FPI Overnight Brief: August 22, 2011

Libya

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power dissolved with astonishing speed on Monday as rebels marched into the capital and arrested two of his sons, while residents raucously celebrated the prospective end of his four-decade-old rule. Colonel Qaddafi’s precise whereabouts remained unknown and news reports said loyalist forces still held pockets of the city, stubbornly resisting the rebel advance. – New York Times
 
As rebel forces in Libya converged on Tripoli on Sunday, American and NATO officials cited an intensification of American aerial surveillance in and around the capital city as a major factor in helping to tilt the balance after months of steady erosion of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s military. – New York Times
 
In the end, it was more of a Sunday drive than a punishing final offensive. From the first cautious ventures out of the hard-fought prize of Zawiyah, the rebels’ advance became a headlong rush into the heart of Tripoli and Green Square, the symbol of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s power. By nightfall, the rebels were in command of the square, the scene of so many manic, forced declarations of fealty to Colonel Qaddafi. Now, the portraits were ripped down, along with the green flags that marked his rule. Instead, young men waved rebel flags in the renamed Martyrs’ Square. – New York Times
 
The rebels say they are determined to avoid the kinds of looting and killing that took place in Baghdad after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Convinced that Gaddafi’s fall is inevitable, they have sought the help of international military officials and politicians on plans to avoid similar disorder in Tripoli. – Washington Post
 
Josh Rogin reports: As rebel forces poured into Tripoli, the White House called for Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, whose whereabouts now are still unknown, to recognize publicly that he is no longer in control and called on the rebel leadership to prove it will be a competent and inclusive leader of a new Libya. – The Cable
 
Analysis: The revolt against Moammar Kadafi was born in the eastern city of Benghazi, long a caldron of discontent with the autocratic ruler. The uprising gained traction during bloody spring battles in coastal Misurata, Libya's third-largest city, where residents barricaded streets with shipping containers in ferocious urban warfare. But it is a rebel thrust from the west that may prove decisive in bringing an end to Kadafi's more than four-decade reign – Los Angeles Times
 
Statement by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC): Ultimately, our intervention in Libya will be judged a success or failure based not on the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, but on the political order that emerges in its place.  Today marks a big step forward for the Libyan people towards freedom and democracy.  As they continue on this journey, America must continue to stand with them – Sen. McCain’s Office
 
Editorial: Libyans will determine their own future, but the U.S. has a stake in showing the world that NATO's intervention, however belated and ill-executed, succeeded in its goals of removing a dictator, saving lives, and promoting a new Libyan government that respects its people and doesn't sponsor global terrorism. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
George Grant writes: A post-Gadhafi Libya can certainly succeed, and there is every reason to believe that what comes after Gadhafi will be a marked improvement over what existed during his 42 years in power. If the rebels abide by their plan to work with former regime figures and incorporate non-criminal elements of the existing security architecture into any post-Gadhafi settlement, a power vacuum is not inevitable. Likewise, the international community must heed the lessons so painfully learned in Iraq and Afghanistan and be comprehensive in delivering the assistance necessary to develop and consolidate the transitional government's capabilities. – Wall Street Journal

Syria

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria dismissed American and European calls for him to step down as “meaningless” on Sunday, and he declared that Syria’s ailing economy could withstand escalating international sanctions. – New York Times
 
Protesters throughout Syria joined in large, boisterous and peaceful rallies Friday, defying a bloody government crackdown that continued despite international calls the day before for the ouster of President Bashar Assad. – Los Angeles Times
 
The European Union agreed on Friday to broaden sanctions on Syria's regime and penalize its backers, advancing an international effort to target the regime's finances, as security forces continued to crack down on protesters. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Syrian authorities preparing for a United Nations inspection are covering up damage in a Palestinian refugee camp that was pummeled with gunfire and rockets during a crackdown on protesters in recent days, according to a Western diplomat, Syrian activists and camp residents. – Los Angeles Times
 
Republican White House hopefuls are attacking President’s Obama’s response to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s bloody, five-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, saying the commander in chief wasted valuable time in mulling the situation. – Washington Times
 
Open Letter: Former U.S. government officials, foreign policy experts, and democracy activists signed an open letter, Friday, suggesting the next steps for the Obama administration to take in its Syria Policy.
 
Lee Smith writes: Obviously the Syrian people will choose their own leaders, as they have during the course of the uprising. More leaders will come to the fore. But the White House would do well to recognize that the goal of the Syrian opposition—Assad’s exit—runs parallel to American interests. And now that we have embraced that goal, we need to achieve it. – The Weekly Standard

Yemen

A pair of suicide bombings targeting anti-al-Qaeda tribesmen in southern Yemen killed 11 people on Sunday, tribal and security officials said. – Associated Press

Iran

Iranian authorities sentenced two Americans arrested and detained along the Iran-Iraq border to eight years in prison, state television cited an unnamed judicial source as saying on Saturday. – Los Angeles Times
 
Russia has put forward "proposals" to build new nuclear power plants in Iran after the completion of the Bushehr project, local media reported Sunday quoting the Islamic republic's atomic chief. - AFP

Iraq

One of the most powerful insurgent groups in Iraq, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, released a statement on Saturday, warning that it had launched a 100-attack campaign to exact revenge for the United States’ killing of Osama bin Laden. – New York Times
 
Seven Iraqis traveling in a pickup truck were killed in an airstrike on Sunday in Iraqi Kurdistan, the semiautonomous region in northern Iraq, according to local officials. Two of the victims were children, they added. – New York Times
 
A U.S. military official says Washington will provide Iraqi authorities with technology to monitor and record phone calls and phone-text messages with the aim of preventing terrorist attacks, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports (RFI). – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
Interview: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday that Iraq has agreed to negotiate an extension of noncombat U.S. forces there beyond 2011. – Stars and Stripes

Israel

The Egyptian and Israeli governments moved Sunday to ease tensions over fatal cross-border attacks, apparently seeking to stop the crisis from flaring up into a full-scale diplomatic rift. – New York Times
 
Egyptian mediators helped broker a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas to stem a deadly escalation of violence and, in turn, ease a standoff between Cairo and Israel over a militant attack on their joint border last week that killed eight Israelis. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
As Palestinian militants tried to forge a tentative cease-fire agreement with Israel on Sunday, pressure was building on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to retaliate for the latest round of violence by launching a major military campaign in the Gaza Strip similar to the 22-day Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 – Los Angeles Times
 
The Islamist group that governs Gaza barred a group of students this week from traveling to the United States for a year of study, officials of the group, Hamas, said. – New York Times
 
Aaron David Miller writes: But if Israeli and Palestinian leaders wanted to solve their problem, or at least make a serious run at negotiating (with or without U.S. help), we would not be on the verge of a big blame game. The fact is, however unpleasant the status quo, keeping things as they are strikes Israelis, Palestinians and Americans as much less risky than the decisions required to change it. Until that calculation changes — driven by the prospects of real pain and gain — there are going to be a lot more dead cats in the neighborhood. – Washington Post

Afghanistan

Afghanistan's election commission on Sunday sought to bring the nation's year-long political stalemate to an end, ordering the unseating of nine of the parliament's 249 lawmakers for electoral fraud. – Wall Street Journal
 
Taliban insurgents blew up a truck outside the British cultural center in Kabul on Friday, then stormed the compound and fought a gun battle for more than eight hours with Afghan security forces trying to dislodge them. – Washington Post
 
The raid that resulted in the Aug. 6 CH-47 Chinook crash that killed 38, including 30 American service members, was one of more than 2,000 similar missions conducted over the past year, a number that is likely to increase sharply as elite special ops task forces assume an even more prominent role in the war in Afghanistan. – Military Times
 
John Podesta, Brian Katulis, and Caroline Wadhams write: After nearly 10 years, our troops need to begin coming home, and Afghan security forces need to take the lead. But as this security transition occurs we need to accelerate our efforts to help Afghanistan strengthen its political institutions, power-sharing arrangements and economic foundations to make sure the country will be able stand on its own. – Washington Post

Pakistan

A suicide bomber killed 48 worshipers Friday at a mosque in a northwestern Pakistani tribal region long scarred by militant attacks and sectarian clashes, officials reported. – Washington Post
 
But Geo — the group’s signature property — continues to thrive on a blend of rumor-filled talk shows, sensationalist breaking news and dashes of progressive programming. Its successes — and mixed messaging — serve as a barometer of the evolving tastes of Pakistan’s growing urban middle class and the power of private television in a country where the military and the mullahs often seem to drive the agenda. – Washington Post
 
Interview: Marc Grossman, the U.S. senior representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, recently sat down at the State Department in Washington with Voice of America's Lina Rozbih to discuss a wide range of regional issues, from the future of Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network to India-Pakistan relations and the recent instability in Afghanistan as the United States begins to draw down its troops. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

China

On the final stop of his four-day China trip, Vice President Biden sought to assure a university audience that the United States will come to grips with its debt problem, and he blamed a vocal faction of the Republican Party for the failure to reach a deal. – Washington Post
 
The choice of sites for visits by foreign leaders is always the product of careful deliberations, but those calculations were particularly evident on Sunday when Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stopped at a school here. – New York Times
 
But even if Beijing has since come to believe that gold medals are lovelier than bronze, senior leaders are clearly displeased that players from its most popular men’s basketball team got into an ugly, full-court brawl Thursday night with the Georgetown University Hoyas. – New York Times
 
The two men expected to take charge of China starting next year took tentative steps into the international spotlight over the past week, offering tantalizing glimpses of how their generation of Communist Party leaders might differ from the current one. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
FPI Director of Democracy and Human Rights Ellen Bork writes: Vice President Biden’s loquaciousness is legendary. But a “gaffe” can sometimes contain an important truth, such as when the vice president mentioned Russia’s economic and demographic decline in 2009. Perhaps Biden will commit a similar diplomatic faux pas by speaking unapologetically about the differences between the United States and China and the superiority of American democracy. Otherwise, how will the Chinese people who take the time and trouble to elude the Great Firewall of the Internet know the basis of our “national affairs”—and how can they feel encouraged in their effort to improve their own? – The Weekly Standard

Taiwan

Taiwan's bid to buy F-16 fighter jets from the United States has become "hopeless," a top Taiwanese official was quoted as saying in an Aug. 20 report. - AFP

Korean Peninsula

An armored train carried the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to a hydroelectric plant in Siberia on Sunday, according to news reports and two South Korean officials, amid signs that Mr. Kim might be seeking a lucrative role in relaying Russian energy sources to South Korea and Japan. – New York Times
 
Several hundred South Korean activists on Saturday protested North Korea's use of concentration camps and called on Pyongyang to release South Koreans who are believed to be imprisoned in them. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 

Japan

Approval ratings for the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan slipped to a new low of 15.8%, a new poll showed Sunday, putting further pressure on the beleaguered Japanese leader to step down soon. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday. – New York Times

India

Crowds supporting Indian activist Anna Hazare's anticorruption hunger strike swelled to more than 20,000 as he demanded that Parliament pass a tough law cracking down on graft by Aug. 30. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
The peaceful movement has drawn in Indians of all ages and from all walks of life, but it marks the first time India’s new, urban middle class has put aside creature comforts and personal ambition and taken to the streets for a political cause. – Washington Post
 
Despite worsening global uncertainties and domestic inflationary pressures, India is aiming for 9% annual growth over a five-year period beginning April 1, 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Burma

Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi says she is pleased about her first meeting with the military-dominated country's new president. It was the opposition leader's highest contact with the new government since her release from house arrest in November. – Associated Press
 
Kelley Currie writes: A dialogue with the head of state has been on Ms. Suu Kyi's list of demands for decades, as has genuine national reconciliation with the ethnic nationalities. If the government accompanies its latest openings to Ms. Suu Kyi with a significant release of political prisoners—a clear and visible benchmark that is the immediate priority on the democracy movement's agenda—then these latest steps can start to be taken seriously. Meanwhile, everything they have done up to now amounts to not much more than talk. Granted, it is the kind of talk the world has wanted to hear. But in order for it to mean anything, it must be followed by concrete, irreversible actions. – The Weekly Standard Blog

Southeast Asia

Barry Wain writes: Asean and China are now back near to where they began when they signed the [2002 Bali] declaration, itself an unsatisfactory compromise for a genuine code of conduct. That Beijing and the Southeast Asians have wasted nine years on a single point of no practical consequence illustrates another reality: They are engaged essentially in a political-diplomatic propaganda game rather than a serious attempt to manage potential conflicts in the South China Sea. – Wall Street Journal Asia (subscription required)

Defense

The dictionary definition of “decimate” is to remove 10%, and that is what could happen to U.S. defense spending over the next decade, now that Washington has set a course to cut as much as $2.4 trillion from accumulating annual deficits. – Aviation Week
 
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has moved to gag communications between the Pentagon and Congress on the highly sensitive issue of the congressional Super Committee. – AOL Defense
 
If an estimated cost of $17 million for the U.S. Army's Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) is accurate, the service might have to cancel the program, the GCV program manager said. – Defense News
 
Defense companies must find ways to work together throughout the acquisition process, particularly as the U.S. military budget shrinks, according to the U.S. chief of naval operations. – Defense News
 
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead is betting that unmanned underwater systems will be the future for the Navy, and he is already taking steps to ensure that future becomes reality. – AOL Defense
 
The Pentagon has approved the requirement for an “endurance upgrade” to the U.S. Navy’s Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system, with a larger air vehicle to provide increased payload and range to support special operations forces. – Aviation Week
 
The old saying, 'if it doesn't make dollars, it doesn't make sense' has become more or less the mantra among attendees at this year's Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International trade show. Affordability and cost savings have been the buzz words among the companies at this year's show, for everyone from the top-tier defense firms down to the subcontractors specializing in unmanned technologies. – AOL Defense
 
The Pentagon inspector general is investigating Clifford Stanley, the official charged with overseeing the Defense Department’s massive personnel bureaucracy, after a spate of highly detailed allegations of gross mismanagement and abuse of power. He's accused of firing respected senior staff, neglecting programs for wounded troops, and using limited funds on expensive consultants and a lavish new conference room. – National Journal
 
Compared with a decade ago, the military is bigger, more closely connected to the CIA, more practiced at taking on terrorists and more respected by the American public. But its members also are growing weary from war, committing suicide at an alarming rate and training less for conventional warfare. – Associated Press

The War

Nearly 10 years after the 9/11 attacks U.S. intelligence agencies are still struggling to strengthen the information sharing networks that broke down in 2001, according to the latest report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). – The Hill

Russia

Voters in two districts here went to the polls Sunday to choose city council officials from a slate of 16 candidates, mostly political amateurs including a train repairman and a former coat-check clerk. Though the tally won't be announced until Monday, Kremlin critics say they already know who the winner will be: St. Petersburg's politically connected regional governor, Valentina Matvienko—whose appearance in the races late last month has sparked a scandal in the hometown of Russia's president and prime minister. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Russia showcases its latest achievements in the aviation industry at this week’s MAKS airshow outside Moscow, but most of the $10 billion deals sealed are between state-run organizations, while visitors to the airshow are reminded of Russia’s lack of organization. – WSJ’s Emerging Europe
 
Russia's test launch of its new Bulava intercontinental missile was delayed due to a malfunction on the nuclear submarine supposed to fire it, an official said Aug. 21. - AFP
 
Mikhail Gorbachev writes: Over the past 20 years, Russia has gone through many hardships. The price of freedom turned out to be much higher, and the road to it much more difficult, than what we assumed when we embarked on that path. Even now, we are only halfway to stable democracy. But we have no other course. – Washington Post

Belarus

Belarus said Friday that it would suspend an agreement to give up its supply of highly enriched uranium, torpedoing, at least temporarily, what was considered a significant victory by the Obama administration in curtailing the spread of dangerous nuclear material. – New York Times

Scandinavia

Relatives of victims killed on the Norwegian island of Utoya last month traveled to the site of the massacre for the first time on Friday, and with the aid of the police, clergy members and counselors, were able to walk through their loved ones’ last moments – New York Times

United States of America

In a little-known effort, General Electric has successfully tested laser enrichment for two years and is seeking federal permission to build a $1 billion plant that would make reactor fuel by the ton. – New York Times
 
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Saturday thoughtful discussion is needed to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq as he wrapped up his first week of campaigning for the GOP’s presidential nomination. – Associated Press
 
FPI Executive Director Jamie Fly writes: While the United States has never practiced an entirely selfless foreign policy, we seem to be shifting to what might be called a selfish foreign policy. We'll engage in limited interventions abroad as long as we can neatly kill the terrorists that threaten us by using high tech tools such as drones and spy satellites, as part of classified covert actions that can be disavowed if anything goes wrong or touted in the press for political gain. Although in the near term, these tactics may prevent most attacks against the U.S. homeland, one major problem with such an approach is that it undermines the moral underpinning of our actions abroad – Shadow Government

Canada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper flies this week to Canada's High Arctic, where troops are conducting the country's largest modern-day Arctic exercise, amid heightened global jostling over the region's natural resources.– Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Colombia

But new revelations in long-running political scandals under former president Alvaro Uribe, a close U.S. ally throughout his eight-year tenure, have implicated American aid, and possibly U.S. officials, in egregious abuses of power and illegal actions by the Colombian government under the guise of fighting terrorism and drug smuggling. – Washington Post

Mexico

Fernandez was freed seven months later with little explanation, but the gruesome details of his crude surgery have not dissuaded thousands of worried Mexicans from seeking out similar satellite and radio frequency tracking products — including scientifically dubious chip implants — as abductions in the country soar. – Washington Post
 
Federal border inspectors are not only seizing drugs coming into the country from Mexico, but are also making arrests for drug smuggling that is going the other way. – Associated Press

Sudan

Tribal clashes in a region of newly independent South Sudan have killed at least 58 people in the past week, the United Nations says, raising fears of ethnic instability in the deeply impoverished country. – New York Times

Obama Administration

For those seeking an example of the revolving door between government and the private sector at the State Department, one need look no further than President Obama’s recent nominee for the position of undersecretary for political affairs. – Washington Times
 
Kori Schake writes: The soft power Clinton so adamantly believes is advancing America's cause in the world has always been hugely enhanced by the view that whatever our national failings, we stand for freedom and believe ourselves safest when other people also live in freedom. The Obama administration has squandered a fair amount of that capital by its wavering reaction to protest movements in the middle east and its unwavering commitment to exits rather than strategies in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. – Shadow Government

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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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