Headlines of the Day

March 1, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Smart Power

North Korea pledges new nuke freeze (Jay Solomon and Evan Ramsted, Wall Street Journal)

An agreement between the U.S. and North Korea on freezing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the first diplomatic breakthrough between the two countries since 2007, raised new hopes of broader negotiations on disarmament and peace—along with fears the deal will join others that Pyongyang has broken over the past 20 years.   North Korea agreed to freeze the development of its nuclear-weapons arsenal and long-range missile program and to allow international inspectors to return for the first time since talks last broke down three years ago. Washington, in turn, agreed to distribute 240,000 metric tons of food aid and publicly declared Wednesday that the U.S. isn’t seeking to overthrow the government of North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Eun.  The announcements could serve as an important first step by Mr. Kim to consolidate his clout both at home and abroad following the death in December of his father, Kim Jong Il, longtime North Korea watchers said. North Korea has traditionally hailed the West’s distribution of food aid as a sign of the international community’s acceptance of the Kim dynasty.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Egypt Says It Will Lift Travel Ban, Allowing American Defendants to Leave (David D. Kirkpatrick and Steven Lee Myers, New York Times)

Egyptian officials said Wednesday that they would lift a travel ban barring seven Americans from leaving the country during the politically charged prosecution of four American-financed nonprofit groups here, apparently resolving a crisis that threatened to break the country’s 30-year alliance with Washington.  A chartered plane was waiting at the airport in Cairo for the Americans, who include the son of the secretary of transportation, to carry them out of the country and beyond the reach of the Egyptian authorities. The group had sought refuge in the United States Embassy, where they remained hostages of a prosecution that threatened them with prison, and their departure is expected to cool the sense of crisis. The United States had threatened to cut off the $1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt’s military, and the Egyptians had retaliated by warning that they would reconsider the United States-brokered treaty with Israel.

Clinton says Sudan president undermining peace deal with South, says more pressure coming (Associated Press)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday accused Sudan’s leader of trying to scuttle a historic peace deal that created the world’s newest country last year.  Clinton told a House panel that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s regime in Khartoum is actively trying to undermine the government of South Sudan and that the Obama administration will look at new ways to build pressure on them to stop. Her comments came in response to a lawmaker’s question about reported bombing attacks on refugees fleeing violence in the south and firefights between southern and northern troops.  “I think that what we’ve got with Bashir is a very determined effort to try to undo the results of the comprehensive peace agreement,” Clinton said. (She) noted that the people of the South had voted overwhelmingly for independence and lamented that Bashir, after initially embracing the results and attending the inauguration of South Sudan’s president, had been involved in “a steady effort to undermine this new state.

NATO chief: Intervention just won’t work in Syria (Josh Rogin, The Cable)

Not only will NATO not participate in any military intervention in Syria, NATO assets won’t be used to deliver any military, humanitarian, or medical assistance there, according to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, because any type of Western intervention is not likely to help solve the crisis.  “We haven’t had any discussions in NATO about a NATO role in Syria and I don’t envision such a role for the alliance,” Rasmussen told The Cable in an exclusive interview in Washington Wednesday. “Syria is ethnically, politically, religiously much more complicated than Libya. This is the reason why the right way forward is different. And I think a regional solution would be the right way forward with strong engagement by the Arab League.”  No NATO member state has requested NATO begin contingency planning for Syria, and no contingency planning is happening, Rasmussen said. He also said NATO will not engage in arming the Syrian opposition.