Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The head military commander of the Libyan rebel movement, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, was assassinated Thursday, triggering violence and fueling fears (NYT) that a tribal feud could erupt and undermine efforts by the rebels to overthrow embattled Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi. A former interior minister for Qaddafi, Younes defected (BBC) and joined the rebel uprising in February, though rumors have circulated that he maintains ties with Qaddafi.
Younes was killed before he could appear before a judicial inquiry over alleged ties (al-Jazeera) to the Qaddafi regime. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), said Younes had been summoned over a "military matter." He added that rebel security had arrested the head of the group behind the murders, but had not located the bodies.
The NTC could face internal strains at a time when the United States and other Western nations have recognized the council as the legitimate governing authority of Libya. Younes' death came as rebel forces in the Western mountains (WashPost) – supported by NATO intelligence - moved closer to descending on the capital of Tripoli.
The Younes assassination is bad news for Western governments that have just taken the step of recognizing the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people, says the Economist.
MIDDLE EAST: Egyptians Rally in Tahrir Square
Tens of thousands of Egyptians from a cross-section (al-Jazeera) of the country's political spectrum rallied in Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday in a show of unity, demanding the end of military trials for civilians, justice for families of those killed during the revolution, a rise in the minimum wage, and speedy trials for ex-officials of former president Hosni Mubarak's regime.
The U.S. formally accused Iran of maintaining ties with al-Qaeda (WSJ) by allowing the terrorist network to move money, arms, and fighters across Iranian soil to bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as Iran continues to push for influence in the region.
PACIFIC RIM: U.S., North Korean Diplomats Meet
U.S. and North Korean diplomats met in New York Thursday to discuss the potential revival of formal negotiations over the latter's nuclear weapons program (WashPost), in a U.S. effort to "sound out" the North Koreans and assess their seriousness about returning to the Six Party talks that have been stalled since 2008.
In his blog, Asia Unbound, CFR's Scott A. Snyder questions whether North Korean Vice Minister Foreign Affairs Kim Kye-gwan is the right person for United States to be negotiating with, noting that talks with the long-time Korean official have been an "abject failure."
China: Relatives of the forty people killed in a train crash near the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou gathered at the scene of the accident to mourn the victims, following five days of national anger (BBC)and accusations that the government had cut corners in its bid to quickly develop high-speed trains.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA: Official Cites Al-Qaeda Threat in Pakistan
Michael E. Leiter, former U.S. National Counterterrorism Center chief, warned against intelligence assessments that al-Qaeda in Pakistan (NYT) is close to collapsing, saying that though the terror network is "on the ropes," core elements are still present and capable of launching attacks.
This CFR Backgrounder on al-Qaeda examines the international terrorist network that the United States has singled out as the most serious threat to U.S. security.
Afghanistan: Suicide bombers attacked government offices (al-Jazeera) in the city of Tirin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan province, killing nineteen people and wounding thirty-five. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the explosion.
AFRICA: Aid Agencies Urged to Work with Local NGOs
The UN World Food Program said it cannot reach more than two-million famine-stricken (Guardian)Somalis in the south of the country controlled by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group, prompting calls for international aid agencies to channel relief through local Somali NGOs.
South Africa: The South African police raided the country's mines department (Reuters) and the offices of a mining firm linked to President Jacob Zuma's son over allegations of fraud, potentially reassuring foreign investors concerned over corrupt mining deals.
AMERICAS: Vote on House Debt Plan Postponed
With just days to go until the August 2 deadline to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and avoid default - and with global markets on edge - the House of Representatives postponed a vote Thursday night on Republican Speaker John's Boehner's latest plan to increase the debt limit in the face of significant opposition (WSJ) from conservative House members. Attention is expected to turn to an alternative version of the plan being drafted by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
A protracted debt default would have serious global repercussions, but even without a default, a likely downgrade of U.S. debt and the absence of a fiscal reform plan are weakening the United States and unsettling world markets, says Carnegie Endowment economist Uri Dadush.
United States: Naser Jason Abdo, an army private and conscientious objector to the Afghanistan war based on his Muslim faith, was arrested in Texas Wednesday after purchasing gun powder. Authorities say he was planning to construct bombs (LAT) and detonate them near the Ford Hood military base, the scene of a November 2009 shooting spree.
EUROPE: Agency Threatens Spanish Downgrade
Credit rating agency Moody's put Spain's Aa2 credit rating on review for a possible downgrade, puttingfurther pressure (Guardian) on European markets, even as they face unease amid a continued U.S. stalemate over raising the country's debt ceiling.
U.S.-based rating agencies - still reeling from financial-crisis criticisms - are under fire from the EU for being too aggressive, though many experts say complaints are unjustified, says this CFR Backgrounder.
France: French Finance Minister François Baroin called for the new Greek bailout (FT) plan to be implemented quickly by the seventeen-nation eurozone in order to limit market speculation and further sovereign debt contagion.