FPI Overnight Brief: May 30, 2017

The Must-Reads

  • US struggling to halt Beijing’s advance in S. China Sea
  • North Korean tests add urgency for US to fix defense flaws
  • Al Qaeda attempts a comeback with Bin Laden’s son
  • US says it has shifted strategy in fight against ISIS
  • Paul Miller: How Trump can win America’s longest war
  • Rogin: Admin plans to restart Ukraine peace process
  • Bob Fu: China’s tortured lawyers require international response
  • Defense hawks gird for budget brawl
  • Military’s clout at White House could shift US foreign policy

Middle East/North Africa

Boeing’s planned multibillion-dollar aircraft sales to Iran are facing a growing backlash from Republicans in Washington, but one key politician has stayed silent: Donald Trump. The proposed sales have put the U.S. president in a tough spot, pitting his hostility to Iran and the recent nuclear deal against his ambition to boost American factory jobs. – Foreign Policy
The Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union aims to finalise a free-trade deal with Iran by the end of the year, in an attempt by Russia and its fellow members to deepen ties with Tehran. – Financial Times
Defeated hardline candidate Ebrahim Raisi has complained of voter fraud in Iran's presidential election and called on the judiciary and the election watchdog to investigate, the semi-official Fars news agency said on Monday. - Reuters
Analysis: President Trump, who has never made a secret of his hostility toward Iran, called recently for a grand regional strategy among Sunni nations to isolate the country. But Tehran received that threat with surprising equanimity because, in practice, the Trump administration has shown a willingness to do business with the country. – New York Times
Iraqi forces, backed by heavy U.S.-led air and artillery strikes, began a new offensive into the Islamic State’s final bastions in the city [of Mosul]. – Washington Post
French special forces have for months enlisted Iraqi soldiers to hunt and kill French nationals who have joined the senior ranks of Islamic State, according to Iraqi officers and current and former French officials. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Iraqi officials coordinating the Mosul offensive against Islamic State extremists that began in October have reversed themselves after urging residents to shelter in place, and are telling them to flee. – Los Angeles Times
As part of an American effort to promote economic development in Iraq and secure influence in the country after the fight against the Islamic State subsides, the American government has helped broker a deal between Iraq and Olive Group, a private security company, to establish and secure the country’s first toll highway. This being Iraq, though, the project has quickly been caught up in geopolitics, sectarianism and tensions between the United States and Iran, which seems determined to sabotage the highway project as an unacceptable projection of American influence right on its doorstep. – New York Times
Bulldozers were essential to Iraqi forces as they pushed through Ramadi, Fallujah and eastern Mosul. Unlike other breaching equipment, such as specialized explosives or specifically outfitted tanks, the bulldozers can clear obstacles while creating ad hoc defenses. In western Mosul, with its crowded neighborhoods and increasingly complex ring of Islamic State defensive positions, the machines have become more crucial — and more of a target — than ever. – Washington Post
Iraq's mostly Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary forces reached the border with Syria on Monday after securing a string of small villages west of Mosul, according to a spokesman for the group. – Associated Press
While Iraq's conventional military has been slowly clearing the Islamic State group from inside Mosul's complex urban terrain, Iraq's Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary forces have been working their way through less glamorous territory: vast deserts west and south of the city that run along and across Iraq's border with Syria. – Associated Press
A massive bombing by the Islamic State group outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad and a rush hour car bomb in another downtown area killed at least 27 people on Tuesday, Iraqi officials said. – Associated Press
This vast and often hilly expanse along Turkey’s southern border has become the rebels’ final redoubt. In the coming months, it could become the sternest — and the bloodiest — challenge for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces as they battle to control areas they lost to rebel fighters after the country’s 2011 uprising. – Washington Post
The US-led coalition has warned Syrian government forces that they will be attacked if they continue to advance towards a town where American forces and its allies in the fight against Isis are based. – Financial Times
The U.S. has switched to “annihilation tactics” against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, surrounding fighters instead of moving them from one spot to another, the defense secretary said Sunday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Saudi Arabia
The White House and Congress are headed for a showdown over President Donald Trump’s massive multibillion-dollar arms package for Saudi Arabia. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are calling for congressional hearings and scrutiny into the planned arms sale, which Trump finalized during his trip to Saudi Arabia – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
North Africa
Today, militias have carved up the oil-producing country into fiefdoms, each aligned with one of three competing governments. And Tripoli, as expected, has been a major battleground with armed groups fighting for control of neighborhoods, even streets and buildings. – Washington Post
Six years after the revolution that brought down Tunisia’s dictator of 23 years, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the protests reflect mounting frustration at the broken promises of the country’s new democratic leaders to bring tangible improvement to poorer regions like this one. Yet the protesters are themselves a sign of change in the country, as are the challenges confronting the government. The demonstrators are representative of a new generation that has come of age in relative freedom, only to face the prospect of long-term unemployment. – New York Times
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Monday enacted a law that imposes strict new regulations on aid groups, stoking fears that his government intends to accelerate its harsh crackdown on human rights activists before a presidential election scheduled for next year. – New York Times
Egypt made clear on Monday that it planned to press ahead with air strikes against Islamist militants in neighbouring Libya who it says were responsible for killing Egyptian Christians in an ambush last week. - Reuters
Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails ended a hunger strike late on Friday after 40 days, as their health was deteriorating and after, news media reports said, the authorities agreed to at least one of the prisoners’ demands. – New York Times
Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said President Trump will not secure a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians – The Hill
Ron Prosor writes: President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have a historic opportunity to do the right thing, at the right time, in the right place: to show that U.S. diplomatic intervention today can prevent the need to make terrible decisions about U.S. military intervention tomorrow. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
In a conspiratorial rebuke of Western governments, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused European intelligence agencies of co-opting members of the Turkish press to undermine President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. – Buzz Feed
Editorial: We understand the need for careful review, but there also should be a sense of urgency in bringing to justice those responsible for this indefensible attack on peaceful protesters. Charges should be brought. If diplomatic immunity precludes prosecution in some cases, those wrongdoers should be made personae non grata in the United States. – Washington Post


South Asia
Mawlawi Hanafi joined a rapidly growing list of Islamic religious scholars who have become casualties of the Afghan war. The scholars have long been targets, of one kind or another, in Afghanistan. Their words carry weight across many parts of society, and they are assiduously courted for their support — and frequently killed for their criticism. – New York Times
Two days after the authorities in Bangladesh gave in to pressure from Islamist groups and ordered the removal of a statue from the country’s Supreme Court, they flip-flopped on Sunday, ordering that the statue be put back up, albeit in a less prominent location. – New York Times
A bipartisan bill aiming to cut funding for the war in Afghanistan would severely destabilize the nation's security environment, particularly amid a Taliban resurgence, according to regional experts – Washington Free Beacon
Paul Miller writes: The Trump administration’s move toward increasing the U.S. troops presence in Afghanistan is a welcome sign. Trump should go further. The United States needs to change the mission of U.S. troops to include support for the Afghans’ counterinsurgency efforts, deploy enough force to break the stalemate with the Taliban, spend the money required to keep the Afghan army in the field, and mount a serious state-building effort in Kabul. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room
Despite ongoing tensions in the South China Sea and several recent tense aerial confrontations, China has been invited to attend next year’s U.S.-hosted Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, the U.S. Navy confirmed Monday. – Defense News
Two Chinese fighters unsafely intercepted a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion anti-submarine warfare aircraft over the South China Sea this week, a U.S. defense official told USNI News on Friday. – USNI News
Multinationals from drugmakers to tech companies are rushing to comply with China’s first cyber security law, which will result in vast troves of data being migrated to the mainland. – Financial Times
Bob Fu writes: Despite promises to develop a rule of law, President Xi Jinping’s regime has sought to eviscerate China’s network of human-rights lawyers and rights advocates, viewing their peaceful efforts at legal reform as a national-security threat. Mr. Xi has reinstituted the Maoist practice of televised public confession and embraced a system of torture so horrific it demands an international response. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Korean Peninsula
North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Monday that flew 280 miles and appears to have landed inside Japan’s economic zone where fishing and cargo ships are active, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said. – New York Times
North Korea said on Tuesday that the ballistic missile it tested this week could be launched much more quickly than others of its kind and that it could strike enemy ships and other targets with greater precision. – New York Times
The North has recently test-fired a series of missiles based on a technology that would give the United States little warning of an attack. The new generation of missiles uses solid fuels, enabling them to be rolled out from mountain hideaways and launched in minutes. That makes the job of intercepting them — already daunting — far harder, given that the American antimissile system works best with early alerts from satellites that a launch is imminent. – New York Times
North Korea’s third missile firing in three weeks is likely to complicate the newly elected South Korean president’s efforts to engage with Pyongyang. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Between February and May, South Korean cybersecurity experts noticed intrusions at government-affiliated websites following a new pattern: They used a technique that doesn’t require tainted email links or forceful server assaults. The culprit, the experts concluded: North Korea. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Founded seven years ago by a South Korean-born American, the school has thrived because of a deal with the leadership. It provides children of the North Korean elite with an education they cannot get elsewhere — computer science, agriculture, international finance and management, all conducted in English by an international faculty. Its teachers, half of them American, are forbidden to preach. But the school may offer the North Korean government something else as well: leverage. – New York Times
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is vowing “specific action” with the U.S. to deter North Korea in the wake of Pyongyang’s latest missile test. – The Hill
The U.S. Army is planning to move pre-positioned stock stationed in South Korea back to the continental United States in order to outfit an armored brigade combat team, according to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. – Defense News
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ordered a probe after the Defence Ministry failed to inform him that four more launchers for the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system had been brought into the country, his spokesman said on Tuesday. - Reuters
Analysis: North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will. – Associated Press
East Asia
Lee Ming-cheh, a human rights advocate from Taiwan who was detained in China in March, has been formally arrested on a charge of “subverting state power,” the Chinese government has announced, amid a continuing crackdown on civil society organizations. – New York Times
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has introduced a bill to provide $2.1 billion toward security in the Asia-Pacific region, he announced Friday. – The Hill
Southeast Asia
Western powers and media outlets convulsed in shock at last week’s horrific suicide attack on a pop concert in Britain, but little attention was paid to a surge of violence by the Islamic State on the other side of the world — specifically in the Philippines and Indonesia. – Washington Times
[T]he new administration has declined several requests from the military to carry out naval patrols in the disputed waterway. Eager to secure China’s help in pressuring North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, the White House has moved cautiously and chosen not to confront Beijing over the South China Sea, officials and congressional aides told Foreign Policy. – Foreign Policy
China is behaving like a "bully" with its militarization of islands in the South China Sea, Republican U.S. Senator John McCain said on Tuesday, activity Washington must confront with its allies to find a peaceful solution. - Reuters
The case of two women charged in Malaysia with killing the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader was transferred to a higher court on Tuesday, as a defense lawyer complained of not getting all of the documents he had requested. - Reuters
Militants loyal to the Islamic State stubbornly resisted as government troops pushed on Monday to drive them out of Marawi, a city in the southern Philippines where hundreds of desperate residents remained trapped by the fighting. – New York Times
The Philippine military chief said three Malaysians, an Indonesian and possibly Arab extremists have been killed in a southern city that Islamic militants planned to burn entirely in an audacious plot to project the lethal influence of the Islamic State group. – Washington Times
The militants who have besieged much of a southern Philippine city over the past week include foreign fighters and local gunmen who want to establish a regional branch of the Islamic State group, the military said Tuesday. – Associated Press
Editorial: Opposition politicians have muted their criticism of martial law because of the fighting in Marawi City. That’s understandable given the danger of Islamic State establishing a base in Mindanao. But Filipinos will have to be on alert and prepared for protests if Mr. Duterte fails to suppress rebel groups as he promises and tries to use emergency powers to make himself a dictator. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


President Trump’s long touted promises for more robust military spending fell short in his first government-wide budget, which disappointed Democrats and Republicans alike, according to defense analysts and consultants. – The Hill
Defense hawks are hunkering down for a fight to get all $640 billion they say is necessary to rebuild the military after President Trump’s budget proposal fell short of their expectations. – The Hill
The Trump administration is seeking a new military base closing round in fiscal 2021 under its new federal budget proposal, but a key GOP lawmaker is shooting it down while a key Democrat is supporting it. – Defense News
The White House budget office and the Navy are rushing to find an extra $600 million to buy a second Littoral Combat Ship after including only one in the budget that President Donald Trump proposed - Bloomberg
A planned $143 million review of the Navy’s future frigate design was prompted by a changing threat environment that will require the ship to complete more missions, top service officials told Congress this week. – Defense Tech
The president’s proposed 2.1 percent military pay raise will get close scrutiny from lawmakers already worried that troops’ salary and benefits may not be generous enough to keep military families financially stable. – Military Times
The Navy is preparing to launch an industry competition for a first-of-its-kind, cyber-hardened unmanned aerial refueling drone for eventual service on an aircraft carrier deck by the early to mid 2020s. – Scout Warrior
The War
Decimated by U.S. military strikes and overshadowed for years by its terrorist rival, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda appears to be signaling the start of a violent new chapter in the group’s history, led by a new bin Laden — one who has vowed to seek revenge for his father’s death. – Washington Post
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday he may ban laptops from cabins on all international flights in and out of the U.S. to prevent terrorist attacks in the air. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Trump has promoted his first budget proposal as placing one mission above all else — keeping America safe. But the president has drawn a narrow definition of national security, and one aspect of defense would actually receive less money: protecting the nation from deadly pathogens, man-made or natural. – New York Times
Missile Defense
The Missile Defense Agency, or MDA, is accelerating the development of an interceptor that can take down several incoming warheads — or one warhead and several decoys — simultaneously. While MDA officials say the move is not a response to any specific threat, one prominent defense watcher notes that North Korea is likely working hard on missiles that can fire decoys to confuse interceptors. – Defense One
In reaction to North Korea's growing missile capabilities, the Pentagon will try to shoot down an intercontinental-range missile for the first time in a test [this] week. The goal is to more closely simulate a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile aimed at the U.S. homeland, officials said Friday – Associated Press
A key government surveillance tool set to expire in 2017 could be jeopardized by a string of intelligence leaks that have damaged the Trump administration, and led to questions about whether federal officials can protect the information they collect. – Washington Examiner


United Kingdom
Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded pop concert in Manchester, England, last week. – New York Times
Britain’s top counterterrorism official said Friday that authorities believe they have rounded up most of the network suspected of involvement in Monday’s terrorist bombing in Manchester, but the country remained braced for further violence ahead of a sunny long weekend packed with road races, soccer matches and other ripe targets. – Washington Post
British Prime Minister Theresa May and her main challenger, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, traded barbs Monday in back-to-back interviews as they battled over the nation’s divorce from the European Union, health care and security ahead of an election next week. – Washington Post
The Manchester bombing has thrust terrorism to center stage ahead of Britain’s hotly contested June elections, as British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday warned that “the country should remain vigilant” even as authorities say concerns about a new attack have eased. – Washington Post
British Prime Minister Theresa May's lead dropped to six percentage points in a poll published on Tuesday, the latest major poll since the Manchester bombing to indicate the June 8 election could be much tighter than previously thought. - Reuters
Police in Manchester, England issued a picture of the arena suicide bomber holding a blue suitcase and asked anyone who might have seen him with it before the attack to call a confidential hotline. – Associated Press
Ukraine has taken a drastic step in a continuing cyberwar with Russia, its powerful, nuclear-armed neighbor: shutting down Russia’s homegrown versions of Facebook. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) says that searches of the Kyiv and Odesa offices of Russian Internet giant Yandex as part of a treason investigation found that company management had "illegally collected" personal data on local citizens. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Josh Rogin reports: In their Oval Office meeting in March, President Trump told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Ukraine crisis was Europe’s responsibility and that the United States wouldn’t get heavily involved, according to two officials briefed on the discussion. Only two months later, the Trump administration is reversing course and planning to re-engage on Ukraine in a significant way. – Washington Post
Stephen Blank writes: Whenever we betray our values by thinking we can make a deal that advances our immediate self-interest, we end up paying a much greater cost to defend our interests and those values. Helping Kyiv defend itself is not only the right thing to do, it is the strongest manifestation of “self-interest rightly understood,” as Alexis de Tocqueville might have put it, and needs to be seen as such. – Atlantic Council
Russia is a bigger security threat than Islamic State, based on its willingness to challenge the democratic foundations of the U.S. by interfering in elections, Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said during a visit to Australia. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Trump might be more likely to toughen sanctions on Russia than ease them, National Economic Council Director Gary said Friday. – The Hill
As part of an ongoing evaluation of Russian procurement priorities over the next decade, President Vladimir Putin has officially postponed the development of a new aircraft carrier and a new class of nuclear-powered destroyers for the Russian Navy. – Defense News
Russia would be forced to use nuclear weapons in any conflict in which U.S. or NATO forces entered eastern Ukraine, a member of Russia’s parliament told an international gathering of government security officials on Sunday. – Defense One
A Moscow court has begun hearings in the case of a defamation lawsuit filed by Kremlin-connected oligarch Alisher Usmanov against opposition politician and anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
A top Russian banker and associate of President Vladimir Putin has accused the “American elite” of waging a political witch hunt against Donald Trump, the US president, that leaves the two nuclear-armed powers in a “very dangerous” situation. – Financial Times
Allegedly heated comments by President Trump about a key U.S. ally — Germany — generated a fresh swirl of confusion Friday around an administration that has already had more than its fill. – Washington Post
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Trump last week, saying that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.” – Washington Post
A day after she referred to the U.S. as a not-always-reliable ally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday offered an addendum, saying the trans-Atlantic alliance is “of paramount importance.” – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Trump's "short-sighted" policies have made the West "weaker," German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday. – Washington Examiner
Editorial: Mrs. Merkel’s German opponents claim she is too accommodating to Mr. Trump, and her weekend remarks are in part a bow to that domestic politics. She is generally pro-American and an admirable leader. Mr. Trump shouldn’t overreact to her weekend comments any more than Europe should overreact to some of his. The Atlantic alliance might even benefit from more such candid talk on both sides. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Western Europe
French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a blunt greeting to Vladimir Putin on Monday, criticizing the use of chemical weapons by Syria’s ­Russian-backed government and blasting two Russian state-owned media organizations as “organs of influence and propaganda.” – Washington Post
President Trump made the most of his short time in Italy. He was treated to a private audience with the pope, met with both the country’s president and its prime minister in Rome, flew to Sicily for a summit meeting of world leaders and visited with American troops at a nearby naval air station. But as the sudden burst of diplomatic activity subsided with his departure, European and American officials fear a return to the new normal of American inattention as the administration struggles with political turmoil and Russia-related scandals back home. – New York Times
John Vinocur writes: The fact is, a number of European leaders and their highest advisors in recent years came to regard Mr. Obama as abandoning America’s postwar role as the West’s ultimate recourse against chaos and injustice. During Mr. Obama’s final months in office, one of those advisers told me that America’s credibility as a reliable guardian was broken. “The damage is done,” he said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Eastern Europe
The strange relationship that followed, consisting of passionate social media exchanges about politics and a total of €1,500 in cash transfers, was one of many forged across Eastern and Central Europe in summer 2014. They were part of a frenetic, though often clumsy, influence campaign financed from Moscow and directed by Alexander Usovsky, a Belarus-born writer, Russian-nationalist agitator and ideological hired gun in a shadowy battle for hearts and minds between Russia and the West. – New York Times
In a rare move, the European Commission on Monday took up a notch its row with the Polish government and accused its foreign minister of being ignorant in EU matters. – WSJ’s Washington Wire
The NATO-aligned Baltic states are to pursue greater collaboration on the joint purchase of offensive weapons systems. – Defense News
James Mattis said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he defended the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during his earliest talks with President Trump about serving as secretary of Defense. – The Hill
A former U.S. envoy to NATO says in a new interview that an era in U.S.-European relations appears to be over. – The Hill
Julie Smith writes: Instead of inspiring the alliance to move ahead with much-needed reforms and turn its attention to the many threats NATO allies face on both sides of the Atlantic, Trump did the exact opposite. He fueled uncertainty and insecurity, which will serve as an obstacle to transatlantic cooperation in the years ahead. Why, allies are already asking themselves, should we make politically difficult decisions to invest in our defense when it’s unclear whether the United States has our back? – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government
Carl Bildt writes: The Trump administration is still on its “shakedown cruise,” with some considerable confusion on the bridge, obvious design inadequacies and with distinctly choppy waters. Asian leaders are still reeling over the abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. After this Brussels visit — with uncertainties over trade, climate change and Article 5 — European leaders are also scratching their heads and wondering where this is heading. – Washington Post
Anne Applebaum writes: As a result of this trip, American influence, always exercised in Europe through mutually beneficial trade and military alliances, is at its rockiest in recent memory. The American-German relationship, the core of the transatlantic alliance for more than 70 years, has just hit a new low…The Russian government, which has long sought to expel the United States from the continent, is overjoyed – Washington Post
Constanze Stelzenmüller writes: We know we need to do more for the defense of our alliance. As German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow a couple of months ago, we don’t buy the Kremlin’s notion that we live in a post-Western world. We remain committed to the West as a community of values. We will continue to uphold it, with or without our American friends. But we’d prefer the former. – Washington Post


United States of America
With British officials incensed that intelligence leaks to U.S. media aired details about their investigation of last week’s deadly Manchester bombing, President Trump has promised to find those responsible for disclosing that and other sensitive information. But getting to the bottom of who is behind the leaks may be easier said than done. – Washington Times
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began Saturday, but in a break with almost two decades of tradition, the State Department still has not decided whether to mark it with a reception. – Washington Post
A well-known militant who fought with Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine and participated in far-right European politics before joining the U.S. Army has been discharged from the military, a spokeswoman for the Army said. – Washington Post's Checkpoint
Refugees and Travel Restrictions
Despite repeated efforts by President Trump to curtail refugee resettlements, the State Department this week quietly lifted the department’s restriction on the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States. – New York Times
Editorial: Much as we find Mr. Trump’s travel ban offensive, imprudent and unwise; much as we believe it inflicts real harm not just on America’s foreign policy objectives but also on families, communities and institutions in the United States, it’s fair to wonder whether it really amounts to an attack on Islam and an affront to the Constitution. – Washington Post
Editorial: Mr. Trump’s original order was chaotic and overbroad, but the emended edition was legally sound, and judges are now ignoring the law to make a political point. The separation of powers was designed to check abuses by the three branches of government, and the judiciary should check executive excesses. But that isn’t an excuse for the judiciary to exceed its authority simply because this President’s name is Trump. The Supreme Court will now have to prevent an imperial judiciary from harming constitutional powers that this President, or a future one, may need to protect America. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
David Rivkin and Lee Casey write: The government is likely to seek an emergency Supreme Court stay of the Fourth Circuit’s decision. That may be difficult, because it requires a showing of “irreparable harm.” But even without a stay, there is little doubt the Supreme Court will remain faithful to its precedents and reverse the Fourth Circuit’s wrongheaded decision. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Russian Election Interference
Robert Mueller quickly got to work as special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election: building a team, designing a budget and forcing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to withhold from Congress documents he may be interested in—all in his first full week on the job. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
What caused the Barack Obama administration to begin investigating the Donald Trump campaign last summer has come into clearer focus following a string of congressional hearings on Russian interference in the presidential election. – Washington Times
Russian government officials discussed having potentially "derogatory" information about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and some of his top aides in conversations intercepted by US intelligence during the 2016 election, according to two former intelligence officials and a congressional source. - CNN
President Donald Trump has been aggressively working the phones since returning this weekend from his foreign trip, talking to friends and outside lawyers as he obsesses over the deepening investigations into his aides and Russia. - Politico
Over the past week, Mr. Kushner, who at age 36 occupies an ill-defined role somewhere between princeling and President Trump’s shadow chief of staff, has seen his foothold on that invaluable real estate shrink amid revelations he is under scrutiny in a federal investigation into whether there was collusion with Russian officials during the presidential campaign. – New York Times
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports. – Washington Post
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was looking for a direct line to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — a search that in mid-December found him in a room with a Russian banker whose financial institution was deeply intertwined with Russian intelligence, and remains under sanction by the United States. Federal and congressional investigators are now examining what exactly Mr. Kushner and the Russian banker, Sergey N. Gorkov, wanted from each other. – New York Times
John F. Kelly, President Trump’s homeland security secretary, on Sunday defended a reported effort by Jared Kushner, the president’s embattled son-in-law and key adviser, to establish a secret channel with Russia during the transition, calling it “a good thing.” – New York Times
Former head of the National Security Agency and CIA Michael Hayden said Jared Kushner's discussions about establishing a backchannel with the Kremlin were ignorant and naive, and said the notion he would do so because of distrust for the Obama administration suggests "we're in a really dark place as a society." – Washington Examiner
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89. – New York Times
David Ignatius writes: When thinking about the abstract foreign policy framework known as the “liberal international order,” it helps to personalize it by remembering the career of one of its strongest exponents, former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. – Washington Post
Radek Sikorski writes: Just as Henry Kissinger brought Western European perspective to American strategic thinking, so Brzezinski infused it with the sensitivity of Europe’s captive East. In his view, the Soviet Union was not only a totalitarian challenge but also the latest manifestation of the Russian empire, likely to break up along ethnic lines, which proved prophetic. – Washington Post
Canada’s Conservative Party on Saturday chose a 38-year-old social conservative and opponent of carbon taxes to lead its campaign against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election. – New York Times
Central America/Caribbean
Manuel Antonio Noriega, the brash former dictator of Panama and sometime ally of the United States whose ties to drug trafficking led to his ouster in 1989 in what was then the largest American military action since the Vietnam War, has died. He was 83. – New York Times
The Trump administration is nearing completion of a policy review to determine how far it goes in rolling back former President Barack Obama’s engagement with Cuba and could make an announcement next month, according to current and former U.S. officials and people familiar with the discussions. - Reuters
South America
Brazilian President Michel Temer on Monday said he would remain in power despite demands for his resignation, and predicted Congress would still approve his broad fiscal-austerity overhaul in the coming months. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Colombia and the Marxist FARC rebel group have agreed to extend a weapon hand-in deadline for guerrilla fighters by 20 days, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Monday, after logistical delays slowed parts of the group's demobilization process. - Reuters
Editorial: Regardless of who is president, Brazil will have a government of dubious legitimacy until the next election, which is not until the end of 2018. The best outcome for the country would be for the centrist parties to work with whoever is in office to complete passage of the now-stalled reform bills. Unless the government can revise an unsustainable pension system and remove labor restrictions that choke private employment, Brazil’s economy will not be able to recover from the crushing recession it has endured for the past several years. – Washington Post
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is on the defensive in Venezuela after it bought bonds that had been held by the struggling country’s central bank in a transaction the government’s opposition decried as a lifeline to President Nicolás Maduro’s embattled administration. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
While the Maduro government has used the National Guard, a militarised police force, to repress the protests, the main armed forces have largely taken a back seat. They have neither been out on the streets, quelling the violence, nor has the top military brass been openly critical of the government. – Financial Times
Two Venezuelan opposition leaders were wounded on Monday by security forces dispersing protests in the capital Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro, according to one of the leaders and an opposition legislator. - Reuters


East Africa
Cruel weather is not the main reason hundreds of thousands of people in rural Somalia are on the brink of starving to death. Rebels from the extremist al-Shabab group are blocking vital aid from reaching villages, compounding the effects of the poor rains. – Washington Post
Thirteen South Sudanese soldiers accused of raping five foreign aid workers and killing their local colleague appeared before a military court on Tuesday, a case seen as a test of the government's ability to try war crimes. - Reuters
Central/Southern Africa
South African President Jacob Zuma survived another revolt against his leadership from within his own party, underlining the control he exerts over the African National Congress despite accelerating allegations of influence-peddling and corruption. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
It began as a road rage incident between the president and opposition leader of Zambia, a southern African country once seen as a beacon of democracy…Observers of African politics see Hichilema’s arrest as part of a troubling trend in several nations in sub-Saharan Africa. – Los Angeles Times
Zimbabwe’s economy is in shambles amid a crippling cash shortage. So naturally, it’s a perfect time for the country’s geriatric leader to spend a week at a luxurious resort in Cancún, Mexico. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
A litany of killing, rape, mutilation, pillage and torture committed by successive governments and armed groups in Central African Republic from 2003-15 may constitute crimes against humanity, the United Nations said in a report on Tuesday. - Reuters

Trump Administration

The disconnect over a major policy shift, with big implications for the Pentagon, the State Department and the federal budget, illustrates the sway military officers hold in the Trump administration. Current and retired military officers not only hold positions at the highest ranks of government but also fill senior staff jobs in the White House that have traditionally been the purview of civilians or experienced diplomats. – Washington Post
President Donald Trump, just back from his first overseas trip as president, met privately with top advisers on Sunday and Monday as he considered changes aimed at resetting the direction of an administration beset by expanding probes into his associates’ ties to Russia. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Pro-defense lawmakers have grown frustrated at how slowly the White House is moving to fill dozens of top-tier posts at the Pentagon, warning that vacancies are hamstringing efforts to advance the president’s national security agenda. – Defense News
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis finally has a financial officer to fill the comptroller’s spot at the Pentagon, but dozens of political appointee slots remain vacant four months into the administration of President Donald Trump. – Military.com
Mark Kennedy writes: An “America first” policy risks leaving America alone, as important allies question America’s commitment and carefully weigh the attractiveness of switching or splitting their allegiances. The United States would be far better off if it followed the path of Tesla by focusing on enhancing mutual interests with others as the best path to truly keep America first. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room


Hal Brands writes: American internationalism is not dead yet, but that it faces serious longterm maladies that could, perhaps, ultimately prove fatal. Regardless of what policies Trump pursues as president, or how long he lasts in that job, addressing those maladies will be a fundamental challenge for future presidents and for all observers who still believe that U.S. internationalism is worth preserving. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government
Brands and Charles Edel write: In writing about the successes and ultimate failure of the Congress system in the 19th century, Henry Kissinger observed that “in the long interval of peace the sense of the tragic was lost; it was forgotten that states could die, that upheavals could be irretrievable.” Today, Americans are likely to end up rediscovering their sense of the tragic one way or another — either by reacquainting themselves with the tragic sensibility that they seem to have lost or by experiencing the real-world tragedy that their amnesia, if not corrected, may help bring about. – Foreign Policy
Sohrab Ahmari interviews Pierre Manet: Europeans, he says, imagined the world was so safe for liberty that they could discard the harsh, Hobbesian elements of power. Americans recognize that the modern world still has one foot in the state of nature, and this calls for the sovereign prerogatives of self-preservation: We are sovereign—we don’t lecture. – 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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