World News Brief, Friday July 31

US withdrawal from Iraq could be accelerated; China to reduce use of death penalty; more violence in Nigeria; IMF to lend more to poor countries; and more

Top of the Agenda: Possible Acceleration of Withdrawal


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says there is a chance of a “modest acceleration” (WSJ) in the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Gates said Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, told him the security situation is better than they thought it would be.

Gates said there is a possibility that 5,000 troops could leave as early as December 2009 (NYT), in addition to the two other brigades 10,000 troops already scheduled to withdraw this year. Still, the majority of U.S. troops is set to stay until after Iraq’s January elections.

According to U.S.-Iraq security agreements, the United States must withdraw its combat forces by end of August 2010. It plans to leave 30,000 to 50,000 troops till the end of 2011 to help with training and other support needs.

Before leaving Iraq, Gates met with newly-reelected Kurdish President Massoud Barzani (AFP) and other leaders, and urged them to try to settle their main political disputes while U.S. forces are still there.

In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, CFR’s Daniel Senor said there is “pressure building within the Pentagon to cut forces in Iraq even faster than planned to send more troops to Afghanistan."

In an interview with CFR, Daniel P. Serwer, who served as executive director of the Baker-Hamilton Commission on Iraq, says the "serious" crisis between Kurdistan and the central Iraqi government "needs to be resolved" to some degree before the U.S. troops leave.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the U.S.-Iraq security agreements.

PACIFIC RIM: China to Reduce Executions


China says it will reduce its use of the death penalty (NYT) to execute only "an extremely small number" of people. Human rights groups have criticized China, claiming the country executes more people than any other country in the world.

After the latest U.S.-China high-level dialogue with China on economic, security, and environmental issues, CFR's Elizabeth Economy says Washington should prioritize effective rule of law in China.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the justice system in China.

North Korea: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern (Xinhua) over North Korea’s recent assertion that it will not return to the Six-Party Talks on its nuclear program. Ban said he would welcome bilateral talks between the United States and North Korea, however.

Expert Roberta Cohen says Washington should develop a strategy toward North Korea, linking human rights to economic and energy issues.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the Six-Party Talks.

-India PM defends Pakistan talks.
-Nigerian violence continues.
-IMF to boost lending to poor countries.

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