FPI Overnight Brief: January 12, 2011

Yemen

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, making an unannounced visit here, pledged to broaden the U.S. relationship with Yemen beyond the fight against al Qaeda. – Wall Street Journal

Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday pressed for tougher international sanctions against Iran's nuclear program, amid upbeat assessments by senior U.S. and Israeli officials about efforts to significantly slow Iran's bid to build a nuclear weapon. "Those sanctions have not yet achieved their objective," Mr. Netanyahu said at his annual news conference with foreign journalists at a Jerusalem hotel. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Several of Iran's leading publishing houses have been accused of attempting to overthrow the Islamic establishment, suggesting that the government might be expanding the reach of its effort to counter the "soft war" it alleges is being waged against the Islamic republic. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Iran's state TV has broadcast the apparent confession of a man it describes as "the main element" of an Israeli-trained network involved in the assassination of an Iranian scientist last year. - Guardian

Iran has arrested about 70 Christians since Christmas in a crackdown that demonstrates the limits of religious tolerance by Islamic leaders, who often boast they provide room for other faiths. – Associated Press

Talks next week between Iran and major powers concerned about its nuclear program could be the "last chance" for the West, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying on Wednesday. - Reuters

Only the convincing threat of military action headed by the United States will persuade Iran to drop plans to build an atomic bomb, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Iran warned neighboring countries not to help its arch-foe Israel, one day after announcing it had rounded up a spy ring linked to Israel which it said had assassinated an Iranian nuclear scientist. - Reuters

Lebanon

Ministers from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and its political allies will resign on Wednesday, forcing the collapse of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's government, political sources said. - Reuters

Saudi Arabia and Syria have failed to broker a deal to curb tensions in Lebanon over an international investigation into the 2005 killing of former premier Rafik al-Hariri, Lebanese politicians said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday blamed the Palestinians for the stalled peace process, saying their refusal to negotiate showed they were not interested in peace. - Telegraph

Jackson Diehl writes: One of the givens of the Middle East peace process is that Palestinians are eager to be free of rule by Israel and to live in a state of their own. That's why a new poll of the Arabs of East Jerusalem is striking: It shows that more of those people actually would prefer to be citizens of Israel than of a Palestinian state. - PostPartisan

Egypt

A gunman jumped aboard a northbound train heading toward the Egyptian capital on Tuesday and opened fire on passengers, killing one Christian man and injuring five other Christians, the Interior Ministry said. – New York Times

The death in police custody of a suspect in the New Year's Eve bombings that left 25 Coptic Christians dead and scores injured in Alexandria, Egypt, has triggered demonstrations in the most populous Arab country. Protesters have criticized  Interior Minister Habib Adli over what they called the ministry's "brutal treatment and torture" of suspects. – Babylon and Beyond

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's interior ministry has issued a new list of 47 most-wanted Saudi terrorists linked to al Qaeda. All of the 47 most-wanted leaders and fighters belonging to al Qaeda are outside of the Saudi kingdom. – Long War Journal

Iraq

The Iraqi government is investigating a shootout on Monday between an Iraqi fishing boat and a Kuwaiti Coast Guard vessel in the Persian Gulf that left a Kuwaiti serviceman dead and five fishermen briefly in Kuwaiti custody, a spokesman for the Iraqi government said on Tuesday. – New York Times

Turkey

It was meant as a symbol of friendship that would help to heal the wounds of a long history of bloodshed, bitterness, and recrimination between Turkey and Armenia.  Instead, an imposing monument in the eastern Turkish city of Kars near the two countries' border threatens to become yet another victim of their tortured relations after incurring the wrath of Turkey's mercurial prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Afghanistan

Vice President Biden on Tuesday pledged long-term American support for Afghanistan, offering a commitment to help the war-torn nation beyond the 2014 target both countries have set to have Afghans fully in charge of their own security. – Washington Post

A suicide bomber riding a motorcycle blew up in Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing two Afghans and injuring at least 32 others, according to NATO and Afghan officials. – Washington Post

In a raid in western Afghanistan Tuesday, Coalition and Afghan troops captured a senior Taliban leader who is associated with Iran's Qods Force. – Long War Journal

Coalition and Afghan special operations teams killed two leaders of the Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and detained another during separate raids in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz. – Long War Journal

China

China's first test flight of its stealth fighter Tuesday overshadowed a mission to China by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to repair frayed military relations, and prompted concern about whether President Hu Jintao and the civilian leadership are fully in control of the increasingly powerful armed forces. – Wall Street Journal

Images of a Chinese stealth fighter prototype in flight suggest that China has moved to the next stage of testing an aircraft that appears designed to rival the American F-22 and challenge U.S. air superiority in the Asia-Pacific region, aviation experts say. – Wall Street Journal

China's military conducted the first flight test of an experimental stealth fighter Tuesday, apparently without informing the country's civilian leadership in advance and only hours before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with the Chinese president to discuss ways of improving military ties. – Los Angeles Times

An international human rights group is charging China's government with continuing to violate its citizens' human rights and undermining its own plan to protect civil and political rights during the past two years. – Washington Times

The Export-Import Bank of the U.S. is taking on China's export machine, in a deal designed as a model for developed nations to challenge China in markets around the world. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

An interview with China's most prominent activist lawyer, who has been missing for almost two years, has surfaced in which he discloses that he was routinely tortured and threatened with his life. - Telegraph

Kelley Currie writes: The upcoming visit presents the White House a unique opportunity to contrast the weaknesses of the Chinese political system with the strengths of the American one. That's why aspects of the visit involving freedom of expression should be non-negotiable. If the Chinese side digs in on these issues, the White House should be willing to cancel the state arrival ceremony or other items of importance to Beijing's protocol-obsessed leaders. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Korean Peninsula

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said North Korea must halt nuclear and missile tests before the U.S. will consider a return to international talks, saying North Korea will be able to strike the U.S. with a missile in five years.  – Wall Street Journal

An important diplomatic hot line connecting North and South Korea went back into service on Wednesday after having been severed for more than seven months. – New York Times

The defense ministers of South Korea and Japan met here Jan. 10 to discuss cooperative pacts on military supplies and information, a symbolic step to establish closer military ties and move past the historical legacy of Japan's brutal colonization of Korea a century ago. – Defense News

It sure seems like grounds for a freak-out. During his visit to China, Defense Secretary Robert Gates abruptly warned that North Korea will have a nuclear tipped-missile capable of hitting the west coast of the U.S. within five years. But before rushing for the air raid shelters, it’s worth remembering that the North’s missiles have been problem-plagued for years — while U.S. analysts perennially judge that Pyongyang’s fearsome intercontinental ballistic missile is just around the corner. – Danger Room

Interview: Only a handful of outside economists spend the enormous time required to delve into the mysteries of North Korea. Marcus Noland is one of them. With his research and writing partner Stephen Haggard, Mr. Noland has written several books about the North, including a definitive study on the famine that gripped the country from the mid- to late-1990s and resulted in the death of at least 1 million people and perhaps upwards of 2 million. In a new book published this week, called “Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea,” Messrs. Noland and Haggard produce the results of interviews they and their researchers conducted with more than 1,600 North Koreans who fled the country. – WSJ’s Korea Real Time blog

Pakistan

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday for a day of talks with Pakistan’s top civilian and military leaders on the strategic partnership, officials said – New York Times

President Asif Ali Zardari has appointed a party loyalist to replace the assassinated governor of Punjab, a move that analysts said was likely to inflame tensions with his political opposition. – New York Times

Mumtaz Qadri, 26, pleaded guilty in a Pakistani court Monday to murdering the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, because of the governor's outspoken opposition to Pakistan's harsh blasphemy law, which makes it a capital crime to criticize the prophet Muhammad. – Washington Post

The son of the assassinated Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto has emerged as a formidable opponent to the religious fundamentalists opposed to the reform of a tainted blasphemy law. – The National

Japan

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday night for talks with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and foreign and defense officials. North Korea’s nuclear program will be a main focus of the meetings as well as Mr. Gates’s new assessment that Pyongyang would develop an intercontinental missile capable of hitting the United States within five years. – New York Times

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is on the brink of replacing Yoshito Sengoku as his No. 2 minister, the Asahi newspaper said Wednesday, a sacrificial move intended to clear the way for debate on the 2011/12 budget when parliament opens this month. - Reuters

Central Asia

An official probe into last year's deadly ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan has blamed local Uzbek leaders and relatives of the former president for instigating the violence, but also chastised the interim government for failing to avert the unrest. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Police in Almaty have detained several activists staging a mock "burial of democracy" to protest a proposed referendum on extending President Nursultan Nazarbaev's term in office, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

More than half of Kazakhstan's 9 million voters have backed a referendum to extend veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev's rule of the oil-rich Central Asian state for a third decade, organisers of the plan said on Wednesday. - Reuters

Russia

Opposition leaders in Belarus and Russia are in jail, setting off a debate here about what that means for Russia, the West and the American reset of relations. – Washington Post

Russian inflation grew more than previously thought in December, defying Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s recent prediction and increasing chances that the central bank will raise interest rates. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Russia may face international embarrassment if it fails to fulfill its obligations to the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption, or GRECO, in fighting graft and other unscrupulous practices. – Moscow Times

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the government to oversee a 20 percent reduction of federal public servants, a move that could cost more than 100,000 officials their jobs over the next 27 months. – Moscow Times

A long-stalled civilian nuclear cooperation agreement between Russia and the United States entered into force on Tuesday in a milestone for the "reset" in relations between the former Cold War foes. - Reuters

Belarus

The opposition in Belarus, determined to continue the pro-democracy movement despite the violent crackdown after the presidential election on Dec. 19, began lobbying the European Union on Tuesday to adopt a new strategy: cutting contacts with the leadership while strengthening nongovernmental organizations. – New York Times

The European Parliament's foreign affairs committee is set to discuss the current situation in Belarus together with members of the Belarusian opposition in a special session on January 12. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

United Kingdom

Lawyers for Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks antisecrecy group, said on Tuesday they would argue against a demand for his extradition to Sweden on the grounds that he might subsequently face “illegal rendition” to the United States, risking imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay or even the death penalty – New York Times

Ukraine

A senior European Union official has warned Ukraine not to use criminal law for political ends, a seeming reference to the prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Stefan Fuele, the European Union’s enlargement commissioner, warned Ukraine’s leadership on Tuesday that closer integration with Brussels hangs on adherence to core EU principles of democracy and media freedoms. – Financial Times

Spain

The Spanish government underlined its determination to dismantle the Basque separatist group ETA on Tuesday with the arrest of two people in raids coordinated between the Spanish and French police, a day after a cease-fire offer from ETA. – New York Times

Sudan

Ten civilians were killed along Sudan’s increasingly tense north-south border, Sudanese officials said Tuesday, as voting continued for a third day in a landmark referendum on southern Sudan’s independence. – New York Times

More than 60 percent of voters have already taken part in south Sudan's independence referendum, ensuring the result of the vote will be valid, a senior southern official said on Wednesday. - Reuters

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sudan last week flew a man indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court to a peace meeting in the flashpoint Abyei region, U.N. officials said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Churches in Sudan's mainly Muslim north are trying to reassure their dwindling congregations that they will be safe after the south splits, but Christians fearing repression are still leaving in their droves. - Reuters

Africa

These muscled raiding parties — or “death squads,” as opposition officials call them — have been widely condemned by international officials, who warn of prosecutions and other consequences for attacks on civilians. But after a brief lull in recent weeks, the deadly raids appear to be back. Alassane Ouattara, the man recognized as the winner of the election by the United Nations, the African Union and most governments around the world, calls the tactic a calculated bid to induce terror in the civilian strongholds of his supporters, helping suppress opposition to Mr. Gbagbo’s extended stay in office. – New York Times

Alassane Ouattara, the man the United Nations says won Ivory Coast's presidential elections, will soon control the revenues from customs duties on Ivorian cocoa exports, Ouattara's U.N. envoy said on Tuesday. - Reuters

John Campbell writes: Over time Mr. Gbagbo’s domestic support is likely to erode, a process that will be promoted by his new status as an international pariah and if he is cut off from access to international financial agencies. But, in the meantime, the international community will need to show persistence and patience; Mr. Gbagbo is unlikely to go away soon. – International Herald Tribune

Soldiers were deployed in the center of Tunis on Wednesday after a wave of unrest that officials say has killed 23 people spread to the capital for the first time. - Reuters

Police fired into the air to disperse a crowd ransacking buildings in a Tunis suburb on Tuesday, the first time a wave of violent unrest that officials say has killed 23 civilians has hit the capital. - Reuters

Caribbean

Last January, hundreds of thousands of Haitians lost their lives and millions lost their homes in an earthquake that flattened much of the capital. A year later, Haitians appear to have lost something else: hope. – Wall Street Journal

Today, life of a sort has returned to Haiti. The bodies are mostly gone (though on occasion one is unearthed), and the chaos is part of the routine of survival, of scraping out a living. Traffic snarls up and down hillsides. Most children who go to school are back in classrooms, though jittery and traumatized; commerce is haphazardly brisk. Yet virtually no major reconstruction is evident. – Los Angeles Times

Haiti could use some good news, and so on the eve of the anniversary of the nation's ruinous earthquake, business and government leaders signed a deal for a big factory, a historic market reopened, and an aid worker returned to tell how he survived 65 hours buried in the rubble. – Washington Post

Editorial: Haiti stands at a dangerous juncture. It needs a credible, competent and popularly elected government, not more months of infighting and indecision. Accepting the findings of the OAS report will not please everyone, but it offers the least bad way to overcome the flaws of the November elections and prepare the ground for Haitians to unlock international aid, build stronger agencies of government and forge a better future. – Washington Post

Mexico

Far from big, infamous cities like Ciudad Juárez, one of the most violent places in the Americas, the war with organized crime can batter small towns just as hard, if with less notice. – New York Times

Honduras

Jose Cardenas writes: In a letter to the State Department last week, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) expressed her grave concern over reports that the administration was trying to pressure the Honduran government to absolve disgraced former President Manuel Zelaya of his crimes that precipitated the 2009 presidential crisis there. – Shadow Government

Defense

The country's top military officer praised the public's outward support of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan on Monday, while lamenting the increasing gap between the U.S. military and the American public. – Washington Post

An experimental spy plane with a wingspan almost the size of a Boeing 747's took to the skies over the Mojave Desert last week in a secret test flight that may herald a new era in modern warfare with robotic planes flying higher, faster and with more firepower. – Los Angeles Times

The U. S. Army has directed Boeing to immediately stop work on the Class I Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and the Tactical and Urban Unattended Ground Sensors, both part of the Army's Early-Infantry Brigade Combat Team (E-IBCT) program. – Defense News

As U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates puts the ailing F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing aircraft on life support and proposes another delay to the single-engine stealthy fighter’s testing, he is also pushing forward a broad savings agenda that will enhance several major aerospace programs. – Aviation Week

Report: After the sweeping cuts in the FY 2010 defense spending bill and with the proposed reductions in FY 2011, further defense cuts would jeopardize long-standing core capabilities that comprise the foundation of American military strength. Nevertheless, policymakers should relentlessly pursue greater efficiencies within defense operations and eliminate waste and duplication in the defense budget. The responsible defense efficiency reform package laid out in this paper could realize more than $70 billion (possibly up to $90 billion) in annual savings. Congress should allow the military to use any savings that it generates to pay for urgent priorities, such as modernization of each of the services’ inventories. This will bolster the incentive to improve efficiency while directly strengthening the U.S. military. – Heritage Foundation

The War

A group of 173 human rights activists, each wearing an orange jumpsuit and a black hood and representing the remaining 173 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, rallied in front of the White House on Tuesday to mark the ninth anniversary of the detention center's opening and to protest the Obama administration's inability to close it. – Washington Post

A federal judge declined Tuesday to release a Guantanamo Bay prisoner who was arrested after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with a suspected terrorist leader but claimed he was the victim of mistaken identity. – Associated Press

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