FPI Overnight Brief: November 21, 2011

Egypt

Military police used rubber bullets, truncheons and tear gas in a failed attempt to expel protesters from a central square in Egypt's capital on Sunday, in a violent escalation of a two-day battle that threatens to undermine the stability of parliamentary elections in a week. – Wall Street Journal
 
Egypt’s military rulers struggled Monday to contain an explosion of protests demanding their ouster, as demonstrators clashed for a third successive day with security forces around Tahrir Square after new clashes broke out across the country. – New York Times
 
Egypt is preparing to return to negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion loan "within a couple of weeks," Finance Minister Hazem al Beblawi said on Friday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Analysis: The violent confrontations of security forces with thousands of people in Tahrir Square to protest military rule bear a resemblance to the heady days of February when Hosni Mubarak was ousted. But they were perhaps more accurately seen as early skirmishes in what is likely to be a long and chaotic struggle for power, with an uncertain outcome and huge challenges for American policy makers. – New York Times

Syria

Insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at the offices of the ruling Baath Party in Damascus on Sunday in a highly symbolic strike that signaled a new chapter in the eight-month uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. – New York Times
 
An Arab initiative to end violence in Syria appeared at an impasse Sunday, as Damascus and Arab foreign ministers failed to agree on a formula that would allow monitors into the country. – Los Angeles Times
 
The U.S. and its allies are shifting their efforts to constrict Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's few remaining financial lifelines, focusing on ties to Lebanon banks as they increasingly voice confidence that economic malaise will ultimately force the Assad regime from power – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Syria continued to defy mounting international pressure to halt attacks on civilian protesters Friday as Turkey and France suggested they are not ruling out the possibility of military intervention if the violence continues to escalate. – Washington Post
 
A harrowing sectarian war has spread across the Syrian city of Homs this month, with supporters and opponents of the government blamed for beheadings, rival gangs carrying out tit-for-tat kidnappings, minorities fleeing for their native villages, and taxi drivers too fearful of drive-by shootings to ply the streets. – New York Times
 
Aaron David Miller writes: Inaction by the international community while a brutal regime kills its people has its costs, but so does big-footing by great powers. One thing we know about discretionary, poorly conceived military action is that getting into such conflicts is always a lot easier than getting out. – New York Times
 
Lee Smith writes: A recent report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies explains that the Free Syrian Army, made up of defectors from the Syrian military, estimates that there are already 17,000 men under arms, operating out of Turkey and, of all places, Lebanon, the Damascus regime’s terror lab. According to the report, the FSA’s leaders will call for more defections—as soon as the international community implements a no-fly zone. That’s the one move the White House has right now. Time to make it. – The Weekly Standard

Libya

The Obama administration is investigating whether Iran supplied the Libyan government of Moammar Gaddafi with hundreds of special artillery shells for chemical weapons that Libya kept secret for decades, U.S. officials said. – Washington Post
 
Forces loyal to Libya's interim government captured on Sunday the country's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, said the ruling National Transitional Council. The arrest of Mr. Senussi, one of Moammar Gadhafi's closest aides and the alleged mastermind of his violent crackdown on protesters this year, comes one day after the capture of Gadhafi's son and heir apparent Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, who is also wanted by the criminal court on war-crimes charges. – Wall Street Journal
 
Militia fighters holding Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the last fugitive son and onetime heir apparent of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, added conditions on Sunday to the handover of their prisoner to the fledgling government, a new challenge to the authority of Prime Minister Abdel Rahim el-Keeb.   – New York Times
 
The brewing conflict over the fate of two high-ranking Libyan figures — Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, once Libya’s heir apparent, and Abdullah Senussi, the former intelligence chief — is not only a test for the country’s stated commitment to the rule of law, but also a moment of reckoning for the International Criminal Court as it tries to expand its reach. – New York Times
 
The armed militias that emerged from Libya’s civil war and units of the fledgling Libyan National Army are pressing the interim government for places in a new cabinet, which is expected to be seated shortly. – New York Times
 
Creating a coherent army is important, if only to employ the armed revolutionaries still on the streets. But for those looking to the future, improving education is even more crucial — and more difficult. – Washington Post

Kuwait

Kuwait's emir denounced as a "black day" the storming of parliament and said he would not dissolve the assembly or allow the prime minister to resign, as demanded by the opposition. - Reuters
 
Editorial: What Kuwait needs is not a crackdown, but a quicker progression toward a genuine parliamentary democracy, in which the prime minister would be chosen by a majority of the parliament – Washington Post
 

Middle East

The death at the weekend of another protester in Bahrain has increased tensions further in the Gulf state ahead of release later this week of a crucial report into human rights abuses. – Financial Times

Morocco

Thousands of Moroccans protested in cities across the country on Sunday calling for a boycott of a parliamentary election later this week which they say will not be truly democratic. - Reuters

Iran

The Obama administration on Monday will name Iran, including its central bank, as a territory of "primary money laundering concern," say senior U.S. officials, in an effort to further pressure Tehran after recent disclosures about its alleged role in terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
The Obama administration plans to impose a new round of sanctions against Iran’s petrochemical industry, a Western official briefed on the plans said Friday, less than two weeks after a United Nations report published evidence that the Iranian government was working on a nuclear weapon. – New York Times
 
The Obama administration pressed Iran to account for a discrepancy of nearly 20 kilograms in its reporting to the United Nations' nuclear agency on how much natural uranium metal it has in its stockpile. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
A mysterious explosion at an Iranian military base last week was caused when a test of an experimental intercontinental ballistic missile failed, the brother of a senior Revolutionary Guard Corps commander who was killed in the incident said Saturday. – Washington Post
 
Whether he has succeeded in altering any American opinions about Iran is questionable. But even Mr. Larijani’s critics say he has a smooth, urbane delivery and a rational demeanor that contrast with the bombast of some other Iranian leaders who rage against the United States.- New York Times
 
Authorities in Iran have sentenced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's media advisor to a year in jail and banned him from working in journalism for three years because of an article that was deemed to have violated public decency and Islamic principles, Iranian media reports said Sunday. – LA Times’ World Now

Satellite surveillance has shown an increase in activity at an Iranian site suspected of links to alleged secret work on nuclear weapons, officials tell The Associated Press. - Associated Press
 
Josh Rogin reports: It's a rare moment of bipartisan unity: The Obama administration and both congressional Democrats and Republicans all agree that new measures are needed to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions. But that's where the agreement ends; battle lines are now set for a fight in December over the path forward on Iran sanctions. – The Cable
 
Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz write: Iran hawks should not view sanctions as a pusillanimous cop-out. Like President Obama’s failed attempt at diplomatic engagement, sanctions are an unavoidable and necessary prelude to any more forceful action to stop Ayatollah Khamenei’s nuclear ambitions. America may be in for a long cold-war struggle in which sanctions will play a critical role in weakening Tehran. And the Islamic Republic hardly has the resources of the Soviet Union. This time, sanctions might actually, sooner rather than later, put our enemy on his knees. – New York Times
 
Richard Grenell writes: The strategy to increase pressure on Iran through international sanctions had a chance to work. But the president released that pressure and ignored the previous U.S. work to try his personal diplomacy. The Obama team has succeeded in stopping countries from grumbling about U.S. policy, but that's only because they haven't called for an Iran vote in almost 18 months. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Lebanon

The CIA was forced to curtail its spying in Lebanon, where U.S. operatives and their agents collect crucial intelligence on Syria, terrorist groups and other targets, after the arrests of several CIA informants in Beirut this year, according to U.S. officials and other sources. – Los Angeles Times

Iraq

The American military has not yet left an air base along the contested internal border between the semiautonomous Kurdistan region and the rest of Iraq, but a dispute has already broken out over which side will control the strategic site once the Americans leave. – New York Times
 
A top Iraqi parliament deputy says an Iraqi fighter plane will patrol the country's airspace next week for the first time since 2003, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Israel

Editorial: Those who, like Mr. Netanyahu, worry about the “delegitimization” of Israel will only advance that cause if they are seen to erode the country’s democratic foundations. – Washington Post

Pakistan

Pressure mounted Sunday on President Asif Ali Zardari to investigate allegations that Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States had sought American help to rein in the Pakistani military, as opposition politicians called for action and records appearing to implicate the ambassador were leaked to the news media. – New York Times
 
All over Pakistan, people are asking whether Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari approved a memo asking for Washington's help in reining in the country's powerful military. The answer could play a role in whether Zardari, already deeply unpopular with both the public and the military, stays in power. – Los Angeles Times
 
It’s not exactly Seal Team 6 rehearsing the raid on Abbottabad, but a video released by the Haqqani network offers a window onto what is purported to be one of the militant group’s training camps. – Checkpoint Washington
 
Pakistan's Taliban movement, a major security threat to the country, is holding exploratory peace talks with the U.S.-backed government, a senior Taliban commander and mediators told Reuters Monday. - Reuters
 
Josh Rogin reports: The Cable has obtained the document at the center of the "memo-gate" controversy, sent allegedly from the highest echelons of Pakistani's civilian leadership to Adm. Michael Mullen in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden. – The Cable

Southeast Asia

President Obama and nearly all the leaders at an Asian summit directly confronted China on Saturday for its expansive claims to the resource-rich South China Sea, putting the Chinese premier on the defensive in the long-festering dispute, according to Obama administration officials. – New York Times
 
President Obama discussed maritime security, nuclear nonproliferation and disaster aid at an Asian summit meeting on Friday, but just his presence on this resort island telegraphed his main message: that the United States is turning its focus to the booming Asia-Pacific region after a decade of preoccupation with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. – New York Times
 
The former president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was arrested in her hospital room on Friday on charges of election fraud, her lawyer said, after days of dramatic struggle with the government over whether she would be allowed to leave the country for medical treatment. – New York Times
 
If China is unhappy with the Obama administration’s decision to send a handful of Marines to northern Australia, wait until the U.S. Navy starts basing warships in Singapore, on the edge of the disputed waters of the South China Sea. – Checkpoint Washington
 
The White House issued a statement Nov. 18 saying that it will transfer more than two dozen surplus F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters to Indonesia. – Defense News
 
The three most senior surviving commanders of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime masterminded one of the "worst horrors" of the 20th century, killing or enslaving millions of Cambodians, a U.N.-backed war crimes trial heard on Monday. - Reuters
 
Mike Abramowitz and Mark Sarna write: It would be easy for the West to lose interest in the last chapter of a story that mostly took place decades ago in a far-off conflict once described as a “sideshow” to the Vietnam War. But just as there is no statute of limitations on the crimes of the Holocaust, the victims of the “Killing Fields” must see justice, sooner or later. – Washington Post

Burma

President Obama's decision to send Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on a groundbreaking trip to long-isolated Myanmar next month signals U.S. confidence in a recent flurry of political reforms by the repressive regime that has ruled the country for five decades. – Los Angeles Times
 
China on Friday sounded a note of caution about ongoing political reform in Myanmar, a longtime ally that has pushed back against Beijing in recent months amid tensions over aggressive Chinese resource investment within its underdeveloped neighbor. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
[T]he reality is that only an estimated 200 of those released turned out to be political prisoners. None of the most prominent opposition leaders were among them. For Burmese exiles and pro-democracy groups, that means Clinton’s trip is an opportunity to push the ruling junta to do more before she even arrives. – Checkpoint Washington
 
Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will run in a parliamentary by-election expected by the end of the year, a top party official said on Monday, giving legitimacy to moves toward democracy after decades of military rule. - Reuters
 
Analysis: The decision by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to rejoin the country’s military-backed political system has offered a veneer of legitimacy for the reform efforts of President Thein Sein. The changes appear real, analysts say…But there is no telling if they are permanent. – New York Times
 
Editorial: [T]he U.S. needs a "trust but verify" approach to Burma. Fact-finding missions can be sent to Burma to ascertain how many political prisoners have been released (and whether those who are released aren't being harassed or re-arrested), the pace at which authoritarian laws are repealed, the transparency of elections and so on. The repeal of sanctions should be the end-point of engagement, not the starting point. This is a regime that has made too many phony reform promises in the past to be let off easily now. – Wall Street Journal Asia (subscription required)

China

Daniel Blumenthal writes: There is no dispute that we need to take serious steps to balance China's power. But we cannot do so by "pivoting" away from two critical areas of the world. We need India to have peaceful borders in order to compete with China, and we need to diminish China's influence in the Middle East. And finally, the Obama Administration needs to resource its stated Asia strategy, which it so far shows little sign of doing.  – Shadow Government

India

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed his country's nuclear-liability laws with U.S. President Barack Obama during a meeting Friday on the sidelines of an Asian summit in Bali. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Although Gandhi has held a national position with the ruling Congress Party in New Delhi since 2004 and is not facing any reelection test in the state polling, the spotlight is on him during this election to see how effective he is in boosting his party's showing in Uttar Pradesh. – Los Angeles Times
 
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday said that his country will support India's bid for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, an indication of New Delhi's growing geopolitical and economic clout. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Japan

Voters from evacuation zones in Fukushima on Sunday cast ballots in their first local elections since the March nuclear disaster, with hopes to send in representatives capable of solving mounting problems, such as decontaminating vast areas and seeking compensation from the operator of the troubled plant. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Central Asia

The Peace Corps is ending its operations in Kazakhstan, its last major program in Central Asia, the agency said on Friday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Defense

Defense

An expected reduction in U.S. Defense Department modernization spending is manageable if it is spread out over a number of years, according to the Pentagon's top military officer. – Defense News
 
The nation's top military officer [Friday] insisted he did not oppose the expensive and controversial F-35, on which three of the four services he leads depend on for their future air capabilities. – AOL Defense
 
After ten months of weekly meetings on the subject with senior Defense Department and Navy officials, as well as executives of the plane's maker, Lockheed Martin, Amos says the company and the program office under Vice Adm. David Venlet, have resolved two of Gates' larger concerns entirely and found fixes for five engineering problems cited that are ready for testing in December and January. – AOL Defense
 
The Marines' will fall far below the 186,000-man total force it had initially aimed for once combat operations wind down in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen. James Amos said [Friday] morning. – AOL Defense
 
New fighters, missiles and missions are the hallmarks of the U.S. Air Force. While these still percolate in long-term plans, near-term fiscal constraints are forcing the service to craft a delicate balance between upgrading existing forces and husbanding funds for new equipment. – Aviation Week
 
U.S. authorities have failed to adequately monitor weapons sales to Persian Gulf countries criticized for dismal rights records or recent security crackdowns on protesters, a government audit said Nov. 18. - AFP
 
Cybersecurity
 
Foreign hackers caused a pump at an Illinois water plant to fail last week, according to a preliminary state report. – Checkpoint Washington
 
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Michael Chertoff write: Make no mistake: Our country is under cyberattack, and our national security and economic future are at severe risk. We believe that the SEC’s guidance — and the market-driven changes it will create in the way that the private sector considers risks — is a critical step toward improving U.S. cybersecurity. – Washington Post

The War

A Manhattan man who became fascinated by the American-born Muslim militant Anwar al-Awlaki was arrested on charges of plotting to build and detonate bombs in New York, city officials announced on Sunday night. – New York Times
 
Paul Miller writes: The next president of the United States needs to answer this question: When, and under what conditions, will the U.S. government stop using drones to bomb suspected terrorists around the world? – Washington Post

Missile Defense

A breakdown in high-stakes budget talks in Congress could threaten plans for a missile defense shield in Europe. – Associated Press

Russia

Russia signed a pact Friday with former Soviet neighbors Kazakhstan and Belarus to coordinate trade and economic development, just weeks after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed the creation of a sweeping Eurasian economic bloc. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Spain

Spaniards struggling with high unemployment and a credit squeeze delivered a punishing verdict on almost eight years of Socialist government at the ballot box on Sunday, turning to the conservative Popular Party in the hopes of alleviating the pain of Europe’s debt crisis. – New York Times

United States of America

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has asked the Pentagon inspector general to report whether Sen. Carl M. Levin is trying to influence the wording of a report that exonerates a Pentagon war-briefing program. – Washington Times

Venezuela

Documents from intelligence services of two countries suggest Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's cancer has spread to his bones and is more aggressive than his government has reported. – Wall Street Journal

Horn of Africa

Witnesses along the drought-stricken Ethiopia-Somalia border reported Sunday that hundreds of Ethiopian troops had crossed into Somalia with armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery and tanks, opening a new front in an intensifying international offensive against the Shabab militant group. – New York Times
 
The drought-induced famine crisis in Somalia has eased somewhat, United Nations officials said on Friday, with the number of people facing imminent starvation dropping to nearly 250,000 from 750,000 because of rainfall and increased aid deliveries. – New York Times

Sub-Saharan Africa

About 100 U.S. troops President Obama ordered to Uganda last month to help crush the cultlike Lord’s Resistance Army will probably remain deployed until the group’s leader is captured or dead, according to the top U.S. commander for Africa. – Washington Post

Afghanistan

The grand council of Afghan delegates known as the loya jirga drew to a close Saturday, choosing to support President Hamid Karzai’s vision for negotiating a strategic agreement that could keep a long-term American military presence in Afghanistan. – New York Times
 
The U.S. said it was "heartened" by Saturday's decision of the Loya Jirga, a four-day gathering of some 2,000 Afghan representatives, to endorse President Hamid Karzai's plan for an agreement on a long-term American military presence, even though the meeting set several conditions that could end up torpedoing the deal. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
A handful of other countries fingerprint arriving foreigners, but no country has ever sought to gather biometric data on everyone who comes and goes, whatever their nationality. Nor do Afghan authorities plan to stop there: their avowed goal is to fingerprint, photograph and scan the irises of every living Afghan. – New York Times

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