FPI Overnight Brief: June 2, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

Michael D’Andrea, has a new job. He is running the C.I.A.’s Iran operations, according to current and former intelligence officials, an appointment that is the first major sign that the Trump administration is invoking the hard line the president took against Iran during his campaign. – New York Times
Reuel Marc Gerecht writes: However much Candidate Trump wanted to avoid wars and costly alliances, President Trump clearly isn't going to abandon the southern Middle East to Iranian aggression. His Riyadh "Islam speech," which was more about the Islamic Republic than anything else, signaled that Trump wasn't particularly moved by the reelection of the foreign-investment-loving Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. – The Weekly Standard
Palmyra has emerged profoundly damaged but not obliterated. That Palmyra — which sits in the Syrian desert next to a modern city with the same name — has endured, broken but recognizable, provides a measure of consolation following occupation by the extremists, who denounced its architectural splendor as idolatry. – Los Angeles Times
The long-awaited offensive by U.S.-backed Syrian forces to liberate the self-proclaimed Islamic State capital of Raqqa, Syria, will begin in days, Pentagon officials told the Washington Examiner Thursday. – Washington Examiner
The Pentagon is asking Congress for $1.8 billion to continue an Obama administration program to train and equip Iraqi and Syrian forces to fight against the Islamic State and resist a major commitment of U.S. ground troops. – Defense News
Syria's civil war has become a madhouse of forces from Turkey, the United States, Syrian Kurds, the Islamic State group, al-Qaida as well as Assad's allies Russia, Iran, Lebanon's Hezbollah, Iraqi and Afghan Shiite militias — all with their own alliances and agendas. Syrian rebel factions, battered by defeats and as divided as ever, reel around trying to find allies they can trust who will ensure their survival. – Stars and Stripes
That was Hassan’s jarring entrance to the murky world of informants who feed intelligence to the US-led coalition trying to defeat Isis. It is a job he continues to do — mostly out of need but partly, he says, because he hopes the more accurate the information he collects, the less often civilians will be killed in strikes. A cottage industry of intelligence gathering has mushroomed in the past six months, according to interviews with nine Syrians involved. – Financial Times
Over the past several days, the U.S. military has been increasing its combat power at a remote training facility near the Tanf border crossing in Syria in preparation for any aggression by pro-regime and Iranian-backed militias, which have been massing forces in the area, according to Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve. – Associated Press
Islamic State group militants have blocked the area around a highly symbolic mosque in Mosul's Old City where the group's leader made his first and only public appearance in 2014, a resident said Thursday. – Associated Press
Interview: The operation to oust ISIS from Mosul includes the Iraqi army, U.S.-led coalition forces, Kurdish Peshmerga – armed forces of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) – and Iranian-backed militias. The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke to Bilal Wahab, Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, about what comes after Mosul falls. – The Cipher Brief
Arabian Peninsula
Russia and Saudi Arabia are taking steps to deepen their economic and political ties, after an alliance between the world’s two biggest oil exporters cemented a deal last week to keep withholding output and boost crude prices. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Ahead of Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Saudi authorities prepared by arranging for the president to be greeted by horses and a military flyover. They also took care to hire three U.S. lobbying firms, including one made up of Trump’s former advisors, CNN reported on Thursday. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
A cholera outbreak in war-torn Yemen is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk with the number of cases expected to rise to 130,000 within weeks, the UN has warned. – Financial Times
Human rights groups in Egypt have accused President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of intensifying a crackdown on activists to quash dissent ahead of next year’s presidential election. – Financial Times
President Trump will not relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, at least for now, the White House announced Thursday, reversing a campaign promise dear to some of his most conservative supporters. – Washington Post
At least six months of preparation will be necessary before a Lebanese parliamentary election can be held under any new law, Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said on Friday. - Reuters
Editorial: No one forced Mr. Trump to make his pledge. He chose to make it a campaign issue. The Israelis will be disappointed but are still delighted to have a President who is friendlier than his predecessor. The Palestinians will pocket this concession and hold out for more. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Eli Lake writes: In this case, Trump has left open the possibility that he will eventually keep his campaign promise: "As he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when," the White House statement also said. – Bloomberg View
For over six months, a tiny group of former teachers and civil servants — a few of the more than 100,000 people who have been purged from their jobs during Turkey’s continuing crackdown on dissent — had assembled at the statue each day to ask for their jobs back. Throughout the protests, the core group of demonstrators consisted of just six people. But the state still wanted them gone. – New York Times



 Thousands of angry Afghans protested on Friday over the lack of security in Kabul, as government troops opened fire with bullets and tear gas and chased them through the streets with armored cars and water cannons. – Washington Post
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday ordered the execution of jailed members of a militant group that authorities say carried out the massive truck bomb attack in Kabul that killed more than 90 people, one of the worst attacks in the capital since 2001. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Over the past several weeks, the Afghan government and the foreign missions here have been preparing for a conference on Tuesday 6 in which senior representatives from nearly two dozen countries were to gather in Kabul to discuss the war…But the bombing, which the government says was committed by the Haqqani wing of the Taliban, has cast a shadow over the effort in several ways — a demonstration of how fragile even the earliest steps of peacemaking can be in the middle of a war. – New York Times
South Asia
Islamabad is refusing to play the blame game with its Afghan neighbors over who was responsible for Wednesday’s massive suicide attack in Kabul, which left hundreds of civilians wounded or dead. – Washington Times
Sadanand Dhume writes: Some BJP supporters may view Islam as an alien faith and fervently wish that Muslim conquerors had not set foot in Hindu India a thousand years ago. But this only makes it more important for Mr. Modi to distance himself clearly from the toxic anger they represent. If the prime minister really believes in “development for all,” then he shouldn’t be miserly about reassuring his fellow citizens that he means it. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Chinese authorities will prosecute a former top official from a high profile but largely ceremonial body after an investigation found he engaged in corrupt practices and "inappropriately" spoke about Communist Party policies, the party said on Friday. - Reuters
China said on Friday a Japanese citizen was being investigated for harming national security, following a similar case last month in which China said six Japanese were being questioned on suspicion of illegal activity. - Reuters
Hugh White writes: The reality is that America will not find an effective response to China’s push to replace it as the leading power in Asia unless and until it recognizes that this will entail very large costs and risks, and decides to accept them. And that will only happen if and when Americans decide that remaining the primary power in Asia over the next few decades really matters to them. And it is far from clear that they will decide that. – War on the Rocks
Korean Peninsula
United States officials said on Friday that naval maneuvers this week off the Korean Peninsula were the first in two decades to involve two American aircraft carriers in those waters and were intended as a “message of reassurance” to the region. – New York Times
President Trump's Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a Russian-based company Thursday for aiding North Korea's nuclear weapons program. – Washington Examiner
A U.S.-drafted resolution circulated to the U.N. Security Council would add 15 North Korean individuals and four entities linked to the country’s nuclear and missile programs to a U.N. sanctions blacklist. – Associated Press
South Korean President Moon Jae-in's quest for a squeaky-clean government is leading to delays in forming his cabinet more than three weeks into office, as efforts to find candidates free of even the slightest of ethics issues have proved challenging. - Reuters
​When James Mattis speaks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday, the US defence secretary will face a very different landscape from ​the one that greeted ​his predecessor at last year’s event. – Financial Times
The Trump administration is aiming for continuity in Asia policy, sticking broadly with the approach its predecessors have taken by emphasizing diplomacy and cooperation with allies, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday. – Associated Press
Abraham Denmark writes: The eyes of the entire Asia-Pacific region will be on Secretary of Defense James Mattis when he steps to the podium on Saturday in Singapore to address the Shangri-La Dialogue, the region’s premier annual symposium on security issues and geopolitical dynamics. Although the speeches and side meetings always garner a great deal of attention, the stakes for the United States are even higher than they usually are. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government
Hun Sen, Cambodia’s prime minister and Asia’s longest-ruling leader, has warned his country could descend into civil war after bellwether elections the opposition claims it will win by a landslide. – Financial Times
Hundreds of thousands of supporters of both Cambodia's ruling party and the opposition held rallies in Phnom Penh on Friday ahead of local elections on Sunday seen as a test of support for veteran strongman Hun Sen ahead of a 2018 general election. - Reuters
Thirty-six bodies were found at the biggest hotel-casino in the Philippines after a gunman carrying a container of gasoline set fires and touched off a mass panic — hours after the authorities said that only the assailant had died. – New York Times
The general leading an offensive against pro-Islamic State militants holed up in a southern Philippine town has been relieved of his command, an army spokesman said on Friday, the 11th day of the country's biggest security crisis in years. - Reuters
Editorial: The country’s long-standing communal and religious fault lines threaten to become open divisions, and many ethnic Chinese are particularly worried. It will take inclusive leadership by the incumbent president, Joko Widodo, and other moderates for Indonesia to steer away from bitter sectarianism. – Washington Post
Paul Marshall writes: Growing radicalization and a push for authoritarian rule is eroding Indonesia's democracy and comparatively peaceful social order. If this gubernatorial election becomes the paradigm for the next presidential contest, then they may collapse. Indonesia is the world's third-largest democracy and the only Muslim-majority country in the ten largest economies in the world. If it succumbs to Islamic radicalism or authoritarian rule, it will be a dark day not just for Indonesians. – The Weekly Standard
President Trump does not recognize any "inherent obligation" to accept refugees referred to the United States as part of an Obama-era deal with Australia, according to a State Department official who emphasized the need for "strict vetting" of the newcomers. – Washington Examiner


The Marine Corps has asked Congress for $3.2 billion to buy warplanes and other equipment that did not make President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 defense budget plan, according to a copy of the request obtained by CQ Roll Call. – Roll Call
The Air Force has begun experimenting and conceptual planning for a 6th generation fighter aircraft to emerge in coming years as a technological step beyond the F-35, service leaders said. – Scout Warrior
Aircraft top the U.S. Navy’s 2018 unfunded priorities list sent to Congress this week, as the service seeks $2.7 billion to buy 24 more planes. The aircraft are part of an overall $4.8 billion, 48-item Navy list of needs left out of the $171.5 billion Navy FY 2018 budget sent to the Hill on May 23. – Defense News
To build its fleet of 355 ships by the end of the next decade, the Navy is going to have to get five to 10 extra years of service life out of the surface ships it already has, the head of Naval Sea Systems Command said Thursday. – Military.com
The Navy could reach a 355-ship fleet 10 to 15 years faster than current plans allow if it extended the service life of today’s surface ships by five or 10 years each, effectively cutting in half the time it would take to complete the fleet buildup, the commander of Naval Sea Systems Command said today. – USNI News
The Navy wants to increase from roughly 324,000 active-duty sailors to an end-strength of 327,900, with most of the requested growth in the enlisted ranks. Much of the growth will serve the overall Navy goal of restoring force readiness ahead of the start of a planned ship build-up next year. Officials told Military.com that much of the additional manpower would simply replace sailors who weren't able to conduct regular duties for a variety of reasons. – Military.com
Almost eight years after construction began on a new class of aircraft carrier, the first of three has been delivered to the Navy. – Defense Tech
The Navy is planning a multi-billion-dollar shipyard upgrade effort to help its four yards that maintain submarines and aircraft carriers do so more efficiently and accommodate the newest ships coming into the fleet. – USNI News
The War
Banning carry-on laptops on international flights might create a fire risk from lithium batteries that would have to be stored in the cargo holds of aircraft, said an aviation official critical of a proposal being considered by the Trump administration. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A dozen human rights and civil liberties groups are asking national security adviser H.R. McMaster to tighten the existing standards for targeting terrorists outside of active war zones. – The Hill
Missile Defense
J.J. Coyne writes: Considering recent events on the Korean Peninsula and the testimony of Harris, the Hawaiian congressional delegation should push the DoD to provide information on the operationalization of Kauai as soon as possible, with an eye toward immediately working to bring the Aegis Ashore site online. – Defense News
National Security Agency analysts under the Obama administration improperly searched Americans' information, but the searches were conducted largely out of error, according to a review of publicly available intelligence documents reported on by Circa last week. – The Weekly Standard
Gary Schmitt writes: Now, recruiting, communicating with, and handling foreign spies is a difficult business. The targeted countries are called “hard targets” for a reason—in particular because their own security services are large and constantly vigilant to protect their own despotism. On the other hand, the record on the US side appears far less than the best, leading one to wonder if there isn’t something more systematic in these failures than just the fact that US intelligence occasionally loses human assets. – AEI Ideas


A Chechen man whom Russian authorities accuse of plotting to kill President Vladimir Putin was shot and wounded in Kyiv in what Ukrainian police say was an assassination attempt. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Taras Kuzio writes: NATO’s invitation to Montenegro to join the alliance does not add up to scrutiny when compared with what Ukraine could offer it. The alliance’s response to Kyiv cannot be viewed as just pragmatism or only a matter of politics; it is, simply put, a slap in the face. – Atlantic Council
Anders Aslund writes: The principles of the European energy market and security are at play in Stockholm, and the arbitration tribunal appears to have recognized that. The victors are Naftogaz’s young CEO Andriy Kobolyev and his first deputy Yuriy Vitrenko. They deserve a round of applause and then some. – Atlantic Council
Mykhailo Zhernakov writes: Preventing notorious candidates who are the symbols of corruption and lawlessness from entering the highest positions in Ukraine’s new judicial system is absolutely necessary to the country’s reform project and future. Transparency is the only way to go. – Atlantic Council
Peter Dickinson writes: Where is Ukraine’s national awakening leading the country? Cynics will point out that patriotism usually does not improve living standards and can often have the opposite effect. Indeed, the Ukrainianization of Ukraine is a fascinating phenomenon, but it will not cure the country’s ills or make the population magically content to receive meager salaries and substandard state services. However, it is a prerequisite if Ukraine is to succeed as a modern European nation. A shared sense of identity is essential for the cohesion of any national community, and this was long lacking in post-Soviet Ukraine. Now the country has a fighting chance. – Atlantic Council
Shifting from his previous blanket denials, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Thursday that “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have been involved in cyberattacks last year that meddled in the United States presidential election. – New York Times
Trump administration officials pressed State Department staffers to develop plans for removing sanctions against Russia almost immediately after President Trump took office in January, Yahoo News reported Thursday. – The Hill
A senior House Democrat accused President Trump of planning "to pay back the Kremlin" for the Russian-linked cyberattacks against the Democratic Party during the 2016 elections. – Washington Examiner
Russia's envoy to NATO warned Thursday that Moscow is concerned by the alliance's military deployment in the Baltic states and Poland, and will respond to the buildup, as thousands of U.S. and European troops trained on land, sea and in the air in central and eastern Europe. – Defense News
A senior adviser to Russian president Vladimir Putin has called for the full privatisation of the country’s oil industry, upping the ante in an increasingly heated debate over long-delayed economic reforms. – Financial Times
David Ignatius writes: When Russian officials and analysts here talk about the U.S. investigation of their alleged hacking of the 2016 campaign, two themes predominate: They’re flattered that their country is seen as such a powerful threat, and they’re amazed that the United States is so preoccupied with the scandal. This is the official line, to be sure, but it was also expressed by several critics of the regime I interviewed this week. – Washington Post
United Kingdom
The divergence in the projections from pollsters, with some predicting a commanding 15 point lead while others put the margin as low as 3 points, matters not just because it is making the election result hard to call. The key factor at the heart of the variation is also key to the election result itself — namely, whether younger and less well-off voters will turn out, and in what numbers. - Politico
British Prime Minister Theresa May's lead over the opposition Labour party has shrunk to five points from 15 points just over two weeks ago, an opinion poll from Ipsos MORI showed on Friday. - Reuters
Dominic Green writes: The national interest can change with the political tides. It was in Britain's interest to shelter anti-Qaddafi Islamists, then to betray them, and then to support them once again. Today, Libya is on the verge of disintegration. Islamists like Salman Abedi are a danger to the British public, but Islamists like his father Ramadan are perceived as potential assets abroad. Did Salman Abedi slip through the net of the domestic security services or fall through the cracks between MI5 and MI6—the cracks between domestic and foreign priorities? – The Weekly Standard
Western Europe
For decades after the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II, Germans had trouble defining themselves as a nation. But the arrival of hundreds of thousands of newcomers appears to have thrust the country into a new, full-fledged identity crisis. – Washington Post
The head of the French cybersecurity agency says there is no evidence suggesting Russia was behind the leaks of campaign emails from Emmanual Macron two days before the French election and his subsequent presidency. – The Hill
FPI Fellow James Kirchick writes: Germany still needs America for its security and economic prosperity, and that will continue regardless of who is in the White House. But Angela Merkel’s distancing of her nation from America is only the natural, and tragic, response to an historically illiterate, amoral president unable to distinguish ally from an adversary. - FAZ
Eastern Europe
For the first time since the government of Hungary threatened to shutter the university he founded in Budapest, the American financier and philanthropist George Soros criticized the country’s right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orban, saying he has presided over a “mafia state.” – New York Times
Lasers, small drones, and more troops are among the ways Poland is preparing for 15 years of rising tensions — and perhaps even war — with Russia, according to a new report from its Ministry of Defense. – Defense One
The former Yugoslav republic is now counting the cost of becoming the alliance’s 29th member, an accession endorsed at last week’s Nato summit in Belgium that will be formally concluded on June 5. Ahead of the move, the Kremlin in April slapped an embargo on Montenegrin wine — of which 10m bottles were exported to Russia last year — ostensibly for sanitary reasons. Dusko Markovic, Montenegro prime minister, says Moscow’s move was “clearly [made] in the context of Nato membership”. – Financial Times
Charles Krauthammer writes: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday (without mentioning his name) that after Trump’s visit it is clear that Europe can no longer rely on others. It’s not that yesterday Europe could fully rely — and today it cannot rely at all. It’s simply that the American deterrent has been weakened. And deterrence weakened is an invitation to instability, miscalculation, provocation and worse. And for what? – Washington Post


United States of America
The slow pace of filling top jobs at the State Department is having a ripple effect through the ranks of career diplomats as the traditional summer rotation season approaches, leaving some top officials in a holding pattern overseas while others wait with no promises about their next job. – Washington Post
Despite Mr. Trump’s incendiary talk, his top trade advisers are taking a more cautious approach to dealing with America’s trading partners, striking a more moderate tone than the president but still laying the groundwork for the changes he has promised. – New York Times
Consular officers at U.S. embassies around the world have started more intensive vetting of some visa applicants, including asking for their social media handles, in an effort to block potential terrorists and other national security threats from entering the country. – Washington Post
The Trump administration’s leading candidate to head the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a position that with recent changes would give the appointee unilateral power over the United States’ government messaging abroad reaching millions, is a conservative documentarian with ties to White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation. - Politico
President Trump's ex-pick for Army secretary said he withdrew his name from consideration last month because his nomination was blocked by a single senator. – Washington Examiner
Interview: What emerged since is an interesting and perhaps long overdue dialogue about the needs of the Coast Guard, both in terms of budget and acknowledgement as a key player in national security. Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, sat down with Defense News Executive Editor Jill Aitoro to offer his candid thoughts on the matter. – Defense News
Russian Election Interference
Former FBI director James B. Comey is expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday at 10 a.m., the committee announced Thursday. – Washington Post
Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party, ridiculed on Thursday a published report that suggests United States investigators think he may be able to shed light on any possible collusion between Russia and Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. – New York Times
The extent to which Trump campaign officials and others across America’s political landscape “unwittingly” aided Russia’s efforts to wreak havoc on the 2016 election is an increasing focus of competing federal investigations into Moscow’s alleged meddling, according to current and former officials familiar with the probes. – Washington Times
The FBI and Congress are examining a campaign event last spring during which Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner were in a small gathering with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and other diplomats at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News. – NBC News
The embattled House investigation into Russia’s election meddling is once again beset by sniping and strategy disagreements, with Democrats now blocking key witness interviews, according to two sources familiar with the probe. - Politico
Devin Nunes has said he’s stepped aside from the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, but he is still involved in a major way. As chairman of the intelligence panel, Nunes continues to hold the power to issue subpoenas. On Wednesday, the California Republican issued three subpoenas without the agreement of the committee’s Democrats, and despite having stepped back from the Russia investigation because the House Ethics Committee is investigating him for disclosing classified information. - Politico
Hillary Clinton plans to "arm citizens" with information about the Russian cyber attacks against her campaign in her memoir that will be released in September. – Washington Examiner
Peter Boyer writes: While Trump was abroad on his first foreign trip as president, May 19-28, a plan was hatched inside the White House to turn the presidency around and to shield the president—not only from the risks inherent in a special counsel inquiry, but also from himself. – The Weekly Standard
Latin America
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-wing populist and former mayor of Mexico City, isn’t a candidate in Sunday’s race, at least not exactly. But he’s running for president next year and campaigning hard alongside his hand-picked candidate in the gubernatorial contest, Delfina Gómez. Her win Sunday — and by extension, his — would send shock waves through Mexico’s political and business elite. – Washington Post
The Trump administration will rebuff a recent U.N. appeal to contribute millions of dollars to a cash-short trust fund established last year to provide relief to victims of a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 9,000 Haitians and sickened more than 800,000 more, according to U.S. and U.N. officials. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro pledged on Thursday to hold a referendum on a new constitution he has proposed to try and quell two months of anti-government unrest that has killed at least 62 people. - Reuters


Africa’s largest economy is facing a potential political crisis, fueled by its president’s worsening health and a religious divide that threatens his deputy’s recent turnaround of Nigeria’s fortunes. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A double suicide bombing killed at least four people and wounded more than 20 others at a camp housing civilians displaced by Boko Haram militants in northern Cameroon, officials said on Friday. - Reuters

Trump Administration

Six days after Donald Trump was elected president, his soon-to-be national security adviser Mike Flynn offered the job of director of the Central Intelligence Agency to James Woolsey, who had served in that position in Bill Clinton’s administration. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A growing cadre of former military officers who served with Trump National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster are quietly calling for him to retire from service, worried the embattled Trump administration is tarnishing the U.S. military’s reputation by deploying their own personal three-star general as a political shield. – The Daily Beast

Democracy and Human Rights

Bill Richardson writes: The corrupt oppression of dissidents remains a robust and — by all accounts — global threat to core human rights. I sincerely hope this article spurs the international community of conscience to avail itself of the Global Magnitsky Act’s powers. Remedies in the act provide the exact qualities that renowned Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal called for — a wave of rectitude whose hallmark is not vengeance but justice. – The Hill


Thomas Donnelly writes: Barack Obama stoked an insidious form of identity politics in his eight years in office, and Donald Trump has taken that art form to a new level. Thanks to their efforts, identity politics are on the verge of supplanting the liberalism of the last 70 years on the international stage. – The Weekly Standard

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