FPI Overnight Brief: March 9, 2011


But now it is the state security apparatus, which served as the main enforcer of former president Hosni Mubarak's regime, that has become vulnerable. In stunning succession, its headquarters have been overrun by angry mobs, its once-dreaded police force hidden away and, on Tuesday night, its top officials were placed under house arrest. – Washington Post

Women hoping to extend their rights in post-revolutionary Egypt were faced with a harsh reality Tuesday when a mob of angry men beat and sexually assaulted marchers calling for political and social equality, witnesses said. – Washington Post

Ten people were killed in violence between Egyptian Christian and Muslims, the health ministry said Wednesday, as sectarian tensions that appeared to evaporate in the country's revolution resurfaced. - Reuters


Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani withdrew his candidacy Tuesday for reelection as chairman of a key clerical council that holds power over Iran's supreme leader, state media reported. – Washington Post

Iran urged the United States on Tuesday to provide it with more information on a former FBI agent who vanished in the Islamic state in 2007, adding it would "make an effort" to find him. - Reuters

Barbara Slavin writes: However, by silencing so many of those who worked within Iran's complicated political system to institute reforms, Khamenei is narrowing his base of support and increasing the likelihood that Iranians will take to the streets or, at a minimum, boycott future elections and deny the regime any semblance of legitimacy. – Foreign Policy

Ilan Berman writes: Iran's pro-democracy forces need more than just moral backing from the West. They need the U.S. to enact policies that amplify their efforts and make it more difficult for the Iranian regime to quash dissent without meaningful international retribution. In other words, the only way Iran's ayatollahs will go the way of Egypt's Mubarak or Tunisia's Ben Ali is if the White House finally puts its money—and its influence—where its mouth is. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared definitively on Tuesday that he would maintain an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River under any future arrangement involving the Palestinians, buttressing a known policy with a demonstrative visit to that area of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. – New York Times

One of Israel’s top intelligence analysts says it is too soon to say whether the wave of uprisings in the Middle East will bring more democratic societies or empower political Islam. – Washington Times

Palestinians on Tuesday dismissed any attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take interim steps toward peace now that U.S.-sponsored statehood negotiations are frozen. - Reuters


Government security forces beat demonstrators and then opened fire on them late Tuesday night, wounding at least 10 people, according to medics at the scene outside Sana University. – New York Times

Anti-government demonstrators in south Yemen are threatening to burn down schools if teachers and students do not join their protests in the port city of Aden, the U.N. children's fund UNICEF said Tuesday. - Reuters


A senior Chinese official, Zhang Qingli, has said foreigners are barred from entering Tibet this month. Mr. Zhang said the travel ban was because of cold weather, a shortage of capacity for tourists and safety concerns, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. – New York Times

United Kingdom

Scottish police said on Tuesday that they had arrested a man in Glasgow on terrorism charges related to a suicide bomber who killed himself and wounded two others in Sweden in December – New York Times


Former Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau has marked his 57th birthday in the KGB pretrial detention center in Minsk, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


Serbia and Kosovo have begun their first direct negotiations since Pristina declared independence in 2008. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The United States has voiced deep concern over the political deadlock in Bosnia more than five months after elections due to interethnic divisions. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Czech Republic

Revolutionary icon and former Czech President Vaclav Havel has been hospitalized with acute bronchitis. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Middle East

United Arab Emirates intellectuals petitioned their ruler on Wednesday for free and democratic elections, in a sign some Emiratis share growing Arab demands for a greater say in government. - Reuters

A tribal center known for its defiance of central authority, this community of 50,000, plagued by poverty and high unemployment, feels remote from Amman, the capital, 130 miles away. Resentment is rife here now, fueled by the unrest across the Arab world that has sparked protests in Jordan and demands for sweeping political reforms. – Washington Post

Three hardline Bahraini Shi'ite Muslim groups said on Tuesday they had joined together with the goal of bringing down the Bahraini Gulf Arab monarchy and setting up a republic. - Reuters

Several hundred Kuwaitis demonstrated on Tuesday evening for a change of the Gulf state's prime minister and demanded more political freedoms. - Reuters


Besides well-reported advances in southern provinces, American and NATO forces have also been able to halt or reverse Taliban gains around the capital, Kabul, and even in the north and west of the country, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, said Tuesday. – New York Times

Insurgents who were driven out of the Taliban stronghold of Sangin in southern Afghanistan are flowing back in as winter lifts, threatening fragile gains achieved by U.S. Marines over the last five months, according to American commanders. – Los Angeles Times

Efforts to improve local government in critical Afghan districts have fallen far behind schedule, undermining President Hamid Karzai's hope to reduce the presence of U.S. advisers in the country, according to U.S. and Afghan officials familiar with the program. – Washington Post

United Nations officials here called on Wednesday for a surge in the protection of Afghan civilians, saying that the rising number of civilian deaths was unacceptable and he emphasized that the Taliban, who are responsible for the vast majority of casualties, must do more to protect noncombatants. – New York Times

Last week's errant aerial strike on children cutting firewood underscores an emerging problem for American forces in Afghanistan: Even as U.S.-led forces have reduced the overall number of noncombatants they mistakenly kill or injure, deadly helicopter attacks on civilians have surged. – Wall Street Journal

If the American-led fight against the Taliban was once a contest for influence in well-known and conventionally defined areas — the capital and large cities, main roads, the border with Pakistan, and a handful of prominent valleys and towns — today it has become something else. – New York Times

The Marine battalion fighting out of this southern Afghanistan district has suffered more losses than any other in the history of the decade-long Afghan war. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited Sangin on Tuesday to see what gains had come from the deaths of 29 Marines here over the past five months. – Washington Post

After two days of visiting some of the most hotly contested areas of Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday he sees reasons to believe the war strategy is working. – Associated Press


The U.S. believes Col. Moammar Gadhafi has solidified control in parts of Libya, creating a stalemate with rebels and raising the stakes in the Obama administration's internal debate about whether to take military action to help the opposition, officials said. – Wall Street Journal

The White House is considering a range of options for intervention in Libya, each carrying risks, as the struggle between Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime and a ragtag rebel army seems to settle into an impasse. – Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration is drawing careful limits on its potential military involvement in the increasingly bloody struggle between the Libyan government and rebel forces, despite growing calls for Western intervention. – Los Angeles Times

With airstrikes, armor and artillery, military units loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi hammered the rebels seeking his ouster in battles along the eastern Mediterranean coast and in the besieged western city of Zawiyah on Tuesday, as a new report documented how badly the insurgents lagged the Qaddafi forces in equipment and capabilities. – New York Times

U.S. officials intend to freeze assets owned by some Libyan military, intelligence and government officials involved in attacks on civilian and rebel forces, officials said Tuesday. – Washington Post

The United States and its European allies are considering the use of naval assets to deliver humanitarian aid to Libya and to block arms shipments to the government of Moammar Gaddafi, even as they weigh the legality of imposing a no-fly zone without United Nations authorization, according to U.S. and European officials. – Washington Post

Libyans facing daily bombardments by Col. Moammar Gadhafis forces are calling for foreign airstrikes against his strongholds as the United States and its allies continue debating about imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. – Washington Times

A decision by President Obama and NATO to use its militaries to aid rebels in Libya would have the alliance siding with factions that it does not fully understand and not knowing what type of government they would bring to Tripoli. – Washington Times

The European Union will announce measures Friday to widen the scope of the bloc's sanctions on Libya that are almost certain to include a freeze of assets held in Europe by the country's sovereign-wealth fund and its central bank, senior European officials said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

[E]vents this week have tested the viability of an opposition that has yet to coalesce, even as it solicits help from abroad to topple Colonel Qaddafi. – New York Times

Big oil companies and Wall Street banks have stopped trading crude with Libya in response to sanctions against the country, threatening a near-shutdown of exports from the North African country and driving oil prices even higher. – Wall Street Journal

Foreign correspondents in authoritarian states have long been used to handling tough stories under tight restrictions. But working in Libya has an almost surreal quality, including a frenzied incident Tuesday in which Kadafi strode into one of the hotels near midnight, more than eight hours after reporters were told he was about to arrive, and proceeded to leave without saying anything except to French and Turkish journalists. – Los Angeles Times

Senators on the Armed Services panel on Tuesday pressed the White House to aid Libyan rebels by setting up a no-fly zone. – The Hill

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed on Tuesday that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi must leave power quickly and weighed steps to stop the bloodshed, including a no-fly zone. - Reuters

After dramatic successes over the past weeks, Libya’s rebel movement appears to have hit a wall of overwhelming power from loyalists of Moammar Gadhafi. Pro-regime forces halted their drive on Tripoli with a heavy barrage of rockets in the east and threatened Tuesday to recapture the closest rebel-held city to the capital in the west. – Associated Press

A “no-fly zone” over Libya likely would have a limited impact on Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s offensives against rebel forces and civilians, military experts said Tuesday as pressure appeared to be intensifying for restrictions – Associated Press

Questions about the military capabilities of U.S. naval forces able to bear on Libya permeated a Capitol Hill Navy budget hearing March 8. - AFP

A no-fly zone over Libya is a feasible military option but it would require resources to be switched from elsewhere such as the conflict in Afghanistan, military experts said March 8. - AFP

Josh Rogin reports:  The State Department believes that supplying any arms to the Libyan opposition to support its struggle against Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi would be illegal at the current time. – The Cable

Dov Zakheim writes: It would be so much more advantageous to long-term U.S. interests if Washington were to mount a no-fly zone operation now -- including knocking out Libya's air defenses -- so that more members of Libya's armed forces will be encouraged to defect from Qaddafi, without the United States having to intervene on the ground. The alternative, which the administration continues to prefer, is to sit back and let events dictate what the United States should do. This is not policy; it is hand-wringing of the worst sort. – Shadow Government


A young woman who volunteered to lead her Mexican hometown's police department after a predecessor was beheaded by drug gangs has fled her post to seek asylum in the U.S., authorities said Tuesday. – Wall Street Journal


Cuba's program to slash 500,000 state jobs nationwide has barely gotten off the ground in the provinces, as officials scramble to provide alternatives and deal with unease and anger over the layoffs. - Reuters

Obama Administration

Josh Rogin reports: The Senate is preparing to use the confirmation hearing of current Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who President Barack Obama is set to nominate as the next U.S. ambassador to China, to criticize what many lawmakers see as the administration's flawed policy toward Beijing. – The Cable


Joseph Nye writes: The greatest danger to America is not debt, political paralysis, or China; it is parochialism, turning away from the openness that is the source of its strength and resting on its laurels. As Zakaria says, in the past, worrying about decline has helped avert it. Let us hope that his intelligent though darkly drawn picture will yet again start that healthy process. – Foreign Policy


A suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a funeral procession in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least 34 people, according to officials. At least 45 people were reported wounded, several in a critical condition. – New York Times

A car bomb exploded near an office of the country’s premier intelligence agency in eastern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 24 people and wounding more than 132, the police and emergency officials said. – New York Times

Sadanand Dhume writes: It's time to bury the myth of moderate Pakistan. You know the one: the notion, repeated ad nauseam in magazine articles, think-tank reports and congressional testimony—as though saying it often enough will make it true—that Pakistan is an essentially tolerant country threatened by a rising tide of fundamentalism. Here's a news flash: The tide has risen. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


China's controversial "one-child" policy has once again come up for discussion during the annual meeting of the country's legislature and its top political advisory body, according to local media reports. – Wall Street Journal

China is building its military capability at a rapid pace but it remains a "regional power with regional concerns", the think tank IISS said in its annual report on the world's armies on March 8. - AFP

China on March 8 reiterated its claim over disputed islands in the South China Sea after the Philippines and Vietnam protested to Beijing over its naval activity in contested waters. - AFP


The argument over U.S. weapon sales to Taiwan has long been a raucous affair, but recently it took a particularly heated pitch with the publication of the essay “Will China’s Rise Lead to War?” in the March/April edition of Foreign Affairs. – WSJ’s China RealTime Report

Michael Mazza writes: Taiwan isn't a relic of the Cold War. Rather, it is situated at the geographic forefront of the strategic competition that very well may define the 21st century--that between the United States and China. The United States has long pursued a policy in Asia in which it provides security while promoting economic and political liberalization. The Taiwan of today is in many ways a fruit of that policy. Washington would soon regret any decision to drop its support for Taiwan and allow mainland China to annex the island nation. Only by continuing to nurture its relationship with Taipei and by continuing to steel the island against threats from the mainland can the United States hope to ensure continued peace in Asia. – The Diplomat


Japan is looking to join the U.S., China and Russia with a stealth fighter that senior Japanese air-force officials say can be ready for a prototype test flight in just three years, significantly upping the ante in the intensifying battle for air superiority in the Pacific. – Associated Press

Embattled Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan promoted a junior cabinet minister to the top foreign affairs portfolio Wednesday, handing him a long list of challenges including managing strained ties with neighboring China. - Reuters

Korean Peninsula

South Korea will push ahead with the purchases of high-altitude spy drones and stealth fighter jets to strengthen deterrence against North Korea, its defense chief said March 8. - AFP

Beijing on Tuesday accused a South Korean lawmaker of being "irresponsible" for saying Chinese computer hackers gained access to secret military files on Seoul's planned purchase of U.S. spy planes. - AFP

The families of four North Koreans who have said they want to defect to the South have made emotional appeals for their kin to return home in videos aired on a state website, the South's Yonhap news agency reported. - Reuters


An Uzbek human rights activist says she will return a U.S. State Department award she received in 2009 to protest the award being presented to Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbaeva in Washington, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

A court in Bangladesh has upheld the dismissal of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus from the microfinance bank he founded and has run for three decades. – New York Times

A colossal construction project here could help determine whether the world can break China’s chokehold on the strategic metals crucial to products as diverse as Apple’s iPhone, Toyota’s Prius and Boeing’s smart bombs. – New York Times


While protesters have been marching in the Middle East demanding liberty, Russians have been mostly silent. Instead of packing the streets, some have been quietly packing their bags, pursuing freedom in a new wave of emigration. – Washington Post

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in Russia on the second leg of a weeklong, three-nation trip focused primarily on expanding U.S.-Russian ties but bookended by visits to Helsinki and European Union-hopeful Moldova. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


Sudanese riot police arrested more than 40 women minutes after they started a protest against rape and rights abuses Tuesday, witnesses said in the latest sign of a crackdown on dissent. - Reuters

Sudan's president plans to create two additional states in the western Darfur territory, officials said, in what rebels described as bid to curb their influence and strengthen central control from Khartoum. - Reuters

The International Criminal Court on Tuesday ordered two Sudanese rebels to stand trial on charges they orchestrated the killing of 12 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur in 2007. - Reuters


At least four demonstrators, including a 19-year-old woman, were shot dead by riot police officers on Tuesday as they protested the shooting deaths of women who marched last week, witnesses said. – New York Times

An estimated 450,000 people have been uprooted by growing conflict in Ivory Coast, including tens of thousands who fled to Liberia, aid agencies said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Zimbabwe will use revenue from diamond sales to repay part of its external debt totaling $7.1 billion, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Tuesday. - Reuters

A Nigerian opposition party accused its political rivals of sabotage on Tuesday after its vice presidential candidate was forced to make an emergency landing due to a runway invasion by rams and goats. - Reuters


Josh Rogin reports:  The U.S. intelligence community has been behind events throughout the Arab world for over a month and producing deficient work, the Senate's top leader on intelligence issues complained to the head of the CIA. – The Cable

The U.S. won’t be able to avoid a crippling debt crisis as long as Congress refuses to include defense spending, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the mix of program cuts to reduce federal spending, the co-chairman of the presidential debt commission said Tuesday. – Military Times

The Navy's version of the joint strike fighter broke the sound barrier March 4, a first for the new airplane. – Defense News

EADS faces an uphill task to meet growth targets in the U.S. market in the wake of its loss of the U.S. Air Force KC-X tanker program to rival Boeing. – Aviation Week

Western cuts and swiftly rising defense spending in emerging economies are redrawing the global strategic map, a leading think-tank said on Tuesday, with the danger of conflicts between states also rising. - Reuters

The War

The Obama administration is preparing to open military-commission proceedings at Guantanamo Bay against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of masterminding the deadly attack against the USS Cole in 2000, in what will be the first new trial of a suspected terrorist in more than two years. – National Journal

House Republicans on Tuesday demanded tougher restrictions for terror suspects at Guantanamo even after President Obama reversed course and ordered the resumption of military trials for detainees. – Associated Press

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
Read More