FPI Overnight Brief: May 15, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

This year, there are five challengers to President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatic moderate seeking a second term in the May 19 vote. Although polling is unreliable in Iran, two candidates recently have narrowed Rouhani’s still-wide lead: Ebrahim Raisi, a powerful conservative cleric, and Tehran’s hard-line mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. – Washington Post
Iran continues to make critical technological strides in its efforts to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons over great distances, efforts that violate international prohibitions, according to the director of national intelligence, who informed Congress this week that the Islamic Republic "would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons." – Washington Free Beacon
Iranian President Hassan Rohani has hit out at his two main conservative challengers, who accuse him of mismanagement, corruption, and failing to improve the economy following a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with world powers. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Hassan Rouhani has received the valuable endorsement of one of the figureheads of Iran’s reform movement ahead of his attempt to secure a second term as president against hardline rivals in Friday’s election. – Financial Times
Iran continues to boost the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and act as the leading state sponsor of terrorism even as the nuclear deal temporarily limits the country's ability to build a nuclear weapon, according to a top intelligence chief. – The Weekly Standard
The Syrian army aided by Iranian-backed militias was moving troops to a desert region near its border with Iraq and Jordan just as U.S. backed rebels are consolidating control in an area from which Islamic State militants had recently pulled out, rebel sources and commanders said on Monday. - Reuters
More than 2,000 rebels and their family members have left the devastated district of Qaboun on the edge of the Syrian capital Damascus after more than two months of aerial strikes and artillery shelling, state media said on Sunday. - Reuters
Colin Kahl writes: As with many of the global challenges Trump faces, the president is undoubtedly discovering that events in northern Syria are complicated. Indeed, there may be no more complicated piece of terrain on the planet. But with U.S. forces caught in the middle of escalating Turkey-Kurd tensions and Erdogan’s impending arrival to Washington, the president has no choice but to grapple with this complexity. Fast. – Foreign Policy
An Iraqi air force helicopter was downed west of Mosul on Saturday afternoon, after coming under fire from the Islamic State group, according to Iraq's joint operations command. – Associated Press
Arabian Peninsula
President Trump’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia is a clear sign that the White House is allying itself with Riyadh, as regional power plays between the kingdom and Iran continue to polarize the Middle East. – Washington Times
President Trump made the decision to begin his first foreign trip in Saudi Arabia, delivering a message of peace and unity with Muslim leaders he seeks to enlist for the fight radical Islamic terrorism, the president’s national security adviser said Friday. – Washington Times
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are working on a package of arms deals and financial investments aimed at elevating economic and security cooperation between Washington and Riyadh after several years of strained relations over the U.S. diplomatic outreach to Iran. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The United States plans to sell the United Arab Emirates $2 billion worth of Patriot missiles in an arms deal announced shortly before President Trump begins a tour of Middle Eastern nations. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
Cholera has killed at least 115 people in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, the local Saba news agency said, after authorities on Sunday declared a state of emergency over the outbreak and called for international help to avert disaster. - Reuters
North Africa
Like the Jews before them, Christians are fleeing the Middle East, emptying what was once one of the world’s most-diverse regions of its ancient religions. They’re being driven away not only by Islamic State, but by governments the U.S. counts as allies in the fight against extremism – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that President Donald Trump might not move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem if it could hurt efforts to jump-start the stagnant Middle East peace process. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Trump will promote Palestinian "self-determination" during his upcoming trip to the Middle East, Reuters reported Friday. – The Hill
Eugene Kontorovich writes: If Mr. Trump nonetheless signs the waiver, he could do two things to maintain his credibility in the peace process. First, formally recognize Jerusalem—the whole city—as the capital of Israel, and reflect that status in official documents. Second, make clear that unless the Palestinians get serious about peace within six months, his first waiver will be his last. He should set concrete benchmarks for the Palestinians to demonstrate their commitment to negotiations. These would include ending their campaign against Israel in international organizations and cutting off payments to terrorists and their relatives. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A prominent Turkish newspaper has demanded the eviction of U.S. troops and warplanes from Incirlik Air Base as fallout there worsens from the Trump administration's controversial move to arm a Kurdish militia fighting the Islamic State in neighboring Syria. – Military Times
The United States is on a collision course with its NATO ally Turkey, pushing ahead with arming Syrian Kurds after deciding the immediate objective of defeating Islamic State militants outweighs the potential damage to a partnership vital to U.S. interests in the volatile Middle East. – Associated Press
Editorial: The problem is that Mr. Erdogan’s domestic and foreign policies are linked. Once he prided himself on observing democratic norms and sought membership in the European Union and rapproachment with the same Kurds he now bombs and jails. His domestic turn to autocracy has been accompanied by a nationalist policy of strenuously opposing legitimate Kurdish aspirations and deepening ties with Vladi­mir Putin’s Russia. Mr. Trump should tell him that he is on the wrong track, both in Syria and at home. – Washington Post
Soner Cagaptay writes: Despite his immense power, however, Erdogan still regards himself as an outsider. In many ways, he remains the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, clinging to a lifetime of grievance that expresses itself in a politics of coercion and revenge. This is only exacerbating the intense polarization of Turkish society. Erdogan could halt Turkey’s slide into chaos if he were to overcome the psychological burdens of his past. But this seems a thin thread on which to hang the country’s hopes. – Washington Post
Elizabeth Teoman and Ethan Beaudoin writes: The U.S. should start to reorient its long-term relationship with Turkey during the upcoming meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Erdogan on May 16. The U.S. and Turkey suffer from a deep strategic divergence that goes far beyond operational disagreements over the offensive against ISIS in Ar-Raqqa City. The U.S. must instead prioritize its remaining leverage on efforts to halt and reverse this mounting divide and reenlist Turkey as a legitimate NATO ally against the threats posed by Salafi-Jihadist Groups and the Russo-Iranian Coalition. – Institute for the Study of War


President Trump has not yet made a decision on whether to approve a military proposal to expand the U.S. role in Afghanistan with more troops, and may not do so until after his upcoming foreign trip, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Friday. – Washington Post
On his first overseas trip since being sworn in, President Donald Trump will continue to push NATO allies to increase defense spending and make the case that they should invest more in the fight in Afghanistan. That message could fall flat with some allies who have been committing troops to the war effort for well over a decade, and see more pressing and immediate threats coming from Russia in Europe and extremists gaining strength in North Africa. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is seeking answers from the White House on a proposal to shift the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan as President Trump weighs a decision to send thousands more troops into the conflict. – The Hill
South Asia
At least 25 people were killed and 30 others were wounded when the convoy of a senior Pakistani politician was hit by a bomb in southwestern Pakistan on Friday, officials said. – New York Times
India asked World Court judges on Monday to order Pakistan to stay the execution of an Indian citizen Islamabad says is a captured spy, a case that has escalated tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. - Reuters
President Xi Jinping of China delivered a sweeping vision of a new economic global order on Sunday, positioning his country as an alternative to an inward-looking United States under President Trump. – New York Times
The United States has reached a set of trade deals with China covering areas like electronic payment services, beef and poultry, compromising on some Obama administration stances but leaving untouched bigger issues that could still complicate relations between the two major trading partners. – New York Times
The U.S.-China pact on greater access to the Asian giant’s economy relies in part on Beijing’s pledge to open markets in two areas—beef and electronic payments—that it has repeatedly promised to open before, only to continue blocking American firms. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
An initial trade framework between the U.S. and China shows that President Donald Trump is willing to put aside his tough rhetoric and accept a limited deal with Beijing in a bid for more substantial agreements down the road. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
China is pulling companies and countries more tightly into its economic and geopolitical sphere with the “One Belt, One Road” plan. A forum on the effort in Beijing, hosted on Sunday by China’s president, Xi Jinping, drew President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and other state leaders, as well as officials from more than three dozen countries, including the United States. – New York Times
The massive infrastructure projects, along with hundreds of others across Asia, Africa and Europe, form the backbone of China’s ambitious economic and geopolitical agenda. President Xi Jinping of China is literally and figuratively forging ties, creating new markets for the country’s construction companies and exporting its model of state-led development in a quest to create deep economic connections and strong diplomatic relationships. – New York Times
China’s economic activity weakened more than expected last month on flagging factory demand, part of an anticipated gradual slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy for the rest of 2017. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Editorial: While it’s good that Mr. Trump has pulled back from protectionism, dampening the swings in the way his Administration portrays China relations would bring better results. Mr. Ross’s accomplishment would have found a more appreciative reception if he had simply said that hard negotiating gets results from Beijing but much work remains to be done. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Korean Peninsula
North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sunday, the first test since a new president took office in South Korea this past week and called for dialogue with the North. – New York Times
North Korea said on Monday that the missile it launched a day earlier was a new ballistic missile that can carry a large, heavy nuclear warhead, warning that the United States’ military bases in the Pacific were within its range. – New York Times
If Kim Jong Un wants to meet President Trump, he’s going the wrong way about it, Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Sunday after North Korea’s latest missile launch. – Washington Post
North Korea’s launch on Sunday of its most-sophisticated missile yet offered new clues into how serious the country is in its nuclear ambitions. In the past three years, North Korea has launched more major missiles than in the three previous decades combined. That acceleration is one of the most dramatic signs of leader Kim Jong Un’s push to overhaul the country’s weapons program since he took power in late 2011. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Despite seven rounds of United Nations sanctions over the past 11 years, including a ban on “bulk cash” transfers, large avenues of trade remain open to North Korea, allowing it to earn foreign currency to sustain its economy and finance its program to build a nuclear weapon that can strike the United States. – New York Times
North Korea, increasingly isolated over its repeated weapons tests in violation of UN resolutions, on Monday renewed its accusation of a U.S. and South Korean intelligence plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong Un. - Reuters
Despite the election of the first liberal president in South Korea after nine years of conservative rule, sweeping policy changes on the left are almost untenable in the divided National Assembly, where Moon's Democratic Party holds only 40 percent of the 299 seats. - Reuters
East Asia
Ely Ratner and Samir Kumar write: The United States will need strong, independent, and reliable allies and partners to advance its vital interests in Asia. But the only way something like McCain’s Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative can succeed is if the United States provides the region with an alternative to economic dependence on China and Chinese-led institutions. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government
Southeast Asia
China has deployed its latest airborne early warning and control aircraft to an air base on the fringes of the disputed South China Sea, according to exclusive satellite imagery obtained by Defense News. – Defense News
China and Vietnam will manage and properly control their maritime disputes, avoiding actions to complicate or widen them, so as to maintain peace in the South China Sea, the two nations said in a joint communique China released on Monday. - Reuters
A Congressional panel of Philippine lawmakers on Monday found an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte lacked substance and should go no further, a widely expected outcome underlining the maverick leader's steadfast legislative support. - Reuters
Australia aims to be the first all fifth generation air force, integrating the network capabilities of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter with its land and sea components, as well as its allies’ and partners’ forces, its air marshal said Thursday in Washington. – USNI News


Rep. Mac Thornberry will launch a new effort next week to reform the way the Pentagon buys its billion-dollar weapons systems. – Washington Examiner
With initial overseas deployments of both the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor completed, the Air Force has a better understanding of the unique maintenance challenges required by its most advanced stealth fighters. – Military.com
Intelligence might be one of if not the most coveted asset for commanders of all stripes. While combatant commanders and other strategic leaders are always in need of more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, so is the case for field commanders on the ground with small units. As such, the desire for micro or nano drones has increased immensely. – Defense News
President Donald Trump may have a clear preference for a “goddamned steam” catapult on the USS Ford and its successors, but his opinion is not based on any detailed Navy briefing about the ship, according to Sean Stackley, acting Navy Secretary. Trump may have derived his remarkably insightful observations about the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) from his March 2 visit to the Ford. – Breaking Defense
The U.S. Navy is almost ready to bring its latest aircraft supercarrier Gerald R. Ford into the fleet after its last leg of testing, according to a news report. – DOD Buzz
As the Navy reworks its frigate requirements in the hopes of fielding a more capable ship for a more dangerous world, the two current Littoral Combat Ship builders may still have a slight advantage due to their hot production lines, the acting secretary of the Navy said last night. – USNI News
The Navy's helicopter-like Fire Scout drone will soon operate an advanced sensor giving it increased ability to detect and destroy enemy mines and submarines from a Littoral Combat Ship, service officials said. – Scout Warrior
The components of the global cyberattack that seized hundreds of thousands of computer systems last week may be more complex than originally believed, a Trump administration official said Sunday, and experts warned that the effects of the malicious software could linger for some time. – New York Times
Asia began to grapple on Monday with its share of the ransomware attacks taking aim at computers across the globe, with China reporting disruptions at tens of thousands of institutions. – New York Times
The global cyberattack that crippled computers around the world combined elite hacking tools with a particularly devastating form of malicious software known as ransomware. But there was another factor that helped turn the outbreak into one of the nastiest computer infections ever: human fallibility. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Ransomware is nothing new…But computer criminals are discovering that ransomware is the most effective way to make money in the shortest amount of time. The advent of new tools that wrap victims’ data with tough encryption technology, hard-to-trace digital currency like Bitcoin, and even online sites that offer to do the data ransoming in return for a piece of the action, have made this method of cybertheft much easier. – New York Times
A Microsoft executive sharply criticized a U.S. spy agency Sunday for its role in weaponizing a weakness in Windows and allowing it to be stolen by hackers and used to launch history’s largest ransomware attack. – Los Angeles Times
At almost every Senate Armed Services hearing within the last few years remotely focused on cyber, Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., has lamented the lack of a national policy and strategy on cyber from the Defense Department and the White House. As it turns out, resilience – one of the key issues every cybersecurity guru harps on – is at the heart of a lack of strategy. – Defense News
President Trump ordered the federal government to prepare for a devastating cyber attack against America's electric grid amid growing fears foreign states are set to carry out attacks aimed at plunging the nation into darkness. – Washington Free Beacon
As terrifying as the unprecedented global "ransomware" attack was, cyber-security experts say it's nothing compared to what might be coming -- especially if companies, organizations and governments don't make major fixes. – Associated Press
Interview: Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly spoke with former Director of the National Security Agency General Keith Alexander about the attack, how businesses should be thinking about it, and the larger cost of not coming up with a public-private partnership on all things cyber. – The Cipher Brief
The Cipher Brief spoke with Todd Rosenblum, the Senior Executive for National Security Programs and Strategy at IBM, about what the potential impact of these attacks is, who the potential culprits could be, and why they were so successful. – The Cipher Brief
When searching intelligence data, analysts from the National Security Agency failed to follow the rules “with much greater frequency” than was previously disclosed, documents published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence show. – Foreign Policy
Two years after the CIA reorganized itself to create 10 “mission centers,” the spy agency is adding a new one devoted specifically to North Korea. – Defense One
By year’s end, the Pentagon wants computers to be leading the hunt for Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, through turning countless hours of aerial surveillance video into actionable intelligence. It’s part of Project Maven, a fast-moving effort launched last month by Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work to accelerate, improve, and put to wider use the military’s use of machine learning. – Defense One
Strategic Issues
Congress is weighing options for bolstering U.S. defenses against North Korea, with new legislation arriving in the coming week that would increase the number of anti-missile systems on the West Coast. – The Hill
With North Korea developing its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, Hawaii defense experts are concerned North Korea could target the 50th state with an EMP attack. Such an explosion, if executed high enough in the atmosphere, could be hundreds of miles from Hawaii and still damage its operations and communications. – Fox News



In the years since Ukraine’s revolution ushered in a pro-Western government, the United States, the International Monetary Fund and other donors loosened the purse strings to offer Kiev foreign aid. But at the same time, anticorruption groups have been raising questions over where those billions of dollars have gone, concerns that have been amplified after Ukraine’s central bank chief resigned amid an investigation into a bailout of the country’s largest bank, a lender once owned by a pro-government oligarch. – New York Times
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed confidence that he can navigate the delicate task of improving relations with Russia amid fallout over President Donald Trump’s firing last week of the top official probing possible ties of Trump associates to the country. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Russia was again at the center of a global hacking scandal when computer systems the world over were frozen this weekend by a variant of malicious software known as WannaCry. But this time, Russians were among the victims of the attack, not suspected of being the perpetrators. – New York Times
Russia has yet to collect much of what it hoped for from the Trump administration, including the lifting of U.S. sanctions and recognition of its annexation of Crimea. But the Kremlin has gotten a different return on its effort to help elect Trump in last year’s election: chaos in Washington. – Washington Post
Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed his government to devise a plan prioritizing “traditional Russian spiritual and moral values” in cyberspace as the Kremlin considers tightening its grip further on its eroded internet freedoms. – Washington Times
Demonstrators packed a downtown Moscow avenue on Sunday, angered by plans for the mass demolition and replacement of huge apartment blocks and by what they called the highhanded way that City Hall, and by extension the federal government, trampled on their basic rights. – New York Times
A Russian jet flew within 20 feet of an U.S. Navy surveillance plane this week, but U.S. military officials said Friday that they consider the event to have been conducted safely and professionally. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
A Russian-owned group of companies will pay the U.S. government $6 million to settle a wide-reaching money-laundering case that had quietly rippled through U.S.-Russian relations for years. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
With each passing year, the so-called Immortal Regiment procession marking the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany becomes larger and more widespread. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The party of Chancellor Angela Merkel scored an upset win on Sunday in elections in Germany’s most populous state that were seen as a dress rehearsal for national parliamentary elections in September, where she will seek a fourth term. – New York Times
Against the regal backdrop of a grand reception room in France’s presidential palace, Emmanuel Macron, 39, was officially installed on Sunday as the youngest president in modern French history. In his short speech to mark the occasion, he encouraged the French to embrace the future, to hold him to a high standard and to join him in the hard work ahead. – New York Times
Britain could bring forward its next strategic defense and security review by as much as two years to reflect the likely impact of the Brexit negotiations, according to a top think tank here. – Defense News
Brussels is finalising plans to deploy the EU budget for the first time for military purposes, as Britain’s looming departure removes a significant obstacle to increased defence co-operation among its members. – Financial Times


United States of America
Republican Rep. Peter King thinks Hillary Clinton likely has more links to Russia than President Trump has to the country. – Washington Examiner
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called the White House's decision to keep the press out of a recent meeting with Russian officials "pretty odd" because past presidents openly met with foreign leaders of countries who were not necessarily allies. – Washington Examiner
Members of President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign were attacked by Russian hackers, according to a report Friday. – Washington Examiner
Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier and convicted national security secret leaker, will remain an active-duty, unpaid soldier, eligible for health care and other benefits, following her scheduled release May 17 from military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, according to the Army. – USA Today
If President Donald Trump selects Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn as his next FBI director it would accelerate a major shift in Republican politics with implications for both the Senate and the national GOP - Politico
TPP would have given a boost to e-commerce by limiting restrictions on data flows and prohibiting any of the participating countries from requiring computer servers be located domestically—where information is easier to censor or control. It also would have required state-owned enterprises to operate like commercial companies rather than political tools of the state. Intellectual property protection would have been strengthened and restrictions to competition in services reduced. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Robert Samuelson writes: Globalization has gotten a bad rap. The Trump White House associates it with all manner of economic evil, especially job loss. The administration has made undoing the damage a central part of its economic strategy. This will almost certainly fail and disappoint, because globalization’s ill effects have been wildly exaggerated. – Washington Post
Chad Brown and Alan Sykes write: The result of U.S. commitment to MFN and reciprocity has been an open, nondiscriminatory and rules-based trading system that has served the American and global economy well for decades. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The Trump administration is pressing to quickly pick the next FBI director, but congressional Democrats are threatening to withhold support for any nominee unless an independent investigator is appointed to look into possible ties between Russia and associates of the president. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Dueling accounts emerged Friday of private conversations between fired FBI director James B. Comey and President Trump, who suggested that there may be “tapes’’ of the discussions in which he said Comey told him he was not under investigation. – Washington Post
A tweet from President Donald Trump on Friday suggesting that he might have taped phone conversations from the White House made waves in Washington, but some former employees and a former associate said it wasn’t a surprise to them that he would mention taped conversations. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the second-ranking Senate Republican, who has in recent weeks become a more outward defender of President Trump, and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, who on Thursday contradicted the Trump White House on a range of topics, will interview Saturday to serve as the FBI’s permanent director, according to people familiar with the matter – Washington Post
Former homeland security adviser Frances Townsend is being interviewed to replace ousted FBI Director James Comey, according to multiple reports Saturday. – Washington Examiner
The FBI Agents Association on Saturday urged President Trump to nominate Mike Rogers, former House Intelligence Committee chairman and FBI special agent, to be the agency's next director. – Washington Examiner
Garcia is among at least 14 candidates who have emerged in the politically charged sweepstakes to replace James Comey, who President Donald Trump fired suddenly last Tuesday. Trump’s selection is being scrutinized by a broad range of constituencies, many of them concerned about the future — and independence — of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion by Trump associates. - Politico
FBI Director James Comey's firing isn't well-supported by the American public, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday. - Politico
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the election, on Sunday insisted President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey in an attempt to destroy the election probe. – Washington Examiner
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Sunday described a U.S. government "under assault" after President Donald Trump's controversial decision to fire FBI director James Comey, as lawmakers urged the president to select a new FBI director free of any political stigma. – Associated Press
Editorial: If Democrats believe evidence exists to impeach the President, the proper venue for offering it is the House Judiciary Committee. No doubt that’s what they’ll do if they retake the majority in 2018. Meantime, they shouldn’t be allowed to deform the institutions of government to serve their partisan purposes. If they want to impeach Mr. Trump, they will have to follow American democratic norms. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Editorial: Mr. Trump has assembled many able advisers and officials who are trying to serve the country and steer the mercurial President from his own worst instincts. If Mr. Trump won’t heed their counsel, he really will turn into Jimmy Carter. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Kenneth Starr writes: Rod Rosenstein is universally respected, a broad-based admiration founded on his long service and distinguished record in the Justice Department. Unless stepping aside represents the deputy attorney general’s considered judgment as the right thing to do, calling in a special prosecutor now would simply cause further delay, add greater cost, and disrupt the continuing work of the FBI. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Latin America
President Nicolás Maduro, beleaguered by a second month of protests against him, has prosecuted political rivals under terrorism laws and expanded his powers by emergency decrees. His backers on the Supreme Court have even tried to dissolve the national legislature, which is led by the political opposition. Now, the president is turning to military courts to tighten his grip further, prosecuting demonstrators and other civilians in tribunals that the government closely controls. – New York Times
Worried that the men who committed some of Argentina’s most heinous human rights abuses could be freed from jail years early, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the country’s streets on Wednesday. The demonstrations were in response to a Supreme Court ruling this month that reduced the sentence of a man convicted of crimes against humanity during the country’s military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. – New York Times


West Africa
The Ivory Coast government sent a convoy of elite forces to the city of Bouaké on Sunday in an effort to quell a three-day military mutiny over pay that has already left one former rebel dead and five civilians wounded. – New York Times
Heavy gunfire erupted on Monday in Ivory Coast's two largest cities Abidjan and Bouake, witnesses said, as the military pressed an operation aimed at ending a four-day nationwide army mutiny over bonus payments. - Reuters
East Africa
While Mr. Kony has evaded capture, the United States and the Ugandan military decided to end their search for him in late April, abandoning the international effort to bring him to justice. Now, after eight years of being deployed in the Central African Republic, the Ugandans are leaving behind their own trail of abuse allegations — including rape, sexual slavery and the exploitation of young girls. – New York Times
President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya has called on China to rebalance an increasingly skewed trade relationship between Africa and the rising superpower, arguing that Beijing must do more to tackle a widening trade deficit. – Financial Times
FPI Fellow Mark Moyar writes: Somalia has harbored extremists who pose direct threats to the United States and its allies, not to mention the fledgling Somalian government. But the anticipated reward of an operation must be very high when the risk of American casualties is so severe, and when the long-term consequences are ephemeral. – The Atlantic
Central Africa
Joseph Kabila, the increasingly isolated president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, appears determined to silence opponents, even if they are dead. Étienne Tshisekedi — who for 40 years led the opposition against three dictators, including Mr. Kabila’s father, the previous president, and Mr. Kabila himself — died in February in Belgium. But his body has been stuck in a morgue ever since because of a protracted dispute between his family and the Congolese authorities over where to bury him. – New York Times
The World Health Organization has confirmed an Ebola outbreak in a remote forested part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the first in that country since 2014. At least nine people are suspected of being infected, and three have died. – Washington Post
Hundreds of civilians are seeking refuge inside a mosque in the Central African Republic's border town of Bangassou amid ongoing attacks by Christian militias that have killed up to 30 civilians, U.N. officials and aid workers said on Sunday. - Reuters

Trump Administration

Less than two weeks before a potentially tense and diplomatically delicate meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, President Trump has apparently settled on nominating Callista Gingrich, the wife of Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, as the United States ambassador to the Holy See, according to two people close to the president. – New York Times
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in an interview that aired Sunday that the U.S. must make a distinction “between values and policy,” a response to criticism from Sen. John McCain that the nation’s top diplomat had abandoned victims of oppression around the globe. - Politico
Mike Allen reports: At the urging of longtime friends and outside advisers, most of whom he consults after dark, President Trump is considering a "huge reboot" that could take out everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer, White House sources tell me. - Axios
Interview: In an extensive new interview for The Global Politico, the former secretary of state acknowledges her concerns about a president accused of eroding democracy at home and ignoring it abroad. She says Trump, a novice in world affairs, has a “steeper learning curve than most” presidents, and pushes him to adopt what would be a stark reversal in policy to favor the global promotion of human rights and American leadership that Rice advocated as President George W. Bush’s top foreign policy adviser. - Politico
Dean Runde writes: When President Donald Trump nominated Ambassador Mark Green to run USAID on Wednesday, it was the absolute best choice he could have made. Green brings deep experience in development and foreign affairs, moral clarity, and a belief in a strong U.S. role in the world. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room

Democracy and Human Rights

Jackson Diehl writes: Trump has an opportunity to carve out a role as a fierce defender of Americans abroad, distinguish himself from past presidents and score a few relatively easy wins. If he seizes it, even those of us who despise his values-free foreign policy will have to give him some credit. – Washington Post
Tina Ramirez writes: The time for doing nothing is over. American Christians and all people of conscience must work with the Trump administration to uphold religious-freedom rights for everyone the world over. – National Review Online


Kiron Skinner writes: President Trump’s America First ideas are not those of AFC and Lindbergh. He has made that known in his earliest foreign policy decisions, which are all about strengthening alliances and clarifying US commitments abroad. The American president seems to be quickly learning that globally there is a premium placed on what America says and does. Among other things, that means the West is worth defending. The political discourse ought to catch up to the geopolitical reality. – Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas

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.
Read More