FPI Overnight Brief: December 5, 2012

Middle East/North Africa

Iran
 
An imprisoned human rights lawyer serving a sentence for “acting against national security” ended a 49-day hunger strike on Tuesday after judicial authorities acceded to her demand to lift a travel ban imposed on her 12-year-old daughter, her husband said. – New York Times
 
Domestic producers in textile, furniture, petrochemical, agriculture, food and mining sectors, all of which can secure a large proportion of raw materials locally and import technologies from regional and Asian countries, are seeing their fortunes improve as sanctions take hold and President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad has been forced to reverse a number of economic policies. – Financial Times
 
Iran has obtained data from a U.S. intelligence drone that shows it was spying on the country's military sites and oil terminals, Iranian media reported its armed forces as saying on Wednesday. - Reuters
 
David Feith writes: Is promoting genocide a human-rights violation? You might think that's an easy question. But it isn't at Human Rights Watch, where a bitter debate is raging over how to describe Iran's calls for the destruction of Israel. The infighting reveals a peculiar standard regarding dictatorships and human rights and especially the Jewish state. – Wall Street Journal
 
Syria
 
Syrian forces continued to press an intense counteroffensive against rebels in the Damascus suburbs on Tuesday, as the government blamed rebels for a mortar attack that hit a school, and the United Nations warned that the increasingly dangerous situation in the country was making it hard to provide enough food to displaced Syrians. – New York Times
 
NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday endorsed a decision to send Patriot missile batteries to Turkey, and expressed “grave” concerns about reports of heightened activity at Syria’s chemical weapons sites. – New York Times
 
After nearly two years of fighting, Syria’s vaunted war machine is showing serious cracks as emboldened rebels snap up more bases and airfields and force army units to retrench behind defensive lines in major cities, Western officials and military analysts say. – Washington Post
 
When NATO countries deploy Patriot batteries along Turkey’s border with Syria, the missile-blasting system is likely to play a more symbolic than tactical role, telegraphing to embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the alliance backs Ankara’s staunch support of the rebels trying to topple him. – Washington Post
 
Ethnic Kurds fleeing Syria are finding a safe haven among Iraq’s Kurdish population, but divided loyalties and distrust of Turkey leave open questions as to how the refugees will align themselves as the Syrian civil war drags on in its 20th month of bloodshed. – Washington Times

Syria's war, which has already sparked refugee crises just across its border in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, is also bringing strains to Armenia, a Christian country hundreds of miles away. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
NATO's decision to supply Turkey with a slew of ballistic missile interceptors to defend its shared border with Syria will not result in a no-fly zone within the country, according to a top defense lawmaker. – DEFCON Hill
 
Escalating violence and chaos in Syria are making it more difficult for people to find food, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) is warning. – LA Times’ World Now
 
The United States is concerned that Syria may be "cooking up recipes" at multiple sites to arm chemical weapons, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. – CNN’s Security Clearance
 
NATO told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday that any use of chemical weapons in his fight against encroaching rebel forces would be met by an immediate international response. - Reuters
 
Two men were killed and 12 wounded in sectarian clashes in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli on Tuesday between gunmen loyal to opposing sides in neighboring Syria's civil war, residents said - Reuters
 
Josh Rogin reports: The Senate voted 92-6 to require the Pentagon to report on options for using U.S. military assets to degrade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's ability to use air power against his own people. – The Cable
 
Egypt
 
Riot police officers fired brief rounds of tear gas on Tuesday night at tens of thousands of demonstrators outside the presidential palace protesting the Islamist-backed draft constitution. It was the clearest evidence yet that the new charter has only widened the divisions that have plagued Egypt since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago. – New York Times
 
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi returned to work in Cairo on Wednesday, although scores of protesters angered by his drive to push through a new constitution were still blocking one gate of the presidential palace. - Reuters
 
The Muslim Brotherhood's political party believes the crisis buffeting Egypt is nearly over and is turning its attention to building alliances with liberal foes on the other side of the struggle for the country's future. - Reuters
 
Several independent Egyptian newspapers suspended publication on Tuesday as protesters prepared for marches amid mounting anger over the hurried drafting of the country's new constitution adopted by an Islamist-led panel. – Associated Press
 
Editorial: The administration is understandably eager to embrace the alliance Mr. Haddad describes; partnership with Egypt has been a pillar of U.S. Middle East strategy for 40 years. President Obama worked closely with Mr. Morsi during last month’s crisis in Gaza, and the State Department’s public criticism of Mr. Morsi’s power grab has been muted. But the United States cannot return to a policy that ignores domestic repression in Egypt, especially when it is directed against secular and liberal movements. – Washington Post
 
Shadi Hamid writes: "Islamists" and "non-Islamists" may hate each other, but, on substance, the gap isn't currently as large as it might be. In the longer run, however, the consensus that so many seem to be searching and hoping for may not actually exist. – Foreign Policy
 
Michael Wahid Hanna writes: If America acquiesces anew to authoritarian behavior in Cairo, it won't win a new stable ally; it will only further alienate the many Egyptians who find the transactional nature of U.S.-Egyptian ties repugnant. Even worse, it will encourage a destructive political culture that provides an unstable foundation for future relations. – Foreign Policy
 
North Africa
 
The father of a former Navy SEAL killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, says he learned the details of his son’s bravery not from the Obama administration, but in an email from an American whose life was saved by his son. – Washington Times
 
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) on Tuesday introduced a resolution calling for the creation of a select committee to investigate the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, and the Obama administration's response. – The Hill’s Global Affairs
 
The Lima panel, known as an Accountability Review Board, issued a final report "that didn't find anybody had been delinquent," former U.S. Ambassador to Peru Anthony Quainton said…Whether the report by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, expected to be completed in mid-December, comes to the same conclusion could affect the arc of a controversy that has seen the Obama White House subjected to withering criticism over security arrangements in Libya and the administration's shifting explanations of the violence. - Reuters
 
The proposed candidate for Interior Minister in Libya's new government has won an appeal clearing him of close ties to the overthrown regime of Muammar Gaddafi, a ruling congress spokesman said on Tuesday. - Reuters
 
Tunisian police broke up fighting in Tunis on Tuesday when pro-government Islamists attacked labor union members they blamed for inciting protests last week against the Islamist government. - Reuters
 
Kuwait
 
Aziz, who works for his family’s industrial business, is part of a discreet but growing army of rich young Kuwaitis who, while they profess not to be seeking outright revolution, are pressing for better management and greater accountability from their rulers. – Financial Times
 
Iraq
 
A plane carrying Turkey's energy minister to an energy conference in Iraqi Kurdistan was denied permission to land on Tuesday by the central government in Baghdad, underlining its strained relations with Ankara and Iraq's Kurdish region. - Reuters
 
Israel
 
European Union states struggled to agree on Tuesday on a common response to Israel's plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, highlighting the divisions within the bloc over how to tackle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. - Reuters

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Asia

Afghanistan
 
When Afghan and American negotiators sat down here last month to begin talks on a bilateral security agreement that would define and govern a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, their meeting was cordial, vague and brief. When the two sides meet again this month for more substantive discussions, each will begin to lay out a competing set of military concerns, political constraints and legal priorities that could severely test their fledgling postwar partnership, possibly to the point of failure. – Washington Post
 
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, tapped by President Obama to become his fifth commander of the war in Afghanistan, will take charge in Kabul early next year, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. – Washington Post
 
South Asia
 
Even as several big-ticket corruption scandals have deeply shaken public confidence in public officials elsewhere in India, many Mumbai residents and corporate executives say they have regained some hope for their city of 14 million, which many of them had despaired was becoming more dysfunctional by the day. – New York Times
 
The U.S military has been unable to move any new supply convoys through Pakistan despite a diplomatic breakthrough announced in July that officially reopened border crossings into Afghanistan, a defense official said. – Military Times
 
Two suicide bombers rammed their explosives-laden vehicle into the gate of an army base in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least one soldier and wounding eight, security officials said on Wednesday. - Reuters
 
China
 
China’s departing president, Hu Jintao, entered the summer in an apparently strong position after the disgrace of Bo Xilai, previously a rising member of a rival political network who was brought down when his wife was accused of murdering a British businessman. But Mr. Hu suffered a debilitating reversal of his own when party elders — led by his predecessor, Jiang Zemin — confronted him with allegations that Ling Jihua, his closest protégé and political fixer, had engineered the cover-up of his son’s death. – New York Times
 
China’s new leadership has signaled what could be a significant break from the past in its operating style, calling for an end to the red-carpet treatment lavished on officials in a bid to improve the public image of a party that has been badly tarnished by corruption and abuse of power. – Wall Street Journal
 
China's Communist Party has begun a corruption inquiry into a top official in the southwestern province of Sichuan, state media reported on Wednesday, the most senior person to be investigated since Xi Jinping became the party's leader. - Reuters
 
A group of 134 Nobel laureates including the Dalai Lama and author Toni Morrison have written to Chinese Communist Party chief and president-in-waiting Xi Jinping urging that he release detained Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and his wife. - Reuters
 
The leader of an Army delegation to a disaster-relief exercise in China last week said Monday that the drills are a stepping stone to building relationships between the two militaries. – Associated Press
 
A Chinese fighter jet crashed in a southern Chinese city Dec. 4, sparking a fire that injured at least four people, the defense ministry announced. - AFP
 
Peter Zeughauser writes: For those Big Law firms tempted to join the Shanghai Bar Association, the wise middle ground might be to link their signing with a public statement of their intent to advance the practice of pro bono law in human rights and other cases in China. Such a commitment could be a strong force for the orderly advancement of important legal and human-rights reform. Then again, insisting on such a mutual statement could put the firms at risk of being locked out of the world's soon-to-be largest economy. Thus, Big Law's China dilemma. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Koreas
 
North Korea is once again drawing global attention for its plan to test long-range missile technology, or what it calls shooting a rocket into space. But in recent days, there have also been some developments and reports that, while hard or impossible to verify, may wind up being more significant in the near future. – WSJ’s Korea Real Time Report
 
North Korea appears to be working toward its goal of launching a rocket later this month, with a new satellite image showing preparations continuing around the site. – CNN’s Security Clearance
 
Sounding at times like a mouthpiece for hostile North Korea, a candidate with no chance of winning South's presidential election made the biggest impact in a televised debate and may have scuppered the chances of the main opposition candidate. - Reuters
 
Southeast Asia
 
China and two of its neighbors, Vietnam and India, were locked in a new dispute on Tuesday over energy exploration in the South China Sea, a signal that Beijing plans to continue its hard line in the increasingly contentious waterway. – New York Times
 
A Chinese official clarified new regulations allowing Chinese police to board foreign ships in parts of the disputed South China Sea that had raised fresh alarm among some of China's neighbors. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
New Chinese regulations allowing police to board vessels deemed to be breaking the law off the southern island of Hainan were a provincial-level initiative, but Beijing likely signed off on them, an official said on Wednesday. - Reuters
 
Central Asia
 
Two opposition movements and dozens of media outlets critical of the government are under threat of being shut down in Kazakhstan. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
Ahmed Rashid writes: For all the anxiety in Moscow and Washington about the shifting balance of power in Afghanistan, it does not represent the greatest threat to central Asia. What could really undermine the ex-Soviet states is the increasing pauperisation of their people, the collapse of services such as health and education, and the excesses of dictators and failure of governments – except for Kyrgyzstan’s – to carry out any political, social or economic reforms. Unfortunately as the new Great Game continues, both Russia and the US are ignoring the social and economic crisis that is about to erupt in central Asia. That crisis will not be because of Afghanistan. – Financial Times

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Security

Defense
 
The U.S. Senate on Dec. 4 unanimously authorized the Pentagon to spend $650 billion in fiscal 2013, slightly less than requested by the Obama administration in February. – Defense News
 
Michael Mullen, a former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs, says the U.S. defense budget can be trimmed and more focus should be placed on Washington’s non-military national security tools. – Defense News
 
The Pentagon wants Gen. David Rodriguez to get his confirmation hearing and full Senate approval to be the next Africa Command commander by the close of the lame duck Congress, sources tell the E-Ring. – The E-Ring
 
Just weeks after the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate and CIA station in Benghazi, Libya, the head of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was for the first time given operational control over a dedicated special operations company that could be tasked with handling similar incidents in the future. – Defense News
 
U.S. Air Force Gen. Christopher Bogdan will officially be named as head of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Joint Program Office on Dec. 6, Defense News has learned. – Defense News
 
The War
 
A former close aide to Osama bin Laden who became a crucial witness for the United States government after he defected from Al Qaeda more than 15 years ago has asked to be sentenced without further delay, an act that could breach his cooperation agreement with prosecutors. – New York Times
 
The number of terrorist attacks has steadily increased worldwide over the past decade but the number of fatalities is down 25 percent since peaking in 2007, according to a new report ranking countries according to terrorism impact. – The Hill’s Global Affairs
 
Missile Defense
 
Within the defense aerospace community, the intense choreography involved in guiding one missile to intercept another is widely viewed as one of the toughest tasks in the business. Figuring out how to test, and ultimately fix problems in such a system is therefore one of the more extreme challenges facing Boeing as it works to restart tests of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in the wake of intercept failures in 2010. – Aviation Week

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Russia/Europe

Russia
 
A year after parliamentary elections triggered mass protests in Moscow amid claims of vote-rigging, Russia’s former finance minister has called on the Kremlin to take urgent steps to tackle a “crisis of confidence” in the country. – WSJ’s Emerging Europe
 
The Senate is expected to take up legislation normalizing trade relations with Russia on Wednesday following the anticipated passage of the defense bill late Tuesday. – The Hill’s Global Affairs
 
Reform of Russia’s army designed to end conscription and create a professional military will continue despite the purge of its main proponent, according to a top general. – Financial Times
 
Russia’s Supreme Arbitration Court, which regulates commercial disputes, has annulled provisions in some contracts that previously protected foreign companies from being sued in Russian courts. The move is seen by Moscow lawyers as a power grab – an attempt by “judicial protectionists” to defend the sovereignty of Russian courts from encroachment by foreign jurisdictions. – Financial Times
 
An ally of President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday she would table an amendment in parliament to double the maximum jail sentence for corruption to 20 years, urging fellow MPs to back a crackdown on one of Russia's most deep-seated problems. - Reuters
 
For a few weeks, the mainly young, urban and middle-class protesters dared hope that Putin's days in power were numbered. Even in the heart of winter, the biggest rallies drew tens of thousands of people shouting "Russia without Putin!". A year on, Putin is back in the presidency after four years as premier, the opposition is divided and the protests have lost momentum after failing to take off in the provinces, where the president's support is traditionally stronger. - Reuters
 
Leon Aron writes: Russia’s revolution is an example of moral renewal generated from “below” by civil society rather than the state. In Russia today, burgeoning grassroots movements appear to continue what glasnost started by seeking to inculcate and widen modern, enlightened, democratic citizenship. – America Enterprise Institute
 
Rebecca Blank and Ron Kirk writes: The facts are clear: Extending PNTR to Russia is the right thing to do to support American jobs and U.S. competitiveness. Let’s work together – right now – to make it happen. - Politico
 
Europe
 
Georgia’s president Mikheil Saakashvili has called on the country’s billionaire prime minister to end a political stand-off that he warned could cause western allies to abandon the country and leave it vulnerable to pressure from Russia. – Financial Times
 
Editorial: The 1930s saw a global economic downturn turn into the Great Depression in no small part because governments reacted by throwing up tariff barriers to protect domestic industry from foreign competition. In pursuing free trade as a way out of the current economic quagmire, the EU and U.S. could show that, sometimes, we do learn from history. – Wall Street Journal Europe

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Americas

United States of America
 
Charles Hill and Robert Satloff discuss President Obama’s second-term policies toward the Middle East for the Hoover Institution.
 
Latin America
 
When Jerez talks about the U.S. influence in Guatemala, it isn't to dredge up the facts of the U.S.-backed coup d'etat in 1954, or the covert CIA support for the brutally repressive right-wing military during the country's 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. Instead, he will tell you about crime being down more than 30% through October, compared with the same period last year. – Los Angeles Times
 
Mark Keller writes: Promoting media pluralism is certainly important for a healthy democracy, and the concentration of outlets under Grupo Clarín is far from ideal. However, the government’s increasing control of the local media through state advertising and its broader track record on freedom of speech make it unlikely that Argentina’s media landscape would be any more diverse after a Clarín breakup—indeed it might even be less so. The government seems to be replacing one form of biased journalism with another, leaving the Argentine public with a dangerous shortage of truly independent sources of information. – Freedom House’s Freedom at Issue

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Africa

Mali's government and the two rebel groups that took control of the northern half of the country in April, have met for the first time and agreed to negotiate an end to the crisis, a minister from mediator Burkina Faso said on Tuesday. - Reuters
 
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said on Tuesday he would join forces with the country's vice president in next year's election, to challenge another alliance headed by two senior politicians facing charges of crimes against humanity. - Reuters
 
Negotiations between the Congolese government and eastern rebels are expected to take place this week, regional officials said on Tuesday after the insurgents withdrew from the city of Goma. - Reuters

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Obama Administration

Obama on Tuesday continued his staunch defense of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, while insisting no decision had been made on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s replacement. – Hill Tube
 
President Barack Obama is expected to announce his nominees for secretaries of state and defense in the next two weeks, with former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel on the short list of potential choices to head the Pentagon, senior administration officials said on Tuesday. - Reuters

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Democracy and Human Rights

The Arab Spring has failed to deliver greater political power to women in the region or to offer them better protection from sexual harassment, but may yet yield female-friendly reform, a conference on women's rights heard on Tuesday. - Reuters

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