FPI Overnight Brief: March 14, 2016

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

Iran
 
The United States rebuked Iran on Friday over a series of “provocative and destabilizing” ballistic missile tests this week and all but accused the Iranians of having violated a United Nations Security Council resolution that calls on them to refrain from such acts. – New York Times
 
European Union foreign ministers will weigh a response to Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests on Monday as the Obama administration considers what steps it should take – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Iran's ballistic missile tests are reigniting the debate over sanctions and putting new pressure on the Obama administration. – The Hill
 
Syria
 
Still looking far from ready to compromise, representatives from Syria’s government and opposition arrived here Sunday ahead of another round of U.N.-backed negotiations to end their catastrophic civil war. – Washington Post
 
But even before the scheduled start of the U.N.-sponsored negotiations, the opposition and Damascus have staked out apparently irreconcilable positions on Assad's fate. – Los Angeles Times
 
The deal, brokered by Washington and Moscow, is in many ways flawed and problematic, and dozens of airstrikes and bombardments still occur daily. But the death toll, and the level of fear, have sharply decreased, and Mr. de Mistura said last week that the cease-fire, originally planned for two weeks, could continue indefinitely. – New York Times
 
Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria attacked a Western-backed rebel faction, taking over bases and seizing U.S.-supplied weapons in a sign of rising tension among regime opponents, members of the rebel faction and residents said Sunday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
The rebels played into the government’s hands by tolerating the rise of the radicals and facilitating the emergence of the Islamic State, Ford said. “Not until 2014 did they realize their error with the Islamic State, and they are still coordinating with Nusra,” he said. – Washington Post
 
One-third of all Syrian children were born in the five years that conflict has convulsed their country, the United Nations said on Monday in a report that suggests a new lost generation. – New York Times
 
The Pentagon acknowledged Friday that ground-based rocket artillery fired from Jordan was used to strike targets in southern Syria last week, marking an expansion to U.S. ground operations in the war against the Islamic State – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Syria on Sunday of trying to torpedo the restart of peace talks by refusing a United Nations proposal to begin discussing the fate of President Bashar al-Assad. – Foreign Policy
 
A push to restart the Pentagon’s program to train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is facing early opposition from Congress. – The Hill
 
Matthew Levitt and AJ Beloff write: Whatever the outcome of the State Department's deliberations, civilian protection must clearly have a more prominent place in the counter-ISIS coalition's tactics and strategy. ISIS will ultimately be defeated, but in the interim, the group's declared and determined campaign of ultra-violence targeting civilians — including entire ethnic and religious groups — must be countered. The strategy to defeat ISIS should include degrading the group's ability to conduct operations and carry out acts of violence, but it must also involve protecting local populations from risk of mass atrocities. – The Hill
 
Iraq
 
The Islamic State launched two chemical attacks this week near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing a toddler, wounding some 600 people and causing hundreds more to flee, Iraqi officials said Saturday – Washington Post
 
Despite withdrawing its strike aircraft from participation in the anti-Islamic State coalition in Iraq and Syria, Canada’s new government has moved to reassure the United States that it will boost its overall contribution to the U.S.-led campaign. – Washington Post
 
Military commanders in Iraq are drafting plans for U.S. troops to accompany Iraqi brigades as they move to retake Mosul from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, according to two U.S. defense officials. – The Hill
 
The U.S. has no intention of setting up a permanent site for the detention and interrogation of terror suspects in Iraq and will only hold them for periods loosely defined as "short term," a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said Friday. – Military.com
 
Britain said Saturday it was sending more troops to Iraq to bolster its mission training up the armed forces taking on the Islamic State jihadist group. - AFP
 
ISIS
 
Islamic State leaders have made sexual slavery as they believe it was practiced during the Prophet Muhammad’s time integral to the group’s operations, preying on the women and girls the group captured from the Yazidi religious minority almost two years ago. To keep the sex trade running, the fighters have aggressively pushed birth control on their victims so they can continue the abuse unabated while the women are passed among them. – New York Times
 
The Obama administration is nearing a decision on whether to formally declare that Islamic State group atrocities against religious minorities, including Christians, constitute "genocide." – Associated Press
 
North Africa
 
The U.S. and European powers on Sunday threatened sanctions against Libyans who block the formation of a unified national government, seeking to end political gridlock in the oil-rich nation amid mounting fears it is becoming a haven for Islamic State. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Libya is re-emerging as a major topic in American political life in part because Isis has used the continued chaos in the country to gain territory, sparking a new debate about western intervention, and because of the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, as one of the main supporters of military action. – Financial Times
 
[A]s fuller details of the Ben Guerdan fighting emerge, the incident highlights the risk Tunisia faces from home-grown jihadists drawn to Iraq, Syria and Libya, and who have threatened to bring their war back home. - Reuters
 
Egypt
 
Egypt’s Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind was removed from his position on Sunday after he said that even the Prophet Muhammad would be jailed if he broke the law. – Los Angeles Times
 
The Egyptian parliament has approved government plans to secure a €3.37 billion (US $3.76 billion) loan to fund the acquisition of weapons and military equipment, including Navy vessels and fighter jets, as part of the country's ongoing force modernization program, a new parliamentary report has said. – Defense News
 
Over the past two years Egypt has witnessed its harshest crackdown on dissent in decades, say rights groups. They have documented a sharp rise in restrictions on basic freedoms, and an increase in torture and deaths in custody which some analysts say is a sign that the security establishment feels empowered under Mr Sisi. – Financial Times
 
Arabian Peninsula
 
A year later, the war has been a humanitarian disaster for Yemen and a study in the perils of the Obama administration’s push to get Middle Eastern countries to take on bigger military roles in their neighborhood…American spy agencies have concluded that Yemen’s branch of Al Qaeda has only grown more powerful in the chaos. The Obama administration has in the meantime been whipsawed by criticism from all sides. – New York Times
 
Saudi Arabia goes to notorious lengths to prevent unsanctioned romance. So citizens of this conservative kingdom are increasingly turning to social media networks to pursue relationships and plan forbidden rendezvous, people here say. – Washington Post
 
Israel
 
Israel struck at Hamas military bases in the Gaza Strip overnight, killing a 10-year-old boy and his 6-year-old sister, a Palestinian official said on Saturday. The airstrikes came after Palestinian militants fired rockets toward Israeli border communities late Friday. – New York Times
 
Three Palestinians carried out back-to-back gun and car-ramming attacks on Israelis near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank on Monday and were shot dead by the army, it said. - Reuters
 
Elliott Abrams writes: It may seem hard to believe that the United Nations can hold any new surprises when it comes to unprincipled attacks on Israel, but never despair: There is always farther to fall. – National Review Online
 
Turkey
 
A large blast ripped through the heart of Ankara, Turkey’s capital, on Sunday, killing at least 34 people and injuring 125, government officials said. – New York Times
 
Turkish investigators suspect Kurdish separatists carried out a deadly car bombing in Ankara that killed at least 37 people in an attack that raised new fears that the country is heading into a destabilizing war. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Russia on Sunday accused Turkey of sending its military across the Syrian border to prevent Kurdish groups there from consolidating their positions, while Turkish authorities imposed curfews on two mainly Kurdish towns where Turkey's security forces are set to launch large-scale operations against Kurdish militants. – Associated Press

Asia

Afghanistan
 
An Afghan insurgent leader blacklisted by the United Nations will join peace talks with the Kabul government, in a potential boost to flagging U.S. efforts to broker an end to Afghanistan’s years-long war. – Washington Post
 
The outgoing commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan pressed civilian leaders in the months before he left Kabul to expand the American role there, shedding light on what he called a slow and inefficient decision-making process as he prepares to retire. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
 
The former commander of the war in Afghanistan, who is about to retire, said he urged the White House to more aggressively target the Taliban insurgency and expand the American-led training mission for the Afghan security forces. – Military Times
 
The summer fighting season in Afghanistan is potentially "a very, very tough" one for Afghan security forces, who have been slow to give up their defensive-minded approach to fighting the Taliban, a senior US general said Friday. – Associated Press
 
India
 
India and Japan are in talks to collaborate on upgrading civilian infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian archipelago seen as a critical asset to counter China’s efforts to expand its maritime reach into the Indian Ocean. – New York Times
 
China
 
China’s formidable propaganda apparatus came under renewed attack on Friday, when a denunciation spread online in the name of an employee of Xinhua, the main state-run news agency. The letter accused censors of using tactics reminiscent of Maoist times to silence and smear critics. – New York Times
 
China’s newly-appointed securities regulator struck a cautious tone in his media debut, promising sustained government support for the battered stock markets and new intervention should unusual volatility recur. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
China is exploring a new way to grapple with its mounting pile of bad corporate debt, though its top central banker sought on Saturday to dispel worries that the plan would simply shift the burden to other parts of the country’s vast economy. – New York Times
 
Factories and retailers in China put in weaker-than-expected performances in the first two months of the year, as anemic demand and excess capacity continued to bear down on the world’s second-largest economy. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Protests by angry workers at a vast failing state coal mine in the rust belt of northeastern China have forced a senior official to admit that he understated their problems, and signaled how President Xi Jinping’s plans to shake up slumping state-owned industries could run into resistance. – New York Times
 
High-speed rail opponents angry about billions of dollars in cost overruns and concerned about threats to Hong Kong's autonomy failed Friday in a final effort to halt an extension of mainland China's bullet train into the city. – Los Angeles Times
 
[T]wo drafts later, a “Foreign NGO Management Law” still has not passed, raising questions as to if the government is reconsidering whether the national security-driven legislation could crimp international cooperation in areas it cares about — such as education, industry and the environment — as it seeks to expand the economy in new ways. – NYT’s Sinosphere
 
China has waged a campaign to extinguish terrorist violence in its Central Asian frontier region of Xinjiang. Its effectiveness is hard to assess from the government’s latest statistics. – WSJ’s China Real Time
 
The Chinese government has threatened to halt judicial co-operation with the US if a federal prosecutor does not agree to return one of Beijing’s most wanted men, according to Chinese and US officials familiar with the extradition negotiations. – Financial Times
 
China hit back at the United States over its human rights record on Monday, bringing out government-backed academics to accuse Washington of everything from promoting Islamic State to being a racist plutocracy. - Reuters
 
Korean Peninsula
 
North Korea claimed Sunday that it could wipe out Manhattan by sending a hydrogen bomb on a ballistic missile to the heart of New York City, the latest in a string of brazen threats. – Washington Post
 
Mr. Jang was convicted of treason in 2013. He was executed at the same place and in the same way as his deputies, the South Korean intelligence agency said. The book asserts that although he was a fixture of the North Korean political elite for decades, he dreamed of reforming his country. “With his execution, North Korea lost virtually the only person there who could have helped the country introduce reform and openness,” Mr. Ra said during a recent interview. – New York Times
 
Waves of amphibious landing craft came ashore here on Saturday in the showpiece event of a major U.S. and South Korean military drill that was slammed by North Korea with threats of retaliation. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Escalating threats from North Korea’s communist regime are indicators of a future military attack or another nuclear test in the coming days, according to a recent U.S. intelligence assessment. – Washington Free Beacon
 
A North Korean People’s Navy submarine is missing and presumed sunk, a U.S. official told USNI News on Friday. – USNI News
 
The United Nations human rights investigator for North Korea called on Monday for leader Kim Jong Un and senior officials in the country to be prosecuted for committing crimes against humanity. - Reuters
 
East Asia
 
Taiwan president-elect Tsai Ing-wen will appoint a former finance minister, Lin Chuan, as premier, her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said on Monday, a move that suggests one of Tsai's top priorities is the economy. - Reuters
 
FPI Executive Director Chris Griffin writes: Japan’s March 11, 2011 disaster, as well as the response that followed, serve as reminders that America’s global alliances are of too great importance to be mocked for political points. The next president would do well to continue the efforts of his or her predecessors to strengthen these relationships against whatever challenges the future may hold. – Foreign Policy Initiative
 
David Kramer writes: Abe’s visit to Putin in Sochi is sure to heighten European and American sensitivity to Japanese interests. But Abe, people with whom I met said, will not soften his position with respect to Moscow as long as Russia occupies Ukrainian territory and violates its sovereignty. Let’s hope the Europeans and Americans maintain a similarly tough and principled stance. – The American Interest
 
Southeast Asia
 
China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea is putting Philippine presidential candidates in a tricky situation, as they struggle to balance tough talk on national sovereignty with a desire to improve ties and boost trade with their country’s powerful neighbor. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Myanmar’s powerful military released 46 child soldiers from service, state media reported Sunday, the latest move towards ending a scourge that has long beset the nation. - AFP

Security

Air Force
 
Concern is mounting on Capitol Hill after recent tests revealed a lightweight F-35 pilot's neck could snap when ejecting at certain speeds. – Defense News
 
Concerns about increased risk of injury to F-35 pilots during low-speed ejections have prompted the US military services to temporarily restrict pilots who weigh less than 136 pounds from flying the aircraft, Defense News has learned. – Defense News
 
Despite concerns over the safety of lightweight pilots flying the F-35, the vast majority of pilots do not face excessive risk of neck damage during an ejection, the chief of the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office (JPO) argued in front of Congress this week. – Defense News
 
The F-35 joint program office will begin testing the first prototype of the new, lightweight Generation III helmet later this month, with the hope of resolving by November issues with the jet’s escape system that have kept some pilots grounded. – Defense News
 
As the Air Force's most advanced aircraft, the F-22 is in such high demand that Raptor pilots and crews are constantly deploying for training and wartime missions. – Defense News
 
The chief of the F-35 joint program office expects engine-maker Pratt & Whitney’s work on the new B-21 bomber to reduce the cost of the next-generation fighter jet’s engine, the F135. – Defense News
 
The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb-truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to fifth-generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said. – Defense Tech
 
Defense
 
Perhaps the only thing U.S. military leaders know about their next fighter jet is this: they want the program to go better than the F-35’s did. – Defense One
 
The Navy will have to continue expanding its own integrated fire control network and exploiting weaknesses in adversaries’ networks to succeed in a future operating environment that includes ever-advancing long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the chief of naval operations said. – USNI News
 
With the path to the elite SEAL teams opening to women, female special operator hopefuls could be entering the military's most arduous training by late summer. – Military Times
 
After Commandant Gen. Robert Neller called on “disruptive thinkers” to help solve the Corps’ persistent problems, Marine Corps Times asked readers to submit their best ideas. – Military Times
 
Robert Hale writes: The impending bow wave of funding requirements will significantly complicate the DoD management challenges confronting the next Administration. However, through artful use of the techniques described above, the Pentagon can limit inefficiencies while meeting high-priority defense requirements. – Breaking Defense
 
Missile Defense
 
Richard Weitz writes: Unfortunately, the Missile Defense Agency is constrained by outdated U.S. defense spending limits. Whatever the dubious merits of the sequestration mechanism in the Budget Control Act of 2011, the world has changed tremendously during the last few years, and not for the better. Boosting BMD is a prudent, cost-effective response – Defense One
 
Intelligence/The War
 
[US intelligence officials’] forecast calls for a slowing global economy dragged down by sluggish growth in China, and political volatility across the world, spurred by disillusionment with the status quo. Insecurity will deepen rifts among social classes and religious groups. Extremists will consolidate into large-scale networks across Africa, the Arab world and parts of Asia. – Associated Press
 
Editorial: Few days go by now without at least one mass-casualty terrorist attack somewhere in the world. Two such attacks on Sunday, in the Ivory Coast and Turkey, killed 39 people combined…. Welcome to what is becoming the new global terrorist normal. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Nonproliferation
 
Editorial: Without in any way easing the pressure on Mr. Putin over Ukraine or Syria, the United States and Russia ought to realize that Islamic State terrorists interested in nuclear materials in Belgium are a threat to all countries, and one worth talking about. – Washington Post
 
Douglas Feith writes: Undermining our alliances will spawn various ills, including the spread of nuclear weapons. Even if Americans someday replaced President Trump with a responsible person of sound judgment, the harm would probably be irreversible. – National Review Online

Russia/Europe

Ukraine
 
Two years on from the protests that ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s revolution is confronting its central paradox: many of the leaders who emerged from it were veterans of the oligarch-dominated political system it aimed to sweep away. – Financial Times
 
Russia
 
A nonprofit group that promotes democracy has become the latest American-linked group to be banned in Russia under restrictions on “undesirable” organizations signed into law by President Vladimir V. Putin in May. – New York Times
 
Now, protests are popping up around this vast nation, as Russians complain about their strained pocketbooks. Even as Putin’s ratings stay sky-high, the number of Russians who think their country is on the right track plummeted from 64 percent in June to 45 percent in January, according to the independent Levada polling firm, before rebounding slightly last month alongside energy prices. It is another vote of no-confidence as pessimism takes hold of the country. – Washington Post
 
Editorial: In other words, the accord remains an instrument by which the West ties Kiev’s hands while Moscow continues to violate Ukrainian sovereignty with impunity. Ukrainians remain defiant, and Lt. Savchenko has become the main international symbol of Kiev’s resistance against the bully next door. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Western Europe
 
In his much-discussed interview with The Atlantic magazine, President Obama unloaded on a number of American allies: Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Persian Gulf countries. On Friday, a White House official walked back Mr. Obama’s comments about the closest of the allies, Britain, and its prime minister, David Cameron. – New York Times
 
U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne said Sunday that he would need to make fresh cuts to public spending to meet his goal of balancing Britain’s books by 2020. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
A far-right party fiercely opposed to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcome for refugees made startling gains in three state elections in Germany on Sunday, dealing the chancellor a blow as she tries to seal a deal with Turkey to reduce the influx of migrants. – New York Times
 
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the current commander of U.S. forces in Korea, will be nominated to helm U.S. European Command and act as the Supreme Allied Commander for NATO, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter announced in a statement Friday. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
 
Eastern Europe
 
The Polish government on Saturday stood by its rejection of this week’s ruling of the country’s Constitutional Tribunal, accusing the court of trying to stand above the law and using social media to take its case to the people. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Poland’s new right-wing government received a sharp rebuke on Friday from a European human rights group over its efforts to blunt the ability of the country’s constitutional court to rule on new laws. – New York Times
 
The extraordinary flows of people to Lesbos over the past year made it Europe’s main gateway for refugees, an Ellis Island for the 21st century. But now it is a gateway to nowhere. – Washington Post
 
If Moldova wants to integrate with the West, the best way forward would be to modernize its infrastructure and strengthen its democratic institutions. That's the advice given by American journalist and author Robert Kaplan, who argues in his latest book, In Europe's Shadow, that Russian President Putin's recent moves against Ukraine have pushed Romania and Moldova to the front line of the West's confrontation with Moscow. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
NATO
 
Josh Rogin reports: At a crucial moment in the U.S. relationship with Europe, President Barack Obama has chosen a No. 2 for NATO whom some Republican lawmakers see as the face of a wrongheaded approach to Russia. – Bloomberg View

Americas

United States of America
 
Over recent weeks, the U.S. government has diverted manpower and other resources to the Middle East, hoping to find more and more Syrians who would be good candidates for resettlement…But despite these intentions, concerns about security and the political pressure may well mean that families like Ahmad’s face a lengthy wait to find out whether their future lies in the United States. – Washington Post
 
An Arizona jury will continue deliberating this week on the fate of the first alleged plotter of an Islamic State attack to go to trial in the U.S., in a test case for the Justice Department. –Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
A 23-year-old Mississippi man pleaded guilty on Friday to trying to travel to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). – The Hill
 
A 41-year-old Russian man on Friday pleaded guilty to posing as a banker in New York to spy on behalf of Moscow. – The Hill
 
In interviews, half a dozen current and former officials have described the environment at CENTCOM headquarters as “toxic” and “hostile” owing to a long-simmering dispute over whether political influence was brought to bear on intelligence analysts whose job is to objectively assess the strength of ISIS and the effects of the U.S.-led efforts to destroy the group. – The Daily Beast
 
President Barack Obama weighed in on Apple's court fight with the Justice Department Friday, arguing that the government can't allow encrypted devices that are inaccessible to law enforcement. - Politico
 
[A]s Mr Trump tries to nail down the Republican nomination for president, he is encountering opposition from some American Jews over issues ranging from comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to behaviour at his campaign events. – Financial Times
 
Cuba
 
As President Obama prepares to visit Cuba this month, the lack of trade with the former foe threatens to sap momentum from the process of building relations. It is also a reminder that beyond tourism — which satisfies Cuba’s need for foreign currency and the desire of Americans to visit the island — the countries have very different visions of economic engagement. – New York Times
 
Cuba didn’t want to change the way things were — the United States persuaded them to, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said here Friday. - Politico
 
U.S. President Barack Obama promised one of Cuba's most prominent dissident groups he would raise the issues of freedom of speech and assembly with Cuban President Raul Castro during his March 20-22 visit to the Caribbean island. - Reuters
 
Latin America
 
The initiative, popularly known here as the 3-out-of-3 bill, seeks to force all public servants to make three documents public: a detailed description of their assets and net worth, a list of their private interests and their tax returns. The bill also contains other measures to improve accountability in government…. The initiative underscores both the growing power of civil society in Mexico and widespread disillusion with the country’s politicians following a string of corruption scandals. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Protesters in cities across Brazil called for the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff on Sunday, reflecting rising anger in the country over huge corruption scandals and a deepening economic crisis. – New York Times
 
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s main coalition partner served notice Saturday that it could break from her embattled Workers’ Party government in 30 days and join opposition efforts to unseat the leftist leader. – Washington Post
 
A Venezuelan court sentenced the publisher of a prominent provincial newspaper to four years in prison for defamation in the coverage of corruption at a state mining company, sparking concern about intimidation of the press in the troubled South American country. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Hundreds of opponents and supporters of President Nicolás Maduro held rival marches in the Venezuelan capital on Saturday, with antigovernment forces demanding Venezuela’s leader step down and his sympathizers denouncing U.S. sanctions on some top officials. – Associated Press
 
Now that a historic peace accord with leftist FARC guerrillas could be signed within weeks, Colombia’s government is eager to ensure ties to the US military endure in a post-conflict future. - AFP

Africa

Two rivals for power in South Sudan are accused by the United Nations of not only drawing their people into one of the world’s most gruesome wars, but also subjecting the country’s women and girls to unspeakable horrors. – New York Times
 
Gunmen stormed three resort hotels south of the capital here on Sunday afternoon in an attack that killed 16 people and pierced the calm that had prevailed in Ivory Coast in recent years. – New York Times
 
The president of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, announced on Friday that he would step down from office in 2018. – New York Times
 
It has been nearly a year since Nigerians elected former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari on promises of overhauling the way the country’s government is run. Yet a key step in overhauling the oil sector — which generates 70 per cent of state revenues — this week prompted a backlash that threatened to bring Africa’s biggest economy to a halt. – Financial Times
 
A repentant warlord, a former international football star and a close associate of convicted war criminal Charles Taylor are among those lining up to become president of Liberia, a verbal tussle for which has begun only months before UN peacekeepers scale back to a skeleton presence. – Financial Times

Obama Administration

Danielle Pletka writes: The Obama that emerges from the Atlantic interview is preternaturally icy, contemptuous of both his adversaries and his own staff, thin-skinned, angry, and oddly self-satisfied. That character portrait aside, it would have been nice if the article had shed light on the worldview that governs Obama’s decisions. Rather, it illuminated the fact that he doesn’t have a worldview. Instead, the president of the United States has opinions, and lots of them. And people he really doesn’t like, and lots of them. And countries he thinks don’t count, like those that make up the Sunni Middle East. – Foreign Policy
 
Will Inboden writes: The greatest American presidents understood their limits, yet appreciated the power they wielded amid the uncertain dramas of history, and took responsibility for their action and inaction. Such were the ways of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry “The Buck Stops Here” Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan. One hopes that in his final months in office, Obama will take note of this lesson of history. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government
 
Max Boot writes: [F]or anyone who believes that America should maintain its strength, credibility, and deterrence, this was one of the most cringe-making episodes in a presidency full of them. – Commentary
 
Brian Katulis writes: If President Obama admires Mr. Bush’s foreign policy realism, during his remaining months in office he might take a page from the former president’s style. One possibility is empowering his Cabinet to make some bold moves on unresolved foreign policy issues such as Syria’s civil war, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the standoff with Russia. What emerges could help enhance his legacy on national security. – WSJ’s Washington Wire
 
Michael O’Hanlon writes: So, as with any presidency, there is more work to do, and as with any president, there is no untarnished record of systematic accomplishment. But I give Obama reasonable marks for carefulness and strategic thinking. He has been a proficient commander in chief, and it is possible that we will someday badly miss his judiciousness. – Brookings Institution
 
Niall Ferguson writes: If the arc of history is in fact bending toward Islamic extremism, sectarian conflict, networks of terrorism, and regional nuclear-arms races, then the 44th president will turn out to have been rather less smart than the foreign-policy establishment he so loftily disdains. – The Atlantic
 
Josef Joffe writes: If history is on America’s side, then Americans need not force or fight others. Let Iran, Russia, and China push their pawns forward in search of glory and power. It does not matter, Obama believes, because they are destined to fail while America’s king will shine across the chessboard. This is not grand strategy. It is religion. Yet the central myths of Judeo-Christianity are the Pharaonic Slavery and the Crucifixion. They warn that tragedy comes before redemption. – The Atlantic
 
Shadi Hamid writes: Obama has proved to be an ideological president, one with a developed, even philosophically coherent worldview. If there was one thing I became even more persuaded of after reading Goldberg’s account, it was that Obama is not just an intelligent man, but a brilliant one. He is also a president who believes, with something resembling passion, that he is doing the right thing. This, I have come to realize, is precisely what worries me the most. – The Atlantic
 
Julia Ioffe writes: By the summer of 2013, Obama had already been president for four and a half years, and no one in the Kremlin had any illusions about how he saw the world. His decision in Syria was not exactly shocking or out of character for the Russians, especially after the hesitation he showed in Libya. – The Atlantic

Democracy and Human Rights

Editorial: After the Cold War it seemed that democracy was spreading, dictatorships were tumbling and capitalism ascendant. Today, democracy is in retreat. Liberal values such as transparency, rule of law, accountability and respect for human dignity are being widely trampled….The United States is partly responsible for letting this happen. It should step up to the autocrats of the world and confront their dangerous illiberalism. – Washington Post

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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