FPI Overnight Brief: June 1, 2012

Middle East/North Africa

From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program. – New York Times
Iran Thursday sought to expand trade with India and urged New Delhi to increase crude-oil purchases, even though it is under pressure to scale them down due to Western sanctions against Tehran. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The Treasury Department will look to build global unity on bolstered sanctions against Iran and Syria when it sends its top terrorism official to Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom in June. – The Hill’s On the Money
Democrats on Thursday are hoping the House accepts an amendment that would require the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to report to Congress on the consequences of a military attack against Iran. – The Hill’s Floor Action Blog
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that Iran has “a right” to enrich 20 percent uranium, throwing cold water on ongoing negotiations between Tehran and six world powers over Iran’s nuclear program. – DEFCON Hill
The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards has visited three tiny disputed islands in the Gulf, state television reported on Friday, in a move likely to anger the United Arab Emirates which also claims sovereignty over them. - Reuters
Olli Heinonen writes: Iran's increasing enrichment capacity, together with information it reportedly has on a crude design of a nuclear weapon, show that Iran is positioning itself as a virtual or latent nuclear weapon state. Given the risks involved for a potential breakout scenario, a stringent nuclear verification regime in Iran is as vital as it is challenging. A more intrusive and timely inspection system, as well as Iran's agreement to follow the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, would be required. – Foreign Policy
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signaled the Obama administration’s mounting frustration with Russia over the unending violence in Syria on Thursday, saying that Russia’s refusal to take decisive action against President Bashar al-Assad threatened to precipitate the very civil war that Russian diplomats have said they wanted to avoid. – New York Times
The United Nations Human Rights Council was preparing to call on Friday for an international inquiry into last week’s massacre of more than 100 Syrian civilians at Houla, challenging the assertion by Syrian authorities that it was the work of opposition gunmen. – New York Times
France and Germany are expected to push Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to tougher measures against Syria when he visits Paris and Berlin on Friday. But with Europe bedeviled by economic crisis and political upheavals, few here expect its leaders to galvanize world opinion for a major intervention. – Washington Post
The Syrian government said Thursday that its preliminary investigation into the massacre of 108 civilians in the village of Houla proved that security forces were not responsible. – Washington Post
[R]ebels see this moment as an opportunity to rearm, regroup and prepare for what they regard as the inevitable escalation of fighting once the cease-fire, violated by both sides, is declared dead. – Los Angeles Times
It is clear by now that Russia’s government has dug in against outside intervention in Syria, its longtime partner and last firm foothold in the Middle East. Less well known is the position taken by the Russian Orthodox Church, which fears that Christian minorities, many of them Orthodox, will be swept away by a wave of Islamic fundamentalism unleashed by the Arab Spring. – New York Times
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Syrian government Thursday to abide by the terms of a U.N.-brokered peace plan, declaring that the international organization did not employ monitors to Syria “just to bear witness to the slaughter of innocents.” – LA Times’ World Now
The Defense Department on Thursday confirmed that elements of al Qaeda's Iraqi faction are on the ground in Syria, but have no proof that members have infiltrated the ranks of Syrian rebel forces. – DEFCON Hill
Iran's continued efforts to prop up Syrian president Bashar Assad's regime is generating concern inside the Pentagon and raising tensions among U.S. allies in the region. – DEFCON Hill
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that the U.S. should not take military action in Syria without authorization by the United Nations, a position seemingly at odds with that of another senior U.S. official who said the diplomatic channel has reached an impasse. – LA Times’ World Now
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said the military alliance lacks two key mandates that would allow it to intervene in Syria to stop violence between President Bashar al-Assad and opposition forces. – The Hill
Former President Bill Clinton believes the worsening situation in Syria is similar in some respects to one he faced early on in the Bosnia crisis in the 1990s, and said a way must be found to stop the violence. - Reuters
A reported Russian arms shipment to Syria was "reprehensible" although it did not break any laws and the results of a Syrian government inquiry into a massacre in Houla was a "blatant lie", the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Thursday. - Reuters
The European Union is drafting new sanctions against Syria and wants other nations to do the same to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to comply with an international peace plan, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Thursday. - Reuters
Haitham Maleh writes: The West cannot stand idly by. The longer this conflict drags on, the greater chance there is for Syria to fall into chaotic war, with grave consequences for the international community. We do not want to see more failed states like Afghanistan. The region’s best hope is a free and fair Syria, representative of all aspects of Syrian life, respectful of the judiciary, international law and human rights and life. And right now Syrians need all the help they can get. – New York Times
Anne-Marie Slaughter writes: It is time to stand neither for the Syrian opposition nor against the Syrian government but against killing by either side. To tell any Syrian local officials willing to stand against killing -- whether a Local Coordinating Committee or simply a municipal government -- that they will receive weapons and air support against tanks, support that will be withdrawn if killing begins or continues, by anyone. – Foreign Policy
Egypt’s infamous emergency law, which had given President Hosni Mubarak and his police forces vast authority to crack down on dissent, expired Thursday, and officials said they were disinclined to extend it. – Washington Post
Egypt’s likely next president has long called for the U.S. to hold a “scientific conference” to determine the real culprits of the Sept. 11 attacks, having cast doubt on al Qaeda’s role in 9/11 for years. – Washington Times
Two American tourists abducted by Bedouins in Egypt‘s Sinai Peninsula were released unharmed Thursday following negotiations between local tribesmen and the kidnappers, a security official said. – Associated Press
The Islamist aiming to be Egypt's president professes confidence his liberal rivals will swallow their fears of religious rule and vote him to victory in the election runoff against a former general he sees as the heir to the oppressive old regime. - Reuters
Egyptians could hardly believe their eyes when Hosni Mubarak went on trial for complicity over the killing of protesters last year, but those who toppled him doubt Saturday's verdict will deliver justice for the almost 850 who died. - Reuters
North Africa
Libya expects to resume chemical weapons disposal next year and to finish off its remaining stockpile of mustard agent and precursor materials by 2016, a spokesman for a key international arms control organization said on Thursday – Global Security Newswire
The civilian trials of senior officials in Muammar Gaddafi's former government will begin in early June with his former spy chief, Libya's prosecutor general said on Thursday. - Reuters
Security forces will not hesitate to use lethal force to restore order, Tunisia’s interior minister said Thursday after a string of violent incidents in recent weeks. – Associated Press
The U.N. Security Council expressed concern on Thursday over a lack of access for aid to Sudan's border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where fighting has been raging between the Sudanese army and rebels. - Reuters
A Sudanese woman, believed to be around 20, has been sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery, and is being held near Khartoum, shackled in prison with her baby son, rights groups and lawyers said on Thursday. - Reuters
A Yemeni Islamist group linked to al Qaeda said on Friday it had released 27 soldiers taken prisoner, after they vowed to quit the U.S.-backed government army. - Reuters
Israel’s attorney general has decided to indict an Israeli journalist who in an investigative report revealed that top army officers had approved killings of wanted Palestinian militants in the West Bank, charging him with illegal possession of classified documents. – Washington Post
John Hannah writes: It's imperative that Washington gain a much better understanding of Turkey's strategic direction with respect to Kurdistan and Iraq, and do everything possible to develop a common approach -- or at least avoid unpleasant surprises. And if in fact a truly federal, democratic and unified Iraq that puts as much oil as possible onto world markets remains an important U.S. interest -- as it should, especially in light of the current squeeze on Iranian oil sales -- then helping the KRG and Baghdad resolve their intensifying political conflicts, including over the national hydrocarbons law, should again become a top priority for American diplomacy – Shadow Government


Southeast Asia
The incident intensified longstanding international questions over the strategically critical, potentially energy-rich South China Sea that have become more urgent this year as the long-dominant United States and fast-growing China both seek to increase their naval power in the region. – New York Times
Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi Friday warned investors thinking about plowing money into the country that the durability of the country's tentative political reforms depends on the Myanmar military's support for continuing change. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A key witness in the deadliest election-related violence in Philippines history has been killed, in what appeared to be an attempt to eliminate or intimidate those who could testify in court against those accused of perpetrating the 2009 massacre, a prosecutor said on Thursday. – New York Times
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is set to tell Asian and European defense chiefs about the military’s new U.S. “pivot” to Asia, a response to China’s growing military power, during a major speech in Singapore on Saturday. – Washington Free Beacon
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), kindred spirits on a host of national security issues, are traveling together to Southeast Asia to shore up U.S. military relations with the region. – The Hill’s Global Affairs
Anti-government protesters brought Thailand's parliament to a halt on Friday, surrounding the complex and forcing the speaker to postpone debate on a reconciliation bill that critics say is aimed at allowing a deposed prime minister to return home. - Reuters
Josh Rogin reports: Security in the South China Sea, tensions in North Korea, and the changing nature of Asian security will top the agenda this weekend at the Shangri-la Security Dialogue, the largest annual gathering of Asian and Pacific defense officials and experts in the world. – The Cable
In a case that has tested relations between Beijing and Seoul, a prominent South Korean campaigner for democracy in North Korea has been under detention in China for more than two months, and South Korean officials said on Thursday that he was being denied access to consular services and a lawyer. – New York Times
Despite suffering from years of illegal detention, Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese activist whose daring escape began an odyssey that brought him to New York University on a fellowship, expressed optimism on Thursday about the future of legal rights in China. – New York Times
A Chinese industry group said a preliminary U.S. decision to impose tariffs on Chinese wind-turbine towers would have a "negative effect" on related U.S. industries and is an attempt to conceal that U.S. tower manufacturers aren't competitive. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Data released on Friday show that China’s manufacturing sector has weakened sharply, adding to the pressure on the government to take more decisive action to support the flagging economy. – Financial Times
Mostly unknown outside their communities, they are a growing portion of what’s called the “targeted population” - a group that includes criminal suspects and anyone deemed a threat. They are singled out for overwhelming surveillance and by one rights group’s count amount to an estimated one in every 1,000 Chinese - or well over a million. – Associated Press
Hong Kong's outgoing leader Donald Tsang tearfully apologized on Friday for his part in one of a series of corruption scandals that have embarrassed China, a day after an independent report called for him to be held more accountable. - Reuters
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said on Friday he was hopeful China's next rulers would maintain improving relations and that anointed leader Xi Jinping's understanding of cross-Strait issues would help keep economic cooperation on track. - Reuters
Editorial: This is a teachable moment for the West's China-besotted commentators. The country's leaders too often win kudos for their "far sightedness" in setting economic policy—their ability to build roads and bridges, and the alleged care with which they formulate orderly central plans. The current slowdown exposes how false this view is. Confronted with a choice between short-term political gain and longer-term economic progress, China's leaders continue to take the easy way out. – Wall Street Journal Asia (subscription required)
In a small step toward repairing the badly frayed relations between the United States and Pakistan, two American military officers have quietly returned as liaisons to a major Pakistani Army headquarters in Peshawar, the gateway to the country’s restive tribal areas, American officials said Thursday. – New York Times
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will introduce legislation next week that would strip Pakistan of all foreign aid until that country overturns the conviction of a man who provided key intelligence leading to the death of Osama bin Laden. – The Hill’s Floor Action Blog
The Pakistani Taliban vowed on Thursday to kill Shakeel Afridi, the jailed Pakistani doctor accused of helping the CIA in the search for Osama bin Laden, a spokesman for the militant group told CNN. - CNN
Pakistan on May 31 tested a fourth nuclear-capable cruise missile since India launched a new long-range weapon capable of hitting China last month. - AFP
South Asia
It was supposed to be the motor for the next phase of India’s economic resurgence, but the country’s manufacturing sector has hit a brick wall, according to new data released Thursday. – Washington Post
A member of the NATO force was killed in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, and attacks on police in several provinces left at least 11 Afghan law enforcement officers dead. – Los Angeles Times
North Korea
A top U.S. general on Wednesday said he "misspoke" when he told reporters American special forces units were conducting clandestine surveillance operations inside North Korea. – DEFCON Hill
South Korea on Thursday rejected North Korea's effort to declare itself a nuclear-armed nation through a constitutional amendment, the Yonhap News Agency reported – Global Security Newswire


The Pentagon says that war funding would be hit by the $500 billion in automatic defense cuts through sequestration set to take effect January 2013, which was an area that the Defense Department had previously said would be exempt. – DEFCON Hill
The Navy declared LCS-1 Freedom "fit for service" yesterday and on track for next year's deployment to Singapore, while lead contractor Lockheed Martin says LCS-1's shortfalls are largely fixed in the redesigned LCS-3, Fort Worth -- but watchdog group POGO, whose reports have fueled Congressional skepticism, still has its doubts. – AOL Defense
A new Defense Department spy service was authorized in a Thursday House vote in favor of a bill authorizing U.S. intelligence operations for fiscal year 2013. – The Hill’s Floor Action Blog
Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton and Chester Nimitz: All were successful World War II military leaders — and alumni of the U.S. military’s professional education system. But there are growing concerns that looming budget cuts might hurt the system and, ultimately, the quality of the next generation of military leaders. – Defense News
New US battle guidelines partly designed to counter the military challenge from China are attracting strong criticism at home and abroad as unnecessarily provocative of one of America’s strongest economic partners – Financial Times
Missile Defense
Despite the growing rancor on Capitol Hill demanding an advanced missile defense shield on the East Coast, the Pentagon does not have the money or desire to build such a system in the eastern United States. – DEFCON Hill
The top U.S. official on missile defense vowed Thursday to forge ahead with plans for a European shield despite mounting Russian threats. – The Hill’s Global Affairs
The War
Charles Krauthammer writes: So the peacemaker, Nobel laureate, nuclear disarmer, apologizer to the world for America having lost its moral way when it harshly interrogated the very people Obama now kills, has become — just in time for the 2012 campaign — Zeus the Avenger, smiting by lightning strike. – Washington Post


The Russian ruble plummeted to its lowest level in more than three years against the dollar on Thursday, bruised by falling oil prices and a fresh round of European sovereign debt worries, with market watchers predicting further weakness ahead despite interventions from the central bank. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A retired Russian Defense Ministry official was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison for passing on about 7,000 maps he bought from a Russian collector to a man who gave them to the Pentagon, authorities said. – LA Times’ World Now
Russia's ruling United Russia party has toughened its controversial draft law to curb street rallies, in an apparent attempt to stem the growing protest movement against President Vladimir Putin. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Russian police detained dozens of protesters in rallies held in Moscow and St Petersburg on Thursday against President Vladimir Putin and to demand the right to free assembly. - Reuters
Almost a decade after Russia's richest man was jailed after funding groups opposed to Vladimir Putin, a former top bank manager is chipping at the wall between politics and business in a renewed challenge to the Russian president. - Reuters


United States of America
The CIA has begun an internal investigation into whether a process designed to screen books by former employees and protect national security secrets is being used in part to censor agency critics, U.S. officials said. – Washington Post
Romney has roughed up Obama with a hawkish tone — at times bordering on belligerent. Yet for all his criticisms of the president, it has been difficult to tell exactly what Romney would do differently. – Los Angeles Times
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney gave President Obama an “F” grade on foreign policy Thursday, despite the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden last year. – The Hill
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday offered a full-throated defense of U.S. foreign aid — a target in the Republican presidential primary debates — warning that “getting rid of it doesn’t solve anything, but it creates a host of problems.” – The Hill’s Global Affairs
The late U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke received mixed reviews from former colleagues and neighbors while being vetted for several high-ranking government positions, according to his FBI file. – The Hill’s Global Affairs
The Romney campaign has stepped up its criticism of Barack Obama, US president, for being too lenient with China on its economic policies, saying America has “little to lose” in being more confrontational with the Asian nation and brushing off concerns that this could lead to a trade war. – Financial Times
Latin America
After several villagers were killed on a Honduran river last month during a raid on drug smugglers by Honduran and American agents, a local backlash raised concerns that the United States’ expanding counternarcotics efforts in Central America might be going too far. But United States officials in charge of that policy see it differently. – New York Times
Looking relaxed and healthy after a month in jungle captivity, French journalist Romeo Langlois said Colombia's FARC rebel leaders may be prepared for peace talks, but younger fighters are ready for 50 more years of war. - Reuters


West Africa
A kidnapped German engineer was killed during a rescue mission early Thursday in Nigeria's restive north, a Nigerian official said, in an episode that appears to signal al Qaeda's intent to infiltrate Africa's top oil producer and secure the release of a woman who had been jailed in Germany for terror-related activities. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The European Union said on Thursday it does not recognize the recently-formed caretaker government in Guinea-Bissau which appears to be taking orders from the military junta. - Reuters
East Africa
Though Sudan and South Sudan may never descend to a full-fledged war, partly because of all the international attention, they will probably never achieve full-fledged peace either. – New York Times
Sudan will keep police forces in the disputed Abyei region bordering South Sudan for now, the state news agency SUNA said on Thursday, defying a call by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to withdraw. - Reuters
Central Africa
Rwanda accused the United Nations of stirring tensions in the Great Lakes region on Thursday after the world body said that men recruited in Rwanda had been tricked into fighting for a rebel group in neighboring Congo. - Reuters

Obama Administration

Matthew Kaminski reports: The jockeying to replace [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] has begun, and it is a two-horse race between Susan Rice and John Kerry. Others names may emerge if President Obama wins re-election, but the ambassador to the U.N. and the senior senator from Massachusetts have been auditioning since the day Mrs. Clinton got the nod. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


Joshua W. Busby, Jonathan Monten, and William Inboden writes: So although partisan differences over foreign policy will inevitably surface, and may even become quite severe, the American foreign policy community need not be destined for an ideological struggle over multilateral engagement. Perhaps international partnership begins at home. – Foreign Affairs’ Snapshots

Sunday Shows

As of publication, the following shows had announced that they will host foreign policy-related guests on their programs, Sunday:
Face the Nation: David Sanger, author of "Confront and Conceal," and Daniel Klaidman, author of "Kill and Capture.”

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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