FPI Overnight Brief: April 13, 2011

Libya

Thirteen days after the United States turned over command of the Libya campaign, the NATO alliance showed signs of strain Tuesday, with France and Britain complaining that their partners are not doing enough to help protect rebel-held cities from assaults by Moammar Gaddafi’s troops. – Washington Post

Rebel leaders here said Tuesday that they were not ready to commit to talks with Moussa Koussa, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s former confidant who defected to Britain but left there for Qatar. – New York Times

A team led by a Libyan-American telecom executive has helped rebels hijack Col. Moammar Gadhafi's cellphone network and re-establish their own communications. The new network, first plotted on an airplane napkin and assembled with the help of oil-rich Arab nations, is giving more than two million Libyans their first connections to each other and the outside world after Col. Gadhafi cut off their telephone and Internet service about a month ago. – Wall Street Journal

Libyan rebels are receiving reports that female snipers from Colombia have joined other mercenaries fighting to keep dictator Moammar Gadhafi in power. – Washington Times

Libyan rebels battling against Moammar Gadhafi have signed up a well-connected public-relations firm to help them earn recognition from the U.S. government. – The Hill

Ministers gathered in Qatar Wednesday for talks on Libya's future, with some eager to step up air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's forces, fearing the conflict could settle into a bloody stalemate. - Reuters

Any attempt to unfreeze Libyan assets and hand them to the opposition, even for humanitarian purposes, faces legal obstacles that could take years to clear, U.S. and European officials and experts say. - Reuters

Libyan government artillery bombarded the besieged city of Misrata on Tuesday but rebels said they had beaten back two separate offensives by troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. - Reuters

Libyan rebels have sent a request for weapons they need to countries that have recognized their national council as the sole representative of Libya, a spokesman said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Muammar Gaddafi shows no sign of giving up the military struggle in Libya and is expected to resort to "hit-and-run" tactics after strikes to destroy his heavy weaponry, NATO said on Tuesday. - Reuters

NATO has not asked the United States to intensify its military operations in Libya, the Pentagon said on Tuesday after France criticized the NATO campaign for failing to halt attacks on civilians. - Reuters

Captured rebel Libyan fighters have been found shot in the head with their hands tied behind their backs, Amnesty International said on Tuesday, adding it had strong evidence of other human rights abuses. - Reuters

Syria

Two northern Syrian villages near the Mediterranean port of Baniyas came under fierce attack by government forces Tuesday, according to witnesses and activists, as President Bashar al-Assad’s government intensified efforts to suppress an apparently strengthening protest movement. – Washington Post

Syrian security forces have arrested 200 residents in a coastal town as unprecedented challenges to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad continued to spread, a human rights lawyer said on Wednesday. - Reuters

Hundreds of women from a Syrian town that has witnessed mass arrests of its male population took to Syria's main coastal highway on Wednesday to demand their release, human rights defenders said. - Reuters

Syrian security forces prevented wounded protesters reaching hospitals and stopped medical teams from treating them in two towns during last Friday's demonstrations, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Anti-government demonstrations in Syria are part of a plot by the West to undermine a government that supports "resistance" in the Middle East, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Egypt

Hosni Mubarak, the former autocratic president of Egypt who was forced out by the revolution two months ago, was abruptly hospitalized on Tuesday in the beach resort of Sharm el Sheikh, security and military officials said. – New York Times

Egyptian prosecutors said on Wednesday they had detained former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons for 15 days to face questioning about corruption and abuse of power, just hours after he was abruptly hospitalized in the beach resort of Sharm el Sheik. – New York Times

Mr. Al Aswany is one of the few prominent faces of Egypt's so-called leaderless revolution, a Vaclav Havel for this Arab Spring. Except for a few hours to change clothes, he was in Tahrir Square each of the 18 days before Hosni Mubarak fell from power two months ago. "It was unbelievable," he says, "but now I am worried." – Wall Street Journal

Soldiers and police moved into Cairo's main square on Tuesday to end a five-day sit-in by protesters demanding civilian rule and swifter prosecution of Egypt's former president and his allies. - Reuters

Yemen

Rival Yemeni security forces clashed in the capital Sanaa on Wednesday when forces loyal to a defected army general set up a checkpoint and were attacked by pro-government forces, a source close to anti-government forces said. - Reuters

Yemen opposition parties asked Gulf Arab mediators on Tuesday to spell out whether President Ali Abdullah Saleh would hand over power early under their proposal to end the country's two-month-old crisis. - Reuters

Analysis: The Critical Threats Project at AEI has therefore launched the Yemen Strategic Planning Exercise to explore likely scenarios of regime-transition and state-collapse in Yemen and the possible American responses to those scenarios. – AEI’s Critical Threats Project

Read CTP’s estimates for a scenario involving the peaceful transfer of power from Saleh to some successor(s) – AEI’s Critical Threats Project

Richard Fontaine writes: An economy in free fall, key resources drying up, a terrorist safe haven, an active insurgency, political turmoil, and terrible governance -- all these things and more plague Yemen today. It will take some skillful diplomacy and a good deal of luck to see a government emerge in Sanaa with the will to partner with the United States and the capacity to tackle some of these many problems. About only one thing can we be clear: Americans haven't heard the last from Yemen. – Foreign Policy

Iran

Iran’s parliament has warned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that resentment is building over sharp increases in the price of natural gas, which has risen at least 10-fold on average in recent weeks, and that public protests could follow. – Washington Post

Workers at two major industrial enterprises in Iran's southern province of Khuzestan are on strike, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Iran on Monday announced it intends to construct several new research reactors that would be powered by 20 percent-enriched uranium, Agence France-Presse reported – Global Security Newswire

Editorial: Several months ago, administration officials were speaking confidently of an Iran that, pinched by sanctions and hamstrung by problems in its nuclear work, seemed ready to begin talks. Now the talks are off, the economic pressure is easing and the nuclear work once again could be gaining momentum. Yet the administration seems to have no clear alternative to its long-standing strategy of waiting for the regime to negotiate. The better course, which we among others have urged since the opposition Green Movement was born nearly two years ago, is to bet on a renewed popular uprising in Iran…[T]here is much more the administration could do, such as finding ways to support Iranian unions and student movements, stepping up broadcasting and accelerating funding for technology that can undermine Internet censorship. – Washington Post

Saudi Arabia

A top White House aide delivered a personal letter from President Obama to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Tuesday, as the administration moved to calm tensions between the two countries over how to respond to upheaval in the Arab world and deal with their mutual adversary in Iran. – Washington Post

Middle East

To the government, Salmaniya, Bahrain’s largest public hospital, and local clinics are nests of radical Shiite conspirators trying to destabilize the country. But to many doctors at Salmaniya, the hospital has been converted into an apparatus of state terrorism, and sick people have nowhere to go for care. – New York Times

To the government, Salmaniya, Bahrain’s largest public hospital, and local clinics are nests of radical Shiite conspirators trying to destabilize the country. But to many doctors at Salmaniya, the hospital has been converted into an apparatus of state terrorism, and sick people have nowhere to go for care. – New York Times

Bahrain should investigate the death in police custody of three Shi'ites, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday, saying one of the bodies bore signs of physical abuse. - Reuter

United Arab Emirates

A prominent blogger and activist who called for democratic reform in the United Arab Emirates has been charged with possession of alcohol after being arrested last week, his lawyer said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Israel

The Palestinian Authority is ready for statehood, according to six key criteria, although urgent action is needed to bolster its progress in state-building, the United Nations said Tuesday. – Washington Post

Israel on Wednesday reopened a commercial crossing with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip that was shut for seven days, as a lull in cross-border fighting continued, an Israeli spokesman said. - Reuters

Scott Gerstein writes: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said Tuesday that President Barack Obama frittered away the first half of his term on an ill-advised approach to seeking peace in the Middle East, but may "step out" within weeks with a new initiative to break the gridlock. - Politico

Turkey

Istanbul bankers are betting that Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to appoint a new central-bank governor to oversee one of the world's most experimental monetary policies, one whose closeness to the government's powerful economy chief is raising questions about the bank's independence. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Turkey's main opposition party, trailing in opinion polls before a June vote, dropped old guard loyalists and introduced a record number of women as party candidates in a bid to regain ground lost to the ruling AKP. - Reuters

North Africa

The World Bank is laying the groundwork for $500 million in development loans to Tunisia, the first step by international groups to support economic transitions in the Middle East with a mix of governance reforms and funding. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Tunisians are optimistic about the future of their country but remain concerned about the economy and deeply divided on the role religion should play in politics, a new poll finds. – Baghdad and Beyond

Sudan

Fighting has erupted between government forces and rebel groups in Sudan's Darfur region, rebels and U.N. peacekeepers said on Tuesday, days after peace talks stalled over a planned referendum - Reuters

Afghanistan

An aggressive push against insurgents last August, plus a series of controversial airstrikes that reduced some Taliban-held villages to little more than rubble, paved the way for 13 new U.S.-Afghan military bases in the Arghandab Valley. - Reuters

David Miliband writes: The 2014 end date set by NATO will prove illusory unless there is an endgame. And that endgame must be negotiations, involving Western powers led by the United States, with all factions in the Afghan struggle and their backers in the region. – International Herald Tribune

Pakistan

After months of reduced cooperation between Pakistani and American intelligence agencies in the battle against Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, top officials of the two nations have been meeting in Washington this week to overcome a deep sense of mistrust intensified in January by a murder case involving a CIA contractor. – Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration said Tuesday it is negotiating a possible reduction in U.S. intelligence operatives and special operations officers in Pakistan as the two countries try to mend relations badly strained by the arrest and detention of a CIA security contractor for killing two Pakistanis. – Associated Press

A top U.S. general expressed concern to Congress on Tuesday about the expanding reach of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, warning it was no longer solely focused on India or even South Asia. - Reuters

Militants on the Pakistan side of divided Kashmir say they will give new talks with India a chance but they have little faith they will succeed and believe it is only a matter of time before they will have to fight again. - Reuters

Josh Rogin reports: The State Department is giving the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF) back to the Pentagon for the rest of the year, as part of the budget deal struck between Congress and the administration to avert a government shutdown. – The Cable

Japan

Japanese officials said they will put greater emphasis on protecting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from strong earthquakes and tsunamis, after a series of aftershocks over the past week showed the facility's vulnerability to another major incident. – Wall Street Journal

Japanese officials struggled through the day on Tuesday to explain why it had taken them a month to disclose large-scale releases of radioactive material in mid-March at a crippled nuclear power plant, as the government and an electric utility disagreed on the extent of continuing problems there. – New York Times

The condition of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan is “static,” but with improvised cooling efforts they are “not stable,” the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told a Senate committee on Tuesday. – New York Times

Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant, said on Wednesday it has begun preparing plans for compensation to those affected by the crisis but added that nothing specific has been decided. - Reuters

The operator of Japan's crippled nuclear plant said on Wednesday it was still working on a detailed plan to end the country's nuclear crisis a month after it began, as tests showed radiation levels in the sea near the plant had spiked. - Reuters

China

Moreover, several editors and journalists have begun pushing back. Spurred by the growing popular demand for more openness, and with the Internet and microblogs offering more unfettered information, they are testing the boundaries of what is permissible.  Some editors and reporters, in interviews, spoke candidly, albeit cautiously, about how censorship works in practice, and the growing competing pressures they face between a public that wants the truth and the censors who want to manipulate it. – Washington Post

Police in northwestern China announced Tuesday that milk that killed three infants and sickened 36 others was intentionally poisoned with nitrate by a competing dairy farm seeking revenge, according to the New China News Agency. – Los Angeles Times

China’s “troubling” military buildup coincides with new efforts by Beijing to block the Navy from international waters near its coasts and field new missiles, submarines and cyberweapons, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific told Congress on Tuesday. – Washington Times

China‘s first aircraft carrier could begin sea trials as early as this summer, and its deployment would change significantly the perception of the balance of power in the region, the chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific said Tuesday. – Associated Press

A top U.S. officer said April 12 that the People's Liberation Army's Navy has adopted a less aggressive stance in the Pacific in recent months after protests from Washington and other nations in the region. - AFP

Chinese leaders believe domestic foes, their foreign backers and Western governments are scheming to undermine and ultimately topple the Communist Party. Recent speeches and articles from security officials echo with warnings of subversive plots backed by Western "anti-China" forces. - Reuters

Chinese authorities have arrested a veteran dissident, Zhu Yufu, on subversion charges, his ex-wife and a friend said on Wednesday, making him the fourth activist known to have been arrested and likely to face trial in a crackdown on dissent. - Reuters

A 21-year-old Chinese man who attended a proposed pro-democracy "Jasmine Revolution" protest in Beijing was sentenced to labor re-education, in the first confirmed punishment for the Middle East-inspired gatherings that were squashed by wary authorities. - Reuters

Taiwan

Taiwan's air force landed fighter jets on a stretch of highway in the island's south, an exercise that analysts said was partly aimed at drawing attention in Washington to the island's stalled requests for advanced weapons. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Korean Peninsula

China on Monday outlined a multistep process for resuming the stalled six-nation talks on North Korean denuclearization, Kyodo News reported – Global Security Newswire

The South Korean Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that it anticipates finishing work no later than 2015 on a national system that would be intended to defend against potential short- and medium-range missile attacks from the North, the Yonhap News Agency reported – Global Security Newswire

Burma

Myanmar could create systems for nuclear weapons with North Korean support, but the Southeast Asian state has yet to build such equipment, former International Atomic Energy Agency official Robert Kelley said on Monday – Global Security Newswire

Kyrgyzstan

A state commission says there were 30 high-profile contract killings in Kyrgyzstan during Kurmanbek Bakiev's five-year tenure as president, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Russia

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said he will soon decide whether to seek reelection next year and hinted at a desire to change tacks from the policies of his predecessor and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The abrupt departure of one of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's most powerful allies from his post as board chairman of Russia's biggest oil company has handed a public victory to President Dmitry Medvedev. But Igor Sechin's resignation as Rosneft chairman leaves little changed in the behind-the-scenes balance of power less than a year before an election that could put Putin back in the Kremlin or give Medvedev another six years as president. - Reuters

Belarus

The head of Belarus’s security services suggested Tuesday that members of the country’s embattled opposition might have been behind the bombing on Monday that killed 12 people and wounded 150 at a subway station close to the office of the country’s authoritarian president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko. – New York Times

Belarus's KGB security service says it has identified a young man of non-Slavic appearance as a main suspect in the Minsk subway explosion that killed 12 people on April 11. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

European Union member states have failed to reach agreement on whether to impose tougher, targeted economic sanctions on Belarus over a postelection crackdown on the opposition. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Belarus has detained the first suspects in the investigation into a bomb explosion in a Minsk metro station which killed 12 people and injured about 200, the state prosecutor's office said on Wednesday. - Reuters

Analysis: With the investigation of Belarus's deadly subway tragedy still in the early stages, it is impossible to say who might have been responsible for the rush-hour attack that left 12 dead and more than 200 injured. But everyone is asking the question that Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka posed to his security advisers at an emergency meeting hours after the blast: Who stands to gain from the terrorism and bloodshed? – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Ukraine

Analysis: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has arrived in Kyiv on a delicate mission, attempting to pull Ukraine a little more firmly into Moscow's orbit. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Sub-Saharan Africa

Five generals pledged their loyalty to President Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday following the capture of the country’s strongman leader after a four-month standoff here, and French and Ivorian forces worked to eliminate the last pockets of resistance. – Washington Post

Militiamen and soldiers loyal to Ivory Coast's defeated president, Laurent Gbagbo, started surrendering their weapons, his rival's camp said, but it may be months before his successor, Alassane Ouattara, can restore security to the shattered city of Abidjan. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

President Barack Obama called Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday to congratulate him on assuming his duties and offer support for efforts to unite the country and restore security, the White House said. - Reuters

Nigeria's two main opposition parties are mulling an eleventh-hour alliance to try to unseat President Goodluck Jonathan in elections on Saturday, opposition sources said. - Reuters

Southern Africa

Forces loyal to Swaziland’s King Mswati III on Tuesday used water cannons and fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at pro-democracy demonstrators to break up a protest against sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. – Associated Press

United States of America

Josh Rogin reports: The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said on Tuesday that he agreed with the White House that cuts to the defense budget must be part of upcoming budget negotiations. – The Cable

Josh Rogin reports: The Senate probably won't be debating the Libya war anytime soon. Top senators on both sides of the aisle are still negotiating over language for a resolution to express the Senate's view on the U.S. involvement in Libya, while the budget battle pushes the intervention to the back burner. – The Cable

Mexico

For the first time in Mexico's drug war, the U.S. government said its employees and citizens could be the targets of drug gangs in three Mexican states, a disclosure that could signal danger for Americans south of the border. – Wall Street Journal

The Ramirez case and others illustrate a worrisome trend at CBP. As the bureau has ratcheted up efforts to cope with the tide of crime sweeping across the Southwest border, Mexican cartels have stepped up efforts to infiltrate CBP and other federal, state and local agencies responsible for policing the border. – National Journal

Mexican investigators have found a total of 116 bodies in pits near the border with the United States, 28 more than previously reported, Attorney General Marisela Morales said Tuesday. – Associated Press

Canada

The two summit meetings of world leaders hosted by Canada last June might have enhanced Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s image as a world leader and bolstered his re-election prospects this year. Instead, the political fallout over the billion-dollar cost and how some of the spending benefited one of his allies threatens to undermine his campaign. – New York Times

There is still a chance that Canada's Liberals, lagging in popularity and unable to excite the voters, could end up in power after the May 2 election. The opposition Liberal Party has pledged not to form a coalition government with other parties in Parliament. But even if the Conservatives win the most seats, the Liberals might be able to replace them, constitutional experts say. - Reuters

Colombia

Colombian rebels no longer have camps in Venezuela, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said, in a sign of greatly improved ties the year after the two countries' spat over the guerrillas raised fears about regional stability. - Reuters

Defense

While defense spending is left relatively untouched in the last-minute budget deal reached April 8, the funding provided does not meet Defense Secretary Robert Gates' stated target of $540 billion for 2011. – Defense News

Defense firms that build the helicopters and unmanned aircraft needed in Afghanistan were once again big winners in the budget sweepstakes. – The Hill

By year’s end, some U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan may head out on patrol accompanied by new allies: unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) that can carry more than 1,000 lb. of gear, recharge soldiers’ batteries and follow foot patrols autonomously. - Aviation Week

The Pentagon is preparing to negotiate its next order of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft with Lockheed Martin, this time with a concerted effort to crank down the jet's price, according to the Air Force's top acquisition official. – Defense News

The Army and its industry partners could have a bumpy ride in the coming months securing full funding for a new wheeled combat vehicle program amid questions over how quickly it is needed. – The Hill

Directed-energy weapons are being paired with traditional cannons to produce advanced shipboard defense against people, small arms, light boats and unmanned aircraft using non-lethal and low-power devices. Future plans also include introducing high-power microwave (HPM) devices for counter-electronics attacks and high-energy lasers, say BAE Systems officials visiting Washington for the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition. - Aviation Week

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced Monday he has established a new organization to investigate corruption in the procurement process. – Military Times

The Pentagon will place a greater emphasis on price when negotiating weapons or service purchases, said Shay Assad, DoD's director of defense procurement and acquisition policy. – Defense News

The U.S. Air Force Space Command chief asked industry for ideas as DoD's budget shrinks and its demand for services rises in coming years. – Defense News

GE Aviation said on Tuesday it is cutting back development of its competitive engine for the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet after the engine’s funding was cut from the 2011 federal budget. – Associated Press

The Obama administration's efforts to use foreign aid to help Middle East and North African nations undergoing democratic transitions have been stopped short by a Congress focused on paring federal debt and other spending priorities – Los Angeles Times

The 2011 government spending plan excludes billions in cuts to diplomatic programs previously approved by the House, but a senior Democratic senator says he sees big cuts on the horizon. – The Hill

Josh Rogin reports: As part of the budget deal struck to avoid a government shutdown, the White House has agreed to reduce the State Department and foreign operations budgets for the rest of fiscal 2011 by $8 billion. Meanwhile, the fight over the president's fiscal 2012 budget is already underway. – The Cable

Missile Defense

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) called President Obama’s goal of a nuclear weapon-free world “loopy” on Tuesday while charging the administration with allowing Moscow too much sway over America’s atomic arsenal and missile defense plans. – The Hill

Richard Perle writes: Tough, effective measures to slow the spread of nuclear weapons are required—not utopian, solipsistic notions about how American disarmament is the key to world peace. It isn’t. And the sooner we reject measures that won’t work, the sooner we may find ones that do. – World Affairs Journal

Democracy and Human Rights

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Arab leaders on Tuesday to accelerate economic and political reforms to meet the growing demands of their publics, but refrained from calling for rulers in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria to step down. Mrs. Clinton's comments illustrate the selective approach the Obama administration continues to employ in responding to the political uprisings that have surged across the Middle East and North Africa since January. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Ideas

Charles Wolf, Jr. writes: It's fashionable among academics and pundits to proclaim that the U.S. is in decline and no longer No. 1 in the world. The declinists say they are realists. In fact, their alarm is unrealistic – Wall Street Journal

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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.
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