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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 11, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: New Instability Threats in Mali

Mali Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra resigned from office (BBC) on Tuesday hours after being arrested by soldiers who were behind a military coup in March, further complicating international efforts to organize a military intervention to take back Mali's Islamist-dominated north. West African leaders have signed off on a plan (Reuters) to send 3,300 soldiers to the country to support operations, and while international powers like France are keen to back military action, the United States and the United Nations have expressed concern, saying the plan lacks necessary detail for a complex operation.


"No doubt there is a hard core of international jihadis in the Sahara. But many players have an interest in exaggerating their threat. For rebels such as Iyad ag Ghali it gives more leverage at the bargaining table. For regional governments it is an easy way of getting the U.S. to pay attention — and pay dollars to train and equip their soldiers. Better still, the international community may finance their peacekeepers," writes Alex de Waal for the New York Times.

"Cheick Modibo Diarra had put himself in a dangerous position in recent weeks. He had lost popular support—if he ever had it—as well as the backing of most of the political class and, more importantly, the High Islamic Council, a key player in this crisis," writes Thomas Fessy for the BBC.

"Junta soldiers critical of Bamako's allegedly weak response to a Tuareg rebellion in the country's north led a coup last March, but later yielded to international pressure and ceded power to civilians. Originally considered to have close links to the military, Diarra has overseen a tumultuous time in which al Qaida-linked militants have usurped the northern rebellion and overrun the northern half of the country," writes France24.



China to Outpace U.S. as Top Economy

China will surpass the United States as the largest economy in the 2020s (AFP), according to the National Intelligence Council in its first assessment in four years, adding that the United States will likely be the "first among equals," rather than a lone superpower, by 2030.

CFR's Elizabeth C. Economy lays out Xi Jinping's three steps to a clean China in this blog post.

NORTH KOREA: North Korea removed its long-range rocket (Yonhap) from the launch pad to fix technical problems that forced the extension of its launch window by a week.



Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey Hold Summit

The presidents of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey will meet Tuesday in Ankara for a two-day trilateral summit (TheNews), where Afghan President Hamid Karzai will likely press Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari about the wounding of an intelligence director in a suicide bombing that Karzai says was planned in Pakistan.

BANGLADESH: At least two people were killed and dozens hurt across Bangladesh when police clashed with opposition activists enforcing a day-long strike and demanding early polls (DailyStar) under a caretaker government.



Egypt Braces for Protests

Opponents and supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's plan to proceed with a Saturday referendum on a draft constitution are preparing to take to the streets in Cairo (AlJazeera), risking more violent confrontation after last week's deadly clashes.

CFR's Isobel Coleman keeps track of the ongoing battle over Egypt's constitution on her blog, Democracy in Development.

YEMEN: A senior Yemeni intelligence officer was killed by gunmen in southern Yemen on Tuesday (Reuters) in what was suspected to be the latest targeted killing of security officials and politicians by al-Qaeda militants.



Ghana's Opposition Rejects Poll Results

Ghana's main opposition is considering legal action to annul incumbent President John Dramani Mahama's victory in Friday's fiercely contested election (BBC), saying it would decide on Tuesday whether there was enough evidence that the result had been manipulated.



Mario Monti Could Run for PM

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is in talks with centrist groups urging him to run in Italy's elections early next year, a development (FT) that comes shortly after his surprise announcement over the weekend that he would resign earlier than expected, prompting markets to fall sharply and Italy's government borrowing costs to rise.

GREECE: Greece extended the deadline until tomorrow for its buyback of sovereign bonds (Bloomberg) crucial to unlocking aid from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.



Ecuador Does Not Rule Out Assad Asylum

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa confirmed that a diplomatic envoy from the Syrian government recently visited Quito (MercoPress), and that Ecuador does not rule out the idea of granting political asylum to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

MEXICO: President Enrique Peña Nieto on Monday announced broad education reform (LATimes) that also seems aimed at weakening the country's powerful teachers union.

CFR's Shannon O'Neil discusses how to reshape U.S.-Mexico security cooperation in this Policy Innovation Memorandum.



McCain Says He Will Join Foreign Relations Committee

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Monday expressed a desire to join the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while remaining a member of the Armed Services Committee, reports Foreign Policy. The leadership has not yet made final decisions on committee assignments.

President Obama took his fiscal cliff campaign to Michigan (AP) Monday, where he spoke to an audience at the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant about manufacturing in the United States and discussed his plan to reduce the deficit and avert the cliff.



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