FPI Overnight Brief: November 28, 2012

Middle East/North Africa

Lawmakers at a discussion on foreign policy Tuesday said it is time for Americans to “confront Iran” and tell the rogue nation to act in a more responsible manner. – Washington Free Beacon
A rare expression of concern about Iran’s nuclear sites and their impact on human health has been expressed by the head of the country’s accident and medical emergency center. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, according to a diagram obtained by The Associated Press. – Associated Press
Iran will continue enriching uranium "with intensity", with the number of enrichment centrifuges it has operating to increase substantially in the current year, the country's nuclear energy chief was quoted as saying on Wednesday. - Reuters
New sanctions aimed at reducing global trade with Iran in the energy, shipping and metals sectors may soon be considered by the U.S. Senate as part of an annual defense policy bill, senators and aides said on Tuesday. - Reuters
An increase in Iran's higher-grade uranium stockpile is worrying but may arise from a bottleneck in making reactor fuel rather than a bid to quickly accumulate material that could be used for nuclear weapons, diplomats and experts say. - Reuters
Syrian state media said on Wednesday that at least 34 people and possibly many more had died in twin car bombings in a suburb populated by minorities only a few miles from the center of Damascus, the capital, as the civil war swirls from north to south claiming ever higher casualties. One estimate by the government’s opponents put the death toll at 47. – New York Times
Syrian rebels accused the authorities on Tuesday of launching an airstrike on an olive press “filled with people” in fields just outside the northern city of Idlib, killing at least 20 people and wounding 50 as they waited to have their olives turned into oil. – New York Times
Syrian rebels downed a military helicopter with a surface-to-air missile outside Aleppo on Tuesday, video uploaded by antigovernment activists appeared to show, marking what is potentially a major battlefield advance: confirmation that rebels have put their growing stock of heat-seeking missiles to effective use. – New York Times
Russia, which provides diplomatic support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, also has helped Syria with money. Quite literally — Russia’s state-owned printing firm, which produces ruble bills and Russian passports, has printed Syrian pound banknotes. – WSJ’s Emerging Europe Real Time
Arizona Sen. John McCain has endorsed setting up Patriot missile batteries to enforce a no-fly zone in Syria, which the Republican believes will be critical to quell the violence that has raged in the war-torn country for more than 20 months. – US News and World Report
Syria's new opposition coalition will hold its first full meeting on Wednesday to discuss forming a transitional government crucial to win effective Arab and Western support for the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. - Reuters
The United Nations humanitarian chief accused Syria on Tuesday of firing mortar bombs near the border with Jordan to prevent refugees from fleeing a civil war that she says is "getting worse day by day". - Reuters
A U.N. General Assembly committee on Tuesday condemned Syria and Iran for widespread human rights abuses, but both Damascus and Tehran dismissed the separate votes as politically motivated. - Reuters
Britain is pushing the European Union to hold frequent reviews of its arms embargo on Syria to make it easier in the future to arm rebels fighting to depose President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats said on Tuesday. - Reuters
Rebel strikes against military bases across Syria have exposed President Bashar al-Assad's weakening grip in the north and east of the country and left his power base in Damascus vulnerable to the increasingly potent opposition forces. - Reuters
Tens of thousands of people filled the central Tahrir Square on Tuesday afternoon in an outpouring of rage at President Mohamed Morsi’s attempt to claim expansive new powers and at the role in politics played by his party, the Muslim Brotherhood. – New York Times
Hundreds of protesters were in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a sixth day on Wednesday, demanding that Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi rescind a decree they say gives him dictatorial powers. - Reuters
The surprise move on November 22 has fueled debate on how far the Muslim Brotherhood is dictating policy and ignoring cabinet members and others in an administration that Mursi presents as being inclusive of Egypt's political forces and not dominated by the Islamist party whose electoral muscle put him in office. - Reuters
A Cairo court on Wednesday sentenced to death seven Egyptian Christians tried in absentia for participating in an anti-Islam video that was released on the Internet in September and had prompted violent protests in many Muslim countries. – Reuters
Josh Rogin reports: The Cairo Embassy Twitter feed is at it again. [Yesterday], the embassy implied via social media that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy was on the road to becoming a new dictator. – The Cable
Analysis: Uprising, wars and economics have altered the landscape of the region, paving the way for a new axis to emerge, one led by a Sunni Muslim alliance of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey. That triumvirate played a leading role in helping end the eight-day conflict between Israel and Gaza, in large part by embracing Hamas and luring it further away from the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah fold, offering diplomatic clout and promises of hefty aid. – New York Times
Analysis: Angry protests that drew tens of thousands of people into Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday reveal that Egyptians no longer will accept an autocratic leader, whether an Islamist like Morsi or a secularist like Mubarak. – Los Angeles Times
Vin Weber and Gregory Craig write: Building a relationship with Egypt based on a clear strategic bargain — offering benefits for cooperation and penalties for noncompliance – is in the best interest of both our countries. – Los Angeles Times
Elliott Abrams writes: A State Department expression of “concern” won’t cut it; the president and secretary of state must speak out strongly for American values. We cannot guarantee victory for Arab democrats, but our interests and our principles both mean we cannot abandon them during their struggle. – National Review Online
Libya's proposed foreign minister was cleared to take office by an Integrity Commission on Tuesday after some members of parliament questioned how close the former ambassador to the United States had been to ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi. - Reuters
Arabian Peninsula
Saudi security forces detained dozens of men, women and children on Tuesday after they staged a rare protest outside a human rights group's office in Riyadh to demand the release of jailed relatives, activists said. - Reuters
A Saudi diplomat was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Wednesday, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported, citing diplomatic sources. - Reuters
Three car bombings killed 23 Shi'ite Muslims during mourning processions in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Tuesday, police and hospital sources said. - Reuters
Calling herself “an answer to the contention that there is no one to vote for,” Tzipi Livni, Israel’s centrist former foreign minister, returned to politics on Tuesday after a six-month hiatus, heading a new party that she described as “an alternative, personal and ideological,” to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. – New York Times
On Tuesday, as part of an inquiry into whether he was poisoned, Mr. Arafat’s remains were exhumed in a subdued, reflective atmosphere, with his people more fractured and less certain of their future than when he was alive. – New York Times
Support in Europe for a heightened Palestinian profile at the United Nations grew on Tuesday when the French government said it would vote in favor of the Palestinians’ bid for nonmember observer status, embracing a move that Israel and the United States have opposed. – New York Times
Israeli officials are hailing their military operation against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip as a strategic success in neutralizing one of three potential threats should Israel need to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in coming months. – Washington Times
The Israel Defense Forces often calls the militants in Gaza whose homes it intends to strike minutes before doing so, a way of minimizing the deaths of any women and children who might be inside…But the calls themselves are no guarantee that innocents will be spared. No single event galvanizes support for Gaza’s armed groups like a mass civilian killing by Israel’s military. – Washington Post
Gazans offered very public thanks to Iran on Tuesday for helping them in this month's fight against Israel, when Iranian-made missiles were fired out of the Palestinian enclave towards Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. - Reuters
Ben Birnbaum writes: In Israel’s political cacophony, Livni again provides a clear voice saying what’s become increasingly obvious: that with a rising Hamas and an aging President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel’s chances for striking a final-status agreement with the Palestinians are quickly evaporating. Whether Israelis will listen is another matter. – The New Republic

Return to Top


Persistent political interference has hampered efforts to unravel the colossal fraud at Kabul Bank, with President Hamid Karzai and a small panel of his top aides actually dictating to prosecutors who should be charged and who should not, according to Afghan and Western officials and the results of a public inquiry into the scandal. – New York Times
The Taliban terrorists who pulled off one of the most damaging attacks of the Afghanistan War were probably trained for the plot in Pakistan, illustrating how the U.S. ally threatens to jeopardize a successful withdrawal, military experts say. – USA Today
Afghan President Hamid Karzai projected a rosier future for his country on Tuesday and sought to quell "propaganda" of a possible descent into chaos once most international troops withdraw by the end of 2014. - Reuters
Josh Rogin reports: The State Department's Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman will be leaving the Obama administration next month, The Cable has confirmed. – The Cable
India and China are engaged in a fresh territorial row after Beijing recently started issuing passports showing two disputed regions as its own. – WSJ’s China Real Time Report
China, already India’s largest trading partner, is looking to increase its Indian direct investment, taking a page from the playbook of other East Asian nations such as Japan and South Korea. – WSJ’s India Real Time
India's government failed on Wednesday to persuade the opposition to drop its demand for a vote on a recent decision to allow foreign supermarkets to set up shop, worsening a standoff that has paralysed parliament and jeopardised economic reforms. - Reuters
South Asia
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility Tuesday for a failed attempt to bomb the car of television anchor Hamid Mir, whom the militant group had earlier threatened because of his reporting on the shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai. – LA Times’ World Now
Sri Lanka launched its first communications satellite on Tuesday in partnership with a Chinese state-owned space technology firm, the Sri Lanka partner said, adding to unease in neighboring India about Beijing's growing ties with the island nation. - Reuters
The U.S. Treasury Department repeated that China's currency remains "significantly undervalued" but declined again to label Beijing a currency manipulator, avoiding a public slap that could disrupt diplomatic relations between the economic powers. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
At least five Tibetans have set fire to themselves in recent days to protest Chinese rule in Tibetan regions, while at least five Tibetan students were in critical condition and 15 others were being treated for injuries after security forces cracked down on a large protest in western China on Monday, according to reports by Radio Free Asia and Free Tibet, an advocacy group. – New York Times
Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping…has just been confronted with a new Chongqing headache: One local Party official was sacked last week for appearing in a raunchy five-year-old sex video that was recently posted online, and a citizen journalist says he has more juicy tapes exposing the hijinks of other Chongqing cadres cavorting with their mistresses. – Washington Post
China has begun landing J-15 fighters on its first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, following an earlier announcement that pilots had taken off from the ship. – Aviation Week
China’s defense minister and the U.S. Navy secretary on Tuesday discussed security at sea and plans to bolster the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region that have been sharply criticized by Beijing. – Associated Press
China is considering changes to its one-child policy, a former family planning official said, with government advisory bodies drafting proposals in the face of a rapidly ageing society in the world's most populous nation. - Reuters
East Asia
Illegal shipments of missile technology and weapons from North Korea have flowed unabated under the leadership of Kim Jong Eun, dashing Western hopes that Pyongyang's new leader might moderate his country's aggressive proliferation activities. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Not known for its sense of humor, the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece apparently fell for a parody by The Onion, the satirical newspaper and Web site, when it reported Tuesday in some online editions of People’s Daily that Kim Jong-un, the young, chubby North Korean ruler, had been named the “Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.” – New York Times
The economic fallout from a territorial dispute between China and Japan has affected a broad cross-section of Japanese business, from cars to cosmetics. But perhaps the biggest blow has been to tourism, a sharp setback to a carefully crafted government-industry campaign to draw Chinese visitors as a key element of Japan's new growth strategy. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Disputes over the Senkaku and Takeshima islands -- known by other names to China and South Korea -- has already taken an economic toll, helping drag down Japanese exports to their lowest point since the economic slowdown three years ago, Bloomberg News reported last week. – LA Times’ World Now
While new satellite images show preparations for what is believed to be a coming long-range missile launch by North Korea, a second attempt in 2012 would be unprecedented, a top satellite image analyst told CNN. – CNN’s Security Clearance
Southeast Asia
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and three top cabinet ministers on Wednesday easily survived a no-confidence vote following a three-day debate orchestrated by the opposition, further stabilizing the country's political environment after an anti-government protest last weekend drew a low turnout. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Old combat pilots warn young ones about "target fixation," when you get so focused on what you want to bomb that you lose track of everything and fly into the ground. That's the danger facing US strategy in Asia as the heavily hyped Pacific pivot gets boiled down to "contain China," warned a panel of top diplomats from Australia, India, and the Philippines. – AOL Defense
Myanmar's leadership on Monday asserted it is not pursuing atomic cooperation with North Korea, despite new claims that Japan had halted a shipment bound for the Southeast Asian nation of North Korean-origin materials with applications in building uranium enrichment centrifuges or missiles. – Global Security Newswire
The United States will raise concerns with China over a new map in Chinese passports which details claims to disputed maritime territory, alarming some of its Southeast Asian neighbors, the State Department said on Tuesday. - Reuters
China said on Wednesday that people should not read too much into the placement of a new map in its passports that depicts claims to disputed territory, after the United States said it would raise concerns with Beijing over the issue. - Reuters
Police in Myanmar have arrested six leaders of the latest protest against the planned expansion of a Chinese-run copper mine, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi planning to visit the area to hear grievances. - Reuters
Editorial: If China's leaders think high-handed statements and veiled threats will cow its neighbors into obeisance, it has misread the regional political climate. Tone-deaf diplomacy is precisely what has encouraged Southeast Asians to begin to band together to fight back. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Return to Top


The Pentagon should continue to invest in special operations forces, offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, new manned and unmanned long-range strike aircraft and undersea vessels even as defense spending declines in the coming decade, according to a new think tank report. – Defense News
Is stealth still America's silver bullet? Or are potential adversaries' radars getting too smart for US aircraft to keep hiding from them? That's literally the trillion-dollar question, because the US military is investing massively in new stealth aircraft. At stake in this debate are not just budgets but America's continued ability to project power around the world. – AOL Defense
Four female service members filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the Pentagon's ban on women serving in combat, hoping the move will add pressure to drop the policy just as officials are gauging the effect that lifting the prohibition will have on morale. – Associated Press
Missile Defense
A confidential, high-level drill drew attention last December to shortcomings in U.S. preparations to counter ballistic missile threats in certain areas, Inside the Air Force reported on Friday. – Global Security Newswire
The Pentagon may be slashing its wartime budget as all of official Washington works to avoid the fiscal cliff, but there’s a growing sense that cybersecurity spending might be spared — and some major companies are fighting for the lucrative contracts. - Politico
The White House is bringing in key players for meetings now — getting early input that the feds hope will make any new rules easier to enforce and voluntary pieces more likely to produce results. - Politico
Return to Top


Renowned for their sword-fighting prowess and notorious for their anti-Semitism in czarist Russia, the Cossacks are taking on new foes: beggars, drunks and improperly parked cars…The Kremlin is seeking to use the once-feared paramilitary squads in its new drive to promote conservative values and appeal to nationalists. – Associated Press
Former prime minister François Fillon, outraged at losing a chaotic internal leadership vote marred by cheating, threatened Tuesday to split off from France’s main conservative party and take his followers into a separate parliamentary group. – Washington Post
Georgia's outgoing president, Mikheil Saakashvili, said the recent arrests of his allies is a sign the new government is "flexing its muscles," but that pressure from Georgians would prevent the country from slipping back from democracy. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on Tuesday signed a law enabling constitutional change via referendums instead of via parliament, in a move the opposition criticized as aimed at ensuring his own re-election in 2015. - Reuters
He is a pariah in the West, viewed suspiciously by Russia and loathed by opponents in exile or jail, but Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko is relishing his notoriety as Europe's last dictator. - Reuters
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko accused the International Monetary Fund of playing politics and said the Fund should clear the way for a new $3.5 billion credit program. - Reuters
Belarus is in talks with companies from China, India, Europe and the Arab world on selling a minority stake in potash giant Belaruskali but will not drop its $30-32 billion valuation, President Alexander Lukashenko said. - Reuters
A call in the Hungarian parliament for Jews to be registered on lists as threats to national security sparked international condemnation of Nazi-style policies and a protest outside the legislature in Budapest on Tuesday. - Reuters
Editorial: The magnate-turned-prime minister said last week that his first official visit to the United States had been postponed, which is a good thing. As long as he is imprisoning opposition leaders and seeking to monopolize power, Georgia’s new leader should not be welcome in Washington. – Washington Post

Return to Top


United States of America
Two and a half weeks after Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced an inquiry into e-mail exchanges between Gen. John R. Allen of the Marines and a socialite in Tampa, Fla., some 15 investigators working seven days a week in the Pentagon inspector general’s office have narrowed their focus to 60 to 70 e-mails that “bear a fair amount of scrutiny,” a defense official said. – New York Times
The Washington lawyer representing the Tampa socialite involved in the sex scandal that prompted David Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director threatened to take legal action against the U.S. attorney in Tampa if he or other federal officials leak information about his client. – Washington Post
A high-profile bipartisan group of U.S. senators will not release its deficit-reduction plan as the White House and congressional leaders try to avoid fiscal chaos and deep Pentagon spending cuts. – Defense News
Lawmakers seeking a quick solution to the nation’s fiscal crisis are taking another look at a 2010 deficit reduction plan that, among other things, called for a three-year freeze on military pay raises, cuts in military retired pay and health care benefits, and funding reductions for upkeep of installations. – Military Times
The Republican Steering Committee selected Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) as the new chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. – The Hill’s Global Affairs
In the aftermath of the affair that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, his biographer and paramour Paula Broadwell has remained publicly silent, turning instead to family and friends as she tries to assess just how news of the affair might impact her future. – CNN’s Security Clearance
South Korea will revoke an honorary title given to an American socialite tied to a scandal involving former CIA director David Petraeus, officials said Tuesday. – Associated Press
Latin America
Enrique Peña Nieto takes office Saturday with a clear goal for his six-year presidential term: Get people to see the country less as a killing ground and more as a dynamic economy. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto praised President Obama on Tuesday for pursuing a softer posture toward illegal immigrants in the United States and said he hopes to work with U.S. officials to reduce the number of Mexicans crossing the border illegally. – Washington Times
Hugo Chavez arrived in Havana on Wednesday morning to undergo "oxygenation treatment," Cuban state newspaper Granma said on its website, months after the Venezuelan president had cancer surgery on the communist-ruled island. - Reuters

Return to Top


East Africa
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) promised that he’d make U.S. relations with South Sudan less friendly, unless their government releases one of his constituents, who he said has been wrongly accused of committing crimes. – The Hill’s Floor Action Blog
Sudan will resume talks with South Sudan next week to discuss how to set up a demilitarized border zone, a condition for resuming southern oil exports through the north, state news agency SUNA said on Tuesday. - Reuters
Rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have started withdrawing from two towns captured from government troops, following a deal brokered by Uganda, their military leader said on Wednesday. - Reuters

Return to Top

Obama Administration

Ambassador Susan Rice's attempt to repair her standing with Senate Republicans fell short Tuesday, as a trio of GOP senators emerged from a meeting with her even more harshly critical of the comments she made following the U.S. consulate attack in Libya. – Wall Street Journal
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Republican attacks on United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice are “outrageous and utterly unmoored from facts and reality.” – The Hill’s Floor Action Blog
As she wraps up her tenure at Foggy Bottom and mulls over a possible 2016 White House bid, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decade-old bipartisan friendship with McCain appears to have helped shield her from GOP fire — even as her agency finds itself in the thick of a partisan battle over Benghazi. - Politico
After meeting [yesterday] morning with Amb. Susan Rice, Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, spoke to reporters at a 12noon roundtable at the Foreign Policy Institute's annual conference, where she promised there "absolutely" would be a hold if Amb. Rice is nominated for Secretary of State…What follows is our rush transcript of her remarks. – AOL Defense
Josh Rogin reports: Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the presumptive next Republican leader on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said [yesterday] that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is too political and not independent enough to be secretary of state. – The Cable
Peter Feaver writes: When facing similar choices in the past, Obama has tended to follow his own lead and ignore the conventional wisdom and so I guess the best bet is that he will do so again. But sometimes the conventional wisdom has a certain, well, wisdom to it. – Shadow Government

Return to Top

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
Read More