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Daily Brief: Saudi Arabia Intercepts Missiles Fired From Yemen

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August 10, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Saudi Arabia Intercepts Missiles Fired From Yemen

Saudi Arabian security forces intercepted (AP) two ballistic missiles fired from Yemen on Wednesday. The move comes a day after the Saudi-led coalition resumed its heavy air campaign (NYT) against Yemen's Shia Houthi rebels, killing twenty-one people across the country. UN-mediated peace talks to end the conflict between rival Yemeni factions collapsed over the weekend in Kuwait. Thousands of people have died in the conflict, which erupted in 2015, and the recent escalation in fighting has prompted a humanitarian crisis.  Separately, the U.S. State Department approved (Reuters) the potential sale of tanks, armored vehicles, and other military equipment, worth approximately $1.15 billion, to Saudi Arabia.


"The easiest choice for the kingdom is to muddle along and make no decision. The monarchy would refuse any transitional government and emphasize that the war has prevented an Iranian takeover of Yemen. Playing the Iran card keeps up public support for the war and rallies the bulk of the Gulf Cooperation Council behind it. It greatly exaggerates the Iranians' role in Yemen, but that is not the question for the king. He can use an Iranian threat indefinitely, knowing Tehran will engage in enough mischief to justify Saudi and Gulf fears," writes Bruce Riedel in Al-Monitor.

"Western support might have helped reduce Saudi Arabia's ire at the nuclear deal America and other world powers signed easing sanctions on Iran. But it has also fueled another conflict in the Middle East. Together with the ground war and the Saudi-led blockade, it has devastated infrastructure in what was already the Arab world's poorest country, displaced over 2m people and brought a quarter of Yemen's population of 26m to the brink of famine. Aid agencies warn that another refugee exodus across the Red Sea and on to the Mediterranean could be in the offing," writes the Economist.

"The chaos in Yemen encapsulates the common interests and differing priorities that define the U.S.-Saudi relationship. The Obama administration has focused on fighting al Qaeda and has launched frequent drone strikes against the militants in Yemen. But the Saudi campaign against the Houthis has opened up territory, particularly in Yemen's south, where ISIS and al Qaeda now operate freely. Even though the United States has no particular quarrel with the Houthis, it has provided logistical support for the Saudi-led campaign against them. Washington's desire to mend fences with Riyadh after the Iran nuclear deal, and to sustain a cooperative relationship more generally, has prevailed over its misgivings," writes F. Gregory Gause III in Foreign Affairs.


Vietnam Moves Rocket Launchers Into Disputed Waters

Vietnam allegedly sent new mobile rocket launchers (Reuters) to disputed waters near islands the country occupies in the South China Sea, according to Western officials; Vietnam's foreign ministry said the intelligence was "inaccurate." China is reportedly expanding the construction of hangar space that could hold fighter jets on the Spratlys.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick discusses the risk of military confrontation between China and Vietnam in this report.

CHINA: A city government in the southeastern Jiangsu province halted (SCMP) plans for the construction of a nuclear reprocessing plant on Tuesday after thousands of people protested over the weekend.


Bangladesh Sentences Former Lawmaker to Death

A special tribunal charged with ruling on alleged war crimes committed during Bangladesh's independence war in 1971 sentenced (AP) former parliament member Sakhawat Hossain to death and six others to life in prison. Separately, authorities arrested (Hindustan Times) six suspected members of the banned group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh as part of a crackdown on Islamist extremism after last month's deadly attack in the capital Dhaka.

CFR's Alyssa Ayres says the rise in Islamist violence in Bangladesh is caught up in a polarizing political debate over the country's identity in this Interview.

AFGHANISTAN: A military operation (TOLO News) in northern Kunduz province killed the Taliban's deputy shadow district governor and thirteen other insurgents, according to police. Elsewhere, Afghan officials said security forces, aided by U.S. air strikes, are struggling to counter the Taliban's intensified offensive (NYT) in southern Helmand province. 

This CFR InfoGuide looks at the Taliban's rise in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Eleven Babies Killed in Baghdad Hospital Fire

At least eleven infants were killed in a fire (BBC) in the maternity unit of a hospital in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. An electrical fault likely caused the fire, according to the health ministry.


South Sudan Rejects Proposal for More UN Peacekeepers

South Sudan rejected (AP) a U.S. proposal to the UN Security Council to send an additional 4,000 peacekeepers to the embattled country on Wednesday, saying that such a move would undermine the country's sovereignty. Meanwhile, clashes (Sudan Tribune) between rival South Sudanese factions erupted in the southwestern town of Yei.

NIGERIA: The military placed officers and soldiers on a nationwide red alert (Vanguard) after intelligence reports suggested that insurgent group Boko Haram has planned attacks in sensitive areas around the country.


Biden to Visit Serbia, Kosovo

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel (VOA) to Serbia and Kosovo next week, where he will meet with the presidents and prime ministers of the Balkan countries.

TURKEY: A Turkish military officer, on a NATO assignment in the United States, is seeking asylum (Reuters) after being recalled to Turkey following last month's failed coup attempt. Separately, eleven soldiers were killed (Hurriyet) and dozens injured in a series of attacks in southeastern Turkey. Authorities are blaming the Kurdistan Workers' Party militant group for the attacks. 


Venezuela Sets Referendum Timetable

Officials said that if a recall referendum (LAHT) against President Nicolas Maduro is not called before January 10, 2017, the window for new elections will have passed. To meet the requirements for the referendum, 20 percent of registered voters must show support for the vote in a petition in October.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Venezuela's political and economic fractures.

BRAZIL: The Senate voted (Al Jazeera) 59 to 21 Wednesday to indict suspended President Dilma Rousseff on charges of breaking the budget law, opening an impeachment trial against her. 

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