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June 23, 2017

Daily News Brief

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Saudi-Led Bloc Presents Qatar With List of Demands

A Saudi-led bloc of Arab states presented Qatar with a list of demands (AP) that include reducing ties with Iran, severing relationships with Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, closing a Turkish military base in the country, and shuttering state broadcaster Al Jazeera and several news outlets. The group of countries has given Qatar ten days to comply with the demands (WSJ) before they become "invalidated." Turkey, which has maintained support for Qatar, deployed an additional two dozen military personnel (VOA) and sent a cargo ship of foodstuffs to the Gulf nation. The list of demands comes three weeks after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (FT) cut ties with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorism.


"The diplomatic crisis coincides with a period of deep political change in Saudi Arabia, the region's richest economy and an aspiring leader of a bloc of Muslim countries," Nicolas Parasie and Summer Said write for the Wall Street Journal.

"The U.S. could have been the ideal mediator between Qatar and the other Gulf states. Tillerson, the former chief executive officer of ExxonMobil, has close personal ties to the emirate," writes CFR's Meghan L. O'Sullivan for Bloomberg View.

"Such is the nature of the Middle East that while it is entirely true that the Qataris are difficult partners and pursue unsavory policies, that does not make them all that different from any of Washington's other Middle Eastern allies," CFR's Steven A. Cook writes for Salon.

Listen to 'The President's Inbox'

Listen to 'The President's Inbox'

CFR's Ted Alden and Bob Litan join Jim Lindsay to talk about cultivating new job skills, automation, and American competitiveness.



Former U.S. Government Worker Charged With Spying for China

A Virginia man working as a self-employed consultant was charged with espionage for giving classified documents to a suspected Chinese agent (WSJ). He formerly worked with the U.S. State Department and the military.

SOUTH KOREA: A Seoul court gave a three-year prison sentence to Choi Soon-sil (Korea Times), a confidante at the center of an influence-peddling scandal that led to President Park Geun-hye's impeachment.

Katharine H.S. Moon writes that Park left behind a divided South Korea in Foreign Affairs.


Kazakhstan Denies It Will Send Troops to Syria

Kazakhstan's foreign minister said the country is "not holding talks with anyone" about sending troops to Syria to monitor the "de-escalation" agreement (RFE/RL) earlier negotiated by Iran, Russia, and Turkey. A senior Russian defense official said Thursday that Russia had asked Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to send troops.

AFGHANISTAN: Taliban leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada promised "good relations" with the United States and the rest of the world once the country ends its "illegitimate occupation of Afghanistan" (Reuters).

Sameer Lalwani discusses President Trump's options in Afghanistan in Foreign Affairs.


U.S. Sends Civilian Team to Syria

The United States has sent a seven-person team of State Department officials and their security personnel to Syria to assist Syrians in returning to their country (NYT) by organizing efforts to clear roadside bombs and restore basic services like electricity and clean water. A State Department statement said the mission will focus on "meeting the immediate needs of civilians."

This CFR expert panel looked at the possible steps forward in Syria.


Famine Designation Lifted in South Sudan

Famine has eased in South Sudan's Unity state (VOA), though six million people, about half of the country's population, are still severely food-insecure, according to Oxfam.

GHANA: Ghana's Supreme Court ruled that President John Dramani Mahama's agreement with the United States last year to resettle two former Guantanamo detainees (NYT) was unconstitutional and would have required parliamentary approval. The chief justice said the government must submit an agreement to Parliament within three months or the men will be sent to the United States.


Eurozone Sees Best Quarterly Growth Since 2011

The eurozone is expected to have experienced its best quarterly economic growth since 2011 (AP) in this year's second quarter, at an estimated 0.7 percent, according to a survey by financial firm IHS Markit.

TURKEY: A senior education official said that evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish schools (Guardian), adding in a statement on the ministry's website that the subject is beyond students' comprehension.


U.S. Suspends Brazilian Meat Imports

The United States suspended all meat imports from Brazil, saying that 11 percent of Brazilian beef failed inspection (BBC) over the past three months. In March, federal authorities in Brazil accused food inspectors of taking bribes to approve the sale of spoiled meat products.

COLOMBIA: Colombia's second-largest Marxist rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), said Thursday it will release two Dutch journalists (LAHT) who were abducted last weekend.


Trump Says No Tapes of Comey Conversations

U.S. President Donald J. Trump wrote in a Thursday tweet that he did not make any recordings (VOA) of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, responding to speculation he had done so.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the FBI's role in national security.

The chief executive of American Airlines said he was "not happy" with an announcement by state-owned Qatar Airways (WSJ) that it plans to acquire up to a ten percent stake in the U.S. airline on the open market.