FPI Overnight Brief: June 26, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

As the White House formulates its official policy on Iran, senior officials and key allies of President Donald Trump are calling for the new administration to take steps to topple Tehran’s militant clerical government. - Politico
The episode underlined how the pragmatic president is facing increasing resistance from powerful hardline elements of the regime who are determined to curb his influence in the wake of his election victory last month – Financial Times
Iranian authorities have rounded up at least 50 people suspected of links to militant groups in a Western province, a prosecutor said on Sunday, the latest in a wave of arrests following twin bomb and gun attacks in Tehran in early June. - Reuters
In the early days of the Trump administration, national security officials began exploring ways to free Austin Tice, an American journalist and a former Marine officer believed to be held by the Syrian government. – New York Times
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., has spoken out against recent military strikes on Syrian forces, calling them illegal, according to an interview with Yahoo News. – Military Times
Israel on Sunday declared its border opposite the southern Syrian city of Quneitra in the Golan Heights a closed military zone following two straight days of attacks on regime assets in response to spillover fire from the Syrian civil war. – Defense News
A U.S.-backed Arab-Kurd coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) militants near Raqqa has captured the district of Al-Qadisia outside of the extremists' self-declared capital in Syria, military officials say. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in two provinces in Syria killed 472 civilians in May, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). – The Hill
A U.S.-backed Syrian coalition of Kurdish and Arab groups advanced against Islamic State in the jihadists' Syrian capital of Raqqa on Sunday, taking the al-Qadisia district, they said. - Reuters
The Syrian government on Saturday released hundreds of detainees, including some who had backed the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad, on the eve of a major Muslim holiday. – Associated Press
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad delivered prayers for Islam's Eid al-Fitr holiday in Hama on Sunday, the furthest he has traveled inside Syria in years, showing his growing confidence. - Reuters
Editorial: The one dark spot is Syria, where a fresh outbreak has paralyzed 17 children, most from Mayadin, south of Deir al-Zour, and one child from Raqqa, where the Islamic State is headquartered….The real culprit is the upheaval of war. Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine and a fair amount of experience in extinguishing such an outbreak, and with enough effort and immunization, it can be contained. – Washington Post
Marwan Hisham writes: While most of the Arab population in eastern Syria hails the end of the Islamic State era, many Raqqans have mixed feelings about their mainly Kurdish liberators. Fear of indiscriminate retaliation and long-term racism looms large. How will the liberated Arab Sunnis, in whose name the Islamic State committed unspeakable atrocities, fit in the new order? – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The battle to take full control of Mosul from Islamic State will be over in a few days and an attempted fight-back by the militants failed, an Iraqi general told Reuters on Monday. - Reuters
New details about the operation, and a similar episode in January that sought to seize another midlevel Islamic State operative, offer a rare glimpse into the handful of secret and increasingly risky commando raids of the secretive, nearly three-year American ground war against the Islamic State. Cellphones and other material swept up by Special Operations forces proved valuable for future raids, though the missions fell short of their goal to capture, not kill, terrorist leaders in order to obtain fresh, firsthand information about the inner circle and war council of the group, also known as ISIS. – New York Times
On the same day the Pentagon announced it had killed yet another Islamic State leader that few Americans have heard of, Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr Al-Rawi, American officials also said they do not know if the Islamic State’s most well-known name, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is still alive. – New York Times
Thomas Campbell writes: Religious fundamentalism, illicit excavation, black-market trade and simple neglect have destroyed historic sites in the Middle East at an alarming rate. Wednesday’s bombing underscores the most urgent problem: ISIS and its affiliates have turned cultural destruction in Iraq and Syria into propaganda, even as they sell looted works of art on the black market to raise money for arms. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday criticized some of the demands by Saudi Arabia and its allies on Qatar as “very difficult” to meet and urged the countries to tamp down the rhetoric and start negotiating. – Washington Post
Former Al Jazeera journalists suing the network say it’s not a surprise Qatar has found itself isolated by Gulf and Arab countries for supporting terrorism, adding that under the direction of the Qatari government, Al Jazeera has operated unethically and with bias in neighboring countries for its own agenda. – Washington Times
As the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf nears its first full month, Qatari officials are urging the White House to exert its considerable influence on the nations that have imposed a blockade on the tiny peninsular state. – The Hill
Eli Lake reports: Fahmy is preparing a lawsuit against his former employers. And while he is still highly critical of the regime that imprisoned him, he also says the Egyptian government is correct when it says al-Jazeera is really a propaganda channel for Islamists and an arm of Qatari foreign policy. - Bloomberg
Saudi Arabia
Security forces in Saudi Arabia thwarted a militant plot to carry out an attack near the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca on Friday, according to the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television, citing a statement by a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry. – New York Times
Like in other Saudi cities, the young here view the 31-year-old Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a breath of fresh air, someone who will take on the conservative religious establishment, tackle corruption and transform an oil-dependent economy. They hope his surprise elevation to crown prince last week will usher in a new era of openness, not only for foreign investors but for the latest Hollywood movies, which are still banned. It is the moment, young Saudis say, to modernize an ancient kingdom. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Editorial: The largest U.S. air base in the Middle East is also located in Qatar and is a hub for operations against the Islamic State. Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s supportive statements, the boycott risks serious harm to U.S. interests. Like the Yemen war, it should give cause for care in embracing the new Saudi crown prince. Though he may be charming, his adventurism makes him a questionable ally. – Washington Post
The newly elevated crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who as defense minister has led the country’s bombing and blockades of Yemen, showed his charitable side on Friday with a $66.7 million donation to fight the cholera outbreak in that country. – New York Times
Pressure mounted Friday on the Defense Department after multiple U.S. senators called for investigations into reports that U.S. military interrogators worked with forces from the United Arab Emirates who are accused of torturing detainees in Yemen. – Associated Press
North Africa
The Tunisian prime minister has embarked on a sweeping crackdown against organized crime, arresting nearly a dozen mafia bosses and smuggling barons in recent weeks in an effort to stamp out what has become a nearly existential threat to the young democracy. – New York Times
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt ratified an agreement on Saturday that cedes sovereignty over two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, brushing off widespread public criticism of the deal in Egypt. - Reuters
East Libyan forces said they had gained control on Saturday over one of two remaining districts of Benghazi where they faced armed resistance. - Reuters
Yielding to pressure from his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday backtracked on a decision to create a space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem where men and women can pray together and non-Orthodox rituals can be practiced. – New York Times
Even as Israelis mark the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in the June 1967 war, the Palestinians and most of the world consider the eastern half under occupation, and the city remains deeply divided. But after five decades, dealing with Israel has become unavoidable for residents of East Jerusalem. – New York Times
President Trump will reportedly receive a report about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process following a "tense" meeting between White House senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and leaders about the issue. – The Hill
Turkey has removed the concept of evolution from its high school curriculum, in what critics fear is the latest attempt by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government to erode the country’s secular character. – New York Times
The speedy development of the project underscores a rapprochement between Turkey and Russia over the past year. The countries had been locked in a period of tension after Turkish forces shot down a Russian fighter jet over the Syrian border in 2015. – Financial Times


The State Department is winding down an Obama-era office responsible for developing long-range strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan — just as the Trump administration conducts a major review of the future of America’s longest war. – New York Times
The Pentagon’s first congressionally required report on Afghanistan under President Trump says the Russian Mi-17 chopper has proved a failure in the long war and will be phased out in favor of American-made UH-60 Black Hawks. – Washington Times
The long war has generated repeated examples of wasted funds, which may be inevitable in a country such as Afghanistan, where the military has been built from scratch, is plagued with corruption and relies almost completely on U.S. money for even the most basic things, including salaries and uniforms. – Associated Press
Pakistan on Friday suffered its deadliest day in weeks of violence as terrorist bombings killed at least 53 people and wounded over 200. The attacks raised concerns about the growing challenges facing the country’s security forces. – New York Times
More than 150 people were killed Sunday in Pakistan when an oil tanker overturned, a crowd rushed in to collect fuel and the truck exploded, police said. – Los Angeles Times
When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the White House on Monday for his first meeting with President Donald Trump, a principle that has long underpinned relations will be at stake: that supporting the growth of a strong India is in America’s national interest. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Trump is set to tap Kenneth Juster, the deputy director of the National Economic Council, as his ambassador to India, according to multiple reports. – The Hill
The U.S. State Department is in the final stages of clearing the sale of 22 MQ-9 drones to India, with an expectation that U.S. President Donald Trump will announce the sale during the upcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – Defense News
Josh Rogin reports: President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would seem to be kindred spirits. But despite a lot of sweet talk as Modi arrived in Washington for a White House meeting Monday, the question remains whether his dalliance with Trump will be a one-night stand or will blossom into a full-on romance. – Washington Post
Editorial: The Indian government has taken steps to bring the country into the 21st century: Its policies to reduce red tape, attract foreign businesses and expand digital services have enormous potential. It would be a shame if these reforms fail to reach that potential because of suspended WiFi. – Washington Post
Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi writes: The U.S. and India are forging a deeper and stronger partnership that extends far beyond the Beltway and the Raisina Hill. That partnership has become our privileged prerogative and our promise for our people and our world. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Derek Scissors writes: India may again report the fastest GDP growth among major economies. It is simultaneously not creating enough jobs, despite heavy government borrowing, because banks are too damaged to lend and so the private sector is unable or unwilling to invest. Does this sound like Prime Minister Modi is arriving on a wave of economic success? – AEI Ideas
Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Chinese dissident who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his writings promoting democracy, has been moved from prison to be treated for late-stage cancer, one of his lawyers said on Monday. – New York Times
A Chinese activist who for years has documented worker unrest faced charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” on Friday, in a trial seen as a bellwether of Beijing’s approach to containing labor tensions. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A court in Shanghai on Monday sentenced three Australian employees of Crown Resorts to less than a year in prison each for illegally promoting gambling in China. Including the time they have already spent in prison, all three should be released in weeks or months. Thirteen other employees, one Malaysian and 12 Chinese, received similar sentences, the company said. – New York Times
When the British handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997, Beijing promised to allow universal suffrage as an "ultimate aim", along with other freedoms, under a "one country, two systems" arrangement agreed with London. That's not going to happen, well placed sources in Beijing and Hong Kong say, as Hong Kong marks the 20th anniversary of that handover. - Reuters
Mike Green writes: So if the president’s tweet represents a new realism about China — and if it was done with the intention of backing Tillerson and Mattis going into the talks this week — then that would be a good thing. One would prefer that American declaratory policy would take a form that allows for more than 140 characters, but we will have to take what we can get. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room
Keith Richburg writes: What few predicted was Hong Kong’s slow-motion mainlandization. Hong Kong and China have been converging — just not in the direction many of us thought. I recall the line from Chris Patten, the Conservative politician who was Britain’s last colonial governor, when he was confronted with the old adage about China not wanting to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. He replied, with percipient understatement: “History is littered with the carcasses of decapitated geese.” – Washington Post
Korean Peninsula
South Korea’s foreign minister said a review of a controversial U.S. missile-defense system ordered by President Moon Jae-in “does not mean we’ll cancel or reverse our decision” to host it, striking a conciliatory tone ahead of Mr. Moon’s White House visit this week. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Pyongyang and Beijing are cracking down not only on refugees and escapees but on the missionaries, aid groups and brokers that keep the route open. Campaigners say western governments are turning their backs on a longstanding crisis as global attention shifts from North Korea’s human rights abuses to the growing threat of its weapons programmes. – Financial Times
Western businesses in South Korea are ramping up pressure on the country’s new president to abandon what many see as lingering protectionism that undermines its commitments to open up its economy. – Financial Times
China and the United States agreed that efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula should be "complete, verifiable and irreversible", Chinese state media said on Saturday, reporting the results of high level talks in Washington this week. - Reuters
East Asia
As investigators try to figure out what many veteran seamen describe as an incomprehensible collision, they have plenty of mysteries to unravel. In addition to the questions for the destroyer’s crew, there is the peculiar course of the Crystal after the accident, recorded by ship-tracking websites. It raises the possibility that no one was awake, or at least aware of their surroundings, when the two ships hit. – New York Times
A bipartisan group of senators urged President Donald Trump on Friday to move ahead on delayed arms sales to Taiwan amid congressional concern the White House is ready to curry favor with Beijing at Taipei’s expense. – Foreign Policy
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to accelerate plans to amend Japan's pacifist constitution, saying he expects to submit a proposed revision to lawmakers before the end of the year, media reported on Sunday. - Reuters
Mongolians cast their votes on Monday in a presidential election seen as a referendum on the government's economic recovery plans and China's role in the country, but some disgruntled voters left their ballot papers blank in protest. - Reuters
A U.S. warship struck by a container vessel in Japanese waters failed to respond to warning signals or take evasive action before a collision that killed seven of its crew, according to a report of the incident by the Philippine cargo ship's captain. - Reuters
Southeast Asia
Philippine emissaries met on Sunday with a leader of a militant group loyal to Islamic State, officials said, taking advantage of a short truce in a battle over a southern city occupied by rebels for more than a month. - Reuters


Defense Budget
U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said he is "moving ahead" with plans to mark up the panel’s fiscal 2018 defense policy bill at roughly $705 billion — some $37 billion above the president’s request. – Defense News
Democrats are pushing to make the annual defense policy bill a referendum on President Trump, with plans to introduce a series of amendments as the legislation makes its way through committee. – The Hill
House lawmakers want White House officials to either stop cutting back on military pay raises or change the federal rules governing how those rates are set. – Military Times
Mackenzie Eaglen writes: President Trump likely does not know the details of his own budget submission, as he gave great latitude to his budget chief, Mick Mulvaney. But the president must now voice his disapproval with a plan that does not achieve his goals. Although Congress can restructure passable budget plans on a year-to-year basis, sustained investment for a defense rebuild requires presidential leadership. – American Enterprise Institute
The Marine Corps wants a jumbo-sized drone that can take off and land on amphibious ships, and the list of requirements for the aircraft is daunting. – DOD Buzz
The Navy is accelerating and increasing design support for the development and construction of its new Columbia-Class nuclear armed ballistic missile submarines -- to ensure progress toward the goal of engineering the most lethal, high-tech and advanced ballistic missile submarines the world has ever seen. – Scout Warrior
Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to arm the B-2 with new weapons and upgrade the aircraft to fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said. – Scout Warrior
After two decades of neglect, electronic warfare is — slowly — on the mend, the Pentagon’s Deputy Director for EW said yesterday. That includes a growing budget, a new (classified) strategy from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, increased interest from the leaders of all four armed services, and, most immediately, an ongoing joint study of future jamming aircraft. – Breaking Defense
The War
Pentagon officials are welcoming the greater autonomy and decision-making authority under President Trump, after what they say were years of Obama administration micromanaging. – Washington Times
Now 36 years old, Lindh is set to be released in less than two years. And he’ll leave prison with Irish citizenship and a stubborn refusal to renounce violent ideology, according to the U.S. government. Foreign Policy obtained two government documents that express concerns about Lindh – Foreign Policy
Strategic Issues
A fierce debate is brewing inside the Trump administration over whether to withdraw from another international treaty — this one a cornerstone disarmament pact with Russia banning an entire class of nuclear missiles. - Politico
Technology for ballistic and cruise missiles is advancing in countries from North Korea and Iran to Russia and China, increasing potential threats to the U.S. even if they don’t carry nuclear warheads, according to a new Pentagon report. - Bloomberg
House lawmakers want the Pentagon to quickly produce a space-based missile defense strategy, according to the Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee’s mark of the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill released this week. – Defense News
Editorial: The price for the space-based system is classified but no doubt expensive, and it’s difficult to score technologies still under development. But Congress ought to be able to find money to save Seattle from annihilation while arming U.S. troops against conventional threats. If it can’t, voters should at least be able to see who voted against their protection. The Senate will take up the National Defense Authorization Act in the coming weeks. Mr. Sullivan’s missile-defense amendment would be a down payment on a safer America in an ever more dangerous world. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Editorial: The administration is now conducting a nuclear posture review, a good opportunity to set priorities. President Trump and Congress will, hopefully, make choices about what kinds of nuclear weapons will be required in the decades ahead, and for what missions. It goes without saying that a credible deterrent force also means paying attention to safety, down to the last glove box. – Washington Post
The National Security Agency did not know how many officials were authorized to download and transfer top secret data from its servers prior to the high-profile leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden, according to a recently declassified government report. – Washington Free Beacon
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said on Saturday that the U.S. may be experiencing a surge in improper leaks of classified information, and called on the intelligence community to step up efforts to stymie such disclosures. – The Hill
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said President Trump is an "avid consumer" of the intelligence he's provided and that any reports to the contrary are false. – Washington Examiner
Several Ohio government websites, including that of Gov. John Kasich (R), were hacked Sunday and defaced with an anti-President Trump, pro-Islamic State message. – Washington Post
Democratic senators are pushing for the Department of Energy "to conduct a thorough analysis of Russian capabilities with respect to cyberattacks on our energy infrastructure" after researchers detailed the malware used to blackout part of Ukraine's power grid in December – The Hill
Growing concerns about threats to U.S. election systems have put the heat on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its efforts to boost national cybersecurity. – The Hill


Aseev has joined the hundreds of people— or possibly thousands — who are missing or held as prisoners of war in eastern Ukraine. Although front-line hostilities have reached a simmering deadlock, a dirty war persists in the wider, lawless region. Civilians attempt to survive on contested ground, pinned between marauding forces accused of pillage, violent intimidation, sexual abuse, torture and even summary execution. – Washington Post
Ending one the most turbulent tenures of a Washington-based ambassador in recent memory, the Kremlin has decided to recall its ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak, three individuals familiar with the decision tell BuzzFeed News. – Buzz Feed
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Friday said that President Trump “doesn’t talk very strong on Russia, but he acts very strong on Russia,” calling it a change from former President Barack Obama. – The Hill
Without a banking licence, central bank regulation or an independent board, VEB is not a bank in any conventional sense. Instead it is essentially an instrument of the Kremlin that has become a special-purpose vehicle to support priority projects from Moscow. – Financial Times
Western technology companies, including Cisco, IBM and SAP, are acceding to demands by Moscow for access to closely guarded product security secrets, at a time when Russia has been accused of a growing number of cyber attacks on the West, a Reuters investigation has found. - Reuters
Kimberly Dozier reports: That interaction is emblematic of 20 years of U.S. attempts to reach out to Moscow, with the initially Pollyannaish new American administration seeking cooperation, and the Russians using each opportunity to gather intelligence on their enemy to advance their own interests…It’s a cautionary tale CIA veterans hope to impress upon President Donald Trump and his closest advisers in the White House, who they fear still hope to forge an alliance with Russia even as Pentagon chief Jim Mattis and other top national security staffers warn against it. – The Daily Beast
As the United States grapples with the implications of Kremlin interference in American politics, European countries are deploying a variety of bold tactics and tools to expose Russian attempts to sway voters and weaken European unity. – Washington Post
Two botched attacks in Europe in recent days signal that Islamist terror has entered a new phase, security officials say, one that is more disorganized and less sophisticated but risks spawning a growing number of assailants keen to kill with any means at hand. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Germany’s main center-left political party on Sunday attacked Chancellor Angela Merkel for what its leaders characterized as a failure to stand up to President Donald Trump, signaling that the U.S. relationship will be a prominent campaign issue ahead of the national election here in September. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives widened their lead over the Social Democrats (SPD) to 15 points in a weekly opinion poll by the Emnid institute published on Sunday, three months before the Sept. 24 election. - Reuters
United Kingdom
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May clinched a deal with Northern Irish lawmakers Monday that gives her Conservative Party the necessary votes it needs to govern as a minority administration. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The British Parliament was the target of a cyberattack that left many legislators unable to connect to their email on Saturday as remote access to accounts was disabled as a security measure. – New York Times
The United Kingdom made what British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson described on Twitter as a “fair and serious offer” to allow European Union nationals to stay in the United Kingdom after Brexit. EU leaders were, to put it mildly, unimpressed. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
David Davis has urged fellow MPs to stop their “self-indulgent” leadership plotting as senior Tories consider ways to remove Theresa May and replace her with a more popular figurehead. – Financial Times


United States of America
Christopher Wray has spent the past 12 years building up one of the most successful white-collar defense groups in America. Now, that work could limit his oversight of some major investigations if he is confirmed as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A prominent Syrian dissident has been told he cannot get political asylum in the United States because he organized a conference with Syrian opposition groups — even though the American government has supported members of those same groups in the Syrian civil war. – New York Times
The pending House defense bill contains new provisions that would restrict the Pentagon from buying equipment from Chinese or Russian telecommunications firms over cyber attack fears. – Washington Free Beacon
The Trump administration’s often conflicting statements regarding foreign affairs have provided the Senate an opportunity to reassert its clout in directing U.S. foreign policy, Sen. Chris Coons suggests. – Roll Call
The military’s service chiefs have agreed to recommend a six-month delay in the implementation of the Pentagon’s transgender enlistment policy, The Associated Press reported Friday. – The Hill
Elaine Donnelly writes: The Army and Marine Corps have expressed concerns about transgender mandates, and requested delays. Mattis should consider these concerns carefully, and make them public. – Military Times
Russian Election Interference
In political terms, Russia’s interference was the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy. It was a case that took almost no time to solve, traced to the Kremlin through cyber-forensics and intelligence on Putin’s involvement. And yet, because of the divergent ways Obama and Trump have handled the matter, Moscow appears unlikely to face proportionate consequences. – Washington Post
The White House blamed the Obama administration Sunday for failing to tackle possible Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election, sticking with a new strategy to fault President Trump's predecessor for an issue currently facing the president himself as part of a widening FBI probe. – Washington Post
The latest presidential tweets were proof to dismayed members of Mr. Trump’s party that he still refuses to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected. – New York Times
The House Intelligence Committee is said to be investigating whether individuals affiliated with President Trump’s 2016 campaign received stolen voter data obtained by election hackers during last year’s race, according to multiple reports. – Washington Times
Congressional investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election will question Hillary Clinton’s former presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, next week — in addition to experts on Kremlin interference in recent and future European elections. – Washington Times
Former President Barack Obama's top intelligence official at the Pentagon said Saturday that the Russian interference in the 2016 elections was "the political equivalent of 9/11." – The Hill
CNN deleted a story from its website Friday evening about congressional investigators allegedly focusing on a Russian investment fund whose top executive met with a Trump transition team member. The news outlet later issued a retraction after being contacted about the story's disappearance, according to a report. – Washington Examiner
Interview: To better understand what comes next, The Cipher Brief's Callie Wang spoke with Former Acting Director of the CIA, Michael Morell about his reaction to the story, its implications for the U.S. intelligence community, and how the U.S. can protect its democracy from future attacks. – The Cipher Brief
Julia Ioffe writes: If there is one thing The Washington Post’s story on the Obama administration’s anemic response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election makes clear, it’s that it took two to make the meddling effective. – The Atlantic
One by one, as members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team are publicly identified, security analysts say their emails, online data and past law firm communications could become targets for the types of cyberintrusions the team must investigate — a fear that could explain why officials have been reluctant to release their names. – Washington Times
White House counsel Don McGahn has largely stepped back from managing Donald Trump’s response to the expanding Russia investigation, but that hasn’t stopped the president from lashing out at him about it anyway. - Politico
Editorial: The episode is further proof that the biggest obstacle to an effective Trump Presidency is Mr. Trump. The tweeting by itself isn’t the problem. The problem is that he thinks he can use the platform to spread misinformation as often as he tries to communicate facts about his agenda. He shouldn’t be surprised if Americans conclude they therefore can’t believe him even when he is telling the truth. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Michael Mukasey writes: Mr. Mueller could simply take the bit in his teeth and write a public report on his own authority, or write a confidential report and leak it to the press. If he did either, he would be following Mr. Comey’s lawless example. Or if, as appears from what we know now, there is no crime here, Mr. Mueller, notwithstanding his more than a dozen lawyers and unlimited budget, could live up to his advance billing for integrity and propriety and resist the urge to grab a headline—not necessarily his own urge but that of some he has hired. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
North America
Demonstrators are picketing school board meetings, arguments are erupting on social media about whether religious accommodation is tantamount to special treatment, and there is a petition drive to abolish prayer in the public schools…The turmoil is one reflection of how Canada’s growing diversity is encountering powerful headwinds, especially in places with significant Muslim populations. – New York Times
Selling natural gas to Mexico is also a godsend for the American energy industry, which is lobbying the White House to emphasize just how crucial the relationship with Mexico is. With billions of dollars at stake and zigzagging administration stances on trade, American energy companies are taking no chances. – New York Times
Over the past 10 weeks of protests in Venezuela, security forces have detained more than 3,200 people, with over a third of them remaining in custody, according to Foro Penal, a legal aid group. Allegations of mistreatment during the arrests and detention have ballooned, according to human rights groups. – Washington Post
A group of young Venezuelan lawmakers has risen to prominence on the violent front line of anti-government marches that have shaken the South American country for three months, bringing 75 deaths. - Reuters
Organization of American States President Luis Almagro offered on Saturday to resign if Venezuela holds free elections and enacts reforms to protect democracy in the troubled South American nation. - Reuters
David Luhnow and José de Córdoba write: Almost two decades after Venezuela’s late president, Hugo Chávez, came to power in an electoral landslide, his country’s transformation seems to be taking an ominous new turn. A country that was once one of Latin America’s wealthiest is seeing its democratic institutions collapse, leading to levels of disease, hunger and dysfunction more often seen in war-torn nations than oil-rich ones. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
South America
Colombia’s largest leftwing guerrilla group will formally disarm this week after more than half a century of conflict, but the country is still awash with weapons and its people feel increasingly gloomy about the historic peace process. – Financial Times
A crisis blighting Argentina’s opposition Peronist movement deepened after Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the former president, confirmed that she will lead a new alliance into midterm legislative elections in October. – Financial Times


Pentagon officials are themselves concerned that shifting to a military-heavy presence in Africa will hurt American interests in the long term by failing to stimulate development. An absence of schools and jobs, they say, creates more openings for militant groups. – New York Times
The United Nations will send international experts to investigate reports that civilians are being butchered by pro-government forces and insurgents in the Democratic Republic of Congo. – New York Times
Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff unsuccessfully sought to arrange a meeting between the president of the Republic of the Congo and then-U.S. President-elect Donald Trump late last year, according to a new Justice Department filing. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
In a sign of continued disarray in the White House’s national security team, the Trump administration has rescinded its job offer to the National Security Council’s senior director for Africa, ejecting a highly-regarded retired lieutenant colonel who had been given the job this spring. – Buzz Feed
Jackson Diehl writes: Famines used to attract broad interest in the West. Rock stars led relief campaigns, and television networks produced special documentaries. U.S. nongovernmental organizations are looking for ways to similarly galvanize the country this summer. Millions of lives may depend on whether they can find a way to command attention in the age of Trump. – Washington Post

Obama Administration

The White House is becoming increasingly frustrated with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a close-knit circle of aides over the slow pace of hiring and a chokehold on information and access to Tillerson, according to senior Trump administration officials and others familiar with the rift. – Washington Post
Some in the White House say that the discord in the Qatar dispute is part of a broader struggle over who is in charge of Middle East policy — Mr. Tillerson or Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior adviser — and that the secretary of state has a tin ear about the political realities of the Trump administration. Others say it is merely symptomatic of a dysfunctional State Department that, under Mr. Tillerson’s uncertain leadership, does not yet have in place the senior political appointees who make the wheels of diplomacy turn. – New York Times
President Trump promised to shake up Washington, but he’s following at least one swampy tradition by nominating wealthy political allies and campaign donors to cushy ambassador posts. – Washington Times
Mr Malpass is awaiting Senate confirmation as under-secretary for international affairs at the Treasury, having previously worked on Mr Trump’s transition team before the inauguration. The veteran of Wall Street and Washington will become a global interlocutor for an administration where clashes between free market voices and economic nationalists remain unresolved. The outcome has been conflicting policies, ditched pledges and confused allies. – Financial Times
Anne Applebaum writes: I respect Mattis and am glad that he’s there. But let’s not pretend that his leadership can substitute for the void in the White House, the absence of strategy, tactics and rational thought in the foreign policy apparatus in the Trump administration. – Washington Post

Democracy and Human Rights

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is slated to remove Iraq and Myanmar from a U.S. list of the world's worst offenders on the use of child soldiers, Reuters reported Friday. – The Hill

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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