2004 as an envoy from the now defunct state of Serbia and Montenegro.

GERMANY: German Chancellor Angela Merkel was soundly reelected leader (FT) of the center-right Christian Democratic Union on Tuesday with 97.9 percent of the vote. She will lead the party in next year's general election.



Assad Could Seek Asylum in Latin America

Syria's deputy foreign minister held meetings in Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador this past week and brought classified personal letters from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to local leaders, signaling the possibility that Assad could seek refuge (Albawaba) in Latin America if forced to flee. Venezuela's foreign ministry confirmed that President Hugo Chavez received a letter.

CUBA: Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez will head to Brazil (ElUniversal) for the Mercosur trade bloc meeting later this week despite undergoing cancer-related medical treatment in Cuba.



Senate Defense Bill Passes 98-0; Obama Threatens Veto

The Senate passed a defense bill Tuesday with a vote of 98 to 0, but President Obama has already threatened to veto it (WashingtonTimes) over a restriction it imposes on his ability to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay. The Senate bill will have to be reconciled with the House version before it is sent to the president.

President Obama dismissed the GOP fiscal cliff offer (Politico) because it does not include significant income tax increases, but conservative Republicans already object to the $800 billion in new tax revenue that was a part of the offer. Tensions within the party are increasing over what Sen. Jim DeMint has labeled "the Boehner tax hike."



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