WoI Daily World Brief

Iran

U.S. defense leaders are increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to take military action against Iran, over U.S. objections, and have stepped up contingency planning to safeguard U.S. facilities in the region in case of a conflict. – Wall Street Journal

A senior American diplomat urged South Korea on Tuesday to reduce its imports of Iranian crude oil Iran as the United States continued to seek support from major Asian economies to increase pressure on Tehran to halt its nuclear program. – New York Times

The deepening economic and diplomatic pressure against Iran is sharpening tensions between Tehran and oil-producing Arab states that have long relied on the West to counter Iran’s nuclear program and its regional ambitions. – Los Angeles Times

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said in an interview published Saturday that new economic sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s contentious nuclear program appeared to be having an effect and, if combined with a threat of military action led by the United States, could succeed. – New York Times

Iran on Friday hurled new threats of retaliation against the West for the assassination of one of its nuclear scientists but also signaled a readiness to negotiate on at least one of the nuclear disputes behind the country’s worsening feud with the United States. – Washington Post

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Saturday that Japan will continue its dialogue with Iran despite increasing pressure to join sanctions proposed by the U.S. and Europe, saying its ties with Iran go beyond oil imports. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Iranian authorities sent police into the streets of the capital Monday to crack down on informal currency trading and support the rial, signaling Iranians’ heightened insecurity over their dwindling buying power and Tehran’s increasingly hard-handed efforts to stave off economic panic. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The likelihood of military conflict between the United States and Iran is higher now than at any time in more than two decades, military analysts say, as tensions continue to escalate over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and blustery rhetoric. – The Hill

Iran has arrested several suspects in connection with last week’s assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist, according to an Iranian news website. – DEFCON Hill

Iran warned Gulf Arab oil producers against boosting production to offset any potential drop in Tehran’s crude exports in the event of an embargo affecting its oil sales, the latest salvo in the dispute between the West and the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program. – Associated Press

Josh Rogin reports: President Barack Obama is prepared to give the order to strike Iran to prevent it from getting a nuclear weapon if sanctions and international pressure prove ineffective, said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who just returned from a whirlwind trip around the region. – The Cable

Ray Takeyh writes: The best means of holding the coalition together is to stress that it is Iran’s behavior that remains outside the parameters of legality so long as Tehran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of U.N. resolutions and threatens to imperil peaceful maritime traffic. Any action that distracts attention from Iran’s illegal behavior only retards the efforts to disarm the Islamic Republic. – Washington Post

Trita Parsi writes: Sustained, persistent diplomacy remains untested between the United States and Iran. It is superior to war and sanctions for the simple fact that, if successful, it not only could prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but the reduced tensions would lessen Iran’s demand for nuclear deterrence. – Washington Post

Syria

The failure of an Arab League mission to stanch violence in Syria, an international community with little leverage and a government as defiant as its opposition is in disarray have left Syria descending into a protracted, chaotic and perhaps unnegotiable conflict. – New York Times

Arab troops should be dispatched to Syria to halt bloodshed that has shown no sign of abating despite the presence of Arab League observers in the country, the emir of Qatar has suggested, the first time an Arab head of state has called for military intervention in the country. – LA Times’ World Now

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to end the crackdown against a 10-month-old uprising that has left thousands dead. Ban’s strong comments on Sunday came as Assad offered amnesty to protesters and army deserters involved in the rebellion. – LA Times’ World Now

A member of Syria’s parliament has left the country to join the opposition against President Bashar Assad’s regime, saying the Syrian people are suffering sweeping human rights violations. – Associated Press

Egypt

Liberals and Islamists in Egypt announced a temporary agreement Monday on a power-sharing plan that would install a Muslim Brotherhood leader as speaker of the country’s newly elected parliament. – Washington Post

Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei on Saturday withdrew his candidacy from Egypt’s coming presidential race in protest over the autocratic governance that has persisted under Egypt’s post-revolutionary military leadership. – Wall Street Journal

Members of a youth movement that spearheaded the protests that forced President Hosni Mubarak from power face an uphill battle as they try to recapture the public’s support ahead of the Jan. 25 anniversary of the start of Egypt’s revolution. – Washington Post

Egypt’s military rulers asked the International Monetary Fund on Monday for a $3.2 billion loan that they had previously rejected, bowing to the realities of a worsening economy nearly a year after the exit of the strongman Hosni Mubarak. – New York Times

Mohamed ElBaradei’s withdrawal from Egypt’s presidential race pounds another nail in the coffin of the youth movement he helped energize when he returned to Egypt in 2010 and which eventually overthrew Hosni Mubarak’s regime. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Editorial: At a minimum, any Egyptian government that follows Ms. Aboul Naga’s policies ought to be denied military aid. That’s why it is fortunate that Congress, over the administration’s objections, conditioned the 2012 funding for Egypt on a certification that the government was carrying out a democratic transition. Such a certification ought to be impossible until all the NGOs are allowed to reopen and harassment of their Egyptian partners ceases. Administration officials say they accept that; let’s hope that, through tough words or softer ones, Egyptian authorities are getting the message. – Washington Post

Yemen

In some areas, a struggle is underway to oust military and security officials loyal to Saleh, who has ruled for 33 years. Removing Kayran from this south-central city, an epicenter of Yemen’s populist uprising, has become a focal point of that effort. – Washington Post

A band of al Qaeda militants seized full control of a town 100 miles south of the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Monday, overrunning army positions, storming the local prison and freeing at least 150 inmates, security officials said. – Associated Press

Tunisia

A year after Tunisia’s president fled a revolution fueled in part by his government’s corruption, huge amounts of the money controlled and invested by his family and allies remain out of the reach of the country’s people and new government. – Washington Post

Tunisians on Saturday marked the first anniversary of the revolution that started the “Arab Spring” with celebrations that were true to the spirit of the revolt: raucous, unscripted, and driven by the energy of ordinary people. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia said Monday it inked an agreement with China to enhance cooperation between the two countries in the development and use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Saudi Arabia’s king replaced the hard-line chief of the country’s morality police with a more liberal cleric who has encouraged greater women’s rights, a change welcomed by activists as a sign that the monarchy would continue to pursue cautious social reforms in the face of political upheaval in the Middle East. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Iraq

The Iraqi government has temporarily detained more than 100 international workers in recent weeks over visas and paperwork, prompting some of their employers to ask U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to intervene, according to a trade group that represents contractors doing business here. – Washington Post

Iraq summoned Turkey’s ambassador on Monday to protest what it called Ankara’s meddling in Iraqi politics, the latest sign of a rising rift between Sunni Turkey and its Shiite neighbors. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Israel

Israel and the United States have agreed to postpone major joint missile-defense exercises that had been scheduled for the spring because of regional tensions and instability, according to Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. – New York Times

Israel faced an escalating cyberwar on Monday as unknown attackers disrupted access to the symbolically strategic Web sites of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and El Al, the national airline. – New York Times

Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday cited “baby steps” of progress after two weeks of talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and said he is convinced that both sides are looking for a way to break the impasse that has stalled peace negotiations for more than two years. – Washington Post

Palestinian Authority leaders pursued dual tracks of reconciliation on Saturday, holding meetings both with Israeli negotiators in Jordan and with Hamas leaders in Gaza. The talks with the Israelis went late into the evening. The Gaza negotiations yielded some results. – New York Times

For the first time, polls show that a slight majority of Israelis view Mr. Obama as more “pro-Israel” than “pro-Palestinian.” But he has yet to create an emotional bond with the Israelis, and many still view him as a fair-weather friend. – Washington Times

Arab unrest is changing the balance of power in the Middle East, along with the dynamics of the region. With the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria reconfiguring the political landscape, Israel is increasingly isolated and its dependence on the U.S. is growing. – Aviation Week

Interview: Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who meets with President Obama on Tuesday, discussed Middle East peace and regional security issues during a conversation with The Washington Post. Here are some highlights – Washington Post

Turkey

Soner Cagaptay writes: After years of cold-war competition over the Middle East and North Africa, it is now France and Turkey that are vying for lucrative business ties and the chance to mold a new generation of leaders in lands that they once controlled. – New York Times

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Asia

Afghanistan

One week after President Hamid Karzai demanded that the United States hand over its military prison near Bagram Airfield to Afghan officials by month’s end, opposition to the plan has emerged from human rights advocates appointed by Karzai. – Washington Post

The use of air power has changed markedly during the long Afghan conflict, reflecting the political costs and sensitivities of civilian casualties caused by errant or indiscriminate strikes and the increasing use of aerial drones…Fighter jets with pilots, however, remain an essential component of the war, in part because little else in the allied arsenal is considered as versatile or imposing, and because of improvements in the aircraft’s sensors. – New York Times

Anthony Cordesman writes: working studies from the U.S. and British governments, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank show that the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops from Afghanistan could plunge that country into a recession or depression by the end of 2014 unless Kabul receives a massive new aid package…Now is the time to debate these issues and the future level of the U.S. commitment in money and forces. – Washington Post

Kori Schake writes: The Obama Administration scored a lot of cheap points against their predecessor by hailing the arrival of “smart power” — using political, military, and economic means in seamless orchestration. If reports of the NIE are accurate, it would be a terrible condemnation of the Administration’s efforts. For only the American military has proven able to achieve any effect in the complex task of nation building in Afghanistan, and it has done so without either the political or diplomatic support necessary to make their achievements durable. – Shadow Government

Pakistan

The “fundamentals” of mutual interest in destroying al-Qaeda and safely managing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal haven’t changed, said a senior administration U.S. official, who, like several sources in this article, discussed sensitive diplomatic matters on the condition of anonymity. But the two countries are groping their way toward what he called “a new normal” — somewhere between the strategic alliance that President Obama once proffered in exchange for Pakistan severing its ties with militants, and a more businesslike arrangement with few illusions. – Washington Post

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in contempt of court on Monday for failing to pursue graft allegations against the president, sharpening pressure on a civilian government that is embroiled in a power struggle with the judiciary and the military. – Washington Post

Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders met Saturday for the first time since the eruption of a bitter political and legal controversy that stoked rumors of a military coup and could still topple the precariously weak civilian government. – New York Times

In its standoff with President Asif Ali Zardari’s administration, Pakistan’s powerful military is relying on an institution that experts say is equally antagonistic toward the civilian government: the country’s high court. – Los Angeles Times

International aid groups say they’re under siege in Pakistan, demonized by hard-line Islamists, viewed as spies by suspicious Pakistanis and, now, increasingly sidelined by the government. – Los Angeles Times

Intercepted militant radio communications indicate the leader of the Pakistani Taliban may have been killed in a recent U.S. drone strike, Pakistani intelligence officials said Sunday. A Taliban official denied that. – Associated Press

Sadanand Dhume writes: If the current government is allowed to complete its term, and elections held on schedule in 2013, the country will pass an important milestone on the road to genuine democracy. If not, we have to expect even more turmoil from what is already dubbed the most dangerous place on earth. – Wall Street Journal Asia (subscription required)

China

Chinese security forces on Saturday fired into a crowd of Tibetans in a restive area of Sichuan Province after they tried to take away the body of a Tibetan man who had died after setting himself on fire that morning to protest Chinese policies in the Tibetan areas, according to reports from two Tibet advocacy groups and Tibetan officials in the exile government in India. – New York Times

There was another winner in the election this weekend that handed President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan a second term in office — the faint but unmistakable clamor for democracy in China. – New York Times

In an unlikely coda to the citizen takeover last month of Wukan, a southern China village whose furious residents evicted the authorities over a land dispute, the local Communist Party has selected the protest leader to be the village’s new party secretary. – New York Times

China’s GDP growth slowed to 8.9% in the last quarter of 2011, compared with a year earlier, showing that the world’s fastest engine of growth is downshifting. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

China’s massive stockpile of foreign-exchange reserves shrank for the first time in more than a decade, measured on quarterly basis, evidence that concern over the country’s slowing growth has triggered capital flight and that investors are betting the Chinese currency doesn’t have much more room to appreciate. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The number of Web users in China soared past 500 million last year, a tech-industry group said Monday, capping a period of explosive growth that has elevated Chinese Internet companies and challenged social and political discourse in the communist-controlled state. – Los Angeles Times

China watchers see an even larger aim in China’s multimillion-dollar investment in Washington: capturing the attention and perhaps the hearts and minds of viewers throughout the United States and the Western Hemisphere. China’s ambition, they say, is to use news reporting and cultural programming to advance its “soft power,” or cultural influence, making it commensurate with the nation’s growing economic might. – Washington Post

Taiwan

President Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected by a comfortable margin on Saturday, fending off a challenge from his main rival, Tsai Ing-wen, who criticized his handling of the economy but also sought to exploit fears among voters that Mr. Ma’s conciliatory approach toward China was eroding the island’s sovereignty. – New York Times

[A]lthough Saturday’s election results may have dispirited Ang and other believers in independence — and delighted Communist Party leaders in Beijing who want unification — there is little sign that Ma has any intention of moving toward, or has any public backing for, a political settlement with China on Taiwan’s status. – Washington Post

Ma Ying-jeou’s victory in Taiwan’s presidential elections gave him a renewed mandate to press ahead with economic opening to China, but analysts said the vote underlined deep suspicions among voters toward their giant neighbor, which will complicate Mr. Ma’s efforts to establish lasting rapprochement with the island’s longtime foe during his second term. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Douglas H. Paal, who was the American government’s de facto ambassador to Taiwan from 2002 to 2006, told a Taiwanese television station that a victory by Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking to unseat President Ma Ying-jeou in the election on Saturday, could threaten the stability of the region. – New York Times

Editorial: Mr. Ma has a new mandate to reform Taiwan’s economy and expand trade and investment links with the mainland and the rest of the world. His greatest legacy, however, may be the consolidation of the island’s transition to democracy. – Wall Street Journal Asia (subscription required)

North Korea

As North Korea on Tuesday marks one month since the death of Kim Jong Il, the most important question for outsiders trying to deal with the country remains unanswered: Is his young son Kim Jong Eun really in charge? – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

North Korea test-fired three short-range missiles off its east coast [last] week in an apparently routine exercise, a South Korean official said Jan. 13.  – AFP

Kazakhstan

Weekend parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan broke the ruling party’s exclusive hold on legislative power, but independent monitors called the vote undemocratic Monday and criticized the government for limiting competition. – Washington Post

Southeast Asia

Thai police Monday charged a foreign suspect who had alleged links to pro-Iranian militant group Hezbollah with acquiring materials that can be used to build bombs, while political leaders urged calm after the U.S. Embassy and Israeli government last week warned their citizens about possible terrorist attacks in this popular tourist destination. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Thai police units on Monday seized what they said was a large stash of two chemicals that could be used to make rudimentary bombs, as a murky case that put the country on alert for a terrorist attack took a confusing turn. – New York Times

A key U.S. lawmaker visiting Myanmar expressed support for its reform efforts on Monday, while Norway moved ahead with plans to lift a policy discouraging investment in the resource-rich nation. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

As Burma proceeds with political and economic reforms, the “ASSK cult,” as some have dubbed it, becomes more visible by the day. – Financial Times

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Russia

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin says he intends to return to the presidency because only he can guide Russia between the twin dangers of stagnation on the one hand and instability on the other. – Washington Post

A tentative attempt to set up dialogue between the Kremlin and the organizers of street protests foundered on Monday, leaving little time for the groups to de-escalate tensions before large demonstrations planned for Feb. 4 and March 11. – New York Times

Police detained a liberal opposition-party leader and another activist Saturday at a rally protesting alleged vote fraud in Russia’s parliamentary election, a sign that authorities may take a tougher line against a burgeoning anti-Kremlin movement during Prime Minister Vladmir Putin’s run for the presidency. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Billionaire Nets basketball owner and metals tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov’s campaign said Friday it has collected enough signatures to get on Russia’s March presidential ballot, moving him a step closer to challenging Vladimir Putin for the Kremlin. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

A villager in provincial Russia has caused a national scandal after finding 79 Kalashnikov assault rifles in crates that he bought to use as firewood, Russian media reported on Jan. 13. – AFP

Analysis: For anyone who covered the slow-motion collapse of Communism here, this moment feels familiar. Then, when Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s experiment in modernizing the Soviet system began to run out of control, security officials were deeply uncertain about how to respond to the proliferating street demonstrations. – New York Times

Hungary

Saturday saw thousands of right-wing and government sympathizers take to the streets to object to what they see as foreign criticism of Viktor Orban’s cabinet and the involvement of other countries in Hungary’s domestic politics. – WSJ’s Emerging Europe

United Kingdom

Only 16 months after he defeated his brother to win the crown of opposition leader, Miliband’s approval ratings have sunk to record lows. Suddenly, not only his rivals on the other side of the aisle but also influential power brokers within his own party are openly questioning his leadership. – Washington Post

NATO

With word that the Pentagon will bring two combat brigades home from Germany, the Obama administration faces a challenge to convince Atlantic allies that the military’s new orders to refocus on the Asia-Pacific region, while sustaining its role in the Middle East, will not mean abandoning Europe to fit shrinking budgets. – New York Times

Russia’s outgoing permanent representative to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has pointed to the country’s openness to defense cooperation with NATO partners at a press conference at NATO headquarters on Jan. 13. – Defense News

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Americas

United States of America

Civil liberties advocates are raising concerns that the Department of Homeland Security’s three-year-old practice of monitoring social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter could extend to tracking public reaction to news events and reports that “reflect adversely” on the U.S. government. – Washington Post

The price of crude oil and growing tensions with Iran are bubbling to the top of economists’ and policymakers’ worry lists for 2012, as U.S. and European Union sanctions threaten to reduce the sales of Iranian oil and put pressure on one of the world’s largest petroleum exporters. – Washington Post

Mexico

With Mexico’s presidential vote and other key elections less than six months away, both the government and its watchdogs fear that the black hand of organized crime will manipulate the process to install puppet candidates as servants of the drug cartels. – Washington Post

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Africa

Somalia

Islamist militants have cut off emergency food delivery for an estimated 240,000 people in the central and southern regions of Somalia, according to relief workers, in an ominous development for one of the largest food-delivery programs in the famine-stricken east African nation. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Nigeria

Nigeria’s powerful labor unions suspended a strike on Monday that had paralyzed Africa’s third-largest economy for more than a week, after President Goodluck Jonathan offered to partially reinstate a contentious subsidy for motor fuel. – Wall Street Journal

Liberia

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia inaugurated a second six-year term on Monday, calling for political reconciliation after a runoff election that was tarnished by an opposition boycott and street clashes between protesters and the police. – New York Times

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About Courtney Messerschmidt

Is a personae for the contact, co creator, poster girl and correspondent of GrEaT sAtAn"S gIrLfRiEnD a collective of diplopolititary junkies. A real girl, she is an annoying, arrogant, audacious, bloodthirsty, conniving, cool, cruel, deceitfully sweet, discombobulated, flirtacious, jealous, hedonistic, lazy, machiavellian, manipulative, militaristic, self absorbed, self aggrandizing, self centered, semi charmed, semi retarded, shallow, spoiled, stuck up, high maintainance ne'er do well pixie with a penchant for immense libraries, depleting strategic cash reserves and wrecking cars every 10 months. Super saavy history and current events. My superior intellect and easy going smartassticness armed with a chaotic emotion meter gave me a formidable ability to be independently dependent. Currently exiled in Hillbillyland, I wield a vocabulary far above my tiny tiny weight class and have traveled widely including Europe, the Middle East and Alabama. I like Am Ex, Carte Blanche, Discover, Mastercard, Ray Bans, Visa and devouring American Dollars in alarming quantities.
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