US closes embassies in Middle East and North Africa amid heightened potential terrorist threat; Philippines awaits "positive response" to invitation to Chinese foriegn minister; US military helicopter crashes in Okinawa; bomb explodes at Buddhist temple in Jakarta; Zimbabwe opposition supporters say they were attacked by Mugabe supporters; and more
Top of the Agenda: Washington Closes Embassies in Mideast, North Africa
The U.S. State Department closed twenty-one embassies (BBC) and consulates across the Middle East and North Africa until at least the end of the week amid heightened levels of potential terrorism threats, saying the decision signaled an "abundance of caution" and was "not an indication of a new threat." Britain, France, and Germany have taken a similar approach (Reuters), closing their posts in Yemen. The State Department also announced a global travel alert, warning that al-Qaeda or its allies might target U.S. government or civilian interests. The move comes at a contentious time as the Obama administration defends recently disclosed surveillance programs that have stirred privacy concerns (AP).
"We have already muddied any message of fearlessness by turning our embassies into bunkers. Now, we are admitting that these bunkers aren't safe. What next? Virtual embassies on Facebook? Ambassadors who never leave Washington?" writes Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg.
"The bulk of its members are Yemeni militants with a local, Yemeni agenda, but the group has also attracted experienced al-Qaeda operatives from Saudi Arabia with more regional and international ambitions," writes Frank Gardner for the BBC.
"For al-Qaeda, these diplomatic compounds are attractive targets because they symbolize American power and because their locations are widely known. Indeed, several of the embassies and consulates closed on Sunday have been attacked by al-Qaeda and affiliated groups before," writes Peter Bergen for CNN.
Philippines Seeks 'Tranquility' in China Relations
Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said he is hoping for a "modus vivendi" with China, and is waiting for a "positive response" (SCMP) to an invitation for Beijing's foreign minister to visit Manila. Relations between the two countries have been strained over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and escalation of the territorial disputes.
JAPAN: A U.S. military helicopter crashed (KyodoNews) on Japan's southern island of Okinawa on Monday in an incident that could fuel anger over the presence of U.S. military bases on the island.
Bomb explodes at Buddhist temple in Jakarta
Zimbabwe opposition supporters say they were attacked by Mugabe supporters
This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org.