FPI Overnight Brief: April 13, 2012

Middle East/North Africa

The six world powers gathering here for nuclear talks beginning Friday are finding themselves divided over how best to curb Iran’s ambitions while defusing the possibility of a new military confrontation in the volatile Middle East. – Washington Post
At negotiations this week between Iran and six world powers, the United States and its allies hope to make enough progress to take some of the urgency out of the confrontation over Tehran’s nuclear program, to reassure Israel and to arrange a second round of talks soon. – New York Times
Mr. Roeder and other former hostages say that the Iranian government never paid — literally or figuratively — for what was done to them. Their longstanding grievance in many ways frames the quandary that the Obama administration faces in balancing the impulse to punish Iran with the hope of normalizing relations. – New York Times
When U.S. officials join talks this weekend about Iran's nuclear program, they will be armed with profiles developed by intelligence agencies offering insight into what makes foreign leaders tick. One key player will not be at the table in Istanbul, where negotiations are scheduled between Iran and six world powers, but his stamp of approval will be required for any deal to fly. - Reuters
Chinese shipyards are expected to deliver the first of 12 supertankers to Iranian oil shipping operator NITC in May, two months ahead of a European ban that would make it difficult for most of the world's fleet to carry the OPEC member's oil. - Reuters
The UAE has recalled its ambassador to Tehran for consultations after what it called a "flagrant violation" of its sovereignty by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who visited a Gulf island claimed by both countries. - Reuters
Editorial: In an interview Mr. Obama gave earlier this year on Iran to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, he warned that "as President of the United States, I don't bluff." We were glad to hear him say it, and it would be nice to believe it. The only mystery is why he is giving Iran incentives to call that bluff. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi writes: In the upcoming talks, we hope that all sides will return to the negotiating table as equals with mutual respect; that all sides will be committed to comprehensive, long-term dialogue aimed at resolving all parties’ outstanding concerns; and, most important, that all sides make genuine efforts to reestablish confidence and trust. – Washington Post
Steve Hayes writes: The international community isn't interested in holding Iran accountable for these acts of war, and in preparing for high-level talks it's easy to separate one problem from another. But the real world doesn't work that way. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Mark Dubowitz and Toby Dershowitz write: the entire Iranian telecom and technology industry should be blacklisted and closed to foreign companies unless they can certify to the U.S. government that any sales of technology to Iran will facilitate Iranians' access to safe and open communications. – Wall Street Journal Europe (subscription required)
For a second consecutive day, a fragile cease-fire negotiated by the special envoy Kofi Annan seemed to prevail in much of Syria early on Friday, the first vaguely optimistic signal in months in that nation’s bloody antigovernment uprising. – New York Times
Just hours into a cease-fire between the Syrian government and the opposition, the truce was already on shaky ground as more than a dozen people were reported killed and there was no sign that government tanks and heavy weapons had been withdrawn from contested areas. – Los Angeles Times
The White House says a cease-fire that began Thursday in Syria is not sufficient for the country to meet the terms of a peace plan. – DEFCON Hill
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday a ceasefire declaration by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was insincere and called for the creation of humanitarian corridors to help Syrians escape "massacres". - Reuters
[Video] – Senator John McCain (R-AZ) discussed his recent trip to the Syria-Turkey border in an interview with France 24 – France 24
[T]his week, as Mr. Suleiman burst back into public view with a presidential campaign of his own, it became clear that he never went very far after all. – New York Times
Egypt's finance minister said Thursday he expects to sign a $3.2 billion loan with the International Monetary Fund by May 15, signaling the government hopes it can overcome opposition from the powerful Muslim Brotherhood to an early deal with the international body. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The Egyptian parliament Thursday passed a law barring top officials from deposed President Hosni Mubarak’s regime from running for president, a move certain to draw legislators into a fierce political battle with the country’s military leaders ahead of next month’s election. – LA Times’ World Now
Hosni Mubarak’s former spy chief said in comments published Thursday that he decided to run for president to prevent Islamists from turning Egypt into a “religious state,” and warned that the country would be internationally isolated if one of them won the presidency. – Associated Press
North Africa
A multinational team of weapons experts has secured and destroyed 5,000 Libyan man-operated portable air defense systems and components left over after the fall of the Gadhafi regime, according to the British Ministry of Defence. The team has been unable to rule out the possibility that a number of the weapons may have leaked out of the country or been acquired by terrorists. – Defense News
Iraq has accepted a request from Libya to provide assistance in disposing of Tripoli’s chemical weapons, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement released April 12. - AFP
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested that Morocco may have been spying on the world body's monitoring force in the disputed territory of Western Sahara and hampering its ability to function, according to a new report obtained by Reuters. - Reuters
Gulf States
Saudi Arabia has jailed a hard-line cleric who once called for demolishing the Grand Mosque in Mecca and rebuilding it to prevent mixing between the sexes at Islam's holiest site, local media reports say. – LA Times’ World Now
Kuwaiti lawmakers voted in favor of a legal amendment on Thursday which could make insulting God and the Prophet Mohammad punishable by death, after a case of suspected blasphemy on Twitter caused an uproar in the Gulf Arab state. - Reuters
Refugees who have crossed the Turkish border say the shaky ceasefire in Syria has done nothing to convince them that the year-long revolt against President Bashar al-Assad is over. - Reuters
Sasha Gordon writes: Hadi’s success or failure in restructuring the Yemeni military will have dangerous implications for the country’s ability to prevail against Ansar al Sharia and AQAP, thought to be al Qaeda’s most dangerous branch, and thereby America’s ability to effect its security interests in the region – AEI’s Critical Threats Project
The sheikh’s injuries highlight a story of growing political tension within and between Iraq’s religious and ethnic groups since the US military occupation ended in December . While people on all sides say the problem is assuming dangerous dimensions, no solution is in sight – and some Iraqis fear a return to civil war and a de facto partitioning of the country. – Financial Times
Former President Jimmy Carter writes: It is heartening to realize that “peace in the Middle East,” based on the two-state solution, is still feasible — but not for much longer. – New York Times
A former general and 30 other officers were detained Thursday for their roles in a 1997 coup, continuing the clash between the government and the nation’s once-indomitable military. – New York Times


North Korea launched a multistage rocket Friday morning, again defying countries that want it to stop pursuing advanced weapons, but it blew up less than two minutes into flight and parts crashed in the Yellow Sea off South Korea. – Wall Street Journal
The leader of South Korea's conservative political party, Park Geun-hye, thanked voters Thursday for keeping the party in control of the National Assembly and vowed to clean up some of its problems. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
North Korea's failed rocket launch has shown that the reclusive communist nation isn't as far along with its nuclear warhead-delivery capabilities as many in the West had feared, said David Wright, an arms control expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists. – LA Times’ World Now
North Korea continues to illegally export ballistic missiles and their components to countries in Northern Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the Washington Times on Wednesday cited the CIA as saying in a yearly assessment of WMD proliferation – Global Security Newswire
North Korea named its young leader Kim Jong-un as First Chairman of the ruling National Defence Commission at a meeting of its assembly on Friday, capping a rise to power in the reclusive state after the sudden death of his father in December. - Reuters
Russia criticized North Korea for its defiant rocket launch on Friday but said it opposes new sanctions against Pyongyang and joined China in calling for restraint from neighboring nations. - Reuters
Josh Rogin reports: North Korea's apparently unsuccessful launch of an Unha-3 rocket with a "satellite" attached marks not only the 100th birthday of the country's founder Kim Il Sung, but also the end of the Obama administration's year-long effort to open up a new path for negotiations with the Hermit Kingdom. – The Cable
Analysis: The roots of the growing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea’s controversial missile launch Thursday trace back to a set of closed-door talks in February—and the sharply differing conclusions each side drew from the negotiations. – National Journal
Editorial: It’s impossible to be confident of a population count for the gulag, Mr. Hawk said, because it’s not clear whether deaths are outpacing deportations. Enough is known, however, for indifference to be inexcusable. As a first step, the United Nations could establish a commission of inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity taking place inside the prison camps. As Ms. Cohen said, “It is not just nuclear weapons that have to be dismantled but an entire system of political repression.” – Washington Post
Will Inboden writes: [A]s the administration weighs its limited menu of options for North Korea's latest provocation, there is an opportunity to consider potential strategic linkages between how the U.S. responds to North Korea and how it handles the Iran file. At least two possible paths come to mind. Both admittedly have significant downsides, but then what policy doesn't when it comes to North Korea and Iran? As tactically different as each approach is, both represent an effort to consider a strategic linkage between U.S. policy toward North Korea and Iran. – Shadow Government
It's the type of punishment that many thought would vanish with the fall of the Taliban, but Shari'a law is alive and well in Afghanistan. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Afghan leaders pleaded on Thursday to not let political pressures surrounding the upcoming presidential campaign sway U.S. plans to transition out of Afghanistan. – DEFCON Hill
An overarching deal between the United States and Afghanistan over America's role in the country after 2014 could be completed before both countries meet at a high-level NATO summit in May. – DEFCON Hill
Afghanistan's top defense official said Kabul has begun implementing measures to help stem increasing attacks on U.S. troops by rogue Afghan soldiers. – DEFCON Hill
Adm. Bill McRaven, the head of U.S. special operations, is mapping out a potential Afghanistan war plan that would replace thousands of U.S. troops with small special operations teams paired with Afghans to help an inexperienced Afghan force withstand a Taliban onslaught as U.S. troops withdraw. – Associated Press
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee expressed serious concerns that the U.S.-Afghanistan deal giving Afghans authority over night raids could put Americans at greater risk and undercut intelligence gathering critical in the long war. – Associated Press
Josh Rogin reports: The Obama administration is negotiating a deal with the Taliban that would include transferring five senior Taliban officials from Guantánamo Bay to "house arrest" in Qatar, but the head of Afghanistan's defense ministry said today that the deal shouldn't go forward until or unless the Taliban shows it is serious about peace. – The Cable
South Asia
In a rare show of unity, the government and opposition joined on Thursday to present the United States with a list of stringent demands, including an immediate end to C.I.A. drone strikes, that were cast in uncompromising words but could pave the way for a reopening of NATO supply lines through the country. – New York Times
India has decided to allow foreign direct investment from Pakistan, India's trade minister said on Friday, hours before the two countries were due to open a trading post on the border in the latest sign of thawing economic ties. - Reuters
Chinese officials rapidly intensified a propaganda campaign to paper over a leadership split in the Communist Party on Thursday as the first hints began to emerge of the wealth and influence amassed by relatives of a deposed Politburo member, Bo Xilai. – New York Times
What began as a scandal involving the mysterious death of Neil Heywood, the British businessman whose body was found in November in a Chongqing hotel room, appears to be evolving into a broader investigation into the wealth of a politically powerful Chinese couple, Bo Xilai and his wife, Gu Kailai, and their financial interests. – New York Times
As the party leadership scrambled this month to decide whether to strip the former Chongqing party secretary of all party posts and prosecute his wife, one key task was to ensure that the military would play along. – Washington Post
A glitch in the “Great Firewall” of China likely caused many of that country’s half-billion Internet users to be cut off from the World Wide Web for more than two hours Thursday. – Washington Times
China's first-quarter economic growth slowed to a lower-than-expected 8.1%, the lowest since the first quarter of 2009, as a slowdown in exports and real-estate investment complicated China's efforts to guide its economy to a soft landing. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
U.S. and Chinese officials touted recent progress in intellectual-property protection in China and called for continued efforts, even as U.S. and Chinese companies engage in high-profile battles over famous names such as iPad and Michael Jordan. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Even as the Chinese and America's Philippine allies engage in their latest standoff at sea over the disputed Scarborough Shoal, the message from an array of elder statesmen is that the U.S. needs to avoid any kind of confrontation with China -- and the Obama Administration seems to be listening. – AOL Defense
The Chinese widow of a British businessman thought to have been murdered in a case that has rocked China's political establishment has been gagged by local police, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said. - Reuters
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei is suing Beijing tax authorities for violating the law by imposing a 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) tax evasion penalty on the company he works for without allowing him access to evidence and witnesses, Ai said on Friday. - Reuters
Southeast Asia
Philippine and Chinese officials Thursday continued looking for ways to defuse a potentially explosive naval standoff over waters that both claim as their own in one of Asia's biggest potential security flashpoints, the South China Sea. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
[A]s the country opens up, many people who work in Myanmar, citizens and foreigners alike, say they are worried the country’s underlying problems could stall or limit growth. – New York Times
David Cameron, UK prime minister, visited Myanmar on Friday on his final leg of an Asian tour. The trip is the first by a western leader since the country gained independence from Britain in 1948 and comes as western governments debate whether to ease sanctions imposed in the 1990s. – Financial Times
China withdrew one of three ships engaged in a standoff with Philippines vessels in a disputed area of the South China Sea on Friday, further easing tension as diplomats pursued efforts to at a solution. - Reuters
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will likely win elections expected this year, helped by a raft of political and economic reforms, but his party needs fresh blood to be able to hold on its own in the long-term, former leader Mahathir Mohamad said. - Reuters


As Chinese and Filipino ships continue to face off in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, the Chief of Naval Operations acknowledged that the Navy's prized new Littoral Combat Ship might not survive a shooting war against a well-armed adversary like China. But, Adm. Jonathan Greenert said [yesterday] morning at a National Press Club breakfast organized by Government Executive magazine, the small, versatile vessel could free up larger warships from the day-to-day policing, presence, and partnership-building missions that are the best way to prevent a crisis from erupting in the first place. – AOL Defense
The Pentagon plans to spend $770 billion on aircraft purchases, operations, maintenance and construction between fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2022, according to a report on the military’s 30-year aviation blueprint. – Aviation Week
A U.S. military aircraft crash that killed two Marines Wednesday will give new ammunition to critics of the V-22 Osprey, but the incident alone should not doom the controversial program. – DOTMIL
Robert Farley writes: Clinton's acknowledgment of the relationship between maritime power, the liberal international order, and U.S.-China relations was important. As she noted, China and the United States have much deeper ties with one another than the United States and the USSR possessed 60 years ago. As much as they may diverge, the two superpowers share critical maritime interests, and the key question of Sino-American relations may become how to accommodate these interests within an emerging regional security architecture. This speech may have given indications not only of the future of defense politics in the United States, but also of the character of U.S.-Chinese competition for the next decade and beyond. – Foreign Policy
Missile Defense
The botched launch was widely believed to be a cover for a test of a ballistic missile — and while the Unha-3 rocket apparently crashed into the sea, the media focus on the event once again raised the prospect of how the United States would defend itself if such long-range weapons were ever operational and accurate. - Politico
Norway is prepared to support establishment of NATO’s new missile defense system in Europe but also is ready to help build trust between NATO and a Russian government opposed to the project, according to Norway’s New Defense Plan (NDP) white paper. – Defense News
A NATO official in a Wednesday radio interview hinted that a "political" agreement on missile defense cooperation could be reached with Russia in the coming months, ITAR -Tass reported – Global Security Newswire
A senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official on Wednesday lashed potential U.S. plans to collaborate with partner nations in developing a ballistic missile shield covering Asia, China Daily reported – Global Security Newswire
The War
House Republicans are set to introduce legislation next week aimed at clarifying recent laws by affirming that all U.S. detainees maintain due process rights amid concerns over the erosion of individual freedoms. – Washington Free Beacon


Navalny took his show on the road this week, flying to this southern fishing and oil city to draw attention to a mayoral candidate on a hunger strike who said the election was stolen from him. But in Astrakhan, where residents are better able to tell the difference between pike and perch than categorize opposition leaders, many are still unfamiliar with Navalny and his compatriots. – Washington Post
[I]f residents have little faith in the election system, they also seem to have little interest in [Astrakhan opposition candidate] Mr. Shein’s plight. Their indifference poses a major challenge for antigovernment activists from Moscow who have flocked south in recent days to lend him support, and are hoping to use his case to build wider momentum for political reform. – New York Times
Two Moscow tax departments at the centre of a tax rebate scam worth hundreds of millions of dollars continued to disburse huge sums long after similar schemes were uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, the whistle-blowing lawyer who died in jail after making his allegations. – Financial Times
Leon Aron writes: It is always sad and maddening to hear about insults to human dignity by paid propagandists and thugs of authoritarian regimes. Yet the hounding of McFaul is particularly bizarre – Foreign Policy
A former Ukrainian defense minister who served under jailed opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been sentenced to five years in prison on abuse of office charges. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
FPI Policy Analyst Evan Moore writes: Ahead of next month’s NATO summit in Chicago, President Obama—and other NATO leaders—should make clear to diplomats in Greece that Macedonia’s membership is not negotiable. While Macedonia’s military power may be small, its membership into NATO will renew the alliance’s strength in the face of the existential security challenges of the 21st century. – The Commentator


Summit of the Americas
President Obama on Friday heads to Latin America for the third time for a summit meeting whose very location — Colombia — reflects the broader economic and security gains in the hemisphere. – New York Times
The White House is stressing American efforts made in regards to economic issues with South American allies ahead of a weekend summit in Colombia, but a key GOP lawmaker wants President Obama to get tough with America's foes in the region. - DOTMIL
Jose Cardenas writes: The president must unabashedly reassert the abiding relevance of the Inter-American Democratic Charter as one that transcends ideology and fuzzy notions of Latin "solidarity" and remains the foundation for any lasting regional peace and prosperity. – Shadow Government
FPI Policy Analyst Patrick Christy writes: This weekend, President Obama has the opportunity to show he is finally willing to lead on issues in the western hemisphere.  He could do so by proposing new investment and trade initiatives, recommitting the United States to Latin America’s security, and by finally speaking on behalf of the region’s beleaguered democratic movements. – The Weekly Standard Blog
A year and a half after cholera first struck Haiti, a tiny portion of the population on Thursday began getting vaccinated against the waterborne disease that has infected more than 530,000 Haitians and killed more than 7,040. – New York Times
South America
The fate of Argentina’s largest oil company, YPF, was thrown into doubt on Thursday, as reports that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was preparing to nationalize the company drew a warning from Spain that it would consider such a move a hostile action. – New York Times
Hugo Chávez’s supporters on Friday are to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his triumphant return to power after a botched coup d’état amid mounting speculation that the Venezuelan president may not be so successful in his fight against cancer. – Financial Times
The president, a University of Kansas graduate and a scion of one of Colombia’s most influential families, is widely believed to aspire to fill the regional leadership vacuum left by former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. – Associated Press


West Africa
Twenty-two days after a military coup ended more than two decades of democratic rule in Mali, the leader of the country’s National Assembly was sworn in as interim president on Thursday. – New York Times
In Guinea-Bissau, soldiers reportedly sealed off the parts of the capital on Thursday and ringed the home of the prime minister, lobbing grenades. The unrest comes weeks before an election once seen as a chance for one of the most troubled states in West Africa to overcome its tumultuous past. – LA Times’ World Now
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday everything had to be done to prevent a "terrorist or Islamic state" emerging in northern Mali after rebels seized vast tracts of the desert north. - Reuters
Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram intends to bring down the government and "devour" President Goodluck Jonathan within three months, its purported leader said in his second al Qaeda-style video posted on the Internet on Thursday. - Reuters
East Africa
The African Union denounced South Sudan's occupation of a vital oil field in a disputed border region with Sudan as illegal, and urged the two former civil war foes to work to avert a "disastrous" war. - Reuters
Somali pirates have acquired sophisticated weaponry, including mines and shoulder-held missile launchers from Libya, and are likely to use them in bolder attacks on shipping, a senior maritime security analyst said on Thursday. - Reuters
South Africa
South Africa’s military is overstretched and underfunded as it adapts to new demands from peacekeeping to fighting piracy, the defense ministry said April 12 in launching a review of military policy. - AFP

Obama Administration

Josh Rogin reports: As North Korea prepares to launch a missile, the Asia team in the Obama administration is working around the clock. But over at the Pentagon, several top Asia policy positions are completely vacant, forcing lower-level officials to pick up the slack. – The Cable


Kori Schake writes: The State Department and the Obama administration should seize the moment and create a more solid basis for civilian-led American diplomacy. The country deserves it, and the good people of the State Department deserve it, too. – Foreign Policy

Sunday Shows

As of publication, the following shows had announced that they will host foreign policy-related guests on their programming, Sunday:
Face the Nation: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

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