Morning Brief, Friday, March 28

Middle East ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP/Getty Images As the fighting stalls in Basra, U.S. forces appear to be taking a greater role in fighting the Mahdi Army in Baghdad, according to the Washington Post. The Sadrists have seized control of the southern Shiite town of Nassiriya, Reuters reports. There has also been violence in Kut, Hilla, Amara, ...

595747_080328_mahdiarmy2.jpg
595747_080328_mahdiarmy2.jpg

Middle East

ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP/Getty Images

As the fighting stalls in Basra, U.S. forces appear to be taking a greater role in fighting the Mahdi Army in Baghdad, according to the Washington Post. The Sadrists have seized control of the southern Shiite town of Nassiriya, Reuters reports. There has also been violence in Kut, Hilla, Amara, Kirkuk, Baquba, and other Iraqi towns. The Times of London says parts of Baghdad have fallen to Shiite militias, and the government has imposed a 72-hour curfew, according to the Telegraph.

Middle East

ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP/Getty Images

As the fighting stalls in Basra, U.S. forces appear to be taking a greater role in fighting the Mahdi Army in Baghdad, according to the Washington Post. The Sadrists have seized control of the southern Shiite town of Nassiriya, Reuters reports. There has also been violence in Kut, Hilla, Amara, Kirkuk, Baquba, and other Iraqi towns. The Times of London says parts of Baghdad have fallen to Shiite militias, and the government has imposed a 72-hour curfew, according to the Telegraph.

Trying to crush the Sadr movement militarily is a mistake, the International Crisis Group has warned.

Israel is interested in reviving peace talks with Syria, the Israeli infrastructure minister said Friday.

Asia

The recent demonstrations and violence in Tibet reveal a divided Tibetan society, Shai Oster reports for the Wall Street Journal from Lhasa.

Chinese officials believe they can secure the Olympic torch route through Tibet, but Tibetan activists have proven resourceful. On Friday, a group of Tibetans broke into the U.N. complex in Kathmandu, Nepal, to plead their cause.

A day after expelling South Korean officials from a joint industrial complex, North Korea test-fired a few short-range missiles. Seoul says Pyongyang is only hurting itself.

Sunnis and Shiites are battling in northwest Pakistan.

Europe

So far, Dutch Muslims have reacted calmly to the release of a provocative new film that accuses the Koran of inciting violence.

NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid “unhelpful rhetoric” during next week’s NATO summit. Robert Kaplan argues that the former Cold War alliance has a lot of changing to do.

Nicolas Sarkozy says the euro is too strong. The French president embarrassed Gordon Brown yesterday when he thanked the British prime minister for not holding a referendum on the EU treaty.

2008 U.S. Elections

In a speech on the economic crisis, Barack Obama called for new regulations for the financial sector and criticized John McCain’s proposals.

Slate debuts the Hillary Deathwatch.

Elsewhere

The price of rice reached an all-time high Thursday as global stocks reached their lowest point since 1976. The World Bank yesterday warned that Pakistan is facing an economic crisis due to rising food and fuel costs.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a full accounting of U.S. nuclear weapons and related materials after the Air Force accidentally sent the wrong ballistic missile fuses to Taiwan.

Zimbabwe needs a decade to rebuild its shattered economy, the country’s former finance minister and a Mugabe opponent says.

Colombia offered to free hundreds of FARC guerrillas if the rebels release Ingrid Betancourt, an ailing politician who has been held for 6 years.

Weekend Agenda

  • Iraq’s parliament is holding an emergency meeting about the violence in Baghdad, Basra, and beyond.
  • Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd visits the White House and State Department.
  • Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey assumes command of CENTCOM. Dempsey was deputy commander under the outgoing Adm. William J. Fallon.
  • The Arab League summit begins tomorrow in Damascus, but few Arab countries are sending the head of state.
  • Zimbabwe holds its elections Saturday.

Yesterday on Passport

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.