Obama set on diplomatic path with Iran; dozens of Islamists killed in Philippines; Thai government plans to deploy 10,000 police officers on election day; female politician in India blames victims for rape; UN to sanction those suspected of war crimes in Central African Republic; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Obama Reinforces Diplomatic Path on Iran

President Barack Obama said Tuesday in his State of the Union address that he would veto new sanctions on Iran that could derail talks with Tehran on nuclear weapons, adding that he would "be the first to call for more sanctions" if diplomacy fails. The president also said a small number of U.S. soldiers may remain in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, and their mission would be limited to training Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations to pursue al-Qaeda remnants (Politico). On the domestic front, President Obama boosted minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour and used his executive authority to create a new type of retirement savings account called "myRA" (WaPo).

Analysis

"The potential upside of legislating further sanctions is the hope that increased pressure might elicit more concessions or push Iran to conclude a more favorable deal. But this is unlikely. The potential downside is more likely and more dangerous: Iran's decision makers could conclude that the United States government was not negotiating in good faith—a view that Iranian hard-liners already espouse. This could prompt Iran to walk away from the negotiations or counter with a new set of unrealistic demands while redoubling its efforts to produce nuclear weapons," write Carl M. Levin (D-MI) and Angus S. King (I-ME) in the New York Times.

"The administration has argued that those pushing for more sanctions on Iran are putting the country on a path to war and new sanctions now will cause the interim deal with Iran to fall apart. After hearing that argument, poll respondents still favored proceeding with new sanctions by a 63-28 margin, including 56 percent of Democrats, with just 36 percent opposed," writes Josh Rogin in the Daily Beast.

"In earlier responses to proposed Iran sanctions legislation on Capitol Hill, Obama administration officials had accused the bill's backers of lending de facto support for what White House press secretary Jay Carney called a 'march to war.' Such talk has infuriated even some Democrats. Obama's tone was much softer Tuesday. Rather than make accusations—that 'risks of war' line was far more generalized than Carney's language—he struck a more defensive tone, assuring Congress and the country that he's not naive about diplomacy," writes Michael Crowley in Time.

 

Pacific Rim

Philippines Says Dozens of Islamists Killed in Army Offensive

At least thirty-seven Islamist fighters were killed in a two-day operation against insurgents opposed to a new peace deal between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's main Islamist armed group (al-Jazeera).

THAILAND: The government plans to deploy ten thousand police officers in Bangkok to secure the city during Sunday's election as protestors seeking to topple the prime minister promised to disrupt the vote (Reuters).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains in this blog post why Thailand is undergoing an "unannounced coup."

ELSEWHERE:

Female politician in India blames victims for rape

UN to sanction those suspected of war crimes in Central African Republic

This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org. 

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