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FPI Overnight Brief

FPI Overnight Brief

Over Night Brief

December 29, 2009

The Iranian regime, desperate to restore order after massive protests, arrested more than 1,000 people Monday in an increasingly doubtful bid to suppress an opposition movement that appears to be growing stronger by the day. Among those arrested were a septuagenarian former foreign minister and top aides to defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and to former President Mohammed Khatami. "They are arresting everybody," said Mehdi Noorbakhsh, an associate professor of international affairs at Pennsylvania's Harrisburg University. "They're trying to ban political parties, gatherings, everything." Journalists, human rights and women's activists, and relatives of some of those who died in Sunday's clashes were also among those detained. – Washington Times

President Obama offered rhetorical support Monday to anti-government protesters in Iran facing a bloody crackdown, but some analysts say the United States should do more than just "bear witness" to the unrest. Obama, in his first public remarks since arriving in Hawaii on vacation with his family, said the United States joins the rest of the world in "strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent" Iranians. State television reported Monday that at least 15 people have been killed in the protests. – Fox News

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Iranian Ayatollah Mohsen Kadivar, currently a visiting research professor at America's Duke University, discusses the recent death of opposition leader Hossein Ali Montazeri, the frustrations Iranians have with their regime, the future of the green movement and the prospect of an escalation. “Perhaps Western countries should stop treating Ahmadinejad's government as the legitimate government of Iran. Otherwise, I think the reforms must be pushed forward from inside the country.” – Spiegel


Yemen vowed on Monday not to become a new refuge for Al-Qaeda like Afghanistan as the jihadists' franchise in the impoverished Arabian peninsula republic urged new attacks against Western targets. "Yemen is a land of peace and security, and will never be a refuge for these terrorist murderers and drug traffickers," the defense ministry newspaper quoted a senior security official as saying. "We will hunt them down until we have rooted out their terrorism and cleansed Yemeni soil of their satanic crimes," the newspaper's quoted the official as saying. He promised "more operations against the terrorists and their hideouts" like those of December 17 and 24, days on which the Yemeni air force launched deadly strikes against suspected jihadist targets. – AFP


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said U.S. plans for a missile defense system were hindering talks on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty. Speaking to reporters in the Russian Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, Putin said U.S. plans for the missile shield in Europe would destroy the strategic balance between the United States and Russia. "In order to preserve balance... we need to develop offensive weapons systems," Putin said. He added that Russia wanted access to more information on U.S. missile defense plans and would link such a demand with the new nuclear treaty. – Reuters

The United States and Russia say they will be unable to reach a deal on an arms control treaty by the end of the year to replace their existing one, which expired this month. Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. delegation – led by Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller – had returned for a recess from the START negotiations in Geneva, reports CNN/ELTA/LET. Talks are expected to resume in mid-January with new proposals. – The Baltic Course

Obama laid out his vision of a nuclear-free world in a speech in Prague in April, vowing the U.S. would take dramatic steps to lead the way. Eight months later, the administration is locked in internal debate over a top-secret policy blueprint for shrinking the U.S. nuclear arsenal and reducing the role of such weapons in America's military strategy and foreign policy. Officials in the Pentagon and elsewhere have pushed back against administration proposals to cut the number of weapons and narrow their mission, according to U.S. officials and outsiders who have been briefed on the process. In turn, White House officials, unhappy with early Pentagon-led drafts of the blueprint known as the Nuclear Posture Review, have stepped up their involvement in the deliberations and ordered that the document reflect Obama's preference for sweeping change… -- Chicago Tribune


President Hugo Chavez is accusing Colombia and the United States of plotting to set up a fake rebel camp on Venezuelan soil to discredit his government. Chavez accused Colombia of preparing what he called a ''false positive'' operation, saying on Monday that it's feasible the neighboring country could build a makeshift camp in a remote location, then plant corpses and guns to make it look like a rebel camp had been discovered. Colombian officials have said that leftist rebel commanders from their country are taking refuge in Venezuela. Chavez says the officials are falsely trying to portray him as being in cahoots with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which Colombia has been battling for decades. – The AP


…[S]ome U.S. and Asian officials [perceive] an alarming turn in relations with Japan since Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama led an opposition party to victory in August elections, ending an almost uninterrupted five decades of rule by the Liberal Democratic Party. Since the election, a series of canceled dinners, diplomatic demarches, and publicly and privately broken promises from the new government has vexed senior White House officials, causing new concern about the U.S. friendship with its closest Asian ally. The worry extends beyond U.S. officials to other leaders in Southeast Asia, who are nervous about anything that lessens the U.S. security role in the region. – Washington Post

Obama Administration

Richard Perle writes: Unlike the hapless Carter, Obama after only a year in office has enough runway in front of him to take off in a new direction… Obama would certainly enjoy public support for more robust policies. Opinion surveys show that the American people are uncomfortable with his dithering and his incessant apologizing, and growing weary of the high ratio of talk to action. The Nobel Peace Prize highlighted the paucity of results from Obama's first year, causing many to reflect on what he has actually accomplished. And while the left wing of the Democratic Party would likely resent any shift toward a policy that mainstream America would welcome, Obama's sharply declining approval among moderates and independents will sober all but the Party's lunatic fringe. – The American Interest

North Korea

North Korea said on Tuesday it had detained a U.S. citizen who entered its territory, apparently confirming a report that an American activist crossed into the state to raise awareness about Pyongyang's human rights abuses. Robert Park, 28, walked over the frozen Tumen river from China and into the North last Friday, other activists said. He told Reuters ahead of the crossing that it was his duty as a Christian to make the journey and that he was carrying a letter calling on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to step down. – Reuters


China was this morning condemned for its human rights record after a British man who, his supporters say, had mental health problems, was executed for smuggling drugs. Akmal Shaikh, 53, was shot dead by a firing squad at 10.30am local time (2.30am British time) after frantic last-minute pleas for clemency by the Foreign Office failed. Britain had demonstrated its anger with Beijing over the treatment of Shaikh, who had smuggled 4kg (8.8lb) of heroin into China, when it summoned the Chinese ambassador for a diplomatic dressing down at the Foreign Office. – The Guardian

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The Obama Administration’s Challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Brookings Institution
January 7

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

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

Iran’s Nuclear Challenge: U.S. Options
Hudson Institute
January 12

Power In East Asia: What Is It? Who Has It? How Is It Changing?
Foreign Policy Research Institute
January 25


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


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