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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 6, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Egyptian Protests Turn Violent as Crisis Intensifies

At least six people have been killed and more than 700 injured in clashes outside the presidential palace in Cairo after the Egyptian army deployed tanks to the streets (AlJazeera), where supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi fought overnight. The Al-Azhar institution, Egypt's top Islamic body, called on the president to suspend his constitutional decree after four of Morsi's advisers resigned on Wednesday, joining two other members of his seventeen-member advisory panel who have left since the crisis began. The dispute over Morsi's self-declared powers and controversial constitution, rushed through on Saturday by a constituent assembly abandoned by opposition members, threatens to unravel (FT) Egypt's fragile security, economic, and political gains since the president's election last summer.


"Much of the crisis comes from the fact that the opposition parties, the secular opposition, know that they are not going to win an election and probably know that they cannot stop the referendum. The Islamists will win the referendum, if there is a referendum, the constitution is going to be approved. So what we have now is this paradoxical situation, in the name of democracy, in which the secular opposition is trying to prevent any form of voting," says CFR's Marina Ottaway.

"Indeed, many Egyptians believe their country's constitution doesn't have to be perfect. Not right away. Getting the constitution passed may be part of a political end game by President Mohammed Morsi, but it is not the end of the process. It is the beginning of a political and social evolution," writes Ayman Mohyeldin for TIME.

"Critics say the draft was rushed through parliament without proper consultation and does not do enough to protect political and religious freedoms and the rights of women. The government insists that a referendum on the draft constitution, drawn up by a body dominated by Morsi-supporting Islamists, will go ahead this month despite strong opposition," writes John Leyne for the BBC.



China Warns Vietnam About Oil Exploration

China told Vietnam on Thursday to stop unilateral oil exploration (TheStandard) in disputed areas of the South China Sea and to cease the harassment of Chinese fishing boats in the latest territorial rift in the contentious waters. China had blamed Vietnam for expelling Chinese fishing vessels from waters around Hainan, while Vietnam contended its own fishing ships had been sabotaged.

CFR's Josh Kurlantzick re-envisions ASEAN in this blog post.

THAILAND: Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will face murder charges over the death of a taxi driver shot by soldiers (AFP) during the 2010 "Red Shirt" rallies, marking the first charges for deaths during the mass rallies in Bangkok against Vejjajiva's government.



New Pakistan Taliban Chief

Pakistan's Taliban is preparing for a leadership change (Reuters) that could mean less violence against the state but more attacks against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. Hakimullah Mehsud, a commander who led the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan for the last three years, will likely be replaced by a more moderate deputy leader, Wali-ur-Rehman.

SRI LANKA: Pro-Tamil protestors demonstrated in Jaffna (ColomboPage) against the crackdown on Tamil students of Jaffna University last Wednesday, calling for the release of four arrested undergraduates.



Kuwait Reappoints Prime Minister

Kuwait's emir reappointed Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah as prime minister after the opposition boycotted a Saturday parliamentary election (KuwaitTimes) in protest of electoral law amendments made by the emir in October. The formation of the new government comes amid heightened tension as youth activists staged street protests.



Ghana Presidential Campaigns Come to a Close

Ghana President John Dramani Mahama spoke at a last rally in Accra to wrap up campaign activities (AEP) ahead of the polls on Friday as Mahama faces top opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), as well as six others in a tight race.

SOMALIA: Islamist extremists killed twelve soldiers (AP) in an attack on an army post in northeastern Somalia in one of the deadliest offenses in recent months by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the history and operations of al-Shabaab.



Berlusconi Withdraws Support for Monti

Silvio Berlusconi's center-right party withdrew its support for Mario Monti's ruling technocrats in a senate vote on a key economic reform bill (FT), stepping toward a potential fall of the government and snap elections. The crisis has spawned from a power struggle within Berlusconi's party, which is divided over its leadership and platform.

GERMANY: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "agreed to disagree" on Israel's settlement push (DeutscheWelle) in the West Bank during talks in Berlin.



Argentina Files WTO Complaints

Argentina has filed complaints with the World Trade Organization against the United States over limits on beef and lemon shipments (MercoPress), and against the European Union and Spain for curbs on biodiesel after what it says have been unsuccessful bilateral talks to break protectionist measures.

COLOMBIA: The Colombian government and FARC rebels have resumed peace talks (BBC) in Cuba after a week's break, despite continued military attacks by government forces on FARC camps.



Pentagon Begins Fiscal Cliff Preparations

The Pentagon started preparing this week for defense cuts that would eliminate nearly 10 percent of its budget if there is no fiscal cliff deal by the end of the year, reports the Associated Press.

In remarks to the Business Roundtable Wednesday, President Obama cautioned the GOP against using the issue of the debt ceiling to gain leverage in the fiscal cliff negotiations, saying, "It is not a game that I will play" (ABC). Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) responded by saying that he will not vote for a debt ceiling increase (TPM) unless there are "real structural reforms" to entitlements.



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