Iran's Guardian Council to recount vote –and extensive analysis of Ahmadinejad's disputed victory; Russia gets massive loan from China; South Korea wants action on US FTA; Italy takes Gitmo detainees; and more
Top of the Agenda: Iran Orders Recount
A day after mass protests in which hundreds of thousands of people marched on Tehran--and several demonstrators were killed (FT)--Iran's Guardian Council says it is ready to recount the votes in Friday's disputed presidential election. The country's government initially said the vote was won by incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but now says it is willing to recount votes (NYT) in areas contested by the opposition candidates. The BBC reports, however, that the Iranian government has refused to void the election, as moderate candidates have demanded, and says these candidates may therefore reject the recount offer.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he was "deeply troubled" by the violence in Iran but said he intends to respect Iran's sovereignty and wants "to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran," saying sometimes the United States "can be a handy political football." In a move that may reflect the urgency of the current situation, however, Obama moved his administration's point man on Iran, Dennis Ross, to the White House, granting him what the Washington Post says appears to be an expanded diplomatic portfolio. Obama has faced criticisms (Washington Independent) from House Republicans for not chastising Iran more directly.
The New York Times says in a news analysis that fissures may be emerging in the authority of Iran's Supreme Leader, though few think his hold on power is at risk in the short run.
In an interview with CFR, Iran expert Gary Sick says Washington should continue to try to engage Tehran, but adds that this could become more difficult in the aftermath of the vote.
Foreign Policy has a new blog dedicated to its coverage of the vote and Washington's response.
An op-ed by two pollsters in the Washington Post says that counter to what most of the Western press has been saying, Iran's reported results may in fact closely approximate the opinion of the Iranian voting public.
A new analysis from the Economist disputes this point, saying the scale of Ahmadinejad's reported triumph is unconvincing.
An interactive timeline of U.S.-Iranian relations.
PACIFIC RIM: China-SCO Loan
China Daily reports Beijing extended a $10 billion loan to Russia and four Central Asian states at yesterday's Shanghai Cooperation Organization regional summit. The loan is intended to help those states ride out domestic financial turmoil.
Reuters reports Chinese President Hu Jintao announced very few details about the credit offer, but says Hu did give a relatively positive outlook on Chinese domestic economic prospects.
S.KOREA: Ahead of meetings with President Obama today, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called for Washington to quickly ratify a free trade agreement (Korea Times) it signed with Seoul in 2007.
In an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, Jack Pritchard and John Tilelli, co-chairs of a CFR Independent Task Force report on U.S. policy toward the Korean peninsula, and Scott Snyder, CFR's adjunct senior fellow for Korea studies, outline what the two presidents should focus on in their meetings. The presidents must effectively address three main areas, they write: "policy coordination to address North Korea's nuclear threat, the development of a global security agenda that extends beyond the peninsula, and collaboration to address the global financial crisis as South Korea takes a lead on the G-20 process."