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Foreign Affairs Roundup

This Week's Top Stories in Foreign Affairs:

Massacre in Mindanao
SI Analysis: At least 57 people were brutally killed as a result of a longstanding political rivalry in this southern island of the Philippines. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo quickly called a state of emergency. But the latent and longtime unchecked culture of violence will be difficult to confront; what is worse is the man presently charged with the massacre is a close political ally to Arroyo. Heavily armed local militias have long been tolerated and often encouraged by Manila to reign in radical political Islamists and communist movements.

IAEA "Dead End" on Iran
SI Analysis: Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Association says that his nuclear inspectors are at a "dead end" with regards to Iran's nuclear program. He says that they cannot verify that Iran's nuclear program is uniquely for civilian purposes due to Iran's constant stonewalling of their investigation. This announcment indicates that all efforts to salvage the deal to export Iranian uranium for conversion to nuclear fuel have collapsed. The next step will be for the five permanenet members of UN Security Council (Russia, China, France, UK and US) plus Germany to meet and discuss severe energy sanctions against Tehran. Russia is expected to support the measures and China will likely abstain rather than veto sanctions. Meanwhile, Iranian President set off on a diplomatic tour to the Gambia, Senegal, Brazil, Bolivia and of course Venezuela.

Memories of Mumbai
SI Analysis: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in Washington to discuss trade, agriculture, climate change, nuclear proliferation, regional security and counterterrorism. At the heart of his visit is to establish India's diplomatic standing in the world and ensure a privileged relationship with the US. On everyone's mind was the year anniversary of the Lashkar-i-Taiba terrorist attack on Mumbai that killed 163 people. One day ahead of the anniversary, Pakistan charged seven militants for their involvement in the attack.

Hopes in Israel and the Palestinian Territories?
SI Analysis: As an olive branch to restart peace talks, Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu proposed a 10-month moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank but excluded the "sovereign capital" of Jerusalem in the agreement. Some believe Israel made the proposal in response to Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas' decision to step down citing his disillusionment with the peace process, fearing that there will not be a legitimate Palestinian interlocuteur for peace to replace him and hoping new talks could keep him at the helm of Palestinian affairs. Others suggest that Israel is responding to American pressure and the current political zeitgeist that proposes US disengagement from Israel and US withdrawal as the arbiter of the failing peace process. Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad said that the offer is insufficient (read: "the moratorium must include Jerusalem) to restart peace talks. Analysts are divided on whether this development represents a glimmer of hope or may actually worsen the already abyssmal state of affairs. Meanwhile, in response to Palestinian rocket fire, Israel made air strikes into Gaza on Sunday. Since last January's war, there have been only a small amount and of low intensity armed exchange. Some fear however that Sunday signaled a possible ratcheting up of hostilities again. However, rumors of a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel -- that would see the return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including perhaps Marwan Barghouti -- ran rampant again.

News In Brief:

Obama Heads to Scandinavia
SI Analysis: On his way to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama will stop off at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. There he will announce American commitment to progressively reduce US carbon emissions over the next 40 years. Chinese PM Wen Jiabao will also be in attendance and will announce higher Chinese standards for energy efficiency and a reduction in the rate of growth of its carbon emissions outputs.

Plan on Afghanistan Forthcoming
SI Analysis: The Obama Administration is expected to lay out the new strategy for Afghanistan some time next week. Few surprises are expected however as there is little expected change to the current war strategy that favors counterinsurgency efforts concurrent to indigenous security enhancement and the development of civil services. There will be significant troop increases (about 30,000) are expected along with an increase of NATO forces as well (10,000) and a renewed commitment to bolstering the Afghan National Security Forces. Also tactics of limited negotiation with the Taliban and engaging local militias in the fight against insurgents is likely as well.

This Foreign Affairs Roundup can be read on the Simple Intelligence Site and on the Huffington Post World Page.