FPI Overnight Brief: May 12, 2011

Syria

The Syrian military intensified a methodical, ferocious march across the country’s most restive locales on Wednesday, shelling the country’s third-largest city from tanks, forcing hundreds to flee and detaining hundreds more in what has emerged as one of the most brutal waves of repression since the Arab Spring began. – New York Times
 
Kuwait replaced Syria on Wednesday on an uncontested slate of countries seeking seats on the United Nations’ main human rights body after an outcry over the violent crackdown on domestic dissent by the government of President Bashar al-Assad – New York Times
 
A reporter for Al Jazeera’s English-language news channel who disappeared while covering the uprising in Syria almost two weeks ago was sent to Iran within two days of being detained by Syrian authorities, the network confirmed on Wednesday – New York Times
 
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Wednesday that the situation in Syria is beginning to resemble the one that compelled the United States to intervene in Libya and urged President Barack Obama to tell the Syrian people America supports them. - Politico
 
Syrian activists are losing hope that pro-democracy protests will topple the 11-year rule of President Bashar al-Assad and fear that his use of force against protesters may crush the movement. - Reuters
 
Most of Iran's breaches of a U.N. arms embargo have been illegal weapons deliveries to Syria, which Western diplomats say were to be passed on to Lebanese and Palestinian militants, a U.N. report says. - Reuters
 
Josh Rogin reports: Many in Congress are getting impatient with what they see as a lack of concrete action by the Obama administration to condemn and punish the Syrian government for its brutal crackdown on civilian protesters. Today, 16 senators are co-sponsoring a resolution calling on the administration to get tough on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. – The Cable
 
John Hannah writes: As many others have lamented, the administration's fecklessness on Syria is rapidly turning into a national disgrace. It represents a moral and strategic failing of major proportions. If sustained, it threatens to rival the president's tragic decision in 2009 to stand by mutely as millions of Iranians rallied to drive a stake through the heart of a regime whose quest for nuclear weapons poses perhaps the greatest current danger to vital U.S. interests. – Shadow Government
 
Elliott Abrams writes: As the days go by and the Assad regime kills more peaceful demonstrators, U.S. policy becomes less and less possible to comprehend, much less defend. – Pressure Points

Libya

Rebels in the contested western city of Misurata stormed the city’s airport on Wednesday afternoon, swarming over the grounds from the south and east and reclaiming it from the military of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. – New York Times
 
Libyan rebel leaders arrived in Washington to press the Obama administration Wednesday for quicker financial aid, hoping to overcome uncertainty inside the U.S. government over how to free up assets seized from Col. Moammar Gadhafi's government – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
As members of the Libyan rebels’ interim government continue to press their case for U.S. assistance in their fight against Muammar el-Qaddafi, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said he’s trying to unfreeze some of the Libyan leader’s assets. – National Journal
 
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday he does not believe Congress will act before the May 20 deadline to authorize military engagement in Libya and he does not “recognize” the constitutionality of the War Powers Act that sets the timeline, in any case. - Politico
 
The House Armed Services Committee is asking the Defense Department to turn over planning documents for allied military operations in Libya, including records of efforts made to provide advance notification of the operations to Congress. – Military Times
 
Josh Rogin reports: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boasted last month about the decision to start giving non-lethal aid to the Libyan rebel army. Yesterday, the rebels got their first delivery: 10,000 packets of pre-packaged food, what the military calls Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). – The Cable

Yemen

At least 13 people were killed and scores were wounded in the Yemeni capital on Wednesday when security forces and plainclothes government loyalists opened fire on more than 1,000 anti-government demonstrators, medical officials and witnesses said. – Washington Post

Middle East

Opposition parties say the government is systematically pressuring the majority Shiite population, trying to turn a call for wider political freedoms in Bahrain into a regional struggle between Sunni Arab countries and Shiite Iran. Much of the strategy is driven by Bahrain's dominant ally, Saudi Arabia, which fears pro-democracy movements will upset the balance of power in the Persian Gulf. – Los Angeles Times
 
Bahrain's state oil company fired nearly 300 employees for taking part in a recent pro-democracy strike and a U.S.-based human rights group said a prominent activist appeared to have been tortured in detention. - Reuters

Older Emiratis, who remember when their families lived in humble fishing villages, have long been content to remain politically silent as their rulers turned the coastal desert state into a business hub of gleaming skyscrapers. Yet for the first time, a younger generation is starting to question the cost of their parents' genteel quiescence. - Reuters

Iraq

Iraq’s prime minister indicated Wednesday that he might ask some U.S. troops to stay in the country beyond a year-end deadline if most of Iraq’s main political blocs support such a decision. – Washington Post
 
Iraqi parliament deputies are upset with a Kuwaiti seaport being built that they say will make its ports superfluous and seriously damage Iraq's international trade, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports. - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Iran

The trial of three Americans charged with espionage and illegal entry in Iran after their arrest almost two years ago near the border with Iraqi Kurdistan failed to resume in Tehran on Wednesday, and their Iranian lawyer said he had formally protested the delay. – New York Times
 
International sanctions are “constraining” Iran’s capacity to purchase supplies and equipment to develop nuclear and ballistic missile technology, but Tehran continues to actively seek way to overcome the measures, according to a new United Nations report. – Washington Post
 
Observers and rights groups say Iran's human rights record has taken a sharp turn for the worse in recent months, with the hard-line government of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad seeking to stamp out the possibility of an Arab Spring-inspired uprising. But while activists, journalists, bloggers, and students continue to face harassment, punishment, and even death, U.S. officials say the government in Tehran is "fighting a losing battle." – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
Iran's response to a letter from the European Union aimed at reviving talks on Tehran's nuclear program contains nothing new and does not appear to justify another meeting, the bloc said on Wednesday. - Reuters
 
Iran has received another shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia for use at its Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Arabic-language al Alam channel quoted an official as saying Wednesday. - Reuters

Egypt

Editorial: If democracy is to work in Egypt, it must rest on a foundation of fair and equal treatment of all citizens, regardless of faith. As the U.S. government nurtures a new political order there, it should encourage Egypt’s transitional government and the moderate majority of its people to defend the revolution against those who would tear it apart along sectarian lines. – Washington Post

Editorial: If democracy is to work in Egypt, it must rest on a foundation of fair and equal treatment of all citizens, regardless of faith. As the U.S. government nurtures a new political order there, it should encourage Egypt’s transitional government and the moderate majority of its people to defend the revolution against those who would tear it apart along sectarian lines. – Washington Post

Lebanon

Lebanese leaders have intensified efforts to form a government after nearly four months of stalemate over cabinet positions. - Reuters

Sudan

South Sudan's army launched a fresh assault on rebels in a key oil-producing state, killing more than 80, a government minister said Wednesday, in the latest violence ahead of the region's independence in July. - Reuters

Afghanistan

Senior Afghan officials say some Taliban leaders are offering intelligence about al Qaeda to prove they are serious about peace talks with the Afghan government. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
A deadly spring offensive launched by the Taliban in Afghanistan has put the spotlight on the countrys fledgling army, which Western officials and analysts say is being undermined by corruption, the lack of rule of law and a weak government in Kabul. – Washington Times

Pakistan

The leader of the main opposition party called on Wednesday for an independent inquiry into why the Pakistani Army had no knowledge of the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden. – New York Times
 
President Barack Obama and other administration officials, along with some congressional leaders, are working to tamp down passions with a hard truth: The road to success in Afghanistan runs through Pakistan. - Politico

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has met with his visiting Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, in Moscow. - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

A U.S. drone aircraft fired missiles at militants in Pakistan on Thursday, killing eight of them, Pakistani officials said, the third such attack since U.S. forces found and killed Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout. - Reuters
 
Pakistan is likely to get $300 million from the United States for costs incurred in fighting militants, officials said on Thursday, at a time U.S. legislators have been questioning aid to Pakistan after Osama bin Laden was found there. - Reuters
 
Bill Gertz reports: U.S. intelligence and security agencies are sifting through thousands of pages of documents obtained from Osama bin Laden’s lair in Pakistan in a hunt for links between the al Qaeda leader and Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence service. – Inside the Ring
 
Analysis: The death of Osama bin Laden is unlikely to undermine the Pakistan Taliban, despite al Qaeda's links with the militants, and it may even embolden the fighters battling to bring the nuclear-armed state down. - Reuters
 
Zalmay Khalilzad writes: It is in neither America’s interest nor Pakistan’s for relations to become more adversarial. But Pakistan’s strategy of being both friend and adversary is no longer acceptable. While the killing of Bin Laden was an important success, a greater achievement would be to transform United States-Pakistani relations into a true partnership that fights terrorism, advances a reasonable Afghan settlement and helps stabilize the region. – New York Times

China

A chilling tale of Chinese government officials “confiscating” babies in villages for big profits is gripping China. The maverick newspaper Caixin Century broke the story Monday on how local communist “family-planning” officials, acting as thuggish goons in Hunan province in central China, snatched more than a dozen babies, many of them first births for families, from hapless villagers. The officials then sold the abducted babies to state-funded “orphanages” and international adoption agencies for $3,000 each. – Washington Times
 
Seventeen churches in China have appealed to China's lawmakers to provide legal protection of religious freedom after police detained dozens of Christians from a Beijing church that has been trying to hold outdoor services. - Reuters
 
Josh Rogin reports: Following the conclusion of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue this morning, senior Chinese leaders met with several congressmen at the Capitol building to expand their relationships with the United States beyond the executive branch. – The Cable
 
ICYMI, FPI Director of Democracy and Human Rights Ellen Bork writes: Secretary Clinton’s remarks about China do not seem to reflect any wisdom gained from the experience of the Arab spring – that stability by dictatorial regimes is illusory, and support for that kind of stability is counterproductive and immoral. If China’s people, no less than Arabs, have a right to emerge from decades of repression, American rhetoric and actions must reflect it. If there is nothing behind the talk, then more than language will have been degraded. Washington will be seen as weak and China and other dictatorships will be emboldened. – FPI Bulletin

Japan

Japan's government is planning to inject about $62 billion into a fund to help Tokyo Electric Power compensate victims of the crisis at its nuclear plant and save Asia's largest utility from financial ruin - Reuters
 
Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant is leaking water from the center of the reactor seen as the closest to stabilizing, its operator said Thursday, risking a delay in its plan to resolve the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. - Reuters

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has dismissed as "ridiculous" South Korea's hosting of an international nuclear summit next year, barely two days after the North's leader Kim Jong-il was conditionally invited to join 50 world leaders at the event in Seoul. - Reuters

Australia

The fall of the U.S. dollar is helping Australia to lop A$4.3 billion ($4 billion) from its defense spending over the next four years. – Aviation Week

Russia

Police have detained at least seven activists from the Defenders of the Khimki Forest protest group, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
Moscow will start sending new weapons to a chain of islands claimed by both Russia and Japan later this year and complete building two military posts there in 2012, Russia’s top general was quoted as saying May 11. - Reuters

Belarus

An economic crisis in Belarus deepened Wednesday when its currency plunged in value after the Central Bank lifted restrictions on the exchange rate. – New York Times
 
Two more election opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka have gone on trial in Minsk over protests after December's disputed election. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Ukraine

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko says her actions while in office were legal and that President Viktor Yanukovych has "killed Ukrainian justice," RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Somalia

Somalia would welcome a U.S. special-forces attack on al Qaeda-affiliated militants on Somali soil, similar to the strike that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, said Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Sub-Saharan Africa

Militiamen loyal to former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo killed 120 people during a "scorched earth" retreat from Abidjan last week, the Defense Ministry said. - Reuters

The Nigerian army clashed with militants in the creeks of the Niger Delta on Wednesday, the first such skirmish for months in the heartland of Africa's biggest oil and gas industry. - Reuters

Southern Africa

It took 12 years after the end of apartheid for the Waterworks shantytown to get running water, and 17 years for the ruling ANC to face a voter backlash from its disenchanted residents. - Reuters
 
A new study in the American Journal of Public Health, published Wednesday online, estimates that nearly two million women have been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with women victimized at a rate of nearly one every minute. – New York Times
 
Uganda's main opposition leader was barred from boarding a return flight to Uganda from the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's presidential swearing-in ceremony, party officials said Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
After intense international criticism, proponents of an anti-gay bill before Uganda's parliament have removed a punitive clause that called for hanging people who have consensual homosexual sex. – Los Angeles Times

United States of America

 
Less than two weeks after U.S. special operations commandos killed Osama bin Laden, a resolution viewed as an expansion of the legal basis for the global war on terror is moving through Congress. – Washington Times
 
House Republican leaders are aggressively lobbying rank-and-file GOP lawmakers to pass a long-term extension of the Patriot Act, a Bush-era anti-terrorism law that has already provided Republicans with an embarrassing defeat early in their majority. - Politico
 
A Pakistani-born man accused of aiding militants in the 2008 Mumbai attacks is set to go on trial in Chicago next week in a legal battle that may worsen strained relations between the United States and Pakistan. - Reuters

South America

Jackson Diehl writes: On June 5, a runoff election for president in the country of 29 million will offer two possibilities: Keiko Fujimori, the 35-year-old daughter of a former right-wing, authoritarian president who is imprisoned for corruption and human rights crimes; and Ollanta Humala, 48, a former coup-plotting army officer backed by the far left and allegedly financed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Either one presages political disaster for a country that has enjoyed 10 years of moderate, competent government along with South America’s highest economic growth rate. – PostPartisan

Caribbean

Humanitarian workers in Haiti are preparing for fresh cholera outbreaks as the rainy season threatens to revive an epidemic that has killed nearly 5,000 people since October, U.N. officials said Wednesday. - Reuters

Defense

Presenting a dim outlook for the future of defense spending, Gen. Raymond Odierno, head of Joint Forces Command, warned against the folly of "doing more with less" - an approach, he said, which would lead to a hollow force. – Defense News
 
The House Appropriations Committee plans $121 billion in additional cuts in federal programs for 2012, including an $8.9 billion reduction in defense funding, under an apportionment of spending announced May 11. – Defense News
 
A House panel on Wednesday extended a helping hand to Rolls-Royce and GE in their bid to save the F-35’s alternate engine. – The Hill
 
The U.S. Air Force is creating an office for its new bomber program, a top service official said. – Defense News
 
Setting firm requirements and refusing to modify them along the way contributed to the U.S. Air Force's successful awarding of the much-watched KC-X tanker competition earlier this year, according to a top service acquisition official. – Defense News
 
Boeing remains confident of bolstering its C-17 backlog with additional international sales on top of the expected order from India, despite the challenges of maintaining unit cost in the face of reduced production rates, possible gaps in the delivery stream and no new U.S. Air Force orders. – Aviation Week
 
As they marked up next year's defense authorization bill, members of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee moved hundreds of millions of dollars out of the "Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund" and put it toward new and existing programs in the defense budget… The Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund serves as the pot of money that members can use to offset their legislative adds. – Defense News
 
The U.S. House Armed Services Committee is concerned that that the U.S. Army may try to close its Research Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM). – Defense News

The War

Osama bin Laden was preoccupied with attacking the United States over all other targets, a fixation that led to friction with followers, according to U.S. intelligence officials involved in analyzing the trove of materials recovered from the al-Qaeda leader’s compound. – Washington Post
 
Tracking terrorist messaging systems and clandestine couriers became a critical U.S. intelligence mission years before an al Qaeda courier led U.S. special operations forces to Osama bin Laden’s hide-out in Pakistan. – Washington Times
 
The Pentagon is considering allowing the families of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to visit them, an unprecedented step to ease the isolation of inmates who in some cases have been held at the U.S. facility for close to a decade, according to congressional aides. – Washington Post
 
Sen. John McCain writes: All of these arguments have the force of right, but they are beside the most important point. Ultimately, this is more than a utilitarian debate. This is a moral debate. It is about who we are. I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to forget that best sense of ourselves. Through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss, we are always Americans, and different, stronger and better than those who would destroy us. – Washington Post

Obama Administration

For President Obama, the killing of Osama bin Laden is more than a milestone in America’s decade-long battle against terrorism. It is a chance to recast his response to the upheaval in the Arab world after a frustrating stretch in which the stalemate in Libya, the murky power struggle in Yemen and the brutal crackdown in Syria have dimmed the glow of the Egyptian revolution. – New York Times

Ideas

Elbridge Colby writes: Yet the commendable U.S. decision to go after bin Ladin – in an operation that involved inserting forces right into the middle of a nuclear-armed country and with full knowledge of the possibility that there could be shooting between U.S. and Pakistani forces – shows that nuclear weapons do not provide blanket protection for all manner of evils. – Real Clear World’s The Compass

United Kingdom

The British military is no longer a "full-spectrum" force in the aftermath of aggressive budget cuts, and has at times been "stretched" by commitments to operations over Libya, the heads of the U.K.'s three armed services said on Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
The head of the Royal Navy says retaining Britain's carrier strike capability would have been top of his "wish list" if the recent strategic defense and security review were to be rewritten. – Defense News

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.
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