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inFOCUS Quarterly

Summer 2014

America's Global Withdrawal

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Washington and Tehran Extend Nuclear Talks, Again

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1) came to another interim agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran on Friday. Over the next few months the U.S. will give Iran additional access to $2.8 billion in previously frozen oil export revenue in return for concessions on its nuclear capabilities. The conference also agreed on a four-month extension to negotiate a final agreement.

As part of the framework deal, Iran agreed to accelerate the conversion of its 20 percent enriched uranium into 5 percent fuel for its research reactor. Iran also agreed to dilute its stock of 2 percent enriched uranium back to natural levels. In theory, this would slow Iran's ability to reach the most advanced stages of its program and achieve nuclear weapons capability.

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By Elliot Miller  |  July 23, 2014 at 3:09 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Islamic State Seizes Gas Field

Clashes between pro-Syrian government forces and the Islamic State (IS) over the past few days killed over 700 people, the deadliest weekend since the Syrian civil war began. On Sunday, government forces launched a new offensive, attempting to retake infrastructure recently lost to the jihadists.

IS seized the Shaar natural gas field east of Homs from pro-Asad forces on Thursday, leaving at least 90 people dead from the fighting, including 40 ISIS fighters. The fates of engineers and other operating in the fields remain unknown. After taking control of the area, the terrorist group then enforced its own version of Sharia law on the local population. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization that monitors violence in Syria, IS "killed or executed" more than 270 people in the area.

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By Yael Rein  |  July 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Attack Near Tunisian Border Kills 14 Troops

Gunmen attacked several military checkpoints near the Algerian border on Thursday killing at least 14 Tunisian soldiers. The Tunisian army had been carrying out an operation to wipe out Islamist radicals in the area.

Armed with rocket-propelled grenades and rifles, the militants ambushed a government checkpoint in the Mount Chaambi area on Wednesday night, killing the Tunisian soldiers while they were breaking the Ramadan fast. The Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade claimed responsibility for the assault on a social media site, but the claim could not be verified. Tunisia's government stated that the brigade does operate in the Mount Chaambi region and is linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the terrorist organization's North African franchise.

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By Yael Rein  |  July 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Militias Fight at Tripoli Airport

A militia attack on the Tripoli airport destroyed around 90 percent of parked planes on Monday evening. At least 15 people have been killed since the Tripoli militia clashes between Islamists Islamist Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) and the liberal Zintan militia.

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By Yael Rein  |  July 16, 2014 at 2:49 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Kerry Brokers Deal to Audit Afghan Votes

Secretary of State John F. Kerry help brokered an agreement between two Afghan presidential candidates on Saturday. As part of the deal, the Afghan government will recount all 8 million votes from the June 14th election. The losing candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, has accused the election commission of fraudulently influencing the election count to benefit Ashraf Ghani.

After two days of intense negotiations with Ghani, Abdullah, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Secretary Kerry brokered a framework that calls for an internationally supervised audit of all ballots and the creation of a national unity government. The candidate who wins the presidential election after the vote audit would then nominate the losing candidate to become a "chief executive" for the government, a new role without any defined powers as yet. According to the framework, over the next few years constitutional amendments would reform Afghanistan into a form of a parliamentary democracy, empowering a prime minister to serve as a head of government and the president acting as head of state.

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By Yael Rein  |  July 14, 2014 at 4:43 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Egypt To Cut Subsidies, Ease Deficit

On July 6th, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that he would support a proposal to cut fuel subsidies and raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. He hopes the move will help balance the government's budget deficit and reduce government debt, estimated to be 92 percent of GDP. Partly as a result of recent political turmoil, the Egyptian economy is suffering its worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

Al-Sisi's decision sparked protests by taxi and microbus drivers, disrupting a form of transportation used by many working class Egyptians. The drivers parked their cars to block major roadways in Cairo and charged customers higher flat rates fares.

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By Yael Rein  |  July 10, 2014 at 5:27 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

ISIS Hits Close to Saudi Arabia and Jordan

Three mortar bombs landed near the Saudi Arabian city of Arar, close the country's border with Iraq, on Monday. Officials do not know exactly who launched the projectiles, but authorities suspect Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of being behind the attack.

After ISIS declared an Islamic state last month, Saudi King Abdullah bolstered his country's border defenses in an effort to prevent the spread of militants into the Kingdom. It is sending 30,000 soldiers to reinforce the sparsely populated 560 mile Iraqi-Saudi border in order, according to the King, to safeguard the country's "resources and territory" and "prevent any act of terror." According to the Financial Times, senior Saudi officials have also requested military support from Pakistan and Egypt, two Sunni Muslim states with additional resources that can help fortify the Kingdom against the jihadist outfit.

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By Yael Rein  |  July 8, 2014 at 4:42 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

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