FPI Overnight Brief: May 16, 2017

The Must-Reads

  • Trump revealed classified info to Russian foreign minister, ambassador
  • Eli Lake: Trump’s best defense on Russia is incompetence
  • NATO tries to “Trump Proof” President’s first visit
  • Clues point to North Korea in global ransomware cyberattack
  • N. Korean missile test appears to tiptoe over a US tripwire
  • US says Syrian crematory is hiding mass killings of prisoners
  • US plans to supply anti-tank weapons to Kurdish fighters in Syria
  • Robert Ford and Fred Hof on the fight against ISIS in Syria
  • Gens. Goldfein, Rand: Why the US is right to invest in nukes
  • Hoff: Hard power isn’t sufficient, Jeffrey: Make diplomacy great again

Middle East/North Africa

One of the leading hard-line candidates for Iran’s presidency withdrew from the race on Monday, in a move aimed at consolidating the conservative vote ahead of Friday’s election. The candidate, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, threw his support behind Ebrahim Raisi, a former top official of the judiciary, who is seen as the main threat to the moderate incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani. – New York Times
Top officials from the Obama administration are working to stymie congressional pressure on Iran, including through a quiet push in Congress by an organization that has been criticized for helping mislead the public about the Iran deal, according to correspondence obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD. – The Weekly Standard
Donald Trump’s administration is likely to uphold its part of the historic nuclear deal with Iran this week, despite the US president’s fierce criticism of the agreement, people close to the issue have told the Financial Times. – Financial Times
The issues of inequality and corruption have dominated campaigning ahead of Friday’s presidential election, with candidates trading verbal blows in television debates on who is responsible. Some reformers argue that widespread corruption threatens the long-term survival of the Islamic Republic, which ousted the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979 on promises of equality and social justice for the poor. Yet by some calculations a third of the country remains in “absolute poverty”. – Financial Times
Elliott Abrams writes: I know what you’re thinking: Why would any American favor Ibrahim Raisi, the hardest-line candidate for Iran’s presidency in the May 19 election, over the incumbent Hassan Rouhani, who is widely praised in world capitals as a moderate? There are two reasons, and the first is that Rouhani is not a moderate—or is at best a moderate utterly without influence. - Politico
Tzvi Kahn writes: In the coming days, Trump administration officials and members of Congress should deploy the bully pulpit to draw attention to the hunger strikes. They should urge European officials to discuss the prisoners with their Iranian counterparts. Ambassador Nikki Haley should raise the inmates’ ordeal at the United Nations. And the Treasury Department should impose additional sanctions on Iranian entities linked to the regime’s domestic repression. – Foundation for Defense of Democracies
The State Department released satellite images on Monday that officials said showed that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has built a crematory at a military prison outside Damascus to hide a large number of executions. – New York Times
The U.S. military is preparing to provide Kurdish forces in Syria with antitank weapons in their fight against Islamic State, U.S. officials said Monday, a move that would allow them to target armored Islamic State trucks used in suicide bombings but could also give them the ability to strike Turkish tanks operating in Syria. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Former President Barack Obama says it took “political courage” not to bomb Syria following the use of chemical weapons there. – The Hill
The whereabouts of a former U.S. Marine who went missing in Syria while working as a freelance journalist remain unknown, an official said Monday. – Military.com
A Russian-brokered plan this month to divide Syria’s battlefields into “de-escalation zones” aims to halt fighting that has raged for six years. Instead, it may set off a fierce international struggle for influence in the war-torn country. – Financial Times
More than 40 civilians have been killed in a suspected US-led coalition strike in eastern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. – Financial Times
More than 1,000 insurgents and their families left an opposition-held district of Damascus on Monday, completing an agreement between the Syrian government and rebels, Syrian state media outlets and a war monitoring group said. - Reuters
Frederic Hof writes: The alliance with a NATO partner is more important than a CENTCOM relationship with militiamen linked both to the PKK and, on occasion, to the Assad regime. Tampa’s preference for continuing the present course is understandable, if unacceptable. It is up to the two Presidents to put the alliance first. They should make every effort to get to “Yes” on Syria: all of it. – Atlantic Council
Robert Ford writes: The saddest part of all this is that the Syrian Kurds, like so many Middle Easterners before them, think the Americans will protect them from their enemies. They have forgotten the bitter experience of Mustafa Barzani, the Iraqi-Kurdish leader whom the Americans backed in the 1970s against the Iraqi Baathist regime, only to sell them out in 1975 when the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran cut a deal with Baghdad…Especially with presidents like Obama and Trump, the Syrian Kurds of today should expect no better of the Americans. – The Atlantic
Aldar Khalil writes: Whatever pretense Erdogan may claim, we in northern Syria know that he bombs us to distract his own population from domestic issues, including his recent power grab in the form of a national referendum. But what this means is that, as problems in Turkey continue to grow, his appetite for conflict in Syria will similarly escalate. This was not the first time he bombed us, and it will not be the last. Each time he does, he will call us terrorists and accuse us of being PKK. All we can hope is that the world sees these claims for what they are — politically motivated lies that not only threaten our safety but the safety of our American colleagues. – Foreign Policy
During a visit south of Mosul on Monday, a senior U.S. official praised territorial gains against the Islamic State group in Iraq, but local officials cautioned more aid is needed to rebuild on the heels of victories against the extremists. – Associated Press
Iraqi forces have dislodged Islamic State from all but 12 square km of Mosul, a military spokesman said on Tuesday, after planes dropped leaflets into the city telling civilians the battle was nearly won. - Reuters
These frighteningly familiar stories of life under the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will this month become plotlines on prime-time television across the Arab world. A sprawling, 30-part dramatic series is scheduled to make its debut on MBC 1, the Arab world’s most watched satellite channel, during the holy month of Ramadan, said Ali Jaber, the director of television for the MBC Network. – New York Times
Arabian Peninsula
As President Trump prepares for his first overseas trip this week, his decision to make Saudi Arabia his first stop is prompting urgent appeals from humanitarian agencies to assist in the crisis in neighboring Yemen, which is careening toward a catastrophe. – New York Times
The quick and decisive victory—the centerpiece of a broader push last year to defeat AQAP in southern Yemen—was followed by a more time-consuming challenge for the local government: maintaining security and improving daily life, even as the broader Yemen conflict grinds on elsewhere….That is especially true in Al Mukalla, where al Qaeda positioned itself as better than previous governments that had neglected the area. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Trump met Monday with the leader of the United Arab Emirates, laying groundwork for his first foreign trip and a summit with Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia that is vital to his plan to confront radical Islamic terrorism. – Washington Times
Cholera has killed at least 180 people in Yemen in recent weeks, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday, a day after authorities declared a state of emergency in the capital Sanaa and called for international help. - Reuters
Maher Farrukh, Tyler Nocita and Katherine Zimmerman write: U.S. policy for Yemen is now in peril. The U.S. supports the Saudi-led coalition, which has been ineffective at best on the ground in restoring order to Yemen and at worse has added to the challenges, including a major humanitarian crisis….The U.S. could rapidly lose its ability to secure its own interests in Yemen. America must stop out-sourcing its policies to partners and instead take the lead. – AEI’s Critical Threats
Andrew Exum writes: The biggest risk for the Emiratis and other Gulf states might be overconfidence. Americans aren’t too excited about Donald Trump these days, even if Gulf leaders are. Just as the Gulf states endured the last few years of the Obama administration, hoping for a new administration, this one will not last forever. A wise man would not want to become too associated with Trumpism. And when Trump is gone, the Gulf states will want to have created enduring partnerships that transcend the partisan era in which Americans are living. – The Atlantic
Days after twin suicide blasts at Christian churches rocked Egypt, the country’s media launched a wave of highly unusual attacks on al-Azhar, the institution that has for centuries provided religious guidance to Sunni Muslims around the world…Such fiery criticism appears to reflect tensions between Egypt’s political and religious leaders, with pro-regime media alleging that Azhar’s leaders are failing to combat extremism and maybe even fuelling it. – Financial Times
Arab Gulf states have offered to take concrete steps to establish better relations with Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a significant overture aimed at restarting the Middle East peace process, according to people briefed on the discussions. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The White House ran into static with the Israelis on Monday on a series of small, but sensitive, diplomatic issues, ranging from the legal status of the Western Wall to President Trump’s repeated promise to move the American Embassy. – New York Times
As Friedman prepares to take up his post Tuesday as U.S. ambassador to Israel on the eve of President Trump’s visit to the region, residents of Beit El are hoping that he can help soften the U.S. policy against Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank. – Los Angeles Times
President Donald Trump will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington, D.C., for the first time on Tuesday, one week after the White House announced plans to arm Syrian Kurds fighting the Islamic State despite fierce opposition from Ankara. – Washington Free Beacon
Berlin on Monday slammed Ankara's refusal to allow German lawmakers to visit a NATO base near Syria and warned it could move its troops elsewhere. - AFP
Fethullah Gullen writes: The Turkish government must stop the repression of its people and redress the rights of individuals who have been wronged by Erdogan without due process. I probably will not live to see Turkey become an exemplary democracy, but I pray that the downward authoritarian drift can be stopped before it is too late. – Washington Post
Amanda Sloat writes: Dear Mr. President: On Tuesday, you are set to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House….Your decision to bomb a Syrian airbase after a chemical weapons attack warmed Erdogan’s Assad-hating heart. You will need this political capital to address the thorny Kurdish issue creating tensions in Syria. In addition, you should urge constructive engagement on Cyprus and actions to improve rule of law in Turkey. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government


A Marine Corps task force newly deployed to Afghanistan’s most violent province could need additional troops or other resources, depending on what policy decisions that Washington and Kabul make for Afghanistan, said the top officer in the task force. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
Afghan security forces have regained control of a district center close to the northern city of Kunduz that fell to Taliban insurgents earlier this month, officials said on Tuesday. - Reuters
Michael Waltz writes: Afghanistan will not look like Colombia any time soon. But it can look like one of the Central Asian states — relatively impoverished, but slowly working out of it through natural resources, capable of securing itself with a widely-respected military that can disrupt terrorist sanctuaries, and sustaining a political system that provides a voice to ethnic groups and provides the most basic needs. – War on the Rocks
South Asia
The Trump administration spoke with Pakistan about the prospect of freeing a doctor who helped the U.S. mission to find Osama bin Laden, and whose imprisonment in Pakistan has been a persistent thorn in relations between the longtime allies. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A 10-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by her stepfather, and who is now at least 20 weeks pregnant, may be forced to give birth because of India’s restrictive abortion law. – New York Times
China’s bid to mobilize dozens of countries and billions of dollars for its ambitious Silk Road infrastructure plan bumped into European dissent at a high-profile Beijing forum, underscoring difficulties in marshaling consensus over President Xi Jinping’s globalization blueprint. – Wall Street Journal
China on Tuesday quietly released the first public draft of an intelligence law giving authorities powers to monitor suspects, raid premises, and seize vehicles and devices while investigating domestic and foreign individuals and groups. - Reuters
Editorial: President Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty, which would have bound the United States with 11 Pacific countries, means the United States now lacks an alternative to offer. If Mr. Xi succeeds in creating a Chinese sphere of influence, it will be on ground willingly ceded by Washington. – Washington Post
Editorial: On the whole, Mr. Trump’s action plan positions the United States as a supplier of primary products and financial services to a tech-producing nation with which we would still enjoy a massive deficit in manufactured goods. Eliminating the latter was supposedly the Trump administration’s top goal with Beijing, but there isn’t even a reference in the plan to the United States’ most legitimate complaint regarding Chinese industrial mercantilism — its overcapacity in steel and aluminum. In any case, the administration’s focus on market-by-market bilateral governmental management, which this plan epitomizes, is economically irrational and plays to state capitalist China’s strengths. – Washington Post
Korean Peninsula
Instead of going for distance, he has stepped up the testing of missiles that fly high into space — on Sunday, one reached a height of more than 1,300 miles — and then plunge down through the atmosphere, mimicking the kind of fiery re-entries a nuclear warhead would undergo if fired over a much longer distance. Instead, the payload lands in waters a few hundred miles or so from North Korea’s coast. – New York Times
The Trump administration is suffering from a deficit of experience in dealing with North Korea’s rising threat, a former senior U.S. diplomat for Asia said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
North Korea flight tested a new intermediate-range missile the Pentagon assesses was practice for the reentry of a nuclear warhead into the atmosphere, according to defense officials. – Washington Free Beacon
For more than a year, a United Nations agency in Geneva has been helping North Korea prepare an international patent application for production of sodium cyanide -- a chemical used to make the nerve gas Tabun -- which has been on a list of materials banned from shipment to that country by the U.N. Security Council since 2006. – Fox News
A Republican senator warned Monday that North Korea’s missile test over the weekend “appears to be one of its most advanced yet” and that the United States must put more pressure on China to address the issue. – The Hill
New South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit the White House next month for a summit with President Donald Trump amid worries over North Korea's progress in building a nuclear and missile arsenal, Seoul's presidential office said Tuesday. - Politico
North Korea's missile program is progressing faster than expected, South Korea's defense minister said on Tuesday, after the UN Security Council demanded the North halt all nuclear and ballistic missile tests and condemned Sunday's test-launch. - Reuters
James Acton writes: In international friendships as in personal ones, interventions are sometimes necessary to prevent self-destructive behavior. Japan’s nuclear policy, which calls for the U.S. to help Tokyo help itself before it’s too late, is a case in point. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


US President Donald Trump missed his campaign promise to offer a bill to "eliminate the defense sequester” within the first 100 days of his administration, but hawkish Republican lawmakers are pressing ahead. – Defense News
The Pentagon’s inspector general has opened a review into whether the Air Force has imposed excessive secrecy on fundamentals of its $80 billion program to develop and build the new B-21 bomber. - Bloomberg
The U.S. Air Force has lifted flight restrictions on lightweight F-35A pilots and will not pursue qualifying United Technologies’ ACES 5 ejection seat — a major win for Martin-Baker and its US16E pilot escape system, which is used in all variants of the F-35, officials announced Monday. – Defense News
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses a remarkable array of sensors and processors to let it find the enemy and help the pilot kill or evade him. But the crucial threat library — known as Mission Data Files — just isn’t being developed and updated quickly enough, Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, head of the F-35 integration office, told me today. – Breaking Defense
The Pentagon is studying gray zone conflict — otherwise known as hybrid warfare — beginning with a focus on Russia and later moving on to study Iran and China, the acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told members of Congress. – Defense News
The Navy plans to expand its emerging "over-the-horizon" ship-launched cruise missile defense technology to a wider range of airborne sensor platforms beyond an E2-D Hawkeye and Marine Corps F-35B - to possibly include the Navy's own carrier-launched stealthy F-35C and F/A-18 Super Hornets, service officials said. – Scout Warrior
The Air Force's hunt for a new electronic warfare aircraft is "off and running" now that a budget has been approved for the rest of fiscal 2017, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force's acquisition chief, said Monday. – Military Times
Intelligence officials and private security experts say that new digital clues point to North Korean-linked hackers as likely suspects in the sweeping ransomware attacks that have crippled computer systems around the world. – New York Times
As day four of a globe-spanning cyberattack brought with it a marked slowdown in the spread of infected computers, governments and companies started to count the costs. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
For 18 days last month, a team of computer security experts found themselves engaged in a digital version of hand-to-hand combat with a group of hackers determined to break into the network of a military contractor…While dueling with the hackers, the security experts said they encountered something that they had never seen before when dealing with an Iranian cyberattack: a Russian connection. – New York Times
The global malware attack that has crippled hospitals, businesses and foreign government computers is confronting a Trump administration that still hasn’t filled many of the top cybersecurity slots that are critical for handling this kind of crisis. - Politico
This week's worldwide cybersecurity crisis is just the latest black eye for the National Security Agency and its practice of stockpiling secret means of snooping into computer systems. - Politico
Technology giant Microsoft is blaming the National Security Agency for the cyber extortion that hit hundreds of thousands of computer networks worldwide. – Washington Free Beacon
Criminal hacking groups have repurposed a second classified cyber weapon stolen from US spies and have made it available on the so-called dark web after the success of the WannaCry attack that swept across the globe on Friday. – Financial Times
Cybersecurity researchers have found evidence they say could link North Korea with the WannaCry cyber attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers worldwide, as global authorities scrambled to prevent hackers from spreading new versions of the virus. - Reuters
Editorial: The Pentagon stood up a cyber command in 2012, but the effort has been impaired by bureaucratic turf protection and blurred lines of accountability. Infamously in 2013, Defense, Homeland Security, the FBI and other agencies required 75 drafts of a single Power Point slide to define their respective division of responsibilities for cybersecurity. Abuse and even acts of war are never far behind technological advance, and the damage will be worse next time if the U.S. can’t modernize its cyberdefenses. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will pit civil liberties advocates who oppose the warrantless eavesdropping authority it provides, against law enforcement agencies that say it’s crucial to their efforts to combat terrorism. – Roll Call
Strategic Issues
Interview: The Cipher Brief asked Tom Karako, the director of the Missile Defense Project at CSIS to learn more about how the GMD works, what makes it unique, and its value as a deterrent against North Korea. – The Cipher Brief
Air Force Chief of Staff General Dave Goldfein and General Robin Rand (USAF) write: So while much has changed since 2010, what has not changed is the need for a strong U.S. nuclear deterrent. We must modernize our aging delivery platforms, nuclear weapons and supporting infrastructure so that America's deterrent remains credible and effective in the future. - Politico


Ukraine on Tuesday put in place new sanctions seeking to block Russian media and online networks from operating in the country, including VKontakte, the nation’s most popular social network. – Washington Post
Editorial: The use of heavy artillery is prohibited under the Minsk agreement that was supposed to de-escalate the conflict in 2015, but the Russian side treats the accord as a dead letter. Such impunity will continue as long as Ukraine lacks the defensive weapons that would allow it to impose a higher cost on Russian aggressions. For all their newfound anti-Putin bluster today, American Democrats refused to arm Ukraine when they were in power. President Trump and the Republicans can do better. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A Kremlin-connected billionaire has sued the Associated Press (AP) for defamation and libel over a report on his business ties to U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) write: Tillerson should seize any opportunity to engage with Russian civil society leaders moving forward — in the long tradition of his predecessors and in the name of American global leadership. This September, he is scheduled to host the Community of Democracies ministerial meeting, and we urge him to make this engagement a priority and to reiterate that the United States will stand up for its values and Helsinki principles in a world that needs to be reminded of our commitment to them. – Washington Post
Western Europe
Since emerging as prime minister from the political wreckage of last year’s vote to quit the European Union, Theresa May has told Britain’s voters little about what she believes, aside from stressing her desire for a clean break from the bloc. But with an election looming, Mrs. May is promoting some strikingly centrist social and economic policies, reaching out across the political divide to traditional supporters of the opposition Labour Party, many of whose incomes were squeezed after the financial crash. – New York Times
The European Union’s highest court ruled on Tuesday that a 2014 trade deal with Singapore could not be approved without permission from the parliaments of the bloc’s 28 members, leaving in place an obstacle to future trade negotiations — including talks with Britain over its withdrawal from the union. – New York Times
The new French president and the veteran German chancellor used their first engagement on Monday to declare their determination to salvage European unity now that France has beaten back the immediate risk from radical populism, which threatened to undo the European Union itself. – New York Times
Guy Verhofstadt writes: The lesson from Mr. Macron’s victory is that the ideals of the European Union are still very much alive. But this can be only the beginning of something new, not the conclusion. The hard work starts now. Europe’s citizens are inspired to vote for politicians who stand up for Europe, but they will extend our mandate only if we deliver. – New York Times
John Vinocur writes: She’s neither a Trump nor an Obama, but the chancellor still needs to fight along her own red lines. At the very least, she must make sure through her personal credibility that Russian statements such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s claim that “the world is entering the post-Western era” are received everywhere as preposterously fake news. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Constanze Stelzenmüller writes: With her party polling at 37 percent — 10 points ahead of the Social Democrats — Merkel’s chances for the September elections look good. But if the past holds any lesson, it is that German politics remain fragmented and volatile. So caution is advised. But then that is one of the chancellor’s most notable qualities. – Washington Post
A group of cybersecurity experts has unearthed ties between an American hacker who maintains a neo-Nazi website and an internet campaign to smear Emmanuel Macron days before he was elected president of France. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
French President Emmanuel Macron appointed Edouard Philippe, a little-known centre-right politician, as his prime minister in an attempt to win a majority in parliament for his year-old centrist party. – Financial Times
Eastern Europe
Nearly six months after Austria averted a swing to the right by rejecting an extremist candidate for president, the country appeared poised to clear a path for the far-right Freedom Party to enter into power as the current government teetered on the verge of collapse. – New York Times
Mr. Zeman’s latest incendiary remark came on Sunday. In Beijing for an international conference to discuss Beijing’s $1 trillion “One Belt, One Road” plan to shake up the global economic order, Mr. Zeman was chatting with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, when he appeared to suddenly suggest that journalists be killed. – New York Times
Broad public discussion of a series of amendments to the Georgian constitution drafted by a commission dominated by the ruling Georgian Dream party is currently under way. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Kimberly Dozier reports: The Trump administration didn’t send any its top officials to the Lennart Meri meeting, northern Europe’s premier annual defense conference. Still, its fiercest defender just might be conference host Estonia – The Daily Beast
NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy. And the alliance scrapped plans to publish the traditional full post-meeting statement meant to crystallize NATO’s latest strategic stance. – Foreign Policy


United States of America
The federal appeals court panel weighing President Trump’s travel ban focused acutely on Trump’s own comments at a hearing Monday — lobbing skeptical inquiries at lawyers on both sides of the issue as they tried to ascertain to what extent they should hold the president’s inflammatory rhetoric against him. – Washington Post
After the shortest tenure as White House national security adviser in history, Michael Flynn faces a legal mess that Washington has not seen in decades, according to legal analysts. – Washington Times
Senators investigating President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia wanted to show they meant business when they slapped Michael Flynn with a subpoena last week — but the aggressive move may be less than it seemed. - Politico
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said there's no reason for a special prosecutor to investigate connections between President Trump's campaign and the Russian government. – Washington Examiner
The Trump administration has not yet set up a promised White House hotline for veterans’ complaints nearly four months after President Trump took office, the Military Times reported. – The Hill
Mack McLarty and Penny Pritzker write: Trump’s campaign placed concerns about NAFTA front and center. He now leads a nation — and an administration — that is deeply divided over its approach to trade. As he learns more about the realities of NAFTA, he has an opportunity to improve it. At the same time, our nation must develop a robust domestic job training strategy and strengthen the safety net for American workers. That’s what "winning” on trade requires. – Los Angeles Times
Trump and Classified Information
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State – Washington Post
President Trump declared on Twitter early Tuesday that he had an “absolute right” to share with top Russian officials information about an Islamic State threat during a White House meeting last week. – New York Times
Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman denied Tuesday that President Trump revealed classified information during an Oval Office meeting, but Trump suggested that intelligence details were shared for “humanitarian reasons.” – Washington Post
President Donald Trump’s allegedly loose lips with the Russians could have caused serious damage to U.S. efforts to counter the Islamic State, intelligence experts and former government security officials of both parties said Monday night. - Politico
White House and administration officials are reeling at reports that President Donald Trump reportedly shared classified information with Russia’s top diplomats during an Oval Office meeting last week. – The Daily Beast
The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee joined Democrats in slamming Donald Trump on Monday over a report the president divulged highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. - Politico
Eli Lake writes: One way you know the president is in trouble is that, accused of collusion, his best defense is incompetence. Such is the case with Donald Trump's firing of James Comey. And such is the case with the latest scandal to hit this White House, that Trump disclosed highly classified information in his meeting last week with Russia's foreign minister. – Bloomberg View
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will brief the Senate on Thursday on the abrupt firing of former FBI Director James Comey, senators said Monday, as top Justice Department officials continue winnowing the list of candidates to run the Federal Bureau of Investigation. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
It’s nothing personal toward the affable Senate majority whip from Texas, who has built up loyalty during his years in the Senate, particularly as a two-term chairman of the GOP’s campaign arm and a high-ranking member of leadership. But with Trump's sacking of James Comey still reverberating on Capitol Hill, some Republicans want to make sure that the next FBI director is highly credentialed, unimpeachable — and completely apolitical. - Politico
Editorial: Replacing the resolutely independent Mr. Comey with someone who has had an “R” next to his or her name would stoke concerns that the president purposefully gutted oversight of his campaign and administration. Even choosing a Democrat would harm the FBI. The suspicion of any partisan inclination at a time when the president’s campaign is under investigation would be toxic for the nation’s faith in a core federal institution in general and its conclusions regarding Russia’s 2016 election hacking in particular. – Washington Post
State Department/Foreign Aid
James Jeffrey writes: Such reorganization of State does not guarantee a more realistic approach to what diplomacy can do in support of foreign policy. But no such approach is possible as long as State is institutionally confused about its core mission, as it has become since the end of the Cold War. It will take fully engaged leadership to set that straight. – The American Interest
Rachel Hoff writes: President Trump’s promises to support the military and keep the nation safe go hand in hand with fully funding the nation’s diplomatic and development programs. Since Congress has the power of the purse, it should reject deep cuts to the State Department and USAID. The good news from an economic perspective is that diplomacy and development spending is incredibly efficient—just 1 percent of the budget can go a long way. – American Action Forum
Latin America
A prominent Mexican journalist who covered the country’s drug wars was shot and killed Monday outside the offices of the newspaper that he founded in violence-torn Sinaloa state, the latest in a wave of journalist killings that is rising alongside the country’s drug violence. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro staged sit-ins and roadblocks across Venezuela on Monday to press for elections, sparking new unrest and a death in the border state of Tachira. - Reuters


The U.N. Security Council agreed unanimously late Monday that the stalemate between Sudan and South Sudan over the status of the oil-rich region of Abyei has gone on for too long and gave the countries a final six months to implement joint border monitoring. – Associated Press
Gunmen suspected of being fighters from Somalia's al Shabaab militant group burst into a government official's house in northeast Kenya and shot him dead late on Monday, police said. - Reuters
Renegade soldiers in Ivory Coast on Monday rejected a proposed deal to end their mutiny over unpaid bonuses just minutes after the defense minister announced on state-owned television that an agreement had been reached. - Reuters

Trump Administration

As Trump eyes a reorganization of his senior staff and blames a range of misfires on former President Barack Obama, warring White House aides, an ineffective communications shop, the "failing" news media, members of Congress and others, the latest episodes reveal what senior aides and advisers privately say: The problems often come from the top. - Politico


Jonathan Schanzer writes: The only “ground truth” I could ever discern was that the Arab world is a complex patchwork of national identities that are influenced heavily by clan, family, tribe and—of course—religion. The people speak different dialects and embrace different cultures. Sure, there are commonalities among Arabs, but the more you travel the region, the more you find yourself focusing on the differences. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

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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