FPI Overnight Brief: March 13, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

Iran has deployed a new counter-drone weapon — a rifle-shaped jamming device that the regime says can electronically separate a remotely piloted aircraft from its command pilot and even reprogram it to turn on its owner. – Washington Times
An Iranian and a US-Iranian dual national were sentenced to death in Iran on Sunday on charges of founding a “cult” and promoting moral corruption. – Financial Times
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency is reporting that the country has unveiled a domestically manufactured tank and has launched a mass-production line. – Associated Press
A double bombing near Shiite shrines often visited by foreign pilgrims in Damascus, Syria, killed at least 40 people on Saturday, shattering the capital’s efforts to isolate itself from the war raging elsewhere in the country. Many of the dead were from neighboring Iraq. – New York Times
Children suffered a “drastic escalation” in violence from the Syrian civil war in 2016, the United Nations said Sunday in a report that showed child deaths jumped at least 20 percent from the year before and recruitment of child combatants more than doubled. – New York Times
The Syrian army and its allies gained control of an arterial road in a small rebel pocket in northeast Damascus early on Monday, bringing them close to splitting the enclave in two, a Britain-based war monitor reported. - Reuters
Turkey's determination to also push back the Kurds is alienating the other big players in Syria — Russia and the United States — and threatens to undermine the fight against ISIS in the imminent assault on Raqqa. – Associated Press
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said U.S. forces in Syria were "invaders" and he had yet to see "anything concrete" emerge from U.S. President Donald Trump's vow to prioritize the fight against Islamic State. - Reuters
Interview: The Trump Administration last week announced it deployed hundreds of U.S. Marines and Army Rangers to Syria to support the campaign to take Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, from the extremist terror group. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with former U.S. Ambassador to Syria (2011-2014) Robert Ford about what this move signifies and what the future of U.S. involvement in Syria could look like. – The Cipher Brief
Iraqi forces are suffering fierce counterattacks in areas of Mosul recaptured from the Islamic State, soldiers say, and are barely holding the main government compound that they triumphantly declared cleared earlier this week. – Washington Post
Mass graves are all too familiar in Iraq. Even before the rise of Islamic State, Iraqi authorities struggled to cope with the task of excavating mass burials from the reign of Saddam Hussein, when up to a million Iraqis disappeared. But recent discoveries underscore the savagery of Islamic State. – Los Angeles Times
The remains of hundreds of mainly Shi'ite inmates killed by Islamic State militants when they overran a prison in northern Iraq more than two years ago have been unearthed by forces retaking the area from the group, a spokesman said. - Reuters
The remaining western Mosul neighborhoods held by the Islamic State group are now completely surrounded and IS has lost more than 60 percent of the territory the militants once held in Iraq, according to a senior coalition official. – Associated Press
Iraqi forces have retaken around 30 percent of west Mosul from Islamic State militants, a commander of the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said on Sunday, as soldiers pushed further into the jihadists' territory. - Reuters
Iraq's U.N. ambassador said Friday there is no evidence that the Islamic State extremist group used chemical weapons in an attack in Mosul, the country's second-largest city. – Associated Press
Katherine Dixon writes: Defeating violent extremism does not rest solely on the ability of the Iraqi army to retake Mosul neighborhoods, but whether governments throughout the region can regain the trust of their peoples and repair their fragile institutions. – Defense One
An airstrike by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia on an open market in western Yemen killed at least 16 people, United Nations and local officials said Saturday. – New York Times
The fragile treaty between the two former enemies was not even three years old when a Jordanian soldier went on a shooting rampage and killed seven Israeli schoolgirls visiting a park in a border area known as the Island of Peace.  On Sunday, almost 20 years after that March 13, 1997, attack, the Jordanian authorities released the soldier, Ahmed Daqamseh, a former corporal, after he effectively completed his term. – New York Times
President Trump spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by phone Friday night, calling for a comprehensive agreement to end the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. – The Hill
Josh Rogin reports: The Trump administration’s budding efforts to establish a new Middle East diplomatic process are about to run into some stiff headwinds at home. Many in Congress want to cancel all U.S. aid to the Palestinians because of payments made to militants who attack Israelis. President Trump will soon have to decide if confronting the Palestinians on that terrorist incitement is more urgent than pursuing a pathway to peace. – Washington Post
Turkey’s quarrel with Europe worsened over the weekend after the Turkish president accused the Dutch government of Nazism, and Turkish politicians were barred or disinvited from events in two European countries, amid tensions ahead of a tight referendum on a new Turkish Constitution. – New York Times
Turkey’s military and police forces have killed hundreds of people during operations against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, the United Nations said on Friday in a report that listed summary killings, torture, rape and widespread destruction of property among an array of human rights abuses. – New York Times
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Friday to discuss their cooperation over Syria and possible energy deals in the face of Ankara’s flagging ties with the West. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party has predicted the country will vote against increasing the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an April referendum. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


[O]ne country is now actively promoting its natural resources to win Trump’s attention for its desperate cause: Afghanistan. The government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, has pitched Trump on its vast mineral reserves in an effort to keep the new president invested in the country’s fate. - Politico
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has officially stopped scheduling interviews for Afghan military interpreters applying to emigrate to the United States. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
Afghan special forces have freed up to 32 people, including four policemen, imprisoned by Taliban insurgents in the southern province of Helmand, the defense ministry said on Monday. - Reuters
South Asia
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his party to a landslide victory in India’s largest state on Saturday, consolidating his power and putting him in a strong position to win re-election in 2019. – New York Times
Such lectures by instructors like Ms. Asif are part of a growing religious ecosystem for women in Pakistan that eschews politics and traditional clerics in favor of female preachers and an Islamic-themed consumer lifestyle. This new culture has attracted a diverse mix of homemakers and socialites, bankers and doctors, who incorporate religion into their lives, but also into their lifestyles, buying everything from sequined abayas to custom prayer mats. – New York Times
Maoist rebels killed 11 Indian police officers and seized their automatic weapons and ammunition after ambushing a foot patrol on Saturday morning in the eastern state of Chattisgarh, according to a police official. – New York Times
China struck $225 billion in deals to acquire companies abroad last year, a record-breaking number that signaled to the world that Chinese business leaders were hot to haggle. Now, China — with a worried eye on the money leaving its borders — is telling some of its companies to cool it down. – New York Times
China's military needs to promote technological innovation as the "key" to its upgrading and modernization, President Xi Jinping told military delegates to the annual meeting of parliament. - Reuters
Lawmakers on Sunday introduced amendments to China's nascent civil code to make defaming "heroes and martyrs" of the ruling Communist Party a civil offense, as the leadership moves to strengthen its grasp on the history of the People's Republic. - Reuters
Bill Gertz reports: China’s military is developing powerful lasers, electromagnetic railguns and high-power microwave weapons for use in a future “light war” involving space-based attacks on satellites. – Asia Times
North Korea
After a week in which Pyongyang successfully lobbed four intermediate-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, U.S. officials are no longer seeing North Korea’s weapons tests as amateurish, attention-grabbing provocations. Instead, they are viewed as evidence of a rapidly growing threat — and one that increasingly defies solution. – Washington Post
Bruce Klingner, a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, said the isolated nation is closer than people realize to developing a nuclear missile that could cross the ocean and strike the U.S. – Fox News
North Koreans working overseas were told Saturday by North Korean authorities not to watch reports on the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sources close to North Korea in Southeast Asia and other places told The Yomiuri Shimbun. – Yomiuri Shimbun
South Korea
The foes of South Korea’s likely new leaders have called them blindly naïve, closet North Korea followers and anti-American — an unsettling accusation in a country where the alliance with Washington has been the military bedrock for seven decades. Now, after being out of power for almost 10 years, the South Korean liberal opposition is on the verge of retaking the presidency with the historic court ruling on Friday that ousted its conservative enemy, President Park Geun-hye, who had been impeached in a corruption scandal. – New York Times
For months, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have gathered almost weekly near the presidential Blue House in Seoul, calling for the departure of Park Geun-hye as South Korea’s leader. On Sunday, two days after the Constitutional Court removed her from office on charges of corruption and abuse of power, they got their wish, as Ms. Park left quietly in a motorcade that whisked her to her two-story red brick house in the southern part of the capital. – New York Times
The new anti-missile system the U.S. is sending to South Korea is a far-from-perfect solution. Though it will help protect Seoul against North Korean missiles, it antagonizes China while leaving allies like Japan still vulnerable. Next year, a new shipboard interceptor is slated to arrive in the region, promising more protection — and more controversy. – Defense One
The senior advisers to ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye offered to resign on Monday, news reports said, three days after the country's Constitutional Court formally ended her rule over a corruption scandal. – Associated Press
The United States has started to deploy attack drones to South Korea, a U.S. military spokesman said on Monday, days after it began to deploy an advanced anti-missile system to counter "continued provocative actions" by isolated North Korea. - Reuters
Editorial: The cases against Ms. Park and Samsung are a reminder of the danger of economic nationalism and industrial policy giving officials discretionary power over business. The next President has an opportunity to create a more entrepreneurial and competitive economy, even while staring down the North Korean threat. In both cases, closer strategic and economic ties to the U.S. strengthen will help. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Editorial: [South Korea] faces serious external challenges. Ms. Park took an unflinching stand toward Kim Jong Un’s dangerous and unpredictable regime in North Korea…Now, Seoul faces a moment of vulnerability and must not be intimidated. – Washington Post
Christian Caryl writes: To be sure, South Korea still has many problems. But its people, buoyed up by an extraordinary wave of civic activism, are showing that they aren’t prepared to accept the established way of doing things. They have mounted a remarkable campaign for change, and today that campaign has borne fruit of the most dramatic sort. Their cousins to the north can only dream of similar acts of defiance — which is why their country remains frozen in time, beholden to a leader whose only plan for the future is tied to the machinery of violence. – Washington Post
East Asia
[T]he most perplexing issue for Tillerson could be how to navigate the fractious relationships the Asian nations have with one another. South Korea and Japan struggle with deep-rooted political disagreements that go back generations, while both accuse China of shielding North Korea from significant punishment. – New York Times
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will visit Japan and Indonesia next month, sources said on Monday, as part of an Asian tour amid concerns the Trump administration is rolling back Barack Obama's "pivot to Asia". - Reuters
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's support rate slipped six points to just under 56 percent, an opinion poll showed on Sunday, after weeks of questions in parliament about a murky land deal by a school operator to whom his wife had links. - Reuters
Southeast Asia
Malaysia said talks were underway on Monday for the release of nine citizens stranded in North Korea by a travel ban, while its defense minister tried to ease anxieties among the public about the risks of angering an unpredictable nuclear-armed state. - Reuters
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the navy to put up "structures" to assert sovereignty over a stretch of water east of the country where Manila has reported a Chinese survey ship was casing the area last year. - Reuters
Japan plans to dispatch its largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, three sources said, in its biggest show of naval force in the region since World War Two. - Reuters
Vietnam on Monday demanded that China stop sending cruise ships to the South China Sea in a response to one of Beijing's latest steps to bolster its claims in the strategic waterway. - Reuters
Trans-Pacific Partnership
With the U.S. signaling a turn toward protectionism, nations that have benefited from global commerce, from Australia to Japan to Peru, are trying to pick up the free-trade mantle. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


The U.S. Department of Defense has delivered its fiscal 2017 budget supplemental plan to the White House for review, the agency announced Friday. – Defense News
Less than six months after its official rollout, the Army’s new concept of future warfare has gotten traction with all four armed services. In brief, Multi-Domain Battle envisions the military — everything from submarines to satellites, tanks to jets, destroyers to drones, grunts to hackers — working together to overwhelm the enemy with attacks from all domains: land, sea, air, space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum. While that vision is years from reality, it’s already spurred inter-service cooperation on how to make it real. – Breaking Defense
The Marine Corps’ top financial officer told lawmakers that the service considers its modernization programs properly balanced between aviation and ground needs, while acknowledging that there hasn’t been enough money in recent years to buy the ground assets at a proper pace. – USNI News
Jerry Hendrix writes: The bottom line is that President Trump’s commitment to a larger Navy reflects the investment that is both necessary and prudent to keep the carrier relevant and the nation militarily strong.  The debate about the viability of the aircraft carrier was important in that it helped to identify the actions needed to ensure that the centerpiece of the American fleet could remain in the fight in future security environments, but that debate ended on Election Day and the elevation of a president committed to a growing Navy. – Breaking Defense
Investigators probing who may have provided WikiLeaks with classified information about the Central Intelligence Agency’s purported computer-hacking techniques are zeroing in on a small number of contractors who have worked for the agency and may have been disgruntled over recent job losses, according to people familiar with the investigation. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The “Vault 7” trove of documents released Tuesday by WikiLeaks has been cited by commentators to claim that the Central Intelligence Agency may have been masquerading as other foreign states while conducting its cyberhacks. The documents being cited, however, offer no smoking gun. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Millennials are making it difficult for the U.S. intelligence community to keep secrets, according to a former director of the NSA and CIA. – Washington Times
Former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell said on Saturday that the WikiLeaks' dump of documents it claims are from the top-secret CIA hacking program is "absolutely" an "inside job." – Washington Examiner
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) reported Saturday that he was facing hacking attempts on "basically every device, every platform, personal and govt" following his recent criticism of WikiLeaks. – The Hill
Interview: Despite the many logistical and operational challenges of a transition, many acknowledge that Cyber Command must eventually separate from the National Security Agency. The Cipher Brief spoke with General Michael Hayden, former director of both the NSA and CIA, about how Cyber Command came about, and the similar skill sets yet different roles and authorities of the two organizations, and why they must eventually be separated. – The Cipher Brief
The War
Under pressure from civil liberties advocates and the Muslim community, the San Francisco ­Police Department last month pulled out of the FBI’s Joint ­Terrorism Task Force amid ­controversy over the Trump ­administration’s travel ban and concerns that participation in the task force might violate local laws protecting immigrants and ­religious minorities. – Washington Post
Federal efforts to build a nationwide broadband network for police officers and firefighters continue to be delayed 15 years after initial calls for the project, disappointing and potentially endangering the nation's first responders. – Washington Free Beacon
Strategic Issues
Arthur Herman writes: The answer to the North Korean threat isn’t bombing missile sites or putting boots on the ground, but putting technology in the sky that both the U.S. and Japan could deploy in a very short time—technology that can all but eliminate Pyongyang’s menace. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Ariel Cohen writes: The people of Hawaii, represented by their Congressional delegation, including the late Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) need a quick, reliable and cost-effective missile defense for their home. It is up to the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon to make it happen. The time to do so is now. – Huffington Post
Peter Huessy writes: While there are serious and gathering nuclear threats facing the United States and our allies, there is no need to panic, nor believe that doomsday is just around the corner. However, we do need to get on with the task of modernizing our nuclear deterrent, enhancing our ballistic missile defenses and working effectively to stop the proliferation of such weapons. – Real Clear Defense


While Mr. Bogachev was draining bank accounts, it appears that the Russian authorities were looking over his shoulder, searching the same computers for files and emails. In effect, they were grafting an intelligence operation onto a far-reaching cybercriminal scheme, sparing themselves the hard work of hacking into the computers themselves, officials said. – New York Times
A film is showing that recounts, in unflinching detail, the rise and fall of Russian democracy through the story of Nemtsov’s political career, from a whiz-kid regional governor considered presidential material to the political margins of an illiberal society dominated by Putin. – Washington Post
Vladimir Kara-Murza says he was poisoned twice for speaking out against the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Despite being at death’s door in both incidents, the political activist tells Lesley Stahl he will return to Russia to continue his protests. – CBS News
The Kremlin’s hesitation over Mr Ushakov throws a spotlight on the bureaucracy steering Moscow through its most serious stand-off with the west since the cold war and engineering the push to restore Russia’s global power status. It is an apparatus built under the Soviet Union and staffed by people whose skills were honed in the Soviet era. – Financial Times
Kimberly Dozier reports: For Howard, it’s “back to the future,” coming full circle from the Cold War era when she first went to sea as a young ensign after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. “Our forces were bigger so there was a lot more interaction,” but the principles for these intentional close encounters at sea remain the same, she said. – The Daily Beast
Editorial: The Obama Administration complained privately about the Russian missile violation, but President Obama declined to do anything about it. Arms control rivals catastrophic climate change in the former President’s belief system. The Pentagon’s public declaration is a good sign that perhaps the Trump Administration will take a more skeptical view of parchment pledges from authoritarian rulers who want to dominate their neighbors. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Alina Polyakova writes: This is why disinformation is so much more dangerous today than it was during the Cold War: a successful disinformation campaign is no longer defined by whether or not someone believes the Soviet or the Western version; rather, a successful campaign is one that leaves no trace of its origins, dissolving into the mainstream like an ink drop in water. – Atlantic Council
Western Europe
Belgium’s Parliament has quietly passed legislation giving the government extraordinary powers to deport legal residents on the mere suspicion of engagement in terrorist activities, or for “presenting a risk” to public order or national security, without a criminal conviction or the involvement of a judge. – New York Times
Britain’s minister for leaving the European Union urged lawmakers not to restrain Prime Minister Theresa May’s freedom to negotiate a Brexit deal in talks she could trigger as early as this week. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The divide between the European Union’s more affluent western nations and its less well-off members to the east deepened on Friday, as their leaders wrangled over the future of the bloc after the U.K. exits. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
When President Trump welcomes Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to the Oval Office on Tuesday, their meeting will take on a symbolism unlike any he has held so far: The great disrupter confronts the last defender of the liberal world order. – New York Times
[Merkel and Putin’s] relationship, and rivalry, is a microcosm of the sharply divergent visions clashing in Europe and beyond, a divide made more consequential by the uncertainty over President Trump’s policy toward Russia and whether he will redefine the traditional alliances of American foreign policy. – New York Times
Germany’s new draft budget shows that Europe’s biggest economy remains far from meeting President Donald Trump’s demands for higher military spending even as it slowly lifts its defense expenditures. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
FPI Fellow James Kirchick writes: Utilizing methods both overt (dissemination of “fake news” through propaganda instruments like RT and Sputnik) and covert (hacks and leaks), Russia is aiming to influence national elections across the Continent. Nowhere is this campaign more consequential than in Germany, Europe’s largest and richest power. – Politico EU
The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, is trying to beat back populism by co-opting it. His message for immigrants to the Netherlands: Adapt or go home. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The peroxide-blond Dutch politician Geert Wilders was executing the Donald Trump playbook long before the U.S. president started his insurgent campaign for the White House. And in Dutch elections Wednesday, Wilders has a strong chance to come out on top, cementing the influence of a politician who wants to ban the Koran, shut down mosques and upend his nation’s sleepy political scene. – Washington Post
An influential government advisory council is warning that the Dutch armed forces are "seriously neglected" at a time when threats from Russia and elsewhere are increasing. – Associated Press
Eastern Europe
A steady uptick in shelling along front lines in eastern Ukraine is threatening numerous industrial facilities that, if damaged, could trigger severe environmental and humanitarian consequences, according to a new report by an environmental nonprofit organization. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
Georgia says legislative elections held by Russia-backed separatists who control the breakaway Abkhazia region were illegal. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Police have detained a group of opposition leaders and at least three journalists during the latest in a series of charged protests over a controversial government-backed unemployment tax. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Serbia's defense minister has said that the country is expecting Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval for the delivery of fighter jets, which could worsen tensions with neighboring states. – Associated Press


United States of America
More than 130 members of America’s foreign policy establishment denounced President Trump’s revised travel ban on Friday as just as damaging to the United States’ interests and reputation as his original order that halted refugees and froze travelers from predominantly Muslim countries. – New York Times
A terse note from the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner on Friday saying that it could not disclose the “cause and manner” of a senior Russian diplomat’s death in February set off a flood of conspiratorial posts on Twitter, but both Russian and American officials said the announcement was a matter of diplomatic protocol. – New York Times
Naval boosters are coming out swinging against proposed U.S. Coast Guard cuts they say would “gut” the service. – DOD Buzz
Republican lawmakers are showing increasing resistance to President Donald Trump’s trade agenda, worried that his plans could hurt exports from their states and undermine longstanding U.S. alliances. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is moving fast indeed to open talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement. On Friday, less than two weeks into the job, Ross said “sometime in the next couple of weeks” he would send a letter to Congress triggering the 90-day notice period before the U.S. can reopen talks with Canada and Mexico on the pact. That would put the start date for the talks sometime around July. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
State Department
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is urging the Senate Budget Committee to reverse the Trump administration's expected deep cuts to the State Department. – The Hill
Sheba Crocker writes: Cuts on the order of magnitude being discussed would starve the department of the people and resources it needs to operate effectively and to ensure the United States can play the assertive international role that the Trump administration seems to envision. Ultimately, no amount of additional aircraft carriers or fighter jets can take the place of the diplomats who ably represent the United States, and all that it has and hopefully will continue to stand for, on the global stage. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government
Mona Yacoubian writes: The protection and promotion of U.S. national security interests has traditionally rested on the three-legged stool of defense, diplomacy, and development. In this era of complicated security challenges, development, alongside diplomacy, must retain equal footing with defense. Cutting any of these legs will severely compromise U.S. national security. As the purported master of the deal, Trump should recognize the significant value versus dollar spent on development assistance. Deep reductions in the development budget will do little to reduce the overall budget, while greatly imperiling the United States. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government
Marine Corps
The Pentagon on Friday sought to contain damage from an expanding controversy over allegations that active members of the military have shared nude photos of female Marines, as the investigation expanded to all military branches. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Fewer than 10 women victims have come forward so far in the investigation into nude photos of female service members that were posted online without their permission, the top Marine Corps general said Friday. He pleaded with female Marines to "trust us" and reach out to make complaints or seek help. – Associated Press
Trump-Russia Connections
One of the Senate’s leading Republicans predicted Sunday that there are “a lot more shoes to drop” in the probe of President Trump’s connections to Russia and said Congress must call top Trump associates to Capitol Hill to testify. – Washington Times
They agreed just a week ago to the terms of a House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But now some of the panel’s Democrats are warning that they may pull their support for the inquiry if it becomes mired in party-line politics. – New York Times
Roger J. Stone Jr., an off-and-on adviser to President Trump for decades, has acknowledged that he had contact on Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, the mysterious online figure that is believed to be a front for Russian intelligence officials. – New York Times
As Nunes and Schiff, the Republican chairman and top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, lead the House investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, it’s unclear how two lawmakers with diametrically-opposed approaches will handle the most politically sensitive investigation to hit Capitol Hill in decades. - Politico
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said in an interview Sunday that the Russian ambassador who met with Trump campaign officials also met with “people working in think tanks advising Hillary or advising people working for Hillary.” – The Hill
Husain Haqqani writes: Americans have a legitimate interest in figuring out whether Russia tried to covertly influence U.S. politics. Investigating officials who may have perjured themselves about their diplomatic contacts also seems reasonable. It should not, however, create the impression that engagement between a foreign ambassador — even one from a country with which relations are strained — and people who might hold senior positions in a future administration is inherently sinister. Such engagement is essential if new presidents want to translate their foreign policy plans into reality. – Washington Post
Trump Tower
A top intelligence overseer in Congress said he doubts the administration will back up Donald Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap on him during the 2016 campaign. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The House intelligence committee is asking the Trump administration for evidence that the phones at Trump Tower were tapped during the campaign as its namesake has charged, a request reinforced Sunday by an influential Republican senator who says the president must either come up with the evidence or retract his claim. – Associated Press
Latin America
An uncertain timetable for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement is sparking concern in Mexico that the complex talks will become entangled with the country’s presidential elections next year, undermining its government’s bargaining position and ability to get a deal approved. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The coca leaf used to make cocaine has made such a dramatic comeback in this country that plantings now cover more territory than they did before a multibillion-dollar U.S.-sponsored eradication campaign began 16 years ago, U.S. and Colombian officials said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A World Bank arbitration panel has determined that Venezuela won’t have to pay $1.4 billion to Exxon Mobil Corp. for confiscating company assets during a wave of nationalizations. – Associated Press


West Africa
The military and the government have proclaimed that the countryside outside Maiduguri, the busy Borno State capital where Boko Haram was born, is mostly safe now. They’ve said it’s time for most of the nearly two million displaced people — many of them farmers and fishermen fighting to stave off hunger — to go home. But the soldiers were guiding the throngs of people into a future that was no more certain, and potentially just as dangerous, as the past they had fled. – New York Times
East Africa
South Sudanese rebels have kidnapped eight locals working for a U.S. charity and are demanding aid deliveries as ransom, a military spokesman said on Monday, as food in the famine-hit nation looks increasingly likely to become a weapon of war. - Reuters
Hundreds of soldiers went on strike in the Somali capital on Sunday, blocking roads and forcing businesses to close in protest over unpaid salaries, a challenge for the new president who has vowed to defeat Islamist militant group, al Shabaab. - Reuters
Central/Southern Africa
In the twilight of the Lord’s Resistance Army, American commandos are relying less on kill-capture operations and more on psychological operations to lure die-hard militants out of the bush one by one, using their families as messengers. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) needs to end corruption and party divisions, and deliver on promises to tackle poverty if it is to halt a decline in voter support, a party policy document said on Sunday. - Reuters
Editorial: Mr. Kabila may be betting that Mr. Trump will shrug if he scraps the political accord and uses force to remain in power. So the administration should move swiftly to signal its readiness to join new E.U. sanctions. Mr. Kabila’s intransigence risks touching off another explosion of bloodshed in Central Africa — something that even an “America First” president should want to stop. – Washington Post

Trump Administration

From the moment he was sworn in, President Trump faced a personnel crisis, starting virtually from scratch in lining up senior leaders for his administration. Seven weeks into the job, he is still hobbled by the slow start, months behind where experts in both parties, even some inside his administration, say he should be. – New York Times
Mr. Tillerson has skipped every opportunity to define his views or give guidance to American diplomats abroad, limiting himself to terse, scripted statements, taking no questions from reporters and offering no public protest when the White House proposed cutting the State Department budget by 37 percent without first consulting him. – New York Times
President Donald Trump was unaware Michael Flynn had recently been consulting on behalf of the Turkish government when the president picked him to be his national security adviser, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Now Huntsman has been tapped to be President Donald Trump’s man in Moscow, easily his most politically charged ambassadorial appointment. Given Trump’s desire to reconcile with Russia and his remarkable solicitousness toward its strongman leader Vladimir Putin, the world will be watching closely to see how the new U.S. ambassador approaches the job. But if Huntsman approaches Russia in the same way he took on China, Moscow should expect a man who has no love for authoritarianism—and isn’t afraid to show it. - Politico
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on Friday scolded Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for opting not to travel with the press during his first major trip to Asia representing the Trump administration. – The Hill
Jim Mattis is not lonely in the Pentagon, but two months into his tenure as secretary of defense not a single political appointee has joined him. – Associated Press

Democracy and Human Rights

Interviews with more than a dozen former diplomats, professors, human rights advocates and international politicians, both abroad and in the United States, suggested that the United States under President Trump was poised to cede not only this global role, but also its ability to lead by example. – New York Times

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
Read More