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FPI Overnight Brief

FPI Overnight Brief

Foreign Policy Initiative

December 16, 2009

Iran

The House voted overwhelmingly to implement new sanctions against Iran in retaliation for its saber-rattling over building a nuclear weapons arsenal. By a 412-12 vote, lawmakers approved legislation that would penalize foreign companies that sell oil to Iran or help the country with its oil-producing capacity. While Iran is a major crude oil producer, its lack of ability to produce enough gasoline and other refined petroleum products i a major economic vulnerability. With no Senate action on the legislation expected this year, the House vote was for the time being mainly a warning that the United States is ready to act on its own if the Tehran government doesn't respond to current international efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power… Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, said the Obama administration was "entering a critical period of intense diplomacy to impose significant international pressure on Iran." Sanctions legislation "might weaken rather than strengthen international unity and support for our efforts," Steinberg's letter said. – Fox News

Credit Suisse is expected to pay a fine of $536 million to settle accusations by the United States government and New York State authorities that it violated sanctions by helping Iran and other countries secretly funnel hundreds of millions of dollars through American banks, people involved in the negotiations said Tuesday. – New York Times

Afghanistan/Pakistan

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has resisted a direct appeal from President Obama for a rapid expansion of Pakistani military operations in tribal areas and has called on the United States to speed up military assistance to Pakistani forces and to intervene more forcefully with India, its traditional adversary. In a written response to a letter from Obama late last month, Zardari said his government was determined to take action against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and allied insurgent groups attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan from the border area inside Pakistan. But, he said, Pakistan's efforts would be based on its own timeline and operational needs. – Washington Post

The Pakistani military has seized nearly all of the former Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, but militant leaders who fled are still able to carry out deadly attacks deep inside Pakistan’s heartland from new hide-outs, a United States Embassy official here said Tuesday. By striking repeatedly in recent weeks with seeming impunity, the Pakistani Taliban are winning an all-important propaganda war here, the official said, by conveying a reach and strength that may be greater than the group’s real capacities, the official said. – New York Times

The surge of 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan could be accompanied by a surge of up to 56,000 contractors, vastly expanding the presence of personnel from the U.S. private sector in a war zone, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service. CRS, which provides background information to members of Congress on a bipartisan basis, said it expects an additional 26,000 to 56,000 contractors to be sent to Afghanistan. That would bring the number of contractors in the country to anywhere from 130,000 to 160,000. – Washington Post

A Pakistani court formally approved the arrests of the five young American men from Virginia on Tuesday, according to Pakistani authorities, and allowed 10 more days for their questioning on suspicions that they had been seeking training to fight American troops in Afghanistan. The five, all friends from the suburbs of Washington who had been reported missing, were detained Dec. 9 in a raid on a house belonging to an uncle of one of the five in the city of Sargodha, in the north of Punjab Province. The order was issued by a civil judge in Sargodha. The five are being held in Lahore, the province’s capital, but were returned briefly to Sargodha for the ruling under tight security. The district police chief, Dr. Usman Anwar Saif, said evidence was building that the five planned to take part in “jihad.” – New York Times

China

China is preparing to build three times as many nuclear power plants in the coming decade as the rest of the world combined, a breakneck pace with the potential to help slow global warming. China’s civilian nuclear power industry — with 11 reactors operating and construction starting on as many as an additional 10 each year — is not known to have had a serious accident in 15 years of large-scale electricity production. And with China already the largest emitter of gases blamed for global warming, the expansion of nuclear power would at least slow the increase in emissions. Yet inside and outside the country, the speed of the construction program has raised safety concerns. China has asked for international help in training a force of nuclear inspectors. – New York Times

Iraq

The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, blames al Qaeda for Tuesday's coordinated bomb attacks in Iraq, saying al Qaeda is now targeting the Iraqi government. The bombings -- the latest in a series of attacks in Iraq -- killed eight people. Calling al Qaeda in Iraq a "very deadly adversary," Crocker said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour that al Qaeda was working "to shake popular confidence in the (Iraqi) government, particularly as we move toward elections." In Tuesday's attacks, insurgents exploded three car bombs close to heavily guarded sites in the Baghdad city center near the fortified "Green Zone" that houses Iraqi government buildings and the U.S. embassy. Four people were killed and 14 others were injured. In the volatile northern city of Mosul, four people were killed in three bombings. "It's pretty clear to me that the architect is al Qaeda in Iraq," Crocker told Amanpour. – CNN

Disarmament

The White House said Tuesday it didn't expect President Barack Obama to sign a nuclear weapons treaty with Russia when he travels to Copenhagen this week. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the U.S. and Russia continued to make progress on negotiations for a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as START, and that he hoped an agreement would be reached soon. But the spokesman said there was no signing ceremony planned in Copenhagen, nor did he expect there to be any additional stops in nearby countries. Obama will be in Copenhagen on Friday for the United Nations climate summit. – The AP

CIA

Arthur Herman writes: The war on the CIA has been, for 35 years, an effort by Americans to make the disarming and unmasking of America’s enemies a more difficult if not an impossible challenge. The aims of that war have advanced or retreated over those years, depending on the seriousness with which the party in power in Washington has taken the threats to America’s interests and to the safety and security of Americans. Certainly the party now in power in the White House and on Capitol Hill is more determined to malign those Americans who tried to protect this country from a repetition of the horrors of 9/11 than to punish those who masterminded those horrors… – Commentary

Pentagon

Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter aircraft program could be headed for a downward spiral, a leading industry analyst said, even as lawmakers pulled a veil over a hearing on the costliest arms project in history. "If you keep pushing full-rate production further out, you get into that 'death by a thousand cuts' situation," Robert Stallard of Macquarie Capital (USA) Inc told the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington. The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a last-minute switch, said Tuesday it was postponing indefinitely a public hearing on the F-35, which is designed to replace at least 12 types of warplanes for 11 countries initially. Instead, the committee will meet behind closed doors Wednesday for a briefing on a Pentagon team's conclusions about feared F-35 cost overruns and schedule slips. – Reuters

India

India will become the world’s most populous country in 2025, surpassing China, where the population will peak one year later because of declining fertility, according to United States Census Bureau projections released Tuesday. The bureau suggests that the projected peak in China, 1.4 billion people, will be lower than previously estimated and that it will occur sooner. With the fertility rate declining to fewer than 1.6 births per woman in this decade from 2.2 in 1990, China’s overall population growth rate has slowed to 0.5 percent annually. In contrast, India’s 1.4 percent growth rate is being driven by a fertility rate of 2.7 births per woman. – New York Times

Japan

China's Vice President Xi Jinping in Japan Tuesday stressed the importance of good ties between the Asian giants as his hastily arranged royal audience sparked a political row in the host nation.
Xi, who is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as China's president in 2012, said Tokyo and Beijing "must enhance the mutual political trust, expand mutual interests and improve the public sentiment of the two nations."… the mood was darkened by domestic political squabbling over Xi's 20-minute audience Tuesday morning with the 75-year-old Emperor Akihito. China's request for the meeting was initially rejected because it came only 19 days in advance, not a month as customarily required by Japan's Imperial Household Agency, which cites the emperor's poor health. The fact that the Hatoyama government asked the emperor to meet Xi at shorter notice sparked angry charges from Japan's conservative opposition that the government is kowtowing to rising giant China. – AFP

Honduras

Acting Honduran President Roberto Micheletti said deposed President Manuel Zelaya might “attack” Honduras should he get asylum in a neighboring country, and he won’t be allowed to leave unless he renounces claims on power. “He can go as a political refugee, but not to a Central American country because he could unleash an attack against Honduras and we want to live in peace,” Micheletti said today in an interview with National Honduras Radio. – Bloomberg

The U.S. State Department has lifted its travel alert for Honduras, saying the improved security situation there has removed the immediate threat to the safety of U.S. citizens in the country. – ABC News

Nauru/Georgia

A new player has emerged in the roiling political theater of the Caucasus: the tiny, destitute Pacific island nation of Nauru, which on Tuesday became the fourth country to formally establish diplomatic relations with Abkhazia, effectively recognizing its sovereignty. The announcement comes 15 months after Russia began lobbying its allies to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the two separatist territories at the center of its 2008 war with Georgia. Nauru, an eight-square-mile rock in the South Pacific with about 11,000 inhabitants, was no pushover, according to the influential Russian daily newspaper Kommersant. In talks with Russian officials, Nauru requested $50 million for “urgent social and economic projects,” the newspaper reported, citing unnamed Russian diplomats… Nauru, the world’s smallest republic, has been desperate for income since its most important resource, phosphates formed by centuries of bird droppings, is nearly exhausted. The island has tried housing refugees for Australia and investing millions in a West End musical. (It bombed.) Recently, it has begun to dabble in foreign-policy hardball. In 2002, Nauru severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan, coincident with a reported pledge of $130 million from China. Three years later, it switched again, prompting a Chinese official to grumble that the islanders were “only interested in material gains.” – New York Times
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Events
Warriors in the Mountains: Cultivating coalitions with the people of North Waziristan
Center for Strategic and International Studies
December 16

Lessons from Colombia: Security, Governance and Development
Center for Strategic and International Studies
December 16

Implementing the Lisbon Treaty: An Update on Europe's Transformation
Heinrich Böll Foundation North America
December 16

U.S. Diplomacy in the Age of Facebook and Twitter: An Address on 21st Century Statecraft
Brookings Institution
December 17

More Effective Protection for Internally Displaced Persons in Southern Afghanistan
Brookings Institution
December 17

Can Iran’s Bomb be Stopped?

Center for Strategic and International Studies
December 18

Iran's Nuclear Ambitions in Context
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
January 8

18 Months and Beyond: Implications of U.S. Policy in Afghanistan
Middle East Policy Council
January 7

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Overnight Brief is a daily product of the Foreign Policy Initiative, which 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. To submit comments or suggestions, email overnight@foreignpolicyi.org.

ENDS

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