Morning Brief, Wednesday, June 13

Middle East DIA HAMID/AFP Very, very bad news: Someone—most likely Al Qaeda militants—destroyed the twin minarets of the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, Iraq. Destruction of the shrine’s Golden Dome sparked a massive wave of sectarian reprisals last year. This just in: Iraq’s government is failing to meet key political benchmarks. A top U.S. general is ...

601234_070613_samarra_05.jpg
601234_070613_samarra_05.jpg

Middle East

DIA HAMID/AFP

Very, very bad news: Someone—most likely Al Qaeda militants—destroyed the twin minarets of the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, Iraq. Destruction of the shrine's Golden Dome sparked a massive wave of sectarian reprisals last year.

Middle East

DIA HAMID/AFP

Very, very bad news: Someone—most likely Al Qaeda militants—destroyed the twin minarets of the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, Iraq. Destruction of the shrine’s Golden Dome sparked a massive wave of sectarian reprisals last year.

This just in: Iraq’s government is failing to meet key political benchmarks. A top U.S. general is calling for Iraq to increase the size of its army by 20,000 troops. Even with such an increase, he says, Iraq won’t be able to provide for its own security for at least five years.

Hamas militants took control of much of northern Gaza during a day of fierce fighting between Palestinian factions. 

To our surprise and despite accusations of fraud, former Israeli PM Ehud Barak was named chairman of the Labor Party yesterday after a close defeat of Ami Ayalon in a special runoff election. Now the question becomes: How will Barak’s victory affect the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert?

Asia

Tensions between Iran and the United States are ratcheting up again. Going a step beyond previous statements by U.S. officials, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns directly accused Iran of supplying weapons to the Taliban. Since April 21, Iran has sent an estimated 90,000 Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan in a move that could be destabilizing. For its part, the U.S. government is warning oil companies not to do business with Tehran.

Indonesian policed captured Abu Dujana, the man thought responsible for the 2002 bombings in Bali.

Finally, the Cambodian government reached agreement with U.N. legal officials on the details of the Khmer Rouge tribunal that is set to begin in 2008.

Europe 

Nicolas Sarkozy intends to block Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, the French president indicated yesterday.

Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair compared the media to “a feral beast” in a speech that was sharply critical of recent trends in the news business.

The European Union is relaxing its rules on genetically-modified foods. 

Americas

By speeding up the border security elements of the stalled immigration bill, President Bush may be able to earn the support of hostile Senate Republicans. Most Americans (and nearly two-thirds of Republicans) actually support letting illegal immigrants become citizens as long as they meet certain requirements like paying fines and speak English, according to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

Borrowing got a little more expensive yesterday after yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds reached a five-year high. The Financial Times reports that countries like China are indicating an increasing willingness to make higher-risk investments, thus reducing demand for T-bills. The Wall Street Journal cites rising fears about inflation abroad—and the expected interest rate hikes in Europe, Canada, England and Asia—as a principal cause. The trend toward higher U.S. interest rates would have major repercussions on an already weak U.S. housing market.

Boeing’s new jumbo jet, the 787, is massively outselling the Airbus 350.

Today’s Agenda

  • Shimon Peres, the grand old man of Israeli politics, hopes to crown his long career with a stint as president of Israel, a largely ceremonial position. The Knesset votes today on a replacement for disgraced ex-president Moshe Katsav.
  • The World Economic Forum on Africa begins in Cape Town, South Africa. The topic of discussion is “African Business: Becoming a Global Player.”
  • U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation John C. Rood is in New Delhi to discuss … nonproliferation.

Yesterday on Passport

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