FPI Overnight Brief: June 6, 2017

The Must-Reads

  • Questions on UK policing mount as 3rd attacker identified
  • Jamie Fly: Terrorism and the liberal international order
  • Admin looked at dropping Russia sanctions, even after Flynn
  • Lilia Shevtsova: Breathing room for the Kremlin
  • US-led coalition says fight for ISIS stronghold of Raqqa begun
  • WSJ editorial: US markers in the South China Sea
  • Schake: Mattis’ reassurance tour winning admirers, not believers
  • ISIS says its behind hostage siege, killing in Australia
  • Report: How modern authoritarians break down democracy

Middle East/North Africa

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday night teed up a vote this week to take up a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill, which also sets up potential battles over sanctioning Russia and blocking some of President Donald Trump's proposed weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. - Politico
Former Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the Iran nuclear deal could hold even if President Donald Trump pulls out but he warned that imposing new economic sanctions against Tehran could be dangerous. – Associated Press
U.S.-backed forces in Syria have begun the “long and difficult” battle seeking to retake the Islamic State’s Syrian de facto capital of Raqqa, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the extremist group said Tuesday. – Washington Post
Kyle Orton writes: Unfortunately, the American-led coalition has tended to play into the Islamic State’s hands by displacing the jihadist group with forces viewed by local Sunni Arab populations as alien and sectarian. An American-backed Y.P.G. takeover of Raqqa will likely repeat this error, creating anew the conditions that led to the rise of the Islamic State. – New York Times
Arabian Peninsula
An American kidnapped two years ago in Yemen while helping coordinate aid for Unicef and the Red Cross also had a second, secret role: He was shipping materials for elite military commandos under a clandestine contract his employer had with the Pentagon. The arrangement with Special Operations forces has never been made public. – New York Times
Middle East countries scrabbled on Tuesday to mediate the deep rift between Qatar and several other Arab nations that is threatening to splinter the U.S.-backed regional alliance. – Washington Post
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Monday that a diplomatic split between Qatar and four other Arab nations won't affect the war against the Islamic State and other U.S. operations. – Military Times
Publicly, US officials stressed that the diplomatic crackup won’t affect Washington’s efforts against the extremist group, but behind the scenes US officials are working overtime to try to patch the cracks in the US's scattered anti-ISIS coalition. – Buzz Feed
National security experts are warning that the diplomatic split between Qatar and other Arab nations in the region may negatively affect the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). – The Hill
Now a diplomatic rift between Qatar and four Gulf neighbors shows why a military union to fight terrorism and push back against Iran is easier said than done. The diplomatic row has also left U.S. officials to play down the incident’s impact — even as the host of the largest U.S. naval base in the region, Bahrain, and the host of the largest U.S. air base in the region, Qatar, no longer share diplomatic relations. – Defense News
Analysis: Qatar paid up to $1bn to release members of its royal family who were kidnapped in Iraq while on a hunting trip, according to people involved in the hostage deal — one of the triggers behind Arab states’ dramatic decision to cut ties with the government in Doha. – Financial Times
Analysis: Why is Qatar so keen to be on good terms with Iran? One big reason is pure economics. Qatar and Iran share the world’s largest independent gas field beneath the waters of the Persian Gulf. The North Field, as Qatar calls it, provides almost all the emirate’s gas production and around 60 percent of its export revenues. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The Turkish government threatened to strip citizenship from U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and 129 other individuals if they don’t return to Turkey within three months to face criminal investigations or prosecutions related to last year’s failed military coup. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Germany is to move ahead with plans to withdraw its troops from a military base in Turkey after the breakdown of last-ditch talks to resolve a diplomatic row that has strained already fraught relations between Ankara and Berlin. – Financial Times


The Afghan president said that over 150 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded by the truck bombing outside the German Embassy last week, making it possibly the deadliest such attack since the American-led invasion in 2001. – New York Times
In a letter sent to authorities Sunday, the hospital’s program coordinator said that the trauma center “has been put on the front line” and that the doctors, nurses and staff “do not feel safe anymore continuing our job here in Kabul.” If the hospital — which has treated 1,350 Afghans with war injuries so far this year — stopped operating because of violence, it would be the first time since Taliban rule ended 16 years ago. – Washington Post
Afghan leaders met officials of two dozen foreign governments and institutions on Tuesday, launching a so-called Kabul Process aiming to set the stage for peace talks and clinch an international pact to end "cross-border terrorism". - Reuters
India’s main investigative agency on Monday raided residences and offices connected to the founders of NDTV, an influential cable TV station that has had run-ins with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government over its news coverage. – New York Times
Three years into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s term, the two agendas that were woven together in his 2014 campaign — economic development and Hindu cultural revival — are becoming more difficult to reconcile, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, which was India’s top meat-producing state. – New York Times
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson forcefully called on China to stop militarizing islands in the South China Sea, to pressure North Korea and broadly to assume a more responsible role in Asia-Pacific stability. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A Chinese cyber security firm carried out a global campaign of cyber espionage and reconnaissance for the Ministry of State Security, Beijing's main civilian spy service, according to security researchers. – Washington Free Beacon
China on Tuesday said it had detained labor rights activists who scrutinized conditions at a Chinese company making Ivanka Trump-branded shoes, rebuffing a call from the U.S State Department for the release of the three men. - Reuters
Chinese authorities have formally charged a prominent rights activist with subversion of state power after holding him incommunicado for six months, his wife said on Tuesday. - Reuters
Korean Peninsula
The commander of the small contingent of Marines based in South Korea says the corps does not have enough forces to permanently expand its presence on the divided peninsula. – Stars and Stripes
Southeast Asia
A wave of power cuts in Myanmar has riled residents and fuelled a wider frustration in business and politics about the pace of change under Aung San Suu Kyi’s 14-month-old government. – Financial Times
The leader of Thailand's military junta, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, will visit the White House in July following an invitation from U.S. President Donald Trump, a spokesman for the Thai government said on Monday. - Reuters
Philippines troops found bundles of banknotes and cheques worth about $1.6 million abandoned by Islamist militants holed up in Marawi City, a discovery the military said on Tuesday was evidence that the fighters were pulling back. - Reuters
Editorial: Mr. Mattis must have known he was on the back foot Saturday when he paraphrased Winston Churchill: “Once we have exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing. So we will still be there and we will be there with you.” Some in the audience no doubt recalled that the U.S. stood by in 2012 while China broke an agreement and seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. The question is what the U.S. will do now to deter further Chinese expansion. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The Australian authorities are treating an abduction and a killing here in Melbourne on Monday, which ended with the gunman dead, as a terrorist attack. – New York Times
As the United States investigates Russia’s efforts to sway last year’s presidential election, Australia is engaged in a heated debate over how vulnerable its own political system is to foreign influence — and whether China is already meddling in it. – New York Times


New fighters, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles topped the $3.18 billion unfunded wish list of the Marine Corps to Congress, according to a copy of the document obtained by USNI News on Monday. – USNI News
Naval forces will need to rely on more automated electronic warfare systems if warships are to survive an attack by hypersonic missiles, according to an expert scheduled to speak at the EW Europe conference in London on June 8. – Defense News
The Army, which continues to field a variety of legacy equipment, knows it is going to get hacked. The solution: provide commanders with information to understand what these compromises will mean to their mission. – Defense News
Air Force
During her first speech as the civilian head of the Air Force on Monday, Secretary Heather Wilson reiterated a plea to Congress to remove mandatory budget caps that she argued hampered the service’s plans to boost the structure, improve readiness and modernize its aging aircraft inventory. – Defense News
The Air Force wants $10.7 billion in additional funding, more than half of which would be put toward more aircraft and readiness, according to its unfunded priorities list sent to lawmakers. – The Hill
The Air Force now says it wants a total future bomber fleet to be around 165 aircraft — not just its fleet of B-21 Long Range Strike Bombers. – Military.com
The U.S. Air Force’s top general says he’s determined to avoid excessive secrecy during development of the service’s new B-21 bomber, citing its predecessor as a cautionary tale. - Bloomberg
The US Air Force and Northrop Grumman are integrating new composite “hot trailing edge” materials into the upper surface of the B-2 bomber to increase the stealth aircraft’s service life, improve durability, enhance sustainment and eliminate the need for field repairs, service and industry officials said. – Scout Warrior
The Air Force on Monday unveiled a tiered bonus system to combat a chronic pilot shortage, with bonuses of up to $455,000 over 13 years for fighter pilots. – Scout Warrior
The War
The newly posted senior medical officer at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay said over the weekend that the prison might offer gender-transition assistance to captives. – Miami Herald
Cities are pushing back on the possibility of losing millions of dollars in U.S. anti-terrorism grants under President Donald Trump’s spending plan - the third straight White House that has moved to cut the funding. – Associated Press
Interview: What types of measures could U.S. authorities take? The Cipher Brief’s Leone Lakhani asked Todd Rosenblum, former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs. – The Cipher Brief
Interview: As two of the suspects in London’s Saturday attacks are identified, U.S. law enforcers are working to assess any potential threat here. That includes an assessment of the UK attackers, and examining what’s needed to secure the United States. To explain the procedures in more detail, The Cipher Brief’s Elaine Shannon spoke to John Perren, the FBI’s Former Assistant Director, Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. – The Cipher Brief
Jamie Fly writes: If our leaders continue to fail to have honest conversations with their citizens and expect them to accept suicide bombings and car and knife attacks as the new normal of twenty-first century life, it will become even more difficult to sell the liberal international order to increasingly disillusioned Western publics. - Medium



United Kingdom
Questions about whether the British government could have done more to prevent the terrorist attack in London over the weekend mounted on Tuesday, two days before a national election, as new details emerged about the three men who carried out the deadly assault. – New York Times
A country once again buffeted by terrorism will go to the polls Thursday in the latest test of the relationship between mass violence, carried out with the most everyday of tools, and democratic debate over security and ties to the outside world. – Washington Post
U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Tuesday said Donald Trump’s visit should go ahead as planned, despite an ongoing row between the U.S. president and London mayor Sadiq Khan. - Politico
The London police investigation into whether there was a broader conspiracy behind Saturday’s terrorist attack that left seven dead and dozens injured has expanded in east London as Isis claimed responsibility for the third incident in the UK in three months. – Financial Times
Two days from a national election, Britain's ruling Conservatives and opposition Labour Party battled to defend their records on security after an Islamist attack that killed seven people in London upended the campaign. - Reuters
British Prime Minister Theresa May's lead over the opposition Labour Party ahead of Thursday's national election has narrowed to just 1 percentage point, according to a poll by Survation for ITV television on Monday. - Reuters
Editorial: What’s already clear is that Mr. Trump has done himself and U.S.-British relations another disservice. Ms. May has tried to build a constructive relationship with the Trump administration; even if she wins handily, she now will have less political leeway to do so. Britain is holding steady under terrorist attack. But U.S. global leadership is in free fall. – Washington Post
Will Inboden writes: Assuming that the Conservatives do retain their majority, May is likely to reshuffle her cabinet. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson seems almost certain to be removed, and Chancellor Philip Hammond’s days are probably numbered as well. One indicator of the May government’s emerging direction will be whether talented and principled Tories such as Ian Duncan Smith and Michael Gove are brought back into the fold with senior cabinet posts. They are not personally close to May and her political advisors regard them warily, but both Smith and Gove are first-rate policy entrepreneurs, and one hopes the U.K. will be able to benefit from their talents once again. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room
Theodore Dalrymple writes: Another source of comfort for terrorists is that after every new atrocity, the police are able to arrest multiple suspected accomplices. That suggests the police knew the attackers’ identities in advance but did nothing—in other words, that most of the time terrorists can act with impunity even if known. Here, then, is further evidence of a society that will not defend itself seriously. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The White House explored unilaterally easing sanctions on Russia’s oil industry as recently as late March, arguing that decreased Russian oil production could harm the American economy, according to former U.S. officials. – The Daily Beast
U.S. President Donald Trump told his top diplomat that the dispute over probes into links between his inner circle and Russia should not undermine U.S. efforts to rebuild relations with Moscow, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday. - Reuters
Some of Russia's super-rich have given up residency to escape a 2014 law requiring them to disclose offshore assets, wealthy businessmen told Reuters, a practice that could keep billions of dollars hidden from Moscow's tax authorities. - Reuters
Lilia Shevtsova writes: Re-engagement allows the Russian ruling team to continue regulate its anti-Americanism and anti-Western propaganda for domestic purposes (switching it on and off as needed) and at the same time allows it to restore one of the most important drivers of the Russian system’s survival: the exploitation of Western resources. However, while this approach will help to preserve the Russian personalized power system, it will not modernize Russia. The supporters of this approach either have not considered these implications or are perfectly aware of them but have chosen to ignore them. – The American Interest
A Russian court on Monday sentenced a former director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow to a four-year suspended prison term for inciting hatred toward Russians and embezzling public funds, in a case that her lawyers described as an attack on cultural figures with ties to Ukraine. – New York Times
A team of open-source researchers investigating the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has published reports linking the movements of Russian military equipment to the plane’s downing. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
A lawyer for Azerbaijani journalist Nicat Amiraslanov says he believes his client was tortured in custody and that, as a result, he has lost many or all of his teeth. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The EU risks alienating its central and eastern members states if it pushes ahead with planned reforms to its labour market, Poland’s Europe minister has warned. – Financial Times
French President Emmanuel Macron's party is set for a large lead in the first round of a parliamentary election this month, putting it on course to secure one of the biggest majorities modern France has seen, an Ipsos Sopra-Steria poll showed on Tuesday. - Reuters
Jean-Claude Juncker and Bohuslav Sobotka write: A European Defense Union will help protect the EU, which is exactly what its citizens expect. The European Commission on Wednesday will release a reflection paper on the future of European defense, setting out different ideas on how that might be developed by 2025. We would like everyone to engage in this debate. Prague this week will be the first step in this important journey we are embarking on together. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Walter Russel Mead writes: For the first time since German unification after the Cold War, France can bargain with Germany over Europe’s future on something like a level playing field. An opportunity like this may not come again. If Mr. Macron can push through real reforms in France and forge an agreement with Germany on a set of realistic policies for the euro and the EU, he could well be remembered as the greatest French president since de Gaulle. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Vice President Mike Pence insisted the United States remains committed to Article 5 at an awards event Monday night honoring NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Washington. - Politico
Montenegro has formally joined NATO, with U.S. and Montenegrin officials sending subtle messages to Russia and the alliance’s chief trying to allay concerns about the U.S. commitment to the alliance. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Libert

United States of America
As President Trump strains alliances and relationships around the world, some of the nation’s top career diplomats are breaking publicly with him, in what amounts to a quiet revolt by a cadre of public servants known for their professional discretion. – New York Times
In a series of Twitter posts Monday that continued into the evening, Mr. Trump may have irretrievably undermined his lawyers’ efforts to persuade the Supreme Court to reinstate his executive order limiting travel from six predominantly Muslim countries, according to legal experts. – New York Times
Senate Democrats are pressing the businessman President Donald Trump nominated to be ambassador to Japan for answers about the vetting of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to congressional aides. – Associated Press
Editorial: In other words, in 140-character increments, Mr. Trump diminished his own standing by causing a minor international incident, demonstrated that the loyalty he demands of the people who work for him isn’t reciprocal, set back his policy goals and wasted time that he could have devoted to health care, tax reform or “infrastructure week.” Mark it all down as further evidence that the most effective opponent of the Trump Presidency is Donald J. Trump. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Russian Election Interference
A 25-year-old government contractor has been charged with mishandling classified information after authorities say she gave a top-secret National Security Agency document to a news ­organization. – Washington Post
Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept. – The Intercept
Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a prosecutionn team with decades of experience going after everything from Watergate to the Mafia to Enron as he digs in for a lengthy probe into possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. - Politico
The White House’s Russia investigation “war room” may have been killed before the battle. Just days before former FBI director James Comey’s Senate testimony about his firing, President Donald Trump decided that all inquiries related to the scandals engulfing his administration should be handled by his outside lawyer in New York instead of by a team based inside the White House, according to four advisors close to Trump. - Politico
United Nations
The Trump administration warned Tuesday that it could pull out of the U.N. Human Rights Council unless the body ends what Washington calls the whitewashing of dictators’ abuses and unfair attacks on Israel. – Washington Post
Kenneth Roth writes: Yes, there is work to be done to improve the Human Rights Council. But as U.N. bodies go, it is one of the more effective. And its bite still has sting for many highly abusive governments. So as Ambassador Nikki Haley appears in Geneva, her guiding philosophy should be to fix it, not abandon it. – Foreign Policy
Latin America
Mexico’s most powerful political party was on the verge of a clear victory in the closely fought race for the governorship of the nation’s most populous state, according to a nearly completed preliminary vote count on Monday night. – New York Times
President Michel Temer faces his biggest test yet as Brazil’s top electoral court begins a landmark trial Tuesday to rule on whether to strip him of the presidency over alleged illegal campaign financing. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Venezuela's security forces arrested at least 14 army officers on suspicion of "rebellion" and "treason" in the first week of protests against President Nicolas Maduro's government in early April, according to military documents obtained by Reuters. - Reuters
Colombia's Finance Ministry has been asked to provide over $1.2 million in initial funding for the Marxist FARC rebel group's new political party, the electoral commission said on Monday, as soon as the group finishes a weapons handover. - Reuters


The United States on Monday called for an international inquiry into the gruesome murders of two United Nations investigators in the Democratic Republic of Congo in mid-March. – New York Times
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to fly home from London and arrive back in the country on Saturday, two presidency sources said, ending his second long break for medical leave in Britain this year. - Reuters

Trump Administration

President Donald Trump lashed out at Senate Democrats on Monday, saying they have slowed the approvals of his ambassadors. But for most of the vacant posts, the White House hasn’t formally put forward a name, leaving the Senate nothing to act on. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Donald Trump is lashing out at Democrats for allegedly stalling his appointments and agenda, but it’s his own administration that is frequently sitting on the necessary paperwork for nominees. - Politico
In an address to Jewish activists in Washington on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster praised the way Israel “seized the initiative” by exploiting opportunities that enabled it to route seven Egyptian divisions and wrest control of the Suez Canal, all within four days of that short and decisive war. – Defense News
Kori Schake writes: The dedication of our defense secretary to reassuring policies and friends cannot be a substitute for presidential commitment, and despite all of Mattis’s good efforts, he’s losing his ability to camouflage its absence. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room

Democracy and Human Rights

Report: Modern authoritarianism has succeeded, where previous totalitarian systems failed, due to new strategies of repression, the exploitation of open societies, and the spread of illiberal policies in democratic countries themselves. – Freedom House

David Ignatius writes: The screaming fact about the world of 2017 is that we need, yes, a Marshall Plan, for the post-Islamic State Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria. Mosul and Raqqah will likely be cleared in a matter of weeks. The need for governance, security, economic development and rule of law are truly urgent, and bear comparison to Europe’s desperate situation in 1940. The barriers to good American policy and leadership are not abroad — they’re at home. The biggest obstacle, sadly, sits in the White House. – Washington Post
Kate Bateman writes: In the current global context of rising authoritarianism and closing civic space, consistent, public omission of U.S. values equals public abandonment of U.S. values. The Trump administration is refusing to ensure that democratic principles imbue policy, like a man digging his heels into the ground. But the administration will find the ground beneath is quicksand, for it lacks the strength of American values to bind the grains together. – The National Interest
Roger Scuton writes: The task is not to surrender to globalization but to manage it, to soften its sharp edges, so that our attachments and loyalties can still guide us in exercising the thing that defines us, which is the sovereignty of the people, in a place of their own. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

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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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