FPI Overnight Brief: March 14, 2017

The Must-Reads

  • McCain, Graham: Why we need more troops in Afghanistan
  • Trump letting his generals figure out how to defeat ISIS
  • US reviewing drone strike rules, authorizes CIA to launch strikes
  • Cuts to State will be reduced, White House seeks cuts to UN funding
  • Fred Hof: Supporting the diplomatic end-game in Syria
  • N. Korean banks under US sanctions still on SWIFT network
  • Obama White House blocked needed US arms sale to Taiwan
  • NYT Mag: How Egypt’s activists became “Generation Jail”
  • WaPo: Bahrain is Exhibit A for human rights deteriorating

Middle East/North Africa

Iran

Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, called out Iran as one of the greatest threats to the region during a recent appearance on Capitol Hill. – Military Times

Reformists in Iran are under pressure, detainees face torture and abuse, and people are being executed at an "alarming" rate, a UN monitor studying human rights in the tightly controlled country says. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The son of a detained Iranian opposition leader has been sentenced to six months in jail, his brother said on Monday, after releasing an open letter from his father demanding to be put on trial after years of his house arrest. - Reuters

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani sent a letter on Monday to Kuwait's ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, state media reported, a further sign that the two might be trying to defuse tensions between the Islamic Republic and the Gulf Arab states. - Reuters

Syria

Aid deliveries have all but stopped for hundreds of thousands of Syrians living under siege, a medical group said Tuesday, raising the risk of death from starvation, malnutrition or a lack of basic medical care. – Washington Post

The decision to deploy US troops to Syria in recent weeks was led not by the White House nor the Pentagon, but by individual generals empowered by the Trump administration that has put an unprecedented amount of trust in the military brass since the war against ISIS began nearly three years ago, two defense officials told BuzzFeed News. – Buzz Feed

The U.S. military's "reassurance and deterrence" mission in the Syrian city of Manbij is achieving its goal of prventing key American allies from battling one another, the Pentagon said Monday, but what's already a tense situation could become more complicated with the arrival of Russian troops and continued advances by Turkish-backed rebels. – Military Times

Russia will start construction on a planned five-year expansion of its naval base in Syria this spring, officials said in Russian state media. – USNI News

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

Syria's air force deliberately bombed water sources in December, a war crime that cut off water for 5.5 million people in and around the capital Damascus, the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said on Tuesday. - Reuters

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said on Monday there are so far about 465,000 people killed and missing in Syria's civil war. - Reuters

The top U.N. human rights official called on Tuesday for tens of thousands of detainees to be released from Syria's prisons and for torturers to be brought to court as part of a lasting peace. - Reuters

Frederic Hof writes: These steps would help Moscow make the point to Assad that business as usual is over: that Washington can no longer be counted on to act as a supine observer of mass slaughter in Syria. If Russia proves hostile to this attempt to boost its leverage with Assad, then at least its intention will be clear: support for the full restoration of an Assad police state over a smoking ruin called Syria. – Defense News

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes: Syria offers an object lesson in its lethal effect where RT has successfully blurred the difference between victim and perpetrator. Should such inversions of truth become commonplace, the very possibility of justice will be erased. We ignore this at our own peril. – Washington Post

Iraq

As Iraqi forces fought street by street for control of Mosul’s west side, authorities on the east side advanced to the next stage of battle: securing and holding areas recaptured from Islamic State. – Los Angeles Times

So while Iraq’s political class wonders what, if anything, Trump now has in mind for their unsettled nation, they are preparing for a coming crisis that may be every bit as serious as the military battle against the Islamic State they finally look to be on the verge of winning. - Politico

Iraqi troops have surrounded western Mosul, and military leaders vow it's only a matter of time until they crush the last major stand of the Islamic State group in Iraq. But the militants are positioning themselves to defend the remains of its so-called "caliphate" in Syria and wage an insurgent campaign in Iraq. – Associated Press

A prominent Iraqi Sunni politician on Monday warned Washington the acceleration in a military campaign in western Mosul to drive out Islamic State jihadists was causing a sudden surge in civilian casualties that threatened to undermine the effort to crush the militants. - Reuters

Egypt

Sisi’s crackdown on the opposition far exceeds the darkest period of repression during the Mubarak era. Human rights groups claim that as many as 60,000 political prisoners now languish in Egypt’s jails. (At the end of Mubarak’s rule, the figure was between 5,000 and 10,000.) Egypt’s prisons are filled to triple their capacity, and the regime has built 16 more prisons to handle the overflow. Once described by Amnesty International as “Generation Protest,” the youths who took to the streets in Egypt to bring down a dictator in 2011 have acquired a grim new nickname: “Generation Jail.” – NYT Magazine

An Egyptian prosecutor ordered Hosni Mubarak, the toppled Egyptian autocrat, released from the Maadi Military Hospital in southern Cairo, where he has been held for much of the last six years. – New York Times

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a pardon for 203 youths jailed for taking part in demonstrations, state news agency MENA said on Monday, as part of a pledge he made months ago to amend a protest law. - Reuters

North Africa

Tunisia’s top diplomat says the Trump administration should “reach out more” to the tiny North African nation for collaboration against the evolving threat posed by the Islamic State — and to bolster the fragile island of democracy Tunisians are struggling to uphold in the Arab world. – Washington Times

Russia appears to have deployed special forces to an airbase in western Egypt near the border with Libya in recent days, U.S., Egyptian and diplomatic sources say, a move that would add to U.S. concerns about Moscow's deepening role in Libya. - Reuters

Fierce clashes resumed on Monday at a tower block complex in southwest Benghazi where forces loyal to Libya's eastern government have been battling for weeks to dislodge rival fighters, a security official said. - Reuters

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia’s royal court said Monday the kingdom’s second-in-line to the throne will meet President Donald Trump at the White House in the highest-level visit to Washington by a Saudi royal since November’s presidential election. – Associated Press

Aid workers are in a "race against time" to prevent famine threatening millions of people in Yemen, a senior U.N. official said in Monday. - Reuters

Editorial: Mr. Cardin and other Foreign Relations Committee members should insist that before going forward with the Bahrain deal, the administration come up with a strategy to reverse the ongoing repression. Mr. Rajab and other nonviolent opponents should be released and peaceful opposition political parties allowed to organize. If the Trump administration signals toleration for the crackdown, it will betray liberal reformers across the region. – Washington Post

Israel

Jason D. Greenblatt, President Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, flew to Israel on Monday and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of an early diplomatic foray aimed at breaking the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. – New York Times

Turkey

Wading into an escalating diplomatic feud, the European Union warned Turkey on Monday that a constitutional amendment to drastically strengthen the president’s powers might harm the country’s longstanding bid to eventually join the bloc. – New York Times

Amid a tight race that the government fears it might lose, Turkey has in recent days condemned attempts by the Netherlands and several other European countries to stop its ministers from holding referendum rallies for the Continent’s Turkish diaspora. This spat worsened on Monday after Turkish officials said the Dutch ambassador to Turkey, who is currently away from the country, should not return — and threatened to reassess a deal with Europe that has stemmed the flow of migrants to the Continent. – New York Times

American reporters got an intriguing glimpse into the political mind-set in Turkey last week, when the mayor of Ankara lured a group of us with promises of an interview with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. When it became clear that that was never part of the plan, interviews were arranged at the last minute with several senior officials, who tried hard to present Turkey’s version of events to the world — and seemed flummoxed about why that message hasn’t been making an impact and why misleading a group of reporters might not be the best way to improve things. – New York Times

Asli Aydintasbas writes: Europeans love to complain about Donald Trump and the collapse of the liberal order, but have done very little to support the struggle for Turkish democracy right next door. It is not too late to deter Erdogan from his path — and Europe has enough economic leverage and political clout to do so. That might be the only solution to deal with a difficult neighbor and stave off Turkey’s political neurosis. – Washington Post

Asia

South Asia

A suicide bomber rammed a sedan full of explosives into a packed commuter minibus in Kabul on Monday, according to Afghan officials and eyewitnesses. – New York Times

Pakistan vowed on Tuesday to work to prevent non-nuclear states from gaining the technology that would put them on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons - even though both Islamabad and neighbor New Delhi have defied non-proliferation treaties to become competing nuclear powers. – Associated Press

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) write: The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years. Weary as some Americans may be of this long conflict, it is imperative that we see our mission through to success. We have seen what happens when we fail to be vigilant. The threats we face are real. And the stakes are high — not just for the lives of the Afghan people and the stability of the region, but for America’s national security. – Washington Post

India

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will double up as India's defense minister, replacing the former Ministry of Defence chief Manohar Parrikar, who has been appointed chief minister of his home state of Goa after the March 11 state election. – Defense News

Editorial: [O]nly by undertaking far-reaching deregulation can the [Indian] government meet its goal of expanding manufacturing to 25% of the economy in 2020 from the current 16%. And without that industrial boom, India can’t create jobs for a labor force that adds a million new workers every month. Without bolder action he can’t deliver the opportunities he promised. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Sadanand Dhume writes: So far the prime minister has proceeded cautiously on economic reforms. His win in Uttar Pradesh gives him the capacity to act more boldly on controversial but sensible policies such as privatizing loss-making state owned firms, easing restrictive labor laws and slashing food and fuel subsidies. However, if Mr. Modi’s tepid approach to reforms has not hurt him electorally, he has little incentive to suddenly do things any differently. If nothing much changes, you can thank the people of Uttar Pradesh. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Daniel Twining writes: In short, India’s economy is strong; its democracy is thriving, if still somewhat chaotic; it is ramping up foreign engagement while other countries retreat into narrow nationalisms; and it increasingly champions key pillars of the liberal world order. This is happening at the same time as economic anxieties in Europe and the United States are mounting, producing an insurgent populism that challenges democratic institutions, risks hollowing out multilateral cooperation, and undercuts support for the rules-based global order. It would be ironic if the West steps back from global economic and political leadership at a time when India is ready to step forward as a partner in underwriting international security and prosperity. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room

China

President Donald Trump is tentatively set to meet in coming weeks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, officials from both nations said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Patriotism is the "mission" of religion in China, but greed is tainting Tibetan Buddhism, says the government-appointed second-highest spiritual leader of the faith, who was chosen by Beijing to win the hearts and minds of Tibetans. - Reuters

Editorial: The Trump method is to get people’s attention. He has China’s. The goal at Mar-a-Lago should be to find a new modus vivendi. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Korean Peninsula

At least four North Korean banks under U.S. Treasury sanctions remain on the Swift money-transfer messaging network, even after the network deactivated a handful of the country’s banks sanctioned by the United Nations—the latest sign a squeeze on Pyongyang has failed to completely shut off the regime’s access to the global banking system. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Prosecutors announced plans on Tuesday to question former President Park Geun-hye of South Korea in a corruption scandal, four days after she was removed from office in a historic court ruling. – New York Times

U.S. military planners are taking "defensive measures" to hedge against the threat of an attack from North Korea, a message Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to deliver while traveling in Asia this week. – Washington Examiner

Ships from the United States, Japan and South Korea kicked off drills Tuesday aimed at countering the growing missile threat from North Korea. – Stars and Stripes

The United States and South Korea kicked off annual computer-simulated war games on Monday against the backdrop of an increasingly dangerous North Korea. – Stars and Stripes

South Korea’s acting president and prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has turned down a mass resignation offer by senior presidential aides, citing the need to handle urgent security and economic issues the country faces in the wake of the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye. – Financial Times

Japan

A plan to base CV-22 Ospreys in western Tokyo has been delayed with the first of the tilt-rotor aircraft due to arrive in fiscal year 2020, the Department of Defense said. – Stars and Stripes

Shinzo Abe has been forced to back his defence minister after documents emerged linking her to a spiralling scandal over the cut-price sale of public land to a religious school. – Financial Times

East Asia

As Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and his 1,000-plus entourage woo investors in Japan and China this week, they are facing a difficult task: convincing those countries, both big buyers of Saudi oil, that the kingdom is also a wise place to park their cash. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Prosecutors in Taiwan announced on Tuesday that the island’s former president Ma Ying-jeou had been indicted over the handling of classified information in a 2013 wiretapping case. – New York Times

The Obama administration blocked a $1 billion arms sale to Taiwan in December that was needed to improve the island's defenses despite approval from the State Department and Pentagon, according to Trump administration officials. – Washington Free Beacon

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plunges this week into the increasingly volatile situation in North Asia with visits to Japan, South Korea and China, the region’s central players for dealing with North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear tests. Complicating the mission are Chinese concerns about how the U.S. has responded so far. – Associated Press

Malaysia

Malaysia counterterrorism police have arrested seven people, including one immigration officer, over suspected links to Islamic State. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The United Nations investigator of human rights violations in North Korea inserted himself on Monday into the mystery over the assassination of the North Korean leader’s half brother, calling for an independent inquiry and possible protection of “other persons from targeted killings.” – New York Times

The body of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was embalmed this week in Kuala Lumpur, with no family member coming forward to claim the remains and as a diplomatic spat with Pyongyang drags on. - Reuters

North Korea on Monday tried to shift the blame for the deadly attack in Malaysia on the estranged half- brother of its leader Kim Jong Un to the United States and South Korea. – Associated Press

Southeast Asia

Myanmar may be using bureaucratic means to get rid of its Rohingya Muslim minority after a security crackdown against them caused an international outcry, the U.N. human rights investigator on Myanmar said on Monday. - Reuters

Dozens of Myanmar soldiers have been killed in several clashes between ethnic rebels and the army along the border with China, state media reported on Tuesday, threatening leader Aung San Suu Kyi's chief goal of ending decades of ethnic strife. - Reuters

Rights groups are urging Thailand’s government to enact legislation banning torture and forced disappearances as its human rights record comes under United Nations review. – Associated Press

Trans-Pacific Partnership

President Donald Trump dumped the 12-nation TPP right after he took office, saying it was a “horrible” deal and blaming it for sucking American jobs abroad. But now other countries are ready to rush into the vacuum the U.S. is leaving behind, negotiating tariff-cutting deals that could eliminate any competitive advantage for U.S. goods. - Politico

The contest to shape a massive Asian trade pact has stepped up a gear as China and Japan push different visions of a deal that would cover almost half the world’s population and a third of its economic output. – Financial Times

Security

Defense

A panel of lawmakers heard a preview of the debate the Navy will soon face, regarding whether its future fleet will be made up of today’s staples – the aircraft carrier, surface combatants and nuclear-powered attack submarines – or whether those proven systems could be swapped for new platforms. – USNI News

The luster is off a bit for the Virginia-class submarine building program, long considered a model US Navy construction effort that routinely brings down the building time and cost for each successive sub. One submarine has just missed its contract delivery date — pushed back even more when sea trials were halted to return to port — and shipbuilders are working harder to keep construction on schedule. – Defense News

The Navy has recently advanced development of a new class of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to be used as undersea strategic deterrents --  to ensure a second-strike nuclear ability from beneath the ocean around the world in the event of a catastrophic first-strike on the continental US. – Scout Warrior

The U.S. Air Force’s F-35A, in its current iteration, can’t hit a moving target — at least without a human manually directing the bomb to its destination. The service plans to change that over the next year by adding a new weapon, Raytheon’s Enhanced Paveway II (GBU-49), which it hopes to integrate into the F-35’s arsenal in time for full combat capability. – Defense News

U.S. Army leaders today wrestled with the challenges of equipping and supplying soldiers in what the service sees as a multi-threat battlefield of the future. – Military.com

Gone are the equipment caches known as “activity sets” stored in Europe and South Korea for deploying units to fall in on for exercises and other operations. The focus now is how well the Army can deploy units along with all of its equipment from the continental US to other theaters, rendering activity sets moot, Gen. Gus Perna, Army Materiel Command commander told Defense News in an interview at the Association of the US Army’s Global Force Symposium on Monday. – Defense News

The War

The Trump administration is close to finishing a review that would make it easier for the Pentagon to launch counterterrorism strikes anywhere in the world by lowering the threshold on acceptable civilian casualties and scaling back other constraints imposed by the Obama administration, senior U.S. officials said. – Washington Post

President Donald Trump has given the Central Intelligence Agency secret new authority to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, U.S. officials said, changing the Obama administration’s policy of limiting the spy agency’s paramilitary role and reopening a turf war between the agency and the Pentagon. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Intelligence

Marcel Lettre writes: A breach such as last week’s release to WikiLeaks can gravely weaken national security; the response to it is deserving of the attention of our nation’s most senior leaders. As we seek innovation in military and intelligence capabilities to build an edge over our adversaries, we need in parallel to innovate in our protections against insider threats — to protect our people and our national security advantages from devastating security breaches – Defense One

Russia/Europe

Ukraine

Ukrainian police have arrested several dozen activists who were blocking trade with eastern areas held by pro-Russia separatists, officials and activists said late on March 13. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Russia

Chirikova was ultimately unable to halt the construction of the motorway (although, in 2010, Dmitri Medvedev, then president of Russia, issued a temporary moratorium on the project). But in the process of trying, Chirikova and her group, Save Khimki Forest Movement, brought thousands out to protest and collected tens of thousands of signatures, and found that, contrary to popular western belief, Russian grassroots run deep. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable

The European Union has extended for six months sanctions against 150 Russia-linked people over the territorial disputes in eastern Ukraine – Associated Press

Russia’s state-owned gas producer, Gazprom, has agreed to a series of concessions to address the European Union’s concerns about its market dominance in the supply of energy to Eastern Europe. – Associated Press

Jakub Janda writes: Despite almost every Western intelligence agency urgently warning about the Russian threat, only a few Western leaders are ordering their security institutions to develop and implement robust strategies and policies against it. We don’t live in an ideal world, but let’s think for a moment about the ideal reaction and how it might play out. – Atlantic Council

Europe

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization said Monday its members have increased military spending and would focus more on fighting terrorism, two key demands of the Trump administration. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The European Court of Justice issued a non-binding ruling Tuesday that employers can prohibit the Muslim headscarf in the workplace, setting an important precedent for a continent in the midst of a fraught political climate. – Washington Post

New battle lines were drawn over Britain’s future on Monday, when the government secured unrestricted authority to negotiate withdrawal from the European Union while confronting the possibility that in doing so, it may bring about an independent Scotland. – New York Times

Editorial: Voters are demanding greater choices and more fight from politicians. If mainstream parties feel harried by the likes of Mr. Wilders, they might reflect that they’ve taken too long to recognize that Europe’s consensus-driven elitism has alienated a growing number of citizens. Those voters welcome the debates that the Geert Wilderses stir up even if they don’t embrace their agendas in the ballot box. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Germany

President Trump often slammed Angela Merkel on the campaign trail, calling her refugee policy “insane.” When the German chancellor meets her new American counterpart for the first time this week, she will come face to face with the gaping differences over that and a host of trade and other policies clouding a vital trans-Atlantic relationship. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was already on her way to the airport on Monday to fly to Washington for her first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump when he rang her to postpone the trip due to the approach of a winter storm. - Reuters

Charles Kupchan writes: Trump and Merkel are oil and water; they are unlikely to forge a friendship or enduring bond. But for the sake of both countries and the future of the West, they must seize the opportunity to compromise their way to a working relationship. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government

Christoph Schmidt and Jochen Andritzky write: Closer trading and investment links with a country as dynamic as China promise to boost EU competitiveness and innovation. This would give Europe the chance to remain an economic force in today’s globalized world. As the U.S. toys with protectionism and China inches toward a more active role in global economic relations, today’s situation might offer a historic opportunity for the EU. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Americas

United States of America

President Trump’s budget proposal this week would shake the federal government to its core if enacted, culling back numerous programs and expediting a historic contraction of the federal workforce. – Washington Post

Dozens of lawmakers are urging House leaders who oversee the budget to block any move by the Trump administration to slash Coast Guard funding, saying a proposal to do so is “cause for serious alarm” and “nonsensical” if the president plans to expand the other armed services. – Washington Post's Checkpoint

The Trump administration is mulling plans to kill U.S. subsidies for foreign allies to buy American-made weapons outright and replace them with a loans program. – Defense News

Josh Rogin reports: Stand Up Republic, a nonprofit organization led by former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin and his running mate, Mindy Finn, is launching a public campaign aimed at building support among Republicans for consolidating the various congressional Russia-related investigations into one empowered and fully funded select committee. – Washington Post

Trump Tower

The Justice Department on Monday asked for more time to respond to a request from the House Intelligence Committee to turn over any wiretapping applications, orders or warrants related to President Trump and his associates. – Washington Post

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)

Immigration and Refugees

The Justice Department on Monday laid out its first significant legal defense of President Trump’s revised travel ban, arguing in a court filing that the harms opponents say it causes are “speculative” and that the president was well within his authority to issue the directive. – Washington Post

Senate Democrats announced a bill Monday to revoke President Trump’s latest extreme vetting executive order, saying it’s discriminatory and counterproductive to the country’s efforts to influence allies. – Washington Times

State Department/United Nations

The State Department budget won’t be getting cut as deeply as President Donald Trump initially suggested after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson successfully pushed back with the White House, according to people familiar with the plans. - Politico

State Department staffers have been instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for U.N. programs, signaling an unprecedented retreat by President Donald Trump’s administration from international operations that keep the peace, provide vaccines for children, monitor rogue nuclear weapons programs, and promote peace talks from Syria to Yemen, according to three sources. – Foreign Policy

Interview: The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke with former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad to ask what the real value of the UN is to U.S. policy, and where the institution’s future may lie in the years ahead. – The Cipher Brief

James Cook writes: While “America First” may succinctly capture the Trump administration’s vision, foreign aid is a good (and cheaper) way to confront the numerous challenges in the contemporary security environment by building and working with capable allies and partners that share U.S. values and interests. Now is not the time to reduce this strategically valuable foreign policy tool. – The National Interest

Marine Corps

Months before the U.S. military's nude photo scandal was unveiled, an intense internal feud had erupted inside one of the main groups known for sharing explicit imagery of their female co-workers. – Military Times

The Marines' top officer has sent a "White Letter" to all senior leaders in the service ordering them to support self-identified victims of Facebook harassment and illicit photo sharing, and to educate troops on what is expected of them in their conduct online. – Military.com

Latin America

Mr. Duarte, who before vanishing denied wrongdoing in a series of media interviews, has become the public face of corruption in Mexico and an embarrassment to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. Its hopes for retaining power in elections next year are hampered by the alleged financial malfeasance not just of Mr. Duarte but of half a dozen other former state governors. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Africa

African top brass, representing nearly half of the countries that make up the continent, came to the Army War College last week and made the case for stronger leadership roles as they combat challenges in their respective nations. But while the African military leaders there said they want to take the lead and, in some cases, feel capable, U.S. assistance is indispensable in helping build capacity to deal with a diverse array of challenges. – Defense News

Pirates have hijacked an oil tanker with eight Sri Lankan crew onboard, a Somali official said on Tuesday, the first time they have successfully taken a commercial ship since 2012. - Reuters

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

Mutilated bodies are being found once again in Burundi where politically-motivated violence will soon enter its third year, according to a U.N. human rights inquiry. - Reuters

Trump Administration

Navarro closely shaped Trump’s strident rhetoric on China during the presidential campaign; now he holds a potentially critical role as head of the Trump-created National Trade Council at the White House. But the totality of Navarro’s curriculum vitae reflects someone with greater expertise in public utilities than the complex workings of the Asia-Pacific. – Foreign Policy’s Tea Leaf Nation

Opposition is mounting on Capitol Hill and in conservative foreign policy circles over Defense Secretary James Mattis's efforts to hire a former Obama administration official who lobbied in favor of engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood and spearheaded efforts to criticize Israeli counter-terrorism efforts, according to multiple sources close to the Trump administration. – Washington Free Beacon

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.
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