FPI Overnight Brief: April 11, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

Iran
 
The first new Boeing commercial jetliner to be purchased by Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution could be delivered in a month — a year earlier than expected — an Iranian news agency reported on Monday. – New York Times
 
Congress should as soon as possible consider a bill that slaps sanctions on Iran over its illicit non-nuclear activities, Democratic lawmakers who supported the 2015 Iran nuclear deal told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. – The Weekly Standard
 
President Trump should cancel airplane sales to Iranian airlines that facilitate terrorism, a pair of Republican lawmakers urged Monday. – Washington Examiner
 
Syria
 
In the days since President Trump ordered a cruise missile strike against Syria in retaliation for a chemical attack on civilians, his administration has spoken with multiple voices as it seeks to explain its evolving policy. But one voice has not been heard from: that of Mr. Trump himself. – New York Times
 
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said on Tuesday that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia must end his alliance with the government of Syria, and that the reign of that country’s leader, President Bashar al-Assad, was “coming to an end.” – New York Times
 
Days after President Trump bombed Syria in response to a chemical attack that killed children, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said on Monday that the United States would punish those “who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world.” – New York Times
 
The use of barrel bombs by the Assad regime in Syria could trigger a U.S. response, the White House said Monday in what appeared to be a significant change in U.S. policy by drawing a new red line in the conflict. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
The punitive American missile strike on Syria for the chemical weapons attack a week ago brought Syria’s most important backers, Russia and Iran, publicly closer together — whether the Iranians want to be or not – New York Times
 
On Saturday, Islamic State extremists disguised as U.S.-backed rebels detonated a massive car bomb at the base entrance, a blast that allowed some of the militants to fight their way inside, Syrian fighters and American officials said on Monday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Americans narrowly support missile strikes ordered by President Trump last week in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in Syria, even as most oppose additional military efforts to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. – Washington Post
 
Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday warned Syrian President Bashar Assad not to use chemical weapons again, saying the U.S. "will not passively stand by." – The Hill
 
While Russia was “probably surprised” by the US missile strike on a Syrian air base, it is unlikely that the Kremlin will respond with escalatory force, according to a former deputy secretary general of NATO. – Atlantic Council
 
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said President Trump’s missile strike in Syria is a radical departure from his “America first” foreign policy. – The Hill
 
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) ripped President Trump's airstrikes on a Syrian airfield, arguing last week's action didn't move the needle in the country's years-long civil war. – The Hill
 
The last person to serve as U.S. ambassador to Syria predicts that Syrian President Bashar Assad will try to use chemical weapons again despite the U.S. military strike against last week. – The Hill
 
U.S. officials and Syria experts are still debating what Syrian President Bashar Assad was thinking when he ordered a chemical attack sure to spark international outrage. Maybe Assad was hoping to terrorize his opponents. Perhaps he was testing Trump’s limits for his military planning. Trump officials even initially considered the possibility that Assad had not ordered the strike at all, according to one administration official, and that a military commander might have gone rogue without Assad’s knowledge. - Politico
 
A Russian Navy surface action group is headed to the Eastern Mediterranean departing shortly after a U.S. Tomahawk missile strike on a Syrian airfield, a U.S. defense official told USNI News on Monday. – USNI News
 
Russian military commanders involved in the war in Syria could be targeted with new international sanctions under proposals put forward by U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday. - Politico
 
The United States has concluded Russia knew in advance of Syria's chemical weapons attack last week, a senior U.S. official said Monday. – Associated Press
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian government warplanes dropped barrel bombs on rebel-held areas of Hama province on Tuesday, a day after the United States said their use could lead to further U.S. strikes in Syria. - Reuters
 
President Donald Trump's decision to launch missiles into Syria risked raising tensions with Iran, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad in a conflict with dangerously blurry battle lines. – Associated Press
 
U.S.-backed Syrian fighters on Monday pushed ahead in their offensive in northern Syria against members of the Islamic State group under the cover of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, moving closer to a strategic town that is home to the country's largest dam. – Associated Press
 
Paul Wolfowitz writes: These political and diplomatic actions could complement and reinforce more-concrete measures to change facts on the ground in Syria, such as creating safe zones or imposing some kind of no-fly zone. These efforts will not be simple, nor will they yield immediate results. But this framework would go a long way in addressing the common danger of radical extremism and in stemming the flow of refugees that has become a humanitarian disaster and a threat to U.S. interests. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Elliott Abrams writes: When the president said it was in the "vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons," he was right. It is also in our vital national security interest to stand for justice, and peace, and liberty, and it appears he is coming to see that. That's the most encouraging thing of all. – The Weekly Standard
 
Gary Schmitt writes: Resting on broad and undefined arguments about "the national interest," the war-making precedents of 1999 and 2011 have become a virtual license to engage in hostilities whenever and wherever a president decides. Members of Congress should care as much about the grounds on which President Trump justifies the use of his power as commander-in-chief as for what ends he uses that power. – The Weekly Standard
 
Bret Stephens writes: The core of the problem in Syria isn’t Islamic State, dreadful as it is. It’s a regime whose appetite for unlimited violence is one of the main reasons ISIS has thrived. To say there is no easy cure for Syria should not obscure the fact that there won’t be any possibility of a cure until Assad falls. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Lee Smith writes: Critics who complain about the small scale of Thursday's operation are missing the point—even with a strike that small, the United States showed how vulnerable Russia is. Indeed, Putin must now be struck by a fact it was easy to forget during the Obama years—in staking out a position in Syria, he has put himself in a place where he is surrounded by American allies. Trump's was a solid opening play. The next move is Putin's. – The Weekly Standard
 
Shadi Hamid writes: Here’s a practical guide for navigating the key sticking points in this latest iteration of the Syria debate, from the perspective of someone who has called for direct intervention against Bashar al-Assad since early on the conflict – The Atlantic
 
Tom Gross writes: Neither Assad has ever shown any signs of moderation. But that's not the impression one might have formed from listening to many Western media and politicians. – The Weekly Standard
 
ISIS
 
The Pentagon has struggled in recent weeks to explain what lies behind a surge in reported civilian casualties in its air campaign against the Islamic State, fueling speculation that the new Trump administration is pursuing policies resulting in a greater loss of life. – Washington Post
 
Egypt
 
Routed from its stronghold on the coast of Libya, besieged in Iraq and wilting under intense pressure in Syria, the militant extremist group urgently needs to find a new battleground where it can start to proclaim victory again. The devastating suicide attacks on Sunday in the heart of the Middle East’s largest Christian community suggested it has found a solution: the cities of mainland Egypt. – New York Times
 
As family and friends gathered Monday to bury a university student killed in the suicide attack on worshipers here on Palm Sunday, grief boiled over into anger over the government’s inability to protect Egypt’s Christian minority. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
A day after deadly Islamic State bombings struck two Egyptian churches, Israel closed its southern border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Monday and urged Israelis to leave Egypt amid worries of another round of militant attacks. – Washington Post

Egyptian security forces killed seven suspected Islamic State militants in a shootout on Monday as they were meeting to plan attacks on minority Christians, the Interior Ministry said. - Reuters
 
Editorial: Mr. Trump may imagine that Mr. Sissi is a tough autocrat in the mold of Augusto Pinochet, able to extinguish opposition with brute force. The church bombings offer another warning that such a judgment is wrong. The Egyptian ruler is steadily leading his country toward chaos thanks to his massive and misguided repression. Mr. Trump tweeted Sunday that he was confident Mr. Sissi “will handle [the] situation properly.” If so, he’s destined to be disappointed. – Washington Post
 
Daniel Williams writes: Finally, states of emergency, such as the one Sissi just declared, or brutal repression in the style of Syria’s Assad, do nothing to overcome extremist ideology. Only a clear statement of equal citizenship and civil rights for all can restore the traditions of tolerance that Egypt, Iraq and Syria once had. – Washington Post
 
North Africa
 
Russia’s burgeoning connections to a powerful Libyan warlord could signal that President Vladimir Putin sees an opportunity in Libya’s chaos to sideline the West and catapult Moscow into the position of power broker on NATO’s southern flank. – Stars and Stripes
 
Forces aligned with a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli said on Monday that three of their men had been killed in air raids against a desert air base by rivals allied with eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar. - Reuters
 
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for new talks over the long-running Western Sahara dispute, saying the negotiations should include proposals from both Morocco and the Polisario independence movement, according to a U.N. document. - Reuters
 
Saudi Arabia
 
A group of U.S. lawmakers said on Monday they had requested more information from President Donald Trump's administration about the potential sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, expressing concern about civilian casualties in Riyadh's campaign in Yemen that delayed the deal last year. - Reuters
 
Turkey
 
[I]n spite of these draconian measures the contest has remained tight, according to polls. And so Mr Erdogan is relying on the muscular electoral machine he has built and oiled to perfection over 15 years of winning elections in an effort to ensure another victory. – Financial Times

Asia

South Asia
 
An Indian naval officer arrested last year and charged with espionage and sabotage was sentenced to death Monday, the Pakistani military said, a decision that is likely to further strain relations between the two nations. – New York Times
 
Cyberthieves who attempted to steal $170 million from an Indian bank last July used methods that strongly resemble those of an earlier, successful $81 million heist targeting Bangladesh’s central bank, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Even as the Indian government has given top priority to domestic defense industry to acquire weaponry, estimated around $150 billion in the next ten years, foreign defense companies will remain major players, officials acknowledge. – Defense News
 
China
 
A report released by Amnesty International on Tuesday suggests that such complaints of injustice are far from isolated but often remain muffled by official secrecy. That secrecy has undermined the Chinese government’s vows to limit death sentences, distorting how common executions are in China, the report said. – New York Times
 
Erik Prince once fashioned private armies for the Pentagon. Now he is working with the US’s main geopolitical competitor, China. – Financial Times
 
China's top cyber authority on Tuesday released a draft law that would require firms exporting data to undergo an annual security assessment, in the latest of several recent safeguards against threats such as hacking and terrorism. - Reuters
 
Hong Kong leader-elect Carrie Lam said on Tuesday there is no room for moves towards independence in the former British colony which she said needs the support of the central government in Beijing to boost economic development over the next five years. - Reuters
 
Korean Peninsula
 
President Trump’s deployment of an aircraft carrier to the waters off the Korean Peninsula has raised tensions across East Asia. But the show of American force conceals a lack of better options for dealing with the provocations of the rogue government in North Korea. – New York Times
 
South Korean officials sought to tamp down concerns over the possibility of a pre-emptive U.S. military strike on North Korea, as a U.S. aircraft carrier headed toward the Korean Peninsula and Pyongyang threatened to “react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.” – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
China and South Korea agreed on Monday to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carries out nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests, a senior South Korean diplomat said, as the United States increased its pressure on the North by moving a Navy carrier strike group toward the Korean Peninsula. – New York Times
 
Something has gone drastically wrong for the liberal Moon: His support levels have flatlined, while a ragbag of conservatives, centrists, Ban Ki-moon backers and Moon Jae-in skeptics have rallied around Ahn Cheol-soo, a 55-year-old moderate who leads the center-left People’s Party – Washington Post
 
The Trump administration’s threats to ratchet up pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program could face a major setback next month if South Korea elects a more progressive president who has argued for a less confrontational approach to Pyongyang. – Foreign Policy
 
The top U.S. commander in South Korea canceled plans to attend congressional hearings on Capitol Hill later this month, a spokesman said Tuesday, citing rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program. – Stars and Stripes
 
North Korea will “in a matter of time” have an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States; but as matters stand now, American defenses would destroy it before it reached its target. – USNI News
 
Nuclear arms experts think North Korea already has, or soon will have, the ability to target Hawaii with a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile with possibly about the same destructive force as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. – Tribune News Service
 
The leading contender for the South Korean presidency has struck back at US sabre-rattling over North Korea, saying any military action on the peninsula must have Seoul’s consent. – Financial Times
 
A fleet of North Korean cargo ships is heading home to the port of Nampo, the majority of it fully laden, after China ordered its trading companies to return coal from the isolated country, shipping data shows. - Reuters
 
East Asia
 
Jim Talent writes: It is time for Washington, on both sides of the aisle, to prioritize the defense of the United States, whatever the cost. The weaker America becomes, the greater the risk that it will face a choice even more unpalatable than the one it faces now: the choice between surrendering its rights, or making a stand against a purposeful adversary under circumstances where the United States is outnumbered, outgunned, and outranged. – National Review Online
 
Patrick Cronin writes: The military services and Beltway brain trust seem determined to let budgets drive strategy. This is a warning sign that we are preparing to fail. In its determination to succeed, the United States must be unremitting in the pursuit of brutal prioritization of its finite national assets. We should be determined to compete in the 21st century’s most vital maritime theater as foreseen by Nicholas Spykman as the Mediterranean of Asia, with all the centrality that metaphor implies. The alternative will be to draw back east of Hawaii, focus on the homeland and Western Hemisphere, and allow others to drive the world’s future at the expense of freedom, prosperity, and our own fundamental security. – War on the Rocks
 
Southeast Asia
 
Philippine soldiers clashed Tuesday with members of a militant group known for beheading foreign hostages, leaving five rebels and four members of the security forces dead at a popular tourist destination in the central Philippines, the police and military said. – New York Times
 
Philippine police officer turned self-confessed cold-blooded killer Arturo Lascanas says he acted in the “blind belief” that he was targeting the “menaces of society”. – Financial Times
 
China and Myanmar have finally agreed to open a cross-border pipeline into south-east China, allowing Beijing to diversify oil supply routes and reduce its dependence on the contentious South China Sea. – Financial Times
 
A senior Myanmar government official on Tuesday denied there was ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in the troubled northwestern state of Rakhine, where a military operation aimed at the minority has forced 75,000 people to flee to Bangladesh. - Reuters
 
Thailand's junta lifted restrictions on movement at the country's biggest Buddhist temple on Tuesday, a month after police ended a siege of the complex whose former abbot is accused of money laundering. - Reuters
 
An Indonesian court on Tuesday adjourned the blasphemy trial of Jakarta's Christian governor until after the city's April 19 election, a contest pitting him against a Muslim rival that has divided the city and fanned religious tension. - Reuters

Security

Defense
 
Faced with pilots leaving the Air Force in droves for the airlines, top generals are considering the option of forcing some to stay in the service against their will, a senior Air Force general told CQ Roll Call. – Roll Call
 
The Navy hopes to announce on Friday the plan to fix its grounded T-45C training jets and their troubled oxygen systems, according to a Navy spokeswoman. – Washington Examiner
 
The Navy and Northrop Grumman are updating software and sensors on a new high-tech, autonomous maritime drone designed to identify and zero in on enemy ship targets at sea, service and industry officials said. – Scout Warrior
 
Missile Defense
 
The Air Force general in charge of the military’s homeland defense said she would use any additional money provided by Congress for upgrading radar to give advanced warning of the North Korean missile threat. – Military.com
 
Intelligence/Cybersecurity
 
Experts and officials are warning of the negative effects that another stopgap funding bill would have on cybersecurity, as Congress finds itself embroiled in another budget showdown. – The Hill
 
The CIA’s cyber espionage toolkit made public by WikiLeaks has been linked to 40 spying operations in 16 countries, an early public assessment of the intelligence agency’s global hacking operations, computer security company Symantec said Monday. – Associated Press

Russia/Europe

Ukraine
 
Ukraine’s central bank chief has resigned saying her job was done, creating uncertainty for Kiev’s western backers about the direction of reforms in key parts of the country’s economy. – Financial Times
 
Anders Aslund writes: [I]s the IMF good for Ukraine? Undisputedly yes. Thanks mainly to IMF loans of $8.8 billion in the last two years, Ukraine’s international currency reserves have risen from $5 billion to $16.7 billion, which has allowed the exchange rate to stabilize and inflation to be contained, offering Ukraine real possibilities to finally start growing soundly. – Atlantic Council
 
Peter Dickinson writes: Russia’s Novorossiya project has plunged the world into a new Cold War and caused untold suffering to millions of Ukrainians, but it has also consolidated Ukraine’s sense of national identity and hastened the psychological split with Russia begun in 1991. Putin’s hybrid attack was supposed to end what many in Moscow continue to see as the aberration of Ukrainian independence. Instead, it has cemented Ukraine’s place on the European map after centuries in Russia’s shadow. – Atlantic Council
 
Russia
 
The Russian programmer arrested in Spain on accusations of cyber fraud over the weekend is one of the world’s most sophisticated hackers, one who operated a vast network of compromised computers for malicious purposes, U.S. authorities alleged in court documents released Monday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
As Washington and Moscow clash over Syria, Tillerson has seized the moment to berate Russia and prove he’s no pro-Kremlin stooge. Along the way, Tillerson also is showing that, contrary to popular belief, he has plenty of influence on President Donald Trump and is increasingly coming into his own as secretary of state. - Politico
 
The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin does not plan on meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he visits Moscow on Wednesday. – The Hill
 
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez raised alarm Monday over the potential Russian takeover of a large American-based oil firm that controls numerous terminals and infrastructure in the United States. – Washington Examiner
 
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Tuesday he would keep organizing large anti-Kremlin demonstrations despite being jailed for 15 days after orchestrating the biggest protests against the authorities in years. – Reuters
 
Diane Francis writes: The same dirty tricks deployed by the KGB for decades are used in today’s Cold War 2.0, and have permeated geopolitics from Syria to Ukraine and the world’s capitals. But spies in trench coats been supplanted by Russians in tuxedos with huge bank accounts who use financial, social, and political weaponry to build tentacles that reach into the highest echelons of targeted jurisdictions. – Atlantic Council
 
Western Europe
 
A 39-year-old Uzbek man who has been held after Sweden’s worst terrorist attack in decades “admits to the crime,” his lawyer said in court on Tuesday. – New York Times
 
Sweden honored the victims of the country’s worst terrorist attack in decades with a minute of silence at noon on Monday, as the authorities formally identified the chief suspect in the assault and announced that they had questioned 600 people as part of their investigation. – New York Times
 
A casual remark about France’s wartime anti-Jewish actions by Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, threatened on Monday to derail her yearslong effort aimed at “un-demonizing” her party just as she is emerging as a strong contender in this month’s presidential election. – New York Times
 
A new poll on Tuesday showed far-left wildcard Jean-Luc Melenchon nipping at the heels of the frontrunners in France's presidential race, building on his recent surge as sniping between the top contenders gathered pace. - Reuters
 
Almost half of Germany's first-time voters back Angela Merkel, a poll by the Forsa Institut showed on Tuesday, providing a strong backbone of support for the chancellor as she prepares to bid for a fourth term in office in September. - Reuters
 
Eastern Europe
 
The occupied region of South Ossetia held a referendum Sunday for a new president and a name change — one some see as a threat to bring the region closer to Russian control. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
 
Serbia and the United States agreed to conduct six or seven joint military and police training drills, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on April 10 after meeting with U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain in Belgrade. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
The Trump administration must decide by the end of this month whether to grant Belarus continued relief from U.S. economic sanctions despite a stiff government crackdown on street demonstrations last month. - Reuters
 
The United States is concerned by Hungarian legislation it sees as targeting the Central European University (CEU) founded by financier George Soros, Washington's top diplomat for Central Eastern Europe said on Tuesday. - Reuters
 
Dimitar Bechev writes: Vučić is neither pro-EU nor is he Putin’s associate. If being pro-EU is defined as a commitment to reform, the rule of law, and accountable government, Vučić fails the test by a mile. At the same time, Vučić won’t align with Moscow but will juggle ties with the East and West to get the best deal from both. – Atlantic Council
 
NATO
 
When NATO’s chief meets Donald Trump at the White House this week, it will be a high-stakes dress rehearsal for the American president’s visit to alliance headquarters in Brussels next month. - Politico

Americas

United States of America
 
Every year, the commander of U.S. Southern Command comes before Congress to make a quickly forgotten plea for more funding and assets for operations in Latin America to a Congress consumed by more pressing problems worldwide. – DOD Buzz
 
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is calling for nearly doubling the foreign affairs budget, warning that the current level of funding is setting up the Trump administration for failure. – The Hill
 
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said Monday that President Trump's proposed cuts to the State Department would be a mistake in the wake of North Korean aggression and last week’s strikes against Syrian government forces. – The Hill
 
Michael Miller writes: It’s hard to see any winners coming out of the process as it is now shaping up. But there is a potentially constructive alternative that could better serve all sides. A shared approach between Congress and the administration on foreign aid reform provides both the best basis for cooperation and a way to address foreign aid’s seemingly perpetual political vulnerabilities. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room
 
Latin America
 
Earlier this year, U.S.-Mexican relations hit their worst crisis in decades when Presidents Donald Trump and Enrique Peña Nieto quarreled over who would pay for a proposed border wall, prompting the Mexican president to call off a planned trip to Washington. But then a funny thing happened: Mr. Trump, at the urging of senior aides, stopped attacking Mexico on Twitter and in public statements, opening up space to officials from both countries to markedly improve ties since then, U.S. and Mexican officials say. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Russia, China and Iran are increasing interest in Central and South America, especially Moscow’s renewed focus on Nicaragua, the head of U.S. Southern Command told the Senate. – USNI News
 
Venezuelan opposition supporters took to the streets again on Monday in sometimes violent clashes to protest an economic crisis and an erosion of democracy under leftist President Nicolas Maduro, in the first sustained wave of anti-government demonstrations in three years. - Reuters

Africa

The call was recorded and has now been made public, offering a rare window into the murky and intrigue-filled business of international oil dealing. The recording and other aspects of the investigation show a world involving onetime British intelligence operatives and payments made to a former Nigerian oil official to complete a deal. – New York Times
 
Niger security forces killed 57 members of Islamist militant group Boko Haram who attacked a village in the southeastern Diffa region overnight, the defense ministry said in a statement on Monday. - Reuters
 
At least 16 people were killed in the South Sudanese town of Wau on Monday, said the United Nations, as witnesses said ethnic militiamen went house to house searching for people from other groups. - Reuters
 
Somali forces who have surrounded pirates holding hostages taken from an Indian ship secured the surrender of 10 members of the band on Tuesday and enlisted the parents of the other three to persuade them to give up, officials said. - Reuters
 
The risk of mass starvation in four countries -- northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen - -is rapidly rising due to drought and conflict, the U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday. - Reuters

Trump Administration

Policy
 
President Donald Trump has told his senior advisers to prioritize his agenda over infighting as the White House focuses on what accomplishments it can tout during the president’s first 100 days in office, administration officials said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Is Trump now a humanitarian interventionist, willing to wield American military power when foreign governments threaten their own citizens? Is he a commander in chief who once warned against intervention in Syria but is now prepared to plunge the United States deeper into the conflict?...Trump would say he's simply flexible, an emerging foreign policy doctrine that leaves room for evolution and uncertainty. – Associated Press
 
Personnel
 
Three months into her job as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley has emerged as a leader in articulateng President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Advocacy groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have launched an effort on Capitol Hill to block President Trump’s new Army secretary nominee, saying his record of antagonism and hostility toward them is unacceptable. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
 
Step one, says Elliott Abrams: Get rid of Steve Bannon. “He’s not a good influence on the president,” Abrams, no man to mince words, tells me. Having the White House’s chief political strategist on the National Security Council “was a terrible mistake,” and booting him was a good start to what needs to happen. - Politico
 
Hundreds of key jobs across the federal government remain vacant as a result of an overworked White House personnel office that is frustrating Cabinet secretaries and hampering President Donald Trump’s ability to carry out his ambitious legislative agenda. - Politico
 
Editorial: Even allowing for Mr. Trump’s budget-cutting ambitions, it is dangerous to leave so many positions unfilled...Acting career officials are working hard and in good faith, but they may not have the same clout and ambition as presidential appointees. Even those who disagree with Mr. Trump’s policies should not wish for a government that is hampered by inattention and vacancy. – Washington Post

Democracy and Human Rights

Amnesty International says the total number of judicial executions worldwide dropped in 2016 from a historical high the previous year, largely due to decreases in Iran and Pakistan -- two of the world’s top executioners. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

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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