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Daily Brief: U.S. Pledges to Lift Sanctions Against Myanmar

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September 15, 2016

Daily News Brief

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U.S. Pledges to Lift Sanctions Against Myanmar

U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States was prepared to lift sanctions on Myanmar and reinstate trade preferences for the country. Obama cited social and political transformation in the country during a visit (VOA) in Washington with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She said she was grateful (NYT) for the sanctions that pressured the previous regime to restore human rights, but that it was time to end them and that the government was eager to attract foreign visitors and investors. Some human rights groups criticized the move, arguing that the sanctions were necessary to continue leveraging influence (Al Jazeera) over the still-powerful military and to pressure the government for fair treatment of the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority.


"The decision is not just a matter of promoting American businesses in Myanmar. It also involves an assessment of her short record in power, as well as a measure of how Myanmar fits in Washington’s 'pivot to Asia' strategy and its efforts to offset China’s influence in the region. In addition to nurturing relations with Washington and other Western governments, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has rekindled relations with the Chinese government, and made a recent high-level visit to Beijing," Stéphanie Giry writes for the New York Times.

"It’s not easy to govern a country emerging from a half-century of military rule, particularly with one hand tied behind your back. After sweeping Burma’s historic elections in 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), now faces daunting challenges. It needs to repeal or reform problematic laws, restructure military-dominated bureaucracies, and deal with violent strains of xenophobia and anti-Muslim hatred. The civilian government must gain control of the defense, border, and interior ministries — all of which are constitutionally reserved for the country’s notoriously abusive military," Sarah Margon writes for Foreign Policy.

"Not only the United States but also most leading democracies, including regional powers like Japan and Australia, have opted for close relations with a freer Myanmar. [T]he Obama administration has cited rapprochement with Myanmar as one of its greatest foreign policy successes, and now touts U.S.-Myanmar relations as a model for rapprochement with Cuba. The rich democracies, now invested diplomatically and economically in a Myanmar success story, are unwilling to spend too much time seriously investigating crimes being committed in Myanmar’s isolated west," CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick writes for the Washington Monthly


Duterte Denies Testimony of Former Hitman

A man identified as a former member of a death squad in the Philippines has accused President Rodrigo Duterte of ordering extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects (Guardian) during his time as mayor of Davao city, according to testimony given to the country's senate. A presidential spokesman denied the allegations.

Richard Javad Heydarian writes about expectations for Duterte's presidency in this Asia Unbound blog post.


U.S. Watchdog: Afghanistan Anticorruption Efforts Lack Commitment

The U.S. government watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction released a report (RFE/RL) saying that U.S. political and military goals "consistently trumped" efforts to combat corruption there. Also in Afghanistan, former President Hamid Karzai criticized the expanded combat role of U.S. troops against Taliban militants, saying the move eroded the country's sovereignty (Reuters).

INDIA: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meeting in New Delhi, called for the speedy implementation of an agreement with Iran allowing the three countries to use the Chabahar port in Iran (Press Trust of India), bypassing Pakistan in regional trade.


Aid to Syrians Stuck at Turkish Border

A UN convoy of emergency food aid is stuck at the Turkish border with Syria because the Syrian government has not authorized (WaPo) the convoy's entrance; UN officials have also cited concerns about potential attacks by rebels who are not participating in a current cease-fire.

CFR President Richard N. Haass warns about putting too much hope in the current Syrian cease-fire in this Financial Times op-ed.

JORDAN: A new report (Amnesty) used satellite images to show that tens of thousands of refugees are stranded and largely cut off from aid in a desert frontier between Syria and Jordan. The Jordanian government restricts access by journalists and aid groups to the region (WaPo)


Obama Lifts Ivory Coast Sanctions

U.S. President Barack Obama lifted sanctions (Africa News) imposed in 2006 on the Ivory Coast, citing advances in restoring peace and democracy. The move lifts an arms embargo, asset freezes, and travel bans on political figures (Reuters).

SOUTH SUDAN: Authorities ordered the closure of the English-language newspaper Nation Mirror in South Sudan (VOA) after it published details of an unfavorable report from a U.S. research organization on the personal wealth of the country's leaders (Sudan Tribune).


Rise in Migrant Arrivals to Greek Islands

Migrant arrivals on Greek shores are rising (NYT) even after an EU-Turkey deal signed in March had originally made their numbers plummet. More than one thousand migrants arrived in Greece by sea last week, far below the 1,700 who came daily at the peak of the crisis but above the few dozens who came each day in the months following the deal.

Panelists at this CFR meeting discussed Western responses to the Middle East's refugee crisis.

UK: The United Kingdom greenlighted the construction of a $24 billion nuclear power plant (BBC) financed by French and Chinese investors after delays following concerns over rising costs and national security.


Former Brazilian President Charged with Corruption

Brazilian prosecutors announced charges against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his wife in relation to a vast graft scheme (WSJ). They allege da Silva received favors from a construction company in exchange for awarding it government contracts.

CFR's Matthew Taylor writes about advances and setbacks in anticorruption campaigns across Latin America in this blog post.

UN: About two-thirds of the six million school-aged refugees do not have a school to attend, according to a new report (NYT) from the United Nations refugee agency.

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