Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi warned neighboring Middle Eastern states against siding with the United States in an escalating dispute over Iran's nuclear program (Reuters). In response to moves by the West to sanction Iranian oil exports, Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, a crucial passageway for much of the world's oil supply. The United States has vowed to keep the strait open at all costs. Speaking on a visit to Turkey, Salehi encouraged countries in the region to resist being "dragged into a dangerous position."
"It is no coincidence that Iran has timed its latest diplomatic gesture with the intensification of its nuclear activities. By threatening the disruption of global oil supplies yet dangling the prospect of entering talks, Iran can press actors such as Russia and China to be more accommodating in an effort to avoid a crisis that they fear," writes CFR's Ray Takeyh in this Washington Post op-ed.
"Would a U.S.-led naval action in the strait make it more likely that Israel would use this as cover to launch a full-scale attack against Iranian nuclear facilities? And would this broader action trigger Iranian retaliation against both Israel and the United States?" writes CFR's Leslie H. Gelb on the Daily Beast.
"The truth is that Iran does possess a number of tools to harass, challenge, and even harm opposing naval forces, but its overall arsenal is limited, ramshackle, and untested in combat. Iran's military commanders know that their naval capabilities are ill-suited for direct engagement with U.S. forces," writes Afshon Ostovar on ForeignPolicy.com.
Thousands Protest in Turkey
Tens of thousands of people marched in Istanbul on Thursday to protest a Turkish criminal court's decision to close an investigation into the murder five years ago of a famous journalist (NYT) and minority rights activist, Hrant Dink.
Escalating Ethnic War in Myanmar
Myanmar's military has been accelerating its attacks on the Kachin ethnic group (NYT) in the country's resource-rich region near the Chinese border, even as its military-backed civilian government implements new democratic reforms.
On CFR blog, Asia Unbound, Joshua Kurlantzick outlines the steps the United States should take before lifting sanctions on Myanmar.
CHINA: Premier Wen Jiabao completed a trip to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, where he negotiated billions of dollars in oil deals (WSJ) as part of an effort to diversify China's imports. The trip came as China is under mounting U.S. pressure to reduce its oil ties with Iran.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
France Suspends Afghan Training
France suspended training and joint operations with the Afghan military after an Afghan soldier shot dead four French troops (AFP). French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was considering an early withdrawal of French forces from the NATO coalition.
This CFR Timeline examines the events that precipitated the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan as well as the history of the war.
PAKISTAN: A U.S. drone strike (Reuters) last week in North Waziristan–the first such attack in nearly two months–killed Aslam Awan, a senior al-Qaeda operative, a U.S. official reportedly confirmed.
Deadly Rebel Clashes in Mali
Mali's military said it killed forty-five Tuareg rebels (BBC) in the country's northern desert region after two days of fighting. Some of the rebels–fighting for autonomy in the Azawad region–are recently returned from Libya, where they had served under Muammar al-Qaddafi.
SUDAN: The army clashed with rebels (Reuters) from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in the mineral-rich Blue Nile state, which borders recently-independent South Sudan.
UK Says Falklands Ships Can Use British Flag
During a visit to Brazil, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said ships from the Falkland Islands–a British Overseas Territory–have the right to use the British flag to circumvent a ban on vessels flying the Falklands flag (MercoPress) from docking at Mercosur shipping ports.
UNITED STATES: The Justice Department shut down the file sharing website (al-Jazeera) MegaUpload.com for allegedly violating anti-piracy laws, while police in New Zealand–working with U.S. authorities–arrested the company's co-founders.
News Corp. to Pay Damages for Phone Hacking
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. agreed to pay damages to at least thirty victims (NYT) of last year's newspaper phone hacking scandal. The total compensation for eighteen of the plaintiffs–including actor Jude Law– was over $1 million.
EUROZONE: France and Spain rolled over a combined $16 billion in debt at relatively low interest rates at their respective bond auctions, boosting European stock markets (Guardian).
Policymakers and market actors are increasingly concerned about a disorderly Greek default, while many analysts question the wisdom of Germany's strict austerity approach to the escalating eurozone sovereign debt crisis, explains this CFR Analysis Brief.
Progress in U.S. Household Deleveraging
A report from the McKinsey Global Institute says U.S. households have experienced significant debt reduction compared to the UK and Spain. The report suggests U.S. households could be halfway through the deleveraging process, with one to two years to go.
INFRASTRUCTURE: The American Society of Civil Engineers says the Congress has made little progress on civil engineering legislation, but adds that infrastructure could be a top priority in 2012. Issues Congress will likely focus on in the near term are an FAA reauthorization and surface transportation legislation.
This CFR Backgrounder says an overhaul of U.S. transportation infrastructure may help spur the economy, improve global competitiveness, and address homeland security needs. But the Obama administration's initial effort falls short of setting a true national transportation agenda.
Renewing America is a special CFR project focused on the domestic underpinnings of U.S. global competitiveness, including the debt and deficit, infrastructure, education, innovation, trade, and corporate regulation and taxes.