World News Brief, Friday May 24

Obama to restrict use of unmanned drone strikes following civilian deaths; Asian markets tumble after Chinese economic data released; political tensions rise in Malaysia; car bomb kills 12 in Pakistan; Iran advances nuclear programme; and more

Top of the Agenda: Obama to Restrict Drone Targets

A day after his administration formally acknowledged killing four U.S. citizens in drone strikes outside the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, President Obama, scheduled to give a major speech on counterterrorism today at National Defense University, is set to restrict the use of unmanned drone strikes (NYT). In an effort to increase transparency, he is expected to shift control of any such strikes from the Central Intelligence Agency to the military. He is also likely to propose renewed efforts to close Guantanamo prison, and to anticipate a time when al-Qaeda is sufficiently decimated so that the "war on terror" will end.


"The issue of defining down the enemy has become a topic of intense discussion inside the Obama administration as critics in Congress and elsewhere have been increasingly questioning how long U.S. presidents can continue to use the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Act, which was passed one week after 9/11 and set no temporal or geographic boundaries for killing terrorists," writes Michael Hirsh in the National Journal.

"Under President George W. Bush, the proportion of those killed by drones in Pakistan who were identified in reliable news reports as civilians or 'unknowns'--people who were not identified definitively as either civilians or militants--was around 40 percent, according to data assembled by the New America Foundation. But the civilian and 'unknown' casualty rate (CNN) from drone strikes has fallen steadily over the life of the program. Under Obama that number has fallen to 16 percent. And in 2012 it was around 11 percent," writes Peter Bergen for CNN.

"The president might begin spending the political capital needed to move remaining detainees to an alternative facility inside the United States, as he planned in 2009, such as the facility in South Carolina where former military detainees Yaser Hamdi, Jose Padilla, and Ali al-Marri were held in the past, or the civilian facility in Thompson, Illinois, that DOJ purchased last fall. It is almost impossible to imagine a scenario for closing Guantanamo that does not involve moving some of them here," writes CFR's Matthew Waxman with Robert Chesney in this Lawfare blog post.



Asian Markets Rattled By Chinese Data

Asian markets tumbled with a sudden plunge (SCMP) of more than 7 percent in Japan's stock market after the release of weak Chinese economic data and concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin tapering off its stimulus measures.

MALAYSIA: A Malaysian court charged a student activist (ChannelNewsAsia) with sedition, along with two opposition politicians, raising political tensions in the country. Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged last year to repeal the Sedition Act.

The recent election in Malaysia did little to solve the country's "serious internal problems," with large numbers of voters in urban areas who did not vote for the government and are angry about the result, writes CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick.


Car bomb kills 12 in Pakistan

Iran advances nuclear programme

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