FPI Overnight Brief: August 4, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

Iran
 
President Hassan Rouhani, endorsed by Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday with a nationally televised cheek-kiss, is starting his second term under newly intense pressure from both hard-line opponents and many of his own reform-minded supporters. – New York Times
 
New U.S. sanctions targeting Iran are a breach of its nuclear deal with world powers and an attempt to abolish the accord, Iranian officials said Thursday, adding that the government will respond to what it sees as an escalation of U.S. aggression. – Washington Post
 
Syria
 
The U.S. this week bombed a suspected chemical weapons factory in Syria in order to keep increasingly desperate Islamic State fighters from using them on the battlefield, as U.S.-backed Syrian rebels continue to gain ground in the battle to liberate Raqqa. – Washington Examiner
 
A U.N. study of 43 people who left their countries to become "foreign terrorist fighters" in Syria has found that most came from disadvantaged backgrounds, lacked good education and decent jobs — and saw their Muslim religion "in terms of justice and injustice rather than in terms of piety and spirituality." – Associated Press
 
Aleppo's Old City, shelled, burned and shot up during years of fighting in Syria's civil war, can be rebuilt, the local representative of the United Nations cultural body UNESCO said. - Reuters
 
Warring sides exchanged rocket and gunfire north of the Syrian city of Homs overnight, hours after a Russia-backed truce took effect, a war monitor said on Friday, while heavy rocket fire also marred a similar deal east of the capital Damascus. - Reuters
 
Russia's defence ministry and Syria's opposition have agreed to set up a "de-escalation" zone north of the battered city of Homs, ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Russia's state - Reuters
 
Frederic Hof writes: A Syria left to the tender mercies of Iran, its foreign fighter mercenaries, the Assad regime, and Russia if Washington simply declares victory over ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State) and leaves the stage will be a Syria that incubates transnational terrorism and hemorrhages people for as far as the eye can see. For the United States to disconnect its instruments of national power from Syria after ISIS is defeated would be to double-down on the Obama administration’s misperception that chaos in Syria is containable. – Atlantic Council
 
Alexandra Gutowski writes: In late July, Russia deployed four military police battalions to monitor a pair of safe zones in Syria, including a southwestern zone negotiated with the United States. The 5,500-km2 zone, roughly the size of Delaware, shares lengthy borders with both the Golan Heights and Jordan. Russian personnel will have exclusive responsibility for monitoring the zone from positions at its perimeter. Israel has publicly opposed the U.S.-Russian agreement, raising concerns regarding Russia’s unwillingness to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from entering this zone. – Foundation for Defense of Democracies
 
Iraq
 
August 3 marks the third anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide in Iraq, human rights activists are stressing that not a single Islamic State member has been brought to justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity. – Washington Times
 
Iraqi families returning home to West Mosul nearly a month after the war-torn city was liberated from the Islamic State are facing deadly remnants left behind by the terrorist group in the form of hidden explosives and booby traps. – Washington Free Beacon
 
Key lawmakers and human rights activists who have spent the last three years trying to help religious minorities the Islamic State killed in Iraq are gratified by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent recognition of the persecution as genocide and want to ensure it translates into helping the communities survive on the ground. – Washington Free Beacon
 
A United Nations commission said on August 3 that the Islamic State is still committing genocide against the Yazidi minority in Iraq and Syria and the world has done little to counter it. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
North Africa
 
An Egyptian court sentenced 50 policemen to three years in prison on Thursday for organizing a strike against their working conditions in January, Egypt's official news agency MENA reported. - Reuters
 
Report: Although American pressure cannot transform Egypt overnight — and Sisi has no magic wand to halt terrorist attacks or sectarian violence — there are important steps the Egyptian leader could take in the near term. These include lifting travel bans on human rights defenders, releasing political prisoners, halting executions, dropping charges against activists accused in the notorious foreign funding cases — which include several American citizen defendants — and shelving the new repressive NGO law, which violates Egypt’s obligations under international law. – Human Rights First (PDF)
 
Arabian Peninsula
 
Adam and 13 other Saudi men are facing execution any day now for allegedly staging protests in the kingdom…The men were charged with terrorism-related offenses. But human rights activists and American academics say confessions from the defendants were extracted under torture and that the death sentences breach international law. Activists have launched a public appeal to Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to dismiss the sentences. – Washington Post
 
The meeting hinted at the UAE’s drive for influence across the Middle East, using military power, diplomacy and covert means to bolster allies and counter rivals. Its role in Yemen and other recent actions has caused friction with the United States, complicating their decades-long military relationship. – Washington Post
 
Qatar, isolated by its Arab neighbors in an intensifying diplomatic standoff, is accelerating efforts to bolster its economy and security. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
The Gulf’s tightly controlled media has traditionally been the epitome of deference when it came to reporting on the states’ ruling monarchies and regional politics. But Al Arabiya’s decision to drop all Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s titles underlines how the region’s media outlets have become core weapons in the diplomatic crisis that pits Saudi Arabia and three Arab allies against Qatar. – Financial Times
 
Yemeni troops, backed by the United States and the United Arab Emirates, conducted raids against the local affiliate of al Qaeda in Shabwa province on Thursday, the Emirati state news agency WAM said. - Reuters
 
Max Singer writes: Most people who worry about potential radicalization in Indonesia and India would agree that there is little chance it will happen without large amounts of Saudi money. If the U.S. could convince the Saudis to keep their cash out of Indonesia and India, it would go a long way toward assuring eventual victory for moderate Islam. As Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, has argued for many years: “Radical Islam is the problem; moderate Islam is the solution.” – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Israel
 
Saeb Erekat, the legendary Palestinian leader and chief negotiator with Israel for the last two decades, is renowned for his persistence against all odds and for a steel-trap legal mind. But the challenge he faces today may be his most daunting. At 62, Erekar is suffering from advanced pulmonary fibrosis, a debilitating condition that can be cured only by a lung transplant. – Los Angeles Times
 
Legislation that would cut U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority until it stops payments to terrorists and their families passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with bipartisan support. – Washington Free Beacon
 
Turkey
 
The Turkish crackdown has primarily targeted large American aid agencies, including Mercy Corps and the International Medical Corps, which were expelled from the country in March and April, respectively. But Turkish authorities have more recently ratcheted up pressure on Syrian aid workers, who have faced lengthy detentions and the threat of deportation to foreign countries, including Sudan, which accepts Syrians without visas. – Foreign Policy
 
Turkey’s top diplomat vowed Thursday to root out militants plotting against China, signaling closer cooperation against suspected Uighur militants hailing from China’s far west who have long been a sore point in bilateral relations. – Associated Press
 
Interview: As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg works to broker a compromise between the two countries, The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke with Director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Soner Cagaptay, about what effect this will have on the future of Turkish relations with the EU and place within NATO, and how will this affect U.S. policy in the region. – The Cipher Brief

Asia

Afghanistan
 
President Donald Trump’s top national-security advisers are searching for a way to overcome the commander-in-chief’s reluctance to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan as divisions on the National Security Council complicate strategy for the 16-year-old war, officials said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
A NATO soldier was killed and six others, including a translator, were wounded when a suicide bomber attacked their patrol Thursday in eastern Afghanistan, marking the second incident in just as many days when insurgent attacks have killed Western troops. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
 
Senior GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker are rejecting White House suggestions that the general in charge of American-led forces in Afghanistan is responsible for losing the war and needs to be replaced. – Washington Free Beacon
 
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ripped President Trump's handling of the Afghanistan War on Thursday, saying the White House has failed to provide strategic guidance since Trump took office. – The Hill
 
Frustrated by his options, President Donald Trump is withholding approval of a long-delayed Afghanistan war strategy and even mulling a radical shakeup in his national security team as he searches for a “game changer” after 16 years of indecisive conflict. – Associated Press
 
Editorial: Mr. Trump may chafe that he has to spend more money and political capital on Afghanistan, but U.S. Presidents can’t withdraw from national commitments without consequences…Walking away from Afghanistan, or overruling his generals to satisfy the isolationism of his political base, would show that he’s more like Barack Obama than he wants to admit. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
South/Central Asia
 
China’s military has warned India not to underestimate its resolve to hold a mountainous piece of land at the heart of a standoff between the two Asian powers. – New York Times
 
A propaganda video intended to show Turkmenistan’s president as a strong leader who knows his weapons instead became the butt of a global joke. When the repressive regime exalted its president this week with footage portraying him as a military man of action, an exiled opposition publication spliced in clips of Arnold Schwarzenegger suiting up in the 1985 action movie “Commando.” – New York Times
 
Pakistan's new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday formed a cabinet filled with allies of toppled leader Nawaz Sharif, in a reshuffle that appears aimed at bolstering support ahead of general elections due in mid-2018. - Reuters
 
Sadanand Dhume writes: In short, in most of South Asia, they leave it to voters — not to generals or judges — to turf out unpopular or irresponsible leaders. Pakistan’s inability to grasp this principle places it in the company of the troubled Middle Eastern countries to its west, rather than with the often struggling but nonetheless hopeful democracies to its east. – AEI Ideas
 
China
 
Chinese censors tested on Thursday a new way of shutting down websites and cutting off the country’s internet users from the rest of the world. The censorship drill targeted tools that many in China use to thwart the country’s vast online censorship system, though internet companies said it also hit some sites at random. – New York Times
 
A court in southern China sentenced a blogger to four years in prison for his work documenting mass unrest around the country – New York Times
 
In the latest delay of a White House trade move, a planned Friday announcement of President Donald Trump's trade action against China has been postponed, two people familiar with the matter said. - Politico
 
Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative is part and parcel of President Xi Jinping’s strategy to solidify China’s emergence as a great economic and military power, a leading expert on Asian economies said Wednesday. – USNI News
 
A Chinese professor who called the founder of modern China Mao Zedong a "devil" on social media said on Friday he had been sacked by a prominent Beijing university. - Reuters
 
Josh Rogin reports: As one of its final acts before leaving town, the Senate is set to pass a resolution Thursday calling on China to allow Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, to leave China. The nonbinding resolution would also declare the view of the Senate that the U.S. government should give Liu Xia permanent resident status in the United States. – Washington Post
 
Editorial: Chinese internet users post a variety of opinions, like their counterparts in the rest of the world. The difference is that explicitly antigovernment comments are glimpsed only briefly before they are removed. It seems Tencent forgot to erase the forbidden thoughts from the memory of its chatbots. They effectively became a record of prevailing opinions without the filter of censorship. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
East Asia
 
The American-led effort to isolate North Korea from all aspects of the international community has apparently spread to New Zealand, where a group of North Korean academics — including a historian, a philosopher and a linguist — were denied visas for a conference this week. – Washington Post
 
Following North Korea’s July 28 launch of what the Pentagon has termed an intercontinental ballistic missile, the South Korean government has called for increased deployment of launchers for its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system — an apparent change of heart for the new government of South Korean President Moon Jae-in. – Defense News
 
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's support bounced up after a cabinet reshuffle, media polls showed on Friday, a development likely to help tighten his grip on power, shaken by recent scandals and a crushing loss in Tokyo elections. - Reuters
 
Olivia Enos writes: Going forward, the United States should take heed of its past “powerplays” and use them to capitalize on the strength of its alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. It should also take advantage of the benefits afforded the United States as a result of its foresight and strong partnerships in Asia. – The National Interest
 
Southeast Asia
 
The United States' top diplomat is expected to raise concerns about human rights in the Philippines when he visits Manila this week for Asia's biggest security forum, including during possible talks with President Rodrigo Duterte. – Associated Press
 
Alarm over North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile tests, a germinal step to temper South China Sea disputes and unease over a disastrous siege by pro-Islamic State group militants will grab the spotlight in an annual gathering of Southeast Asia's top diplomats with their Asian and Western counterparts. – Associated Press
 
Energy-hungry Myanmar is in initial talks to buy electricity from China, according to officials and documents reviewed by Reuters, in the latest sign of warming ties with Beijing under leader Aung San Suu Kyi. - Reuters
 
Suspected insurgents killed at least six members of a Buddhist ethnic minority in western Myanmar on Thursday, the government and regional sources said, amid spiraling violence in troubled Rakhine state. - Reuters
 
Editorial: Congress can take a stand against Mr. Duterte’s assault on basic rights. Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have introduced a bill to restrict the supply of defense equipment to the Philippine National Police, the force that is leading the drug war. This act could be a strong rebuke to Mr. Duterte, especially if it is supplemented with calls for an independent U.N. investigation into the government’s brutal anti-drug campaign. – Washington Post
 
Australia
 
The Australian police described on Friday an elaborate terrorist plot in which two men from Sydney tried to place an explosive supplied by the Islamic State on a flight last month, an operation that officials said was among “the most sophisticated plots that has ever been attempted on Australian soil.” – New York Times

Security

Defense
 
As the Navy searches for the best design for its future frigate, some are promoting an option based on the Coast Guard’s national security cutter. – DOD Buzz
 
The Air Force is engineering and testing a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said. – Scout Warrior
 
Strategic Issues
 
A decision to place the U.S. Missile Defense Agency under the Pentagon’s new research branch could pay dividends for an agency that has seen its research and development capabilities shrink in recent years. – Defense News
 
The future of nuclear weapons might not be huge and mega destructive but smaller, tactical, and frighteningly, more common. The U.S. Air Force is investigating more options for “variable yield” bombs  — nukes that can be dialed down to blow up an area as small as a neighborhood, or dialed up for a much larger punch. – Defense One
 
In a moment of utter lucidity on the topic, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva outlined just what the standards and broad actions are governing the most grim order anyone would ever have to make. He spoke at a breakfast on nuclear issues sponsored by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute. – Breaking Defense
 
Cybersecurity
 
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has improved its information security controls since a breach of its systems affected nearly 22 million Americans, but it needs to take further action to guard against cybersecurity threats, according to government auditors. – The Hill
 
A Russian citizen has been sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison for his role in a global conspiracy that involved installing malware on thousands of computers to generate millions in fraudulent payments. – The Hill
 
A cyber security researcher widely credited with helping to neutralize the global "WannaCry" ransomware attack earlier this year has been arrested on unrelated hacking charges, according to court documents unsealed on Thursday. - Reuters

Russia/Europe

Ukraine
 
Resolutions from the UN General Assembly and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region have been presented at the trial of Mykola Semena, an RFE/RL contributor who is fighting what he says is a politically motivated separatism charge. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
Mikheil Saakashvili writes: Ukraine deserves so much more. I am committed to helping defend this great nation both from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is undermining it from the outside, and from Poroshenko and the other oligarchs, who are destroying it from the inside. Even though I am barred from reentering Ukraine, I will continue to fight for my rights as a citizen and will continue to work for the best policies for the country. – Washington Post
 
Russia
 
President Donald Trump laid the blame on Congress Thursday for what he described as the deterioration to an “all-time & very dangerous low” of relations with Russia, a day after he signed a bill that slaps sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 elections. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
The legal troubles of Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s most high-profile opposition leader, continued on Thursday with a court in Moscow fining him the equivalent of almost $5,000 on charges of organizing a public event without permission from the authorities. – New York Times
 
They are Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite motorcycle gang, but the black-clad Night Wolves may soon be struggling for cash after being snubbed in the most recent round of presidential grants, while struggling organizations labeled “foreign agents” by the Kremlin have been approved for funding. – Washington Times
 
The CEO of Russia’s pipeline monopoly reportedly said that the new U.S. sanctions legislation will not affect his company. – The Hill
 
The U.S. military is moving toward more global exercises to better prepare for a more assertive Russia and other worldwide threats, a senior officer said in an interview with Reuters. - Reuters
 
Eli Lake writes: The steady drumbeat of stories disclosing details of the FBI investigation into possible Trump World collusion with Russia; intercepted communications between Russian officials about contacts with Trump advisers; and the leaked conversations of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn with the Russian ambassador. All this boxed the president in on Russia. Trump compounded these problems by falsely denying contacts between his campaign and Russians and then firing FBI Director James Comey. - Bloomberg View

Europe
 
As Germany stiffens its stance on immigration, in a manner at odds with the open-door policy for which it is known, deportation has emerged as critical measure of state security. The case of Ahmad A. appeared to reveal gaps in that architecture, a point reflected in the outcry of politicians and the media. – Washington Post
 
U.S. soldiers are busy training Georgian infantrymen to defend their borders, working just 40 miles from where Russian troops occupy the breakaway region of South Ossetia. – Stars and Stripes

Americas

United States of America
 
Tillerson has embarked on a wide-ranging operation to reorganize Foggy Bottom in ways that worry many foreign policy experts. – Los Angeles Times
 
Federal prosecutors are investigating Kushner Companies, the real estate firm owned by the family of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, over its use of a program that grants visas to wealthy overseas investors. – New York Times
 
The Pentagon moved a step closer to buying two deeply discounted 747 jumbo jets from Boeing Co. for the next Air Force One fleet after four congressional panels approved a request to shift $195 million in funding, according to congressional aides. - Bloomberg
 
The Trump administration has officially launched a review of an Obama-era drone export policy, with expectations in industry that the administration will make it easier to export U.S.-manufactured systems. – Defense News
 
Almost one month after it was disclosed that former President Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice was unmasking members of President Trump’s team and other Americans, Trump’s own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, sent an official letter giving her unfettered and continuing access to classified information and waiving her “need-to-know” requirement on anything she viewed or received during her tenure, Circa has confirmed. - Circa
 
Michael Flynn, President Trump's first national security adviser, filed an amended financial disclosure form Thursday providing new details on his contacts during the presidential transition and his work as a consultant. – Washington Examiner
 
White House Leaks
 
President Trump made building a wall along the southern U.S. border and forcing Mexico to pay for it core pledges of his campaign. But in his first White House call with Mexico’s president, Trump described his vow to charge Mexico as a growing political problem, pressuring the Mexican leader to stop saying publicly that his government would never pay. – Washington Post
 
Democrats and Republicans on Thursday said they were worried about the leak of dozens of pages to the Washington Post detailing a phone call President Trump had with two foreign leaders. – Washington Examiner
 
Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be joined by intelligence officials early Friday in a briefing on the leaks of classified information that have plagued the Trump administration. – Washington Examiner
 
Russian Election Interference
 
Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s presidential election, has issued subpoenas from a Washington-based grand jury in recent weeks, according to several lawyers involved in the case. – New York Times
 
Two bipartisan pairs of senators unveiled legislation Thursday to prevent President Trump from firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III without cause — or at least a reason good enough to convince a panel of federal judges. – Washington Post
 
Federal investigators exploring whether Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russian spies have seized on Trump and his associates' financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, according to people familiar with the investigation. - CNN
 
President Donald Trump used a campaign-style rally Thursday night to level a sustained attack on the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, just hours after news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller had tapped a grand jury as part of the wide-ranging probe. - Politico
 
Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to during President Trump's campaign, has been the subject of a foreign surveillance warrant since 2014. – Washington Examiner
 
Two Republican House Intelligence Committee staffers traveled to London earlier this summer to track down the former British intelligence operative who compiled a controversial dossier on President Donald Trump and Russia, according to three people familiar with the matter. - Politico
 
John Sipher and Steve Hall write: The overall Russian intent is clear: disruption of the United States political system and society, a goal that in the Russian view was best served by a Trump presidency. What remains to be determined is whether the Russians also attempted to suborn members of the Trump team in an effort to gain their cooperation. This is why the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is so important. It is why the F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation, also quietly progressing in the background, is critical. – New York Times
 
Military Issues
 
A majority of voters in military households think transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military, according to a new survey. – The Hill
 
President Donald Trump’s tweets declaring transgender people unwelcome in the armed forces have plunged the Pentagon into a legal and moral quagmire, sparking a flurry of meetings to devise a new policy that could lead to hundreds of service members being discharged. – Associated Press
 
Latin America
 
The leaked transcript of a phone call between President Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto published Thursday by The Washington Post left some Mexicans flabbergasted, even in a country where politics is commonly called surreal and where embarrassing phone calls by politicians are often filtered to the media. – Washington Post
 
A lethal combination of corruption and criminal gangs fighting for control of a booming heroin trade has turned one two-lane road in Mexico’s Guerrero state into what many call “the corridor of death.” – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), long the country's dominant political force, must recognize its future may lie in sharing power with longtime rivals, one of its most senior lawmakers said. - Reuters
 
Emanuele Ottolenghi and Michaela Frai write: Despite strong religious intolerance and hate speech laws, the Brazilian government allowed Araki’s visit, stirring outrage in the country’s religious communities. This trip should be the last of its kind for any Iranian clerics promoting radicalization and hatred. Latin American governments should take stock of Iranian-backed radical activities such as his lecture tour and work closely with local governments and organizations to prevent the spread of Iranian-backed extremism in Latin America, especially under the conceit of moderation. – Real Clear Defense
 
Venezuela
 
Venezuela’s attorney general on Thursday sought a court order to halt the installation of a new National Assembly because of the suspected commission of crimes during last weekend’s vote to elect delegates. – Los Angeles Times
 
The assembly includes representatives for Venezuelans from all walks of life — fishermen, farmers, students, oil workers — as well as hundreds of local delegates from every municipality, large and small. Many are neophytes who have never held political office before. But if there is one thing that seems to unite them, it is a will to stifle political dissent. – New York Times
 
Venezuelan intelligence agents have returned opposition leader Antonio Ledezma to his home, where he is serving house arrest, after taking him to prison early on Tuesday, Ledezma's wife said via Twitter on Friday. - Reuters
 
South American trade bloc Mercosur will trigger its democratic clause this weekend to suspend Venezuela indefinitely and not allow it back until democracy is restored, a Brazilian government source said on Thursday. - Reuters

Africa

West Africa
 
A South African tourist who was abducted nearly six years ago from an inn in Timbuktu, Mali, by the North African branch of Al Qaeda has been freed, officials said on Thursday. – New York Times
 
The U.S. State Department has approved a $593 million foreign military sale to Nigeria, including 12 A-29 Super Tucano light-attack aircraft, in order to further the nation’s campaign against the militant group Boko Haram. – Defense News
 
East Africa
 
Rwandans went to the polls on Friday in an election that was widely expected to extend the long rule of President Paul Kagame, who has guided the country with a steady hand following a genocide two decades ago. – New York Times
 
The murder of an election official, a proliferation of fake news and the activities of secretive political technology companies have raised tensions in [Kenya,] a country that saw over 1,000 people die and hundreds of thousands displaced in election violence a decade ago. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Somalia's militant Islamist group al Shabaab seized a town in the south of the country early on Friday after it was abandoned by the military and African Union-mandated (AMISOM) peacekeepers, residents said. - Reuters
 
The Trump administration gave $169 million to feed people facing starvation in Ethiopia and Kenya, USAID said on Thursday, adding to earlier assistance for those suffering from drought and conflict in four other nations. - Reuters
 
Southern Africa
 
Police arrested a Zambian opposition leader on Thursday and said he would be charged with defaming President Edgar Lungu, an offence that carries a maximum five-year prison term. - Reuters

Trump Administration

Kelly
 
In his six months as Homeland Security secretary, John F. Kelly often described the White House as one of the most dysfunctional organizations he had ever seen, complained to colleagues and allies about its meddling, incompetence and recklessness, and was once so angry he briefly considered quitting. Now as President Trump’s chief of staff, he is doing something about it — with a suddenness and force that have upended the West Wing. – New York Times
 
When new White House chief of staff John Kelly huddled with senior staff on his first day at work, he outlined a key problem in President Donald Trump’s White House that he planned to fix: bad information getting into the president’s hands. Kelly told the staff that information needed to flow through him — whether on paper or in briefings — because the president would make better decisions if given good information. - Politico
 
NSC
 
National security adviser H.R. McMaster, who has waged a pitched battle with other senior staff for control over policy and personnel on the National Security Council, is taking advantage of the shield offered by the arrival of his old military colleague John Kelly as White House chief of staff. - Politico
 
Empowered by a new chief of staff and goosed by a president angry over a lack of progress, National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is sweeping out some of the White House’s most fervent ideologues and Trump loyalists. But McMaster has to move fast, senior administration officials tell The Daily Beast. – The Daily Beast
 
After a protracted battle between the White House and the CIA over candidates, President Donald Trump has hired a career CIA analyst to become his senior director for Africa, two people familiar with the matter told BuzzFeed News. – Buzz Feed
 
James Kitfield writes: Taken as a group, Trump’s generals have tended to see their mission as twofold: The first job is to correct what senior military officers see as the mistakes of the Obama administration, a hesitancy to use force or commit troops that many allies perceived as a retreat from traditional U.S. commitments in the world. The second job—and the far riskier one—is to mitigate the damage caused by their boss. – Politico
 
Personnel
 
The Senate prepared to begin its August recess Thursday after quickly approving a batch of 65 Trump administration nominees, but four remaining Defense Department picks awaiting confirmation did not make the cut. – Washington Examiner

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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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