FPI Overnight Brief: May 1, 2017

The Must-Reads

  • Pentagon remains optimistic for long-term spending bill
  • FPI’s Adesnik: Military needs Trump to be Advocate-in-Chief
  • Tillerson eyes cutting 2,300 jobs at State Department
  • Rogin: If Trump has a strategy for the peace process, it’s a secret
  • Pentagon considering up to 5,000 more troops for Afghanistan
  • SIGAR finds major internal flaws hampering Afghan war effort
  • New North Korean missile test ends in failure
  • US patrolling Syrian border to stop Turk-Kurd clashes
  • Diehl: Syria remains a barbaric battlefield after Trump’s strike
  • McFaul: Is Trump learning or ad-libbing on foreign policy?

Middle East/North Africa

The European Union rallied behind Iran’s nuclear deal during a high-level visit to the country over the weekend, vowing to safeguard the accord despite U.S. threats to scrap it and pledging to support the Islamic Republic’s economy. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
An Iranian-born TV mogul who had run afoul of Iran’s government was fatally shot Saturday night by masked gunmen in Istanbul, media reports said. – Washington Post
Iranians should not thank Hassan Rouhani's policy of detente with the West for any reduction in the threat of war, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday, stepping up his criticisms of the president as elections approach. - Reuters
Peter Huessy writes: Better policy options for dealing with Iran are available to the United States. Combining current policy initiatives already put forward by the new administration into a counter-Iran security policy. Going beyond the nuclear focus of JCPOA through its larger geostrategic goals. To get to such a policy, we have to understand better what in fact the goals of the Iranian Islamic Republic are, why they pursue nuclear weapons, and what are the objectives of their terror attacks against the United States. – Real Clear Defense
American forces have started patrolling the Turkey-Syria border to prevent further clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish fighters, which could undermine the fight against Islamic State, U.S. officials said Friday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
U.S.-backed militias said on Monday they had pushed Islamic State fighters out of the old quarters of Tabqa, a strategically vital town controlling Syria's largest dam, hemming the militants into the remaining modern district along the shore. - Reuters
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday his country may take further action against Kurdish militants in Iraq and Syria, as U.S.-backed forces in Syria closed in on the last neighborhoods of a former stronghold of the Islamic State group. – Associated Press
Jackson Diehl writes: Did Trump make Syrians any safer? “Sadly speaking, no,” says Raed al-Saleh, the head of the White Helmets civil defense organization, which told the world about the sarin attack. “They managed to stop the use of chemical weapons. But the killing still goes on with all the other kinds of weapons.” – Washington Post
Ilham Ahmed writes: To be clear, we do not want to escalate the conflict with Turkey. Yes, we believe that Erdogan, who is turning a blind eye to terrorism as he aspires to build his totalitarian state, is on the wrong side of history. As he looks outward in his aggression, we look inward, in a spirit of optimism and progress, toward a better Syria. We do not believe that the United States needs to choose between us and Turkey. With each passing day, however, it becomes clearer who the United States’ true ally in this conflict is. – Washington Post
An American service member was killed in an explosion on Saturday near Mosul, Iraq, the Pentagon said, as part of the battle to drive Islamic State fighters out of their last major stronghold in the country. – New York Times
While taking part in the U.S.-backed assault on the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, many of these units fly flags celebrating Shiite religious figures such as the Imam Hussein, and some have posters of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Life in those areas under control of the Shiite militias provides a window into Iran’s influence and the sectarian tensions that still dog Iraq as the campaign for Mosul enters its seventh grinding month. – Washington Times
U.S-backed Kurdish-Arab forces have made gains against Islamic State (IS) militants in the town of Tabqa near the extremists' stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria, a leading monitor group says. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
An Iraqi commander expects to dislodge Islamic State from Mosul in May despite resistance from militants in the densely populated Old City district. - Reuters
At least 352 civilians have been killed in U.S.-led strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria since the operation began in 2014, the U.S. military said in a statement on Sunday. - Reuters
Arabian Peninsula
The Pentagon says a U.S. airstrike in Yemen on Sunday killed eight operatives of the group known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), including a key leader. – Associated Press
The United Arab Emirates is better known for its skyscrapers and pampered luxuries, but its small size belies a quiet expansion of its battle-hardened military into Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East. – Associated Press
Sam Jones writes: It is imperative that defense analysts and policymakers support these reform incentives as the sale goes to Congress for review. Moreover, it’s critical that they acknowledge and raise serious concerns over sectarian discrimination within the Bahraini military that – along with broader systemic human rights abuses in the kingdom – undermine the security of the Fifth Fleet and only enhance Iranian influence. – Defense One
Tunisian security forces killed a senior commander in an Islamist group who detonated his suicide belt as he was shot during a raid against militants planning attacks during the holy month of Ramadan, officials said on Sunday. - Reuters
Tunisia's Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Sunday replaced his finance minister after she had faced criticism from political opponents over the sharp fall in the dinar currency and slow progress in economic reforms. - Reuters
For six tumultuous years, Jordan has weathered the war in neighboring Syria by walking a fine line: supporting the U.S.-supported rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad, but also cooperating with Assad’s closest ally, Russia. But as the Trump administration pursues a more muscular stance toward both Assad and Islamic State militants, it threatens to upend Amman’s tightrope act at a time when the Islamist threat against the kingdom has never been greater. – Los Angeles Times
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is pressuring Hamas to cede control of the Gaza Strip to his Palestinian Authority in a high-stakes gambit to convince the White House he can strike a deal with Israel on behalf of the Palestinian people, according to Palestinian officials. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Josh Rogin reports: If President Trump has a real strategy to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it’s such a tightly held secret that even the parties involved don’t seem to know what it is. When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits the White House this week, that mystery will be on full display. – Washington Post
Elliott Abrams writes: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be in Washington this week. The teaching and glorification of terrorism and violence should be at the top of the agenda with him. For decades, such matters were considered peripheral to the serious business of diplomatic negotiations. But the negotiations start, stop, and go nowhere. Meanwhile another generation of Palestinian children learn in schools and play in parks named after murderers. That’s what is really serious, and that’s what Mr. Abbas should be confronted with this week. – CFR’s Pressure Points
The Turkish government expanded its crackdown on dissent and free expression over the weekend, purging nearly 4,000 more public officials, blocking access to Wikipedia and banning television matchmaking shows. – New York Times


Afghanistan’s security forces are experiencing “shockingly high” casualties and conflict has displaced record numbers of civilians, a U.S. government watchdog said in a report Sunday on the grim challenge facing the country as it confronts the Taliban and other insurgencies with drastically reduced support from the United States and other NATO partners. – Washington Post
Fugitive warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on Saturday made his first public appearance in Afghanistan after nearly two decades underground, calling on Taliban insurgents to “join the peace caravan and stop this pointless holy war.” He also urged all political parties to reconcile and seek change “without bloodshed.” – Washington Post
So on Saturday, the Marines returned to Helmand with a force of 300; roughly half of them had previously served in the province…The Marines’ new mission is a difficult one: to assist and train Afghan soldiers and police to defend the provincial capital. The Taliban control seven of the province’s 14 districts and are encroaching on five others. The government fully controls just two, local officials say. – New York Times
Two American soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan during a raid Wednesday night may have been struck by so-called friendly fire, the Pentagon said. – New York Times
The Trump administration is evaluating plans to send as many as 5,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, where America's longest war has hit a stalemate and local security forces have become overwhelmed by rising violence. – Military Times
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the Western military alliance is close to making a decision on whether to increase its troop numbers in Afghanistan to help with the battle against Islamist insurgents. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
South Asia
Under pressure from Pakistan’s military, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ousted two of his top officials on Saturday in a continuing standoff over leaks to the news media of a meeting at which civilian leaders confronted the military over its alleged reluctance to halt Islamist groups in the country. – New York Times
Since Sharif’s narrow escape from legal disqualification April 20, by a split 3-to-2 court panel, opponents and critics have demanded that he resign, saying the three-time premier had lost his moral authority to lead the Muslim-majority nation of nearly 200 million. – Washington Post
In India’s restive Kashmir territory, the weapon of choice among separatist youths targeting Indian security forces is a stone — or a brick, if they can get one…Large numbers of girls in headscarves and school uniforms have been joining male protesters for the first time in recent memory. – Washington Post
China has deported an American businesswoman convicted and sentenced on a spying charge, and she arrived in the United States on Friday, her husband said. – New York Times
China has sent a warning to its independent legal activists with a spate of secret trials of lawyers caught up in a crackdown that began nearly two years ago. – Financial Times
North Korea
North Korea launched a missile on Saturday, even as the United States and China have been seeking to curb the North’s military ambitions. But the test ended in failure, the South Korean military said. It was the second consecutive failure in the past two weeks. – New York Times
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said on Friday that the United States was keeping “all options” on the table if diplomacy failed to persuade North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program. – New York Times
The Trump administration tried to unify world leaders behind a tougher approach toward North Korea on Friday, but risked finding itself more isolated amid stiff resistance from China and Russia, which accused the U.S. of ratcheting up tensions. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Despite decades of sanctions and international isolation, the economy in North Korea is showing surprising signs of life…Reliable economic data is scarce. But recent defectors, regular visitors and economists who study the country say nascent market forces are beginning to reshape North Korea — a development that complicates efforts to curb Mr. Kim’s nuclear ambitions. – New York Times
Joining a growing round of saber-rattling, Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Friday said that the U.S. response to North Korea’s nuclear threat should be to “eradicate” the country’s top leaders. “The North Korean top leadership has to go,” the former GOP presidential candidate said at a breakfast with reporters in Washington – WSJ’s Washington Wire (subscription required)
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on Sunday said there is no bigger threat facing the United States than North Korea. – The Hill
Sen. John McCain said Sunday the Trump administration should consider a pre-emptive strike against North Korea if the U.S. determines that country's regime can mount a nuclear weapon onto a ballistic missile, but cautioned military action should be last resort. - Politico
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Saturday warned that Congress may soon have to consider the possibility of authorizing military action against North Korea. – The Hill
North Korea suggested on Monday it will continue its nuclear weapons tests, saying it will bolster its nuclear force "to the maximum" in a "consecutive and successive way at any moment" in the face of what it calls U.S. aggression and hysteria. - Reuters
President Donald Trump said after North Korea's latest failed rocket launch that communist leader Kim Jong-Un will eventually develop better missiles, and "we can't allow it to happen." – Associated Press
Kimberly Dozier reports: [A]ides and close associates of Trump tell a very different story. They say there’s an intentional communications strategy at work, designed by the president himself: Trump knocks opponents off-balance with unexpected tweets or comments that upset the status quo, setting up the shot, then his cabinet secretaries come in as “sweepers,” laying out the new policy in more detail, calming the situation, and landing foreign policy goals. – The Daily Beast
Analysis: The most likely explanation is that Mr. Trump, who until now has largely avoided taking the bait that the North Korean propaganda machine churns out with its own warnings of imminent war, simply reverted to an old habit: sounding as tough as the other guy. The problem is that it clashes with the message his administration has been sending out in recent days that no pre-emptive strikes are planned and that there is plenty of time and space for diplomacy. Mr. Trump’s aides talk instead of an “integrated strategy” of escalating military and economic pressure to force diplomatic engagement. – New York Times
Analysis: When North Korea deployed hundreds of artillery units, submarines and soldiers to take part in its largest live-fire drill, it was intended as a chilling display of the reclusive regime’s military might…But officials and experts say the apparently formidable force is beset by an array of problems, from fuel shortages to ageing equipment, that would choke its capabilities in the event of prolonged conflict with the US and its allies. – Financial Times
Editorial: Mr. Tillerson is right to point out that existing sanctions can be much more strictly enforced, and new ones applied. His call to downgrade diplomatic relations with the Kim regime, cut off its export of guest workers to other nations and tighten sanctions on individuals and companies involved in the weapons programs ought to be embraced by the same coalition that successfully sanctioned Iran into compromising on its nuclear program. Applying such pressure may not work, but it is the best available option that has not yet been tried. – Washington Post
Mark Helprin writes: Avoiding an escalation crisis is in the interest of all involved, China no less than the U.S. Although America’s outrageous neglect of the North Korean nuclear threat has led to this pass, there is still a way out. It requires steady nerves and a clear view of the strategic interplay among all parties. The fundamental dynamics of interests and security are now bringing China into a genuine, if temporary, alignment with the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. The U.S. should be wide awake to this in the days to come, because it may be, in fact, the only way out. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Suki Kim writes: The timing of North Korea’s arrest of Tony Kim is no accident. The negotiations for his release, as well as the other two detainees who are currently serving hard-labor sentences, will depend on the diplomatic maneuver between Kim Jong Un and President Trump, both of whom have recently been threatening preemptive strikes. If this latest arrest is any lesson, then it reminds us of whom we are dealing when we engage with North Korea. Tony Kim will certainly not be the last American detained by Pyongyang. – Washington Post
South Korea
The Trump administration has reaffirmed that the United States will pay for a missile defense battery it is deploying in South Korea, despite President Trump’s recent statement that he wanted Seoul to cover the cost, officials here said Sunday. – New York Times
The South Korean navy is conducting joint exercises with the U.S. as tensions with North Korea continue to rise, The Associated Press reported Saturday. – The Hill
The THAAD anti-missile system could be up and running in South Korea within days despite local protests, the uncertain outcome of South Korea’s presidential election, and renewed warnings from China, according to Navy Adm. Harry Harris. – Military.com
Like nearly everything associated with the world's last Cold War standoff, the truth is muddier. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, has its limits and unknowns. – Associated Press
A Japanese warship is set to guard a US vessel for the first time in modern history as Tokyo uses the crisis in North Korea to activate a new security law passed in 2015. – Financial Times
Southeast Asia
President Trump on Saturday invited the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, to the White House, embracing an authoritarian leader who is accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and who crudely disparaged Mr. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. – New York Times
When President Trump called President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines on Saturday, the American leader’s national security aides saw it as part of a routine diplomatic outreach to Southeast Asian leaders. Mr. Trump, characteristically, had his own ideas. During their “very friendly conversation,” the administration said in a late-night statement, Mr. Trump invited Mr. Duterte, an authoritarian leader accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines, to visit him at the White House. – New York Times
Southeast Asian countries took a softer stance on South China Sea disputes during a weekend summit, according to a statement issued on Sunday, which went easy on China by avoiding tacit references to its building and arming of its manmade islands. - Reuters


The Defense Department expressed optimism that Congress will pass a budget that fully funds the military by the end of the week despite unresolved divisions that forced the passage of a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown on Friday. – Washington Free Beacon
Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) push for a $7.5 billion fund to bulk up the U.S. military’s capabilities in the Asia-Pacific is gaining momentum as tensions with North Korea mount. – The Hill
Eight Senators sent a letter Friday to Defense Secretary James Mattis, urging him to request all three Littoral Combat Ships originally planned for the 2018 budget. While eight percent of the Senate may seem small, the bipartisan co-signers — four Republicans, four Democrats — include five members of the authorizing and appropriating committees for defense. – Breaking Defense
That the Navy should get more money to build up its surface and submarine fleets may be the message Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson sends in an upcoming article which he promises would be a “strong Navy voice” on budget issues. – Breaking Defense
The Army repeatedly stressed at the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual summit that the biggest gap it has is the one left open when it retired its armed reconnaissance helicopter — the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior — without replacing the fleet with a new aircraft. – Defense News
The Army is now crafting new combat “operations” doctrine designed to better position the service for the prospect of large-scale, mechanized, force-on-force warfare against technologically advanced near-peer rivals – such as Russia or China - able to substantially challenge US military technological superiority. – Scout Warrior
FPI Policy Director David Adesnik writes: While important, this week’s budget fight is only the opening round of what should be a four- or eight-year campaign to repair the damage done to the Armed Forces. In the coming months, Congress will take up the question of how much to spend on defense in 2018. If the president understands that he must become the troops’ advocate-in-chief, then there is an opportunity for substantial progress. If not, then Trump may find that will someday have to send American troops into battle without they equipment and training they deserve. – Foreign Policy Initiative
Nuclear Weapons
The National Nuclear Security Administration is underestimating how much funding it needs to update and maintain America’s nuclear warheads, a government watchdog has concluded. – Defense News
The National Security Agency has ended a controversial surveillance practice of collecting email traffic merely because it contains the email address or phone number of a foreign target, a procedure that greatly increased the chances that purely domestic communications would be gathered. – Washington Post
Anticipation is building for President Trump’s long-awaited executive order on cybersecurity. – The Hill
The United States faces a growing threat of information warfare attacks and needs new strategies and organizations to counter it, national security experts told Congress this week. – Washington Free Beacon
Russia used “useful idiots” to meddle in the U.S. presidential election and “fellow travelers” opposed to European Union and NATO to influence elections in France and Germany, while Islamic terrorists used “agent provocateurs” to topple Spain’s government in 2004 and cast another pall over French voting, a cyber security expert told a congressional subcommittee Thursday. – USNI News


Thousands of Russians lined up in cities across their country on Saturday to present letters of protest at government offices, the second widespread show of public discontent in two months. – New York Times
Russia has again accused the United States of lying about its deployment of antimissile systems in Europe, as Washington repeated its findings that Moscow was violating a key arms-control treaty. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The incident, detailed in the legal filings that resulted in a U.S. federal court recently sentencing Seleznyov to 27 years in prison, exposes an unintended consequence of Washington's cybercrime cooperation with Russia: the United States finds itself indicting some of the top-level Russian security officials it worked with. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The U.S. national security adviser, Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, says Russian President Vladimir Putin is "acting against the Russian people's interest” in his relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his policies to aid the Taliban in Afghanistan. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
In the Arctic Circle, the Russians are touting a new military base, a development that underscores how "woefully behind" the U.S. is in the ice race, in the words of former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp. – Fox News
Editorial: By limiting religious freedom in this way, Russia turns its back on international norms and agreements. It also makes a mockery of the 1993 constitution, and not for the first time — the constitution also guaranteed a free press that no longer exists. – Washington Post
United Kingdom
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said Sunday that Britain won’t agree to pay an exit bill for leaving the European Union without also agreeing a new trade deal with the bloc, highlighting a hard-to-resolve division between the opposing camps ahead of talks on Brexit. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Two decades after Tony Blair swept to power in a landslide victory to become prime minister of Britain, his brand of centrist, pro-European politics seems a distant memory in a divided country that has now voted to leave the European Union. But on the anniversary of that victory, Mr. Blair tried to bolster the sagging center ground of British politics, while predicting that voters might think again about the economically damaging hard break with the European Union that he believes is looming. – New York Times
Now, with less than six weeks to go before Britain votes once more, the Corbyn-led Labour Party is on course for an electoral beatdown so broad and deep it would make the drubbing the party took in 2015 look like a triumph. – Washington Post
Khalid Omar Ali, a suspect from Thursday's planned knife attack near Prime Minister Theresa May's office, has been revealed to have been a member of a 2010 Gaza flotilla. – Washington Free Beacon
Britain's governing Conservative party has seen its lead narrow considerably over the last week, a poll by YouGov showed on Sunday, the third poll of the weekend to show the party's advantage over the opposition shrink. - Reuters
Marine Le Pen, the far-right French presidential candidate, said on Saturday that she would name a former rival and fellow Euroskeptic as her prime minister if elected, in a new effort to broaden her appeal and defeat her centrist opponent, Emmanuel Macron, in the second round of the country’s elections on May 7. – New York Times
The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron confirmed on Friday that it had denied the pro-Kremlin media outlets Sputnik and Russia Today accreditations to cover the rest of his campaign. – New York Times
Editorial: Moscow’s tactics are designed to favor its preferred candidate in the May 7 runoff: Marine Le Pen, a right-wing nationalist who has taken loans from Russian banks, opposed sanctions against Moscow and heaped scorn on the E.U. Her policies would weaken Europe and drive a wedge among Western democracies — precisely the return on investment Mr. Putin is hoping for from his meddling. – Washington Post
A hotel conference room in the Baltic republic of Estonia recently became the front line in a rehearsal for cyberwarfare, in an exercise that tested the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s readiness to repel hackers. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Saturday said he would “cool down” the anti-European rhetoric and work with the EU institutions on controversial measures against foreign-funded universities and civil rights groups. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats have opened a seven-point lead over the centre-left Social Democrats five months ahead of the Sept. 24 election, according to a poll on Sunday in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. - Reuters
Henry Kissinger writes: For many contemporary Germans, the Adenauer period seems like a tale from an era long transcended. To the contrary, they live in a dynamic established by Konrad Adenauer, a man whose lifespan, from 1876 to 1967, covered all but five years of the unified German national state first proclaimed in 1871. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


United States of America
Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan agreement on Sunday to fund the government through September, effectively ending any suspense about the possibility of a government shutdown next weekend. – New York Times
Pressure is growing on GOP leaders to have Congress authorize ongoing military operations in the Middle East. – The Hill
The White House webpage extolling U.S. President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office celebrates the president’s success in reducing the cost of the Air Force One replacement by millions of dollars. – Defense News
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is proposing to eliminate 2,300 jobs as part of a plan to cut more than a quarter of the State Department’s budget for the next fiscal year, officials said Friday. The plan will almost certainly meet resistance from lawmakers opposing President Donald Trump’s proposal to shrink the size of the federal government. – Associated Press
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the first Cuban-American elected to Congress, is retiring at the end of her term next year, saying it’s time to move on after 38 years in office. – Associated Press
Since taking office, Trump has set out to unsettle and surprise his allies and adversaries alike, and by that measure he has succeeded. He wants stalwart friends such as Canada and Mexico to be on edge about what the U.S. president might decide to do on any given day. – Washington Post
Mexico is urging Donald Trump to reuse agreements reached under the aborted Trans-Pacific Partnership to create a manufacturing powerhouse between the US, Mexico and Canada to compete with low-cost producers in China. – Financial Times
Analysis: From the campaign through his first 100 days in office, President Trump adroitly exploited the most conspicuous downsides of trade in portraying himself as a hero to those who go to work in coveralls. But as economic policy, the feisty words — quickly downgraded to a pledge to “renegotiate” terms of trade with Mexico and Canada — potentially imperil significant swaths of the American economy. – New York Times
Editorial: What decades-old relationship couldn’t benefit from a bit of a tune-up? If that’s all Mr. Trump has in mind for NAFTA, after all his huffing and puffing — if his newfound pragmatism is for real — then Canada and Mexico can and should be willing to engage. If his change of attitude is just temporary, however, no amount of good faith from our partners can salvage hemispheric free trade. – Washington Post
Trump-Russia Connections
Bitter memories from the last major congressional probe into the executive branch loom over Capitol Hill as lawmakers embark on an ambitious, divisive slate of hearings and briefings into charges that Russia meddled in the presidential race to help elect Donald Trump. – Washington Times
Former national security adviser Susan Rice denied President Donald Trump's claim that she tried to unmask Americans in an attempt to implicate Trump campaign officials, adding that she never did anything "untoward with respect to the intelligence" she received. - Politico
President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort met at least one U.S. government official connected to the Russia-aligned political party he was representing in 2012 and 2013, according to recent disclosures filed with the Justice Department. - Politico
Editorial: Twelve years on, not one of the 10 individuals unmasked by Mr. Bolton has had his or her identity leaked. By contrast, the Washington Post reports that no fewer than nine Obama appointees or career officials leaked or confirmed the identity and conversations of unmasked former Trump adviser Michael Flynn. If John Bolton’s unmasking was questionable, then Mrs. Rice’s was more so. The House and Senate Intelligence committees should investigate what she did and why. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Latin America
As the country’s bloody, volatile, month-old protest movement hardens into a prolonged standoff between demonstrators and the government, the loyalties of poorer Venezuelans like Castillo have become a swing factor in determining whether the president will survive. – Washington Post
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday he expected delayed state polls to be held this year, although opponents have demanded a broader general election to replace him in protests that have sparked 29 deaths. - Reuters
Francisco Toro and Pedro Rosas writes: So the next time you hear a news report on Venezuela’s “constitutional crisis,” remember what this is really about. It wasn’t a real court that opted to ignore the results of an election and grant itself powers Venezuela’s constitution reserves to the National Assembly. It was Maikel Moreno’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice that did that. – Washington Post
Richard Miles writes: President Donald Trump’s decision to meet secretly with two former Colombian presidents this month at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida — without having met first with current President Juan Manuel Santos — raised some serious questions. Is Trump holding aid to Colombia hostage to get Santos to renegotiate a deal with armed groups, or trying to force Santos to restart the aerial spraying of coca fields? Does Trump have a plan at all? – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room


Ndileka Mandela was an exalted member of the African National Congress (ANC), the organization led by her grandfather. More than a party, it had long been synonymous with the black majority’s struggle for justice under white rule — and with Mandela himself. But last month, Ndileka, 52, opened Facebook on her computer and posted a picture of herself voting with her grandfather in 2011. Then she swallowed hard and began to type: “I will no longer vote for the ANC.” – Washington Post
As the number of people in north-east Nigeria on the brink of famine climbs to 1.5m, aid agencies are warning that food stocks are dwindling, putting thousands of lives at risk. – Financial Times

Trump Administration

The White House is quietly starting to pull the plug on its shadow Cabinet of Trump loyalists who had been dispatched to federal agencies to serve as the president’s eyes and ears. - Politico
Opposition to Army Secretary nominee Mark Green is ballooning, with current and former service academy faculty members and a former Pentagon official coming out against him Friday. – The Hill
Nikki Haley didn’t wait to take office as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to break with the Trump administration’s foreign policy stances…Three months later, she remains boldly off-message. Much to the chagrin of Washington diplomats, her remarks often go well beyond the carefully worded scripts crafted by the White House and State Department. – Associated Press
Much of the world is in a quandary, still unsure what to expect from the administration of President Trump. The Chinese are unexpectedly hopeful. Europeans, less so. And Mexico remains wary, if less frightened than when Trump took power on Jan. 20. – Washington Post
As President Donald Trump marks 100 days in office, his administration is still struggling to articulate its foreign policy vision in a clear and consistent way. Conflicting messages frequently emanate from various power centers in the administration, among them Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and the always-mercurial president himself. All of this has left foreign officials scratching their heads about what the new administration really believes. - Politico
Michael McFaul writes: All administrations take time to settle in, develop their policy positions, and fill out their foreign policy teams. No president ever follows through exactly on his campaign promises. Trump might follow these historical patterns. Or he might not. It’s too early to tell. One good month does not make a coherent foreign policy. – Washington Post
Nicole Sedaca writes: Over its first 100 days, the Trump administration’s lack of foreign policy commitment to democracy and human rights was highly problematic. None of this is a surprise or a violation of campaign promises. Rather, it is a clarion call for those in both parties to ask whether the promotion of democracy and human rights should be a foreign policy objective, and if so, who should lead the process. Trump is making it very clear that the U.S. government will no longer play that role. – Foreign Policy's Elephants in the Room
Ilan Goldenberg writes:  McMaster’s job is not to make the key decisions, but to tee them up for the president. Ultimately, that is the biggest challenge the axis of adults will continue to face. The buck stops at the Oval Office, and no matter how much positive work Trump’s national security team does, 100 days in it appears this president simply does not have the discipline or temperament to be the steward of U.S. national security. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government
Nina Hachigan writes: While it is gratifying to see the work of my former mission continue, I fear the victories will be pyrrhic unless the administration fixes two larger problems. My broad concerns are, first, that because of process deficiencies, the United States will accidentally or purposefully take actions that cause or worsen a major crisis, and next, that American global leadership is falling off a cliff. These are interrelated. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government

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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