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Daily Brief: Bombing in Tense Baghdad Targets Shia Pilgrims

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May 2, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Bombing in Tense Baghdad Targets Shia Pilgrims

A car bomb detonated in Baghdad Monday in an attack that killed fourteen people and wounded at least thirty (Reuters). The bombing came a day after Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for the dispersal of protesters in the city's Green Zone to make way for pilgrims to visit a shrine in northern Baghdad for a holiday. Demonstrators broke into Baghdad's fortified Green Zone and stormed the country's parliament this weekend, demanding an end to corruption (NYT). Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for two suicide car bomb attacks on Sunday that killed thirty-two people and injured seventy-five in southern Iraq (Al Jazeera).


"Mr. Abadi has been unable to repair the social divisions and sectarian tensions that former Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki fed by alienating Sunnis and Kurds, who are minorities in the majority Shiite nation. By refusing to consult other political leaders in advance, Mr. Abadi has failed to build the coalitions needed to support initiatives like the cabinet overhaul. Even the threat of the Mosul dam collapse went unaddressed until the Americans publicly warned of impending disaster. Only then did Baghdad name an Italian firm to make repairs. Such political dysfunction has been the one constant in Iraq since the American invasion in 2003. It has made some people rich and powerful, and has left millions of others without jobs, public services and hope of a better life," writes the New York Times editorial board.

"[Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr] has always tried to assert himself as an Iraqi Shia nationalist, independent of Iranian influence. Iran has always tried to get the various Iraqi Shia parties to unite, with the caveat that they form a united front that augments Iran's influence in Iraq. Ultimately the deadlock has benefited Sadr's political standing. By fomenting a protest movement and delivering an ultimatum to Abadi, Sadr has successfully pitted his two Shia political rivals, the Dawa Party of the prime minister, and the politicians of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) in parliament, against each other, undermining Iran's overarching goal of maintaining a unified Shia alliance in Iraq," writes Ibrahim Al-Marashi for Al Jazeera.

"The defiance belied the crisis Iraq faces on multiple levels. Plunging oil revenues mean it will probably be unable to pay its bloated public sector payroll next year, a scenario that has sparked an overdue reckoning of systemic corruption and poor governance. Sectarian divisions, which have become ever more evident in the political system, have damaged the country’s capacity to tackle a second existential threat, the rise of Islamic State – which claimed responsibility for a bomb attack that left at least 31 people dead in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah on Sunday. Without the lead role of non-state actors, such as Shia militias, Iran and US-led airstrikes, the terror group might have overrun Baghdad, just as it did four other cities: Mosul, Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah," writes Martin Chulov for the Guardian.


Japan Announces $7B Fund for Southeast Asia Development

Japan's foreign minister said the three-year initiative would promote "connectivity" within the Mekong region through investments in infrastructure and human resources (AP).

VIETNAM: The government faced widespread street demonstrations on Sunday, a rarity in the communist country, over the mass die-off of fish along 125 miles of Vietnam's coastline (BBC). Many protesters blamed an offshoot of Taiwan's Formosa steel company, which ran a waste pipe that flowed into the sea in Ha Tinh province (Bloomberg).


U.S., India Discuss Cooperation in Submarine Tracking

Officials in the two countries are in talks to help one another track submarine activity in the Indian Ocean (Reuters) in a move seen as a response to China's growing maritime activity in the region.  

PAKISTAN: Five years after a team of U.S. Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a nighttime raid, Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, who helped locate the al-Qaeda leader, is still in jail (AFP). Afridi ran a fake Hepatitis C vaccination program to obtain genetic material in the area where bin Laden was hiding.


Kerry in Geneva to Revive Cease-fire in Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva Sunday during what he called "critical hours" to resurrect a cease-fire in Syria and quell attacks in the city of Aleppo (VOA). Meanwhile, Turkish drones and cross-border shelling killed thirty-four people, according to the military, which said the dead were militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Reuters).

This CFR Interactive discusses the main events in Syria's five-year civil war.


Nigerian Military Tells Boko Haram Fighters to Surrender as Sambisa Operation Underway

The Nigerian military said that Boko Haram militants would enjoy "humane treatment" if they relinquished their weapons and surrendered (Premium Times) as the military begins an offensive into the Sambisa forest against remnants of the militant group hiding there.  

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker discusses the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

MOZAMBIQUE: Mozambican leaders are facing what analysts are describing as the country's worst crisis since the end of its civil war following revelations that state entities took out undisclosed loans worth 10 percent of the country's GDP (FT). The loans go against the country's agreements with international donors and its own budgetary ceilings.


Greenpeace Leaks Documents on U.S.-EU Trade Deal

The Dutch chapter of environmental activist group Greenpeace on Monday published what it said were 248 pages of the latest negotiating text of a trade deal between the United States and the European Union (NYT). Greenpeace said the documents show U.S. negotiators pressing their European counterparts to loosen environmental and consumer protections.

GERMANY: The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party adopted an anti-Islam platform after a vote by party members (France24). The party said that "Islam is not a part of Germany" and called for a ban on minarets, calls to prayer, and headscarves in schools.

This CFR workshop explored the noneconomic foreign policy implications of the U.S.-EU trade deal.


Venezuelan President Calls for ‘Rebellion’ if Opposition’s Referendum Succeeds

President Nicolás Maduro called for a general strike and "rebellion" if opposition members successfully push through a recall vote to oust him from office (AFP). The opposition is expected on Tuesday to present ten times the necessary number of signatures to initiate a recall vote.

CUBA: A U.S. cruise ship on Sunday departed Miami for Cuba, the first such voyage in half a century (LAHT).

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