FPI Overnight Brief: November 26, 2012

Middle East/North Africa

Turkey on Friday acknowledged that a surge in its gold exports this year is related to payments for imports of Iranian natural gas, shedding light on Ankara's role in breaching U.S.-led sanctions against Tehran. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Now that President Obama has a fresh four-year mandate and Iran’s influence with Middle East neighbors seems to be fading, Tehran is expected back at the negotiating table soon and, some observers believe, in a more constructive mood to resolve the nuclear standoff. – LA Times’ World Now
Iran has accused the United States of "illegal and provocative acts," including repeated violations of Iranian airspace, in a letter submitted Friday to the United Nations. – DEFCON Hill
Cracks appeared on Sunday in the government of President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, as he faces mounting pressure over his sweeping decree seeking to elevate his edicts above the reach of any court until a new constitution is approved. – New York Times
With Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s decision on Thursday to assume near-absolute power over his country, at least for now, secularists of all stripes have mobilized in ways unimaginable just a week ago. With Islamists largely backing Morsi, a battle is quickly taking shape over the degree to which religion will play a role in post-revolutionary Egypt’s government. – Washington Post
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that the Obama administration should denounce Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's move to shield himself from judicial oversight and leverage U.S. aid to pressure him to revoke his new powers. – Hill Tube
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi will meet senior judges on Monday to try to ease a crisis over his seizure of new powers which has set off violent protests reminiscent of last year's revolution which brought him to power. - Reuters
Syrian rebels seized a military airport and an air defense base about 10 miles east of Damascus on Sunday morning and drove off with a tank and other weapons, according to opposition activists and video posted online, demonstrating their ability to advance in areas around the capital despite facing withering aerial attacks. – New York Times
Syrian rebels are making significant advances in their battle against government forces, raising new questions about President Bashar al-Assad’s ability to hold onto power and adding urgency to the quest by the international community for a unified and effective political opposition that could take control should his regime collapse. – Washington Post
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians displaced by the war, many of them stumbling out of Syria during the summer wearing little more than T-shirts and flip-flops, now face the onslaught of winter with inadequate shelter, senior government officials and aid organizations say. – New York Times
The bloody conflict inside Syria is now playing out among the country’s 500,000 Palestinians, in the form of shifting alliances and heavy fighting in the country’s largest refu­gee camp, known as Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus. – Washington Post
Condoleezza Rice writes: In recent days, France, Britain and Turkey have stepped into the diplomatic vacuum to recognize a newly formed opposition that is broadly representative of all Syrians. The United States should follow their lead and then vet and arm the unified group with defensive weapons on the condition that it pursues an inclusive post-Assad framework. The United States and its allies should also consider establishing a no-fly zone to protect the innocent. America’s weight and influence are needed. – Washington Post
David Ignatius writes: The Syrian opposition took a big step forward this month by forming a broad political coalition that includes local activists who started the revolution. But the opposition’s military command is still a mess, and until it’s fixed, jihadist extremists will keep getting more powerful. – Washington Post
Gulf States
The Obama administration on Friday urged the government of Bahrain to "exercise restraint" in responding to peaceful protests in the Persian Gulf kingdom. – The Hill’s Global Affairs
The message from Kuwait’s emir is blunt heading into this week’s parliamentary elections: Opposition factions should express dissent in the legislature, and not in the streets. The response from the opposition is equally uncompromising: We’re not satisfied with what we can accomplish through parliament, so we’re boycotting the vote. – Associated Press
Iraq's Kurdish region has sent reinforcements to a disputed area where its troops are involved in a standoff with the Iraqi army, a senior Kurdish military official said, despite calls on both sides for dialogue to calm the situation. - Reuters
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on Monday that he was leaving politics and would not run in parliamentary elections in January, but would stay in office until then. – Washington Post
In a whirlwind series of meetings over the ensuing days, President Obama and Mrs. Clinton played an instrumental role in sealing the accord, a review of those meetings suggests. But it is also clear that the cease-fire announced Wednesday was achieved by deferring some of the toughest issues, including the pace and conditions under which Gaza’s border crossings might be opened. – New York Times
Hamas’s latest battle against Israel sparked feverish Palestinian pride that spread beyond the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian ­Authority-led West Bank. But it has also deepened a sense here that the authority’s nonviolent, diplomacy-based approach to winning a Palestinian state is increasingly futile. – Washington Post
The flare-up in Gaza has left the territory's Hamas rulers at a crossroads: whether they should evolve into a purely political group or cling to their role as front-line warriors against Israel. – Wall Street Journal
A week of bombardment by Israel has pulverized government buildings and militant weapons stores, and left 161 Palestinians dead. But the Gaza Strip’s Hamas leadership has emerged stronger than ever, Palestinians in Gaza said Thursday. – Washington Post
Israel's Iron Dome rocket-defense system spent the past two weeks successfully blasting Hamas missiles out of the sky—many in dramatic nighttime explosions—helping to end the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas in just seven days. The battle to build Iron Dome, however, lasted years and provided fireworks of its own. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Despite domestic pressure to escalate its fight against Gaza-launched rockets, Israel’s agreement last week to a U.S.- and Egyptian-brokered cease-fire marked a leap of faith in the deterrent effect of the surgical standoff attack. – Defense News
U.S. and Israeli partners in the developmental David’s Sling program marked a major milestone Nov. 25 with their first hit-to-kill intercept of a target missile. – Defense News
After bitter rival Hamas held its own in a fierce battle with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has no choice but to override U.S. objections and seek U.N. recognition of a state of Palestine next week, his aides said Friday. – Associated Press
The remains of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will be exhumed Tuesday as part of a renewed investigation into his death, a Palestinian investigator said Saturday. – Associated Press
Analysis: The eight days of fighting between Hamas and Israel left more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis dead, but there may be another casualty from the sudden burst of violence: whatever small chance there was for reviving a long-moribund peace process. – New York Times
Interview: In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the senior Hamas official predicted the group and its army would quickly rebuild with the help of new friends on the international stage. – Los Angeles Times
FPI Director William Kristol writes: On Thanksgiving we don’t celebrate our rights or our achievements, or honor our soldiers or great men. Rather, we thank the Almighty for our blessings here in America. We might also thank Him for restoring the homeland of the Jewish people, as Israelis might thank Him for the existence, side by side with Israel, of a loyal and steadfast America. – The Weekly Standard
Elliott Abrams writes: [President Obama] saw his “pivot to Asia” interrupted by war in the Middle East—and was forced to talk about Gaza when he spoke in Bangkok, and to break his secretary of state off the trip. The administration’s rhetoric, from Obama down, was solidly behind Israel throughout the war. What policy toward Iran that portends for 2013 will determine whether Israel or the Islamic Republic emerges as the ultimate winner or loser. – The Weekly Standard
Dennis Ross writes: After his coming failure in New York, will Abbas choose to focus on a legacy of symbolism or is he still willing and able after the Israeli election to try to make peace? Given the stakes, the Obama administration would be wise to work with Israel to test that possibility, even as we both position ourselves to hedge against a Palestinian future that could be shaped more by Islamists than nationalists. Because what's clear is that Hamas' interest in preserving calm with Israel does not equate to an interest in making peace. – The New Republic
Jackson Diehl writes: In exchange for more open borders and an opportunity to develop economically with backing from its new Arab allies, Hamas could agree to a more thorough and reliable truce that leaves southern Israel in peace. That’s a long way from real peace — but it’s better for both sides than going to war every couple of years. – Washington Post
Douglas Murray writes: The only winners of this latest round have been the now considerably legitimized Muslim Brotherhood. The losers are all those who believe that in a war between a nation-state and a terror group, the nation-state should be allowed, even once, to do what it needs to win. – Wall Street Journal Europe (subscription required)
In a struggle for autonomy as well as independent language and education rights, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has waged a low-grade conflict in Turkey for decades. But in recent months, the group has reemerged as a stronger, better equipped and increasingly organized force that is now in the midst of one of its bloodiest campaigns since the worst days of the conflict in the 1990s. – Washington Post
An autopsy on the exhumed body late President Turgut Ozal, who led Turkey out of military rule in the 1980s, has revealed evidence of poisoning, a newspaper reported on Monday. - Reuters

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Top Obama administration officials want to keep around 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when formal combat ends in 2014, cementing a limited, long-term American military presence in the country if Kabul agrees, said senior U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
American and allied military planners are drawing up the broad outlines of a force that would remain in Afghanistan following the handover to Afghan security after 2014, including a small counterterrorism force with an eye toward Al Qaeda, senior officials say. – New York Times
Afghanistan's sectarian tensions boiled over this weekend when university students split between the two main Muslim sects attacked each other, leaving one dead and 27 wounded, and stoking fears the violence could reopen old civil-war fault-lines. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
In a major shake-up of the U.S.-led combat mission in Afghanistan, up to eight newly designed units — dubbed security force assistance brigades (SFABs) — will replace an equal number of U.S. Army brigade combat teams (BCTs) across the east and south of the country by next spring, bringing a new focus to the training and advising mission while pushing Afghans to take the lead in security operations. – Defense News
With less than two years before U.S troops withdraw from Afghanistan, American commanders here are going full-bore to ensure that local military and government officials will be ready to take over once coalition forces leave the country. – DEFCON Hill
American forces here are facing an uphill battle to get Taliban fighters to lay down their weapons, disavow their extremist ties and fully align themselves with the central Afghan government, according to U.S. officials. – DEFCON Hill
Shielding troops on foot from buried bombs and killing fleeing insurgents continue to preoccupy Pentagon researchers charged with fielding new gadgets to Afghanistan even as the war there winds down. – USA Today
Kimberly and Frederick Kagan write: The United States can stabilize Afghanistan if it maintains around 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into 2014, dropping to over 30,000 thereafter (about what we have in Korea). The idea that the war is inevitably lost is a convenient mask behind which decision-makers hide to deflect responsibility for pulling out troops who are making a real difference. – Washington Post
South Asia
A roadside bomb in northwestern Pakistan killed at least seven people early Saturday, including four children, police officials said, as the government struggled to control sectarian violence in the country. – New York Times
Things are going great with India -- don't screw it up. That's the bottom line in a report from the influential Center for Strategic and International Studies entitled "US-India Military Engagement: Steady As They Go," which the think tank previewed today as President Obama tours through Asia. – AOL Defense
A bombing claimed by the Taliban killed at least six people and wounded about 90 others in a religious procession in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, the police said, as Shiite Muslims observed the annual Ashura holiday. – Associated Press
The Chinese military has successfully landed a fighter jet on the Liaoning, China’s first seaworthy aircraft carrier, according to a report on Sunday by Xinhua, the state news agency. – New York Times
The Times reported last month that the relatives of Mr. Wen, who became prime minister in 2003, had grown extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, acquiring stakes in tourist resorts, banks, jewelers, telecommunications companies and other business ventures. The greatest source of wealth, by far, The Times investigation has found, came from the shares in Ping An bought about eight months after the insurer was granted a waiver to the requirement that big financial companies be broken up. – New York Times
Though not in the bag yet, defense industry analysts and sources in Moscow have confirmed that Beijing and Moscow are negotiating the first Russian export sale of the twin-engine Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role fighter. – Defense News
Miles Yu reports: The Chinese People's Liberation Army air force is feeling the heat from higher command for failing to produce enough qualified pilots and for spending too much on pilot training. – Washington Times’ Inside the Ring
Interview with Chen Guangcheng: In terms of foreign policy, the United States places too much importance on interests. It should place importance on humanity's values. Democracy, rule of law, constitutionalism, human rights, especially human rights -- they should make that number one! – Foreign Policy
Editorial: It’s one thing to take a poor, faltering socialist experiment such as Mao’s China and transform it in a single generation into a mega-engine of capitalism. This much has been done, and with great gusto. But the lack of rule of law is a deep flaw that weakens the pillars of China’s progress. As long as this is the case, Mr. Xi’s warnings about corruption will echo in an empty hall. – Washington Post
East Asia
The latest territorial flap in Asia is over new Chinese passports with an outline of China that includes swaths of the South China Sea that are claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as all of Taiwan and disputed territory on the border with India. – Los Angeles Times
South Korea's presidential campaign officially started Sunday as nominees from the two leading political parties formally registered for the Dec. 19 election and vied for supporters of an independent candidate who decided Friday to quit. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
U.S. satellites have picked up signs that North Korea is preparing to launch a long-range missile, a Japanese newspaper reported Nov. 23. - AFP
Southeast Asia
While the release of one of Myanmar's most prominent political prisoners has been welcomed by some as a validation of the broad reform process, memories of torture, illness and inedible prison food remain fresh for many. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Vietnam's top officials will have to win the annual support of lawmakers from next year under a new law passed by parliament, part of a gradual effort to appear more responsive to public opinion at a time when the economy and the banking system are under stress. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
An antigovernment rally in Bangkok fizzled under tropical downpours Saturday, but the stench of tear gas wafting through the streets was a jarring reminder of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's struggle to escape the shadow of one of Asia's most divisive politicians: her older brother Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted as prime minister in a 2006 coup. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Kurt Campbell writes: Sustaining reform's momentum will be difficult. Much will depend on getting others to follow the courageous example of Aung San Suu Kyi and Thein Sein in setting aside bitter enmities and deep distrust for the common good. Their shared stake in a better future led both leaders to take off a uniform -- she the mantle of international sainthood and he the insignia of the military institution that brought him to absolute power. Having done so, they can now meet on equal terms, as citizen and patriot, striving and struggling together for a new Burma. Along the way, they are inspiring us all. – Foreign Policy

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Instead of embracing change, some officers worry that the [Army] is reverting to a more comfortable, rigid and predictable past – Washington Post
Female Marine officers are unlikely to join the infantry anytime soon, in part because of a lack of volunteers for the Marine Corps‘ Infantry Officer Course, which was opened to women in September. – Washington Times
Senior U.S. military officials are considering increasing the American military presence in the Mediterranean because of what they see as growing instability in recent months, CNN has learned. – CNN’s Security Clearance
More than 100 civilian employees at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama are facing layoffs in January unless the U.S. Army decides before the start of the year to refurbish more than the 47 Stryker vehicles it has already contracted for as part of the upgrade program. – Defense News
The U.S. Navy is planning to relocate a specialized attack squadron currently stationed on the eastern seaboard, leaving Washington D.C. and other large American cities vulnerable to electronic warfare threats posed by China, Russia, Iran, and other rogue nations, sources said. – Washington Free Beacon
The War
As Obama approaches a second term with an unexpected opening for CIA director, agency officials are watching to see whether the president’s pick signals even a modest adjustment in the main counterterrorism program he kept: the use of armed drones to kill suspected extremists. – Washington Post
Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials. – New York Times
Internal military emails obtained by the Associated Press are providing additional details about Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea after the terrorist leader was killed by Navy SEALs in 2011. – DEFCON Hill
Missile Defense
Henry Cooper writes: The Israelis demonstrated with Iron Dome that with great motivation, effective management, and sound technology, rapid development of an effective missile-defense system is feasible. The United States would do well to relearn this lesson in advancing its current missile-defense programs and reviving some of the key programs that were killed 20 years ago. – National Review Online
The Qatar incident highlights the reality of a new arms race — the worldwide push to develop offensive and defensive cyber-capabilities. Like many other countries, Qatar wanted to improve its computer defenses in the face of a growing network warfare threat. And like others, Qatar turned to the United States, where technology firms are acknowledged leaders in the field of cyberwarfare and cyberdefense. – Washington Post
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz) calls cybersecurity – a tech policy issue that has for years reached roadblocks on Capitol Hill – a "huge problem,"' linking it to the investigation that led to the resignation of David Petraeus as CIA director. - Politico
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Interview: RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson spoke recently with Ariel Cohen, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. Cohen has worked as a consultant to the U.S. executive branch and the private sector on issues related to Russia and the former Soviet Union. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Following a roughly 25 percent reduction in his nation's defense budget and surrounded by a Europe that is more concerned with saving the Euro than investing in its militaries, Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra was in Washington [last week] lobbying Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to maintain tight ties with his nation. – The E-Ring

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United States of America
In his first public comments since his incarceration soon after the video gained international attention in September, Mr. Nakoula told The New York Times that he would go to great lengths to convey what he called “the actual truth” about Muhammad. “I thought, before I wrote this script,” he said, “that I should burn myself in a public square to let the American people and the people of the world know this message that I believe in.” – New York Times
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is bringing a new — and more aggressive — approach to a longstanding debate over the Defense authorization bill, threatening to filibuster the bill to get a vote on his amendment limiting indefinite detention. – DEFCON Hill
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) will step down as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee in the new Congress, according to reports. – DEFCON Hill
Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto writes: The 2012 elections mark the beginning of a new era for the United States and Mexico. This is a great time to join efforts and capitalize on that momentum. We must build a more prosperous North America, on the basis of an alliance for a further competitive and productive integration of our economies. – Washington Post

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Once again, chaos is courting Congo. And one pressing question is, why — after all the billions of dollars spent on peacekeepers, the recent legislation passed on Capitol Hill to cut the link between the illicit mineral trade and insurrection, and all the aid money and diplomatic capital — is this vast nation in the heart of Africa descending to where it was more than 10 years ago when foreign armies and marauding rebels carved it into fiefs? – New York Times
Congo said on Sunday it would not negotiate with M23 rebels in the east until they pulled out of the city of Goma, but a rebel spokesman said Kinshasa was in no position to set conditions on peace talks. - Reuters
Editorial: Rwanda and Uganda should stop their meddling, and the United States and Britain must turn up the pressure on Rwanda to halt support for the rebels. That will take more than quiet diplomacy. A U.N. Security Council resolution approved Tuesday called for sanctions against the rebel leaders but stopped short of naming Rwanda. All sides need to recognize they are sliding once again toward the killing fields and to come to their senses before the bloody wars of the past are repeated. – Washington Post

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Obama Administration

The truth is, though, that no one is sure what Hillary Clinton will do, possibly not even Clinton herself, who has said her plans include sleeping and watching the home-improvement show “Love It or List It,” which she finds calming. – Washington Post
The top Republican leading the fight against Susan Rice as the new secretary of State softened his opposition and said Sunday he was open to hearing her explain why she declared the burning of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was part of a protest rather than a terrorist attack. – LA Times’ Politics Now
Federal agents are investigating whether former CIA Director David Petraeus directed members of his staff to share military documents and other sensitive records with his biographer, according to a report. – DEFCON Hill
Bill Gertz reports: Pentagon intelligence official Michael Vickers and National Security Council counterterrorism adviser John Brennan are being looked at by President Obama as top candidates to head the CIA. – Washington Times’ Inside the Ring

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