FPI Overnight Brief: November 22, 2011


A day after the cabinet offered its resignation to Egypt’s transitional military rulers, protesters sought to mobilize yet bigger demonstrations on Tuesday, despite an increasingly lethal crackdown recalling the uncertainty that marked the earliest days of the Arab Spring. – New York Times
Unlike in Libya, where the regime collapsed, or Tunisia, which purged and restructured its interior ministry after the country’s revolution, the feared Egyptian state security investigation service, which penetrated unions and university campuses and spied on activists and other presumed enemies of the state for decades, remains largely intact. – Financial Times
Rights group Amnesty International accused Egypt's rulers on Tuesday of brutality sometimes exceeding that of former president Hosni Mubarak, saying the hopes of protesters had been "crushed." - Reuters
Editorial: As during the Mubarak era, some administration officials appear to believe that U.S. interests, including Egypt’s peace accord with Israel, preclude using aid to pressure the military for political change. It is past time to abandon that wrongheaded doctrine. The United States should make clear that further military aid will depend on the establishment of a firm and expeditious timetable for a democratic transition. – Washington Post


Syria’s political opposition widened its outreach on Monday, sending representatives to Britain as the Syrian government withstood signs of further isolation over an uprising that is increasingly resembling a prolonged armed struggle to oust President Bashar al-Assad. – New York Times
The Turkish prime minister sharply criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after an attack on buses carrying Turkish pilgrims Monday in central Syria wounded two people and brought a new low in an increasingly sour relationship between the two countries. – Washington Post
Syrian forces killed four villagers in the central province of Homs on Tuesday in a crackdown on the most defiant center of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in an eight-month-old uprising, activists said. - Reuters
The U.S. ambassador to Syria will not return to Damascus this week as previously planned but is expected to go back there by the end of the year, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Monday. - Reuters
Syria's U.N. envoy on Monday slammed a draft U.N. resolution condemning the Syrian government's eight-month crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, calling it a "declaration of war" on Damascus. - Reuters

Middle East

The Bahraini government on Monday acknowledged “instances of excessive force and mistreatment of detainees” during this year’s crackdown on political protests, in advance of an independent inquiry to be released Wednesday. – Washington Post
In all the revolts that have roiled the Arab world this year, Bahrain’s government managed a tactical, perhaps ephemeral victory through force. But in doing so, it may have destroyed a society that once took pride in its cosmopolitanism. The question not only for Bahrain but for other Arab countries in tumult — like Egypt and Syria — is whether reconciliation can stop an unraveling spreading across the region. – New York Times
FPI Executive Director Jamie Fly signed an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that expressed concern regarding ongoing developments in Bahrain – Project on Middle East Democracy


Yemeni tribesmen opposed to President Ali Abdullah Saleh said they stormed a military base north of the capital and seized arms on Monday, while officials said the army killed 20 militants in the restive south. - Reuters


Morocco will not follow other North African states in handing power to Islamists when it votes in an election this week because it has a mature democracy, a leading member of a liberal alliance contesting the vote told Reuters. - Reuters


King Abdullah II of Jordan visited the West Bank for the first time in a decade on Monday and conferred with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority as both men begin risky reconciliation efforts with the Islamists of Hamas. – New York Times


Myanmar's government launched a new round of peace talks with ethnic insurgent leaders—described as the first in several years—in its latest effort to placate its critics. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


Libya has never had a truly professional national army — a cornerstone in the building of a modern state — one that was not the personal tool of a king or dictator and purposely kept weak and divided to avert coups. And the effort at building one by the struggling new interim government may be its most difficult and important task. – New York Times

Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) has appointed as new defense minister the local commander whose forces captured Muammar Gaddafi's son at the weekend, an NTC source told Reuters Tuesday. - Reuters

North Africa

An Islamist political activist held for more than a decade in solitary confinement under the rule of his country’s deposed dictator is poised to become Tunisia’s prime minister. – Financial Times

Amb. Richard Williamson writes: This will not be the end of the story of a renewed Tunisia living in freedom. It may not even be the end of the beginning. But this vote is very consequential for Tunisia, the broader Arab world, and the March of Freedom. – The American


The top U.S. general in Iraq on Monday warned that violence there will probably increase after U.S. troops withdraw, setting the stage for a potentially rocky start to the post-American era in Iraq. – Washington Post
Weeks before the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the commander of American forces here urged the Iraqi government to keep fighting extremists, especially the Iran-backed militias he said threaten to form a state within a state. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Just 20,000 American troops remain on Iraqi soil, according to Defense Department spokesman Capt. John Kirby. – Defcon Hill
Walter Pincus writes: There will be a U.S. military presence. The Office of Security Cooperation (OSC), operating under the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, will have several hundred military personnel, and at least an equal number or more U.S. contractors, who will work with Iraqi security forces. Ongoing negotiations with Iraq about OSC activities will determine exact staffing numbers. Normally, such an office would focus on training for the $8 billion in equipment that Iraq has purchased from U.S. companies. Under current plans, the OSC will do much more. – Washington Post
Thomas Nides writes: Americans and Iraqis have made heroic sacrifices to help us reach this point in Iraq. For both nations, the memories of war are still fresh. It’s time to begin a new chapter — one that will help Americans and Iraqis prosper together. – Politico


The U.S., U.K. and Canada each took new steps to further isolate Iran's financial sector, and France called for more such measures by the international community in the wake of a recent report that Tehran is working to develop nuclear weapons. – Wall Street Journal
A simmering rivalry between Iran’s president and powerful adversaries within the conservative hierarchy spilled into the open on Monday when security forces briefly arrested his top media adviser, who also runs the official news agency and a leading newspaper, witnesses and Iranian news accounts said. – New York Times
Iran angrily stayed away Monday from a UN atomic agency forum on creating a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, amid growing tensions over Tehran's suspected efforts to develop the bomb. - AFP
Analysis: Despite the tough talk, it’s not clear when - or if – the administration will actually take punitive measures against Iran’s central bank. Sanctioning the bank could spark chaos in the world oil market and push prices higher, threatening the fragile economic recoveries underway in the U.S. and many European countries. But it is widely considered to be the most powerful weapon in the U.S. economic arsenal. – National Journal


Michael Mazza writes: Kane’s op-ed typifies an emergent body of work that often exhibits a profound lack of understanding both of China specifically and of the Asia-Pacific’s security environment generally. These arguments are often based on questionable assumptions and, at times, ignorance of facts. Selling out Taiwan to the Chinese would be detrimental for U.S. strategic and economic interests and devastating for Taiwan’s people. Here is how Kane gets it wrong: - The American

Korean Peninsula

A year after North Korea attacked this South Korean island, most of the destroyed homes and buildings have been rebuilt and the rhythms of daily life restored. But an enormous amount of anxiety and tension remains under the surface. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


A notorious Taliban commander involved in a series of deadly attacks against US and Afghan forces has been killed in Ghazni province, according to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS). Afghan officials said that Mullah Abdul Wakeel, known locally as Mullah Mutawakil, was shot to death after he attempted to snatch a gun from a security guard escorting him to a detention facility near Ghazni City – Long War Journal
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Monday that the Australian military training mission in Afghanistan could be completed before the 2014 target date, after an Afghan army commander told a newspaper that Australian troops should be withdrawn immediately. – Associated Press
Analysis: The Afghan government, struggling to rebuild one of the world's poorest countries, believes it holds a trump card in its estimated $3 trillion in natural resources. But minerals in the ground are very different to cash in the bank. - Reuters
Interview: With the clock ticking toward a deadline of Dec. 31, 2014, when NATO forces must finish transferring security responsibilities to their Afghan counterparts, the question remains whether commanders in RC East can accomplish all of those missions with fewer troops than originally anticipated. National Journal senior correspondent James Kitfield recently spoke with Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, commander of the Joint Task Force with responsibility for RC East, in his headquarters at Bagram Air Base. - National Journal
Michael O’Hanlon and Paul Wolfowitz writes: Our current exit strategy of reducing American troops to 68,000 by the end of next summer and transferring full security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014 is working. In a war where the U.S. has demonstrated remarkable strategic patience, we need to stay patient and resolute. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


Leaders of the Pakistani Taliban have begun preliminary talks with intermediaries of the government aimed at reaching a peace agreement in the tribal region of South Waziristan, the site of a large-scale military operation against the homegrown insurgency in 2009. – Los Angeles Times
Josh Rogin reports: Former National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones was the interlocutor who delivered a secret memo to then Joint Chief of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, which contained an offer to overthrow Pakistan's military and intelligence leadership, making him a key figure in the scandal roiling Pakistan known as "memogate." – New York Times

East Asia

Michael Green and Dan Twining write: At the end of the day, we suspect the "pivot" is a convenient political frame for the White House to try to explain that the Obama administration remains muscular and strategic, despite its accelerated retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan. When domestic politics intrude on the framing of foreign policy in this way -- especially when it happens so suddenly-- the result can undercut what would otherwise be solid building blocks for a regional strategy in Asia…Meanwhile, let's be clear: superpowers manage rising powers with leadership and steadiness -- not pivots. – Shadow Government
Will Inboden writes: China, after all, sees its subtle rivalry with the United States playing out not just in East Asia but across the world. As David Ignatius describes, when American leadership is perceived to be diminishing in a region, other actors will step in to fill the void, such as the Saudis are doing in the Middle East. And if America abdicates our leadership in the Middle East, the effect will be to undercut rather than strengthen our posture elsewhere such as Asia. This is why Marines in Darwin and democracy reformers in Damascus are important players on the same global chessboard. – New York Times

Democracy and Human Rights

FPI Director of Democracy and Human Rights Ellen Bork writes: Indeed, Nepal’s response to China’s demands doesn’t just speak to China’s increased influence in the region; it’s also an important indicator of the extent to which Nepal’s fragile democracy will prove capable of maintaining its sovereignty. After all, the status of Nepal’s Tibetan refugees is as much strategic as humanitarian. As the Tibetan analyst based in Kathmandu informed me, “Whoever controls the Tibetans, controls Nepal.” – The New Republic

The War

The search for Fazul typified much of the U.S. man-hunting campaign in the Horn: It combined CIA and special operations personnel (often working through local forces), high-tech gear alongside low-tech human intelligence skills and raw courage. And yet it was often characterized by frustration and near-misses. – Military Times


Poland and Sweden's foreign ministers are to meet Ukraine's richest man, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, in a new bid to secure the release of Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko whose jailing has shaken Ukraine's relations with the West. - Reuters


While America's national security officials have been focused on Afghanistan and Iraq for the past decade, violence has exploded in Mexico, and the U.S. has failed to develop an effective strategy for helping stabilize that country, officials say. – Washington Examiner


India's Parliament meets for four weeks starting Tuesday in what could be the most important legislative session of the government's five-year term. Having struggled for more than a year against widespread allegations of corruption and criticism that its policy machine has developed paralysis even as economic growth slows sharply, the Congress party-led government is looking to counter both critiques – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
India’s most populous state has voted to split into four parts in a bid to improve governance of one of the poorest and most divided parts of the country. – Financial Times
Swapan Dasgupta writes: This social churning should make the Congress Party sit up and question the old ways of dynasty. Instead, the possibility of a new leader from the Gandhi family has the party cadre suddenly energized. Mr. Singh's government has hurtled from crisis to crisis and many are now doubling down on the idea of dynasty to rescue the party. That idea is soon going to be tested. – Wall Street Journal India

Southeast Asia

Opening statements in the most significant stage of a United Nations-backed trial of Khmer Rouge leaders began here on Monday with a horrifying and detailed account of the atrocities of a regime that a prosecutor said was responsible for the deaths of one-fourth of the population during its four-year rule from 1975 to 1979. – New York Times
The Khmer Rouge revolution in the 1970s was aimed at freeing Cambodia from colonialism and protecting it from invasion by Vietnam, the party's ideologue, Nuon Chea, told a court on Tuesday, opening his defense against a charge of genocide. - Reuters
As Myanmar loosens media controls, one woman's image is everywhere, from newspapers to magazines to television programs: pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, or simply "The Lady" as she is known here. - Reuters
Philippine President Benigno Aquino asked his visiting counterpart from South Korea on Monday for aircraft, boats and other hardware to help boost his country's military, amid rising tensions with China. - AFP
Malaysia will relax laws to allow peaceful public gatherings to be held without a police permit, part of a move to allow more freedom of expression as Prime Minister Najib Razak accelerates reforms ahead of a possible general election next year. - Reuters


Throughout much of the world, politicians can expect to provoke the boo-birds when they show up at sports events, but Sunday evening’s bout — shown live on national television — was a first for Russia’s authoritarian prime minister. He recovered and managed to say his piece, but by Monday the Russian blogosphere was alight with arguments, put-downs, debunkings and catcalls. – Washington Post
Two years after Magnitsky's death, Kozlov says, the situation in Butyrka -- and Moscow's other remand prisons, where an estimated 50 prisoners die each year of various causes -- is largely unchanged. The conditions and attitudes that led to Magnitsky's death, he says, still prevail and similar tragedies are seemingly inevitable. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

South America

Bolivia, the world's No. 3 cocaine producer, said on Monday it would not let U.S. anti-drug agents return even as government officials work with Washington on a plan to fight the narcotics trade. - Reuters

Southern Africa

More than a million people in Zimbabwe will require food aid between now and March 2012, a United Nations agency said Monday, despite recent improvements in the country's grain production. - Reuters

Sub-Saharan Africa

[S]teep challenges lie ahead, Mrs Sirleaf acknowledges in an interview after an election in which her opposition successfully mobilised discontent with the dearth of opportunity for young people, and pushed voting into a second round. “My agenda has in a way changed because of the events of the past month,” she says, when asked about unfinished business from her first term. Her government, she says, must now focus on the task of creating jobs. – Financial Times


Symposium: Does the U.S. need troops in Australia? What does the deployment say about American military strategy in the region and more generally? Dean Cheng, Kori Schake, Hugh White, and Joseph Nye respond – NY Times’ Room for Debate


Republican lawmakers moved quickly Monday to protect the Pentagon from automatic budget cuts that will be triggered by the supercommittee’s failure, with the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee saying he’ll soon introduce legislation to repeal them. - Politico
“The failure of the congressional supercommittee to reach an agreement on deficit reduction is a setback for the country's efforts to achieve fiscal responsibility while protecting our national security,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. “If Congress fails to act over the next year, the Department of Defense will face devastating, automatic, across-the-board cuts that will tear a seam in the nation's defense.” – Defcon Hill
President Obama on Monday evening threatened to veto any legislation that would void the $600 billion in national defense cuts that would kick in if lawmakers fail to cut a debt-reduction deal. – Defcon Hill
The Pentagon has revealed long-term cost projections for several priority weapon systems. The high-stakes move by a department that typically keeps such data under lock and key is seen by some analysts as a way of putting additional pressure on Congress to refrain from draconian cuts to the Defense budget. – Defcon Hill
Lockheed Martin has passed its 2011 flight-test targets for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, with aircraft now flying at a pace that, if maintained, will allow the company to exceed its target for a significantly higher number of flights in 2012. – Aviation Week
The U.S. has built, flown, pointed and triggered a missile designed specifically to carry a directed-energy weapon. That payload, expected to be operational soon, will be able to disrupt, shut down, spoof or damage electrical systems, but little has been revealed about the project. – Aviation Week
Army Training and Doctrine Command is fine-tuning a plan to cut a significant number of light armored vehicles and replace them with the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, according to an Army official with knowledge of the plan. – AOL Defense
Parked out on the dusty plains of the New Mexican desert, the Army Humvee looked like every other combat truck stationed at the service's sprawling test facility here -- except for one big difference. This Humvee was completely unmanned. – AOL Defense
ICYMI - Following the Super Committee's failure to reach an agreement on a long-term deficit reduction package, FPI has updated its compendium of quotations from senior administration officials, Congressmen and Senators, and military leaders on the devastating effect that the Budget Control Act's automatic sequestration cuts will have on our military. – Foreign Policy Initiative


Stephanie’s stay in Cuba — an increasingly common ritual among families that now includes trips to the island by unaccompanied minors — is an emblem of the profound transformation in the relationship between Cuban-Americans in South Florida and Cubans in Cuba – New York Times
Cuban farmers can bypass the state and start selling products directly to businesses catering to tourists, state-run media said on Monday in announcing the latest market-oriented reform in the one of the world's last communist countries. - Reuters

United States of America

China’s swift economic rise, and a presidential election dominated by fears of a declining American economy, have produced a rare convergence: Republican contenders talking tough about China, and a president who is already getting tough on it. – New York Times
Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, will appear for the first time in a military courtroom next month, roughly a year and a half after his arrest, according to Army officials. – Checkpoint Washington
Virginia has the most to lose from deep cuts in defense spending, according to a new report summing up state-by-state federal military spending. – Defcon Hill
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark defended President Obama’s decision to remove all troops from Iraq in advance of Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate on national security. – Defcon Hill
Fred Barnes reports: Former CIA director R. James Woolsey and Robert McFarlane, national security adviser to President Reagan, have joined Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign as members of his national security advisory team. – The Weekly Standard Blog
Briefing: FPI has released an updated version of Foreign Policy 2011, our briefing book designed to aid foreign policy thinkers, policymakers, opinion leaders, members of Congress, candidates, and their staffs. A pdf copy can be downloaded on our website. – Foreign Policy Initiative
Briefing: Ahead of their next debate November 22, the Republican presidential candidates are getting executive briefings on hot-button foreign policy and national security issues. But you don’t have to run for president to get a speed-read on global security challenges from world-class experts. AEI analysts have prepared briefings on the key foreign policy issues you need to know right now. – American Enterprise Institute
QFRs: The questions below, drawn up by Freedom House staff, have been submitted to the sponsors of the debate on foreign policy scheduled for Tuesday night. We offer them in the hope that they will focus the minds of leading politicians, both within and beyond the Republican Party, on the critical issue of U.S. support for democratic institutions and values at a time when the adversaries of freedom are emboldened and the newest aspiring democracies are particularly vulnerable. – Freedom House’s Freedom at Issue

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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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