FPI Overnight Brief: June 30, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley slammed the Security Council on Thursday for failing to take any action against Iran, which she said had "repeatedly and deliberately violated" sanctions imposed by the body. - Reuters
Saeed Ghasseminejad writes: Regrettably, if the past sheds any light on the future, it is safe to say that Iran will use its improved economy to challenge the United States and its allies, increase its support for terrorism, and expand its ballistic missile program. This is the ongoing price the U.S. and its allies will pay for the shortcomings of the 2015 nuclear deal. – Foundation for Defense of Democracies
The poison used in the deadly chemical bomb attack in a rebel-held town of northern Syria in April was the banned nerve agent sarin, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Friday, although the report did not directly blame the government of Bashar al-Assad for the attacks. – New York Times
As the Islamic State crumbles, American special operations forces and their Arab and Kurdish allies have been working quietly to establish a force of about 3,500 militiamen to help secure Raqqa, Syria, according to U.S. military and State Department officials. – Foreign Policy
U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are in a final push to completely encircle the city of Raqqa — ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital, according to Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve. – Military Times
Nearly half a million Syrians have returned to their homes so far this year, including 440,000 internally displaced people and more than 31,000 returning from neighboring countries, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday. - Reuters
This week U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Washington may arm the SDF for future battles against Islamic State while taking back weapons it no longer needs. The plan is the "headline" of a still-unfinished stabilization plan for Syria by the Trump administration, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The risk is that it causes new instability in a war in which outside powers are playing ever larger roles. - Reuters
Frederic Hof writes: That which passes for leadership in the West has contrived a problem in eastern Syria for which there may be no solution. “So what?” will be the reaction of many, in and out of government. Yet the expenditure of American treasure, along with the blood of others, will likely result in a Syria—east and west—dominated by Iran and doomed to state failure. – Atlantic Council
A political dispute threatens to complicate Iraq’s next big battle against Islamic State as the extremists face imminent defeat in Mosul: Both the U.S.-backed Iraqi military and Shiite militias supported by Iran want to spearhead the fight. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Iraqi and U.S. officials said Islamic State is on the cusp of defeat in Mosul and close to being driven out of Iraq, after the country’s military seized a mosque in the city where the extremist group’s leader first proclaimed a caliphate. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Cities in Iraq and Syria that have been liberated from Islamic State control still suffer a great deal of violence at the hands of the extremist group, but the attacks may be ISIS’ reaction to its weakening foothold in the region, according to a report Thursday by the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. – Medill News Service
Russia’s state-controlled oil company is in discussions with Iraqi Kurdistan over helping it develop oilfields in disputed territory at the heart of tensions with Baghdad, in a move that pitches Moscow into one of Iraq’s oldest faultlines. – Financial Times
Iraqi government forces attacked Islamic State's remaining redoubt in Mosul's Old City on Friday, a day after formally declaring the end of the insurgents' self-declared caliphate and the capture of the historic mosque which symbolized their power. - Reuters
Canada said Thursday its military would remain in the Middle East to help in the U.S.-led fight Islamic State until the spring of 2019, as it looks to fulfill its pledge to take on a more prominent role in the global fight against terrorism. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The group’s apparent collapse is backed up a study released Thursday morning that found three years after Islamic State declared its caliphate on parts of Iraq and Syria, it has lost 80 percent of its revenue and roughly two thirds of its territory. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s annual defense policy bill would not mandate the Trump administration send Congress an anti-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) strategy because lawmakers recently received one, a committee aide said Thursday. – The Hill
Iran's state news agency quoted a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday as saying Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was "definitely dead". - Reuters
Gulf States
Qatar’s foreign minister expressed optimism Thursday that the Trump administration is moving his country’s way in a bitter feud with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, as both sides conducted intense lobbying of the U.S. government. – Washington Times
Authorities in Bahrain say they have seized explosives and detained several suspects as part of a raid targetting a Shiite militant group in the Gulf island nation. – Associated Press
Five suicide bombers attacked Lebanese soldiers as they raided two Syrian refugee camps in the Arsal area at the border with Syria on Friday and a sixth militant threw a hand grenade at a patrol, the army said. Seven soldiers were wounded. - Reuters
Grant Rumley writes: Hamas finds itself even more isolated and in worse economic shape. Netanyahu said two weeks ago that he didn’t anticipate a conflict breaking out with Hamas, calling the crisis an “internal Palestinian dispute.” In essence, this may be true, but it belies a broader truth: In choking Hamas, Abbas is willing to punish regular Gazans. Why would he care about the consequences for Israelis? – Foreign Policy
Daniel Shapiro and Ilan Goldenberg write: Making clear that it is unacceptable to incentivize or reward terrorism in any way is completely appropriate, and it is a worthy goal of the Force legislation. Doing so in a way that preserves stability and security in the West Bank would be consistent with the goals of the Trump administration, which has already devoted considerable energy to the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government


South Asia
Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence Thursday and delivered a speech condemning a recent spate of lynchings in India. Hours later, a news alert announced that yet another man had been killed by a mob for carrying beef. – Washington Post
The words from Pakistan’s top foreign policy adviser could not have been clearer. At a news conference welcoming China’s foreign minister to the Pakistani capital this week, Sartaj Aziz declared, “Pakistan’s relations with China are the cornerstone of our foreign policy.” – Washington Post
Nearly three years after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ended combat operations in Afghanistan, the 29-nation alliance will send troops once more into the country with hopes that the renewed surge will help the Afghan military beat back a resurgent Taliban. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declined to discuss timeframes for the mission in Afghanistan after meeting with defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday over the future of America's longest war. – Washington Examiner
The Chinese authorities have refused permission for Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace laureate paroled from prison for cancer treatment, to go abroad for care, one of his lawyers said on Thursday. – New York Times
Many of the most influential voices in Hong Kong today belong to those who have little or no memory of this former British colony’s return to Chinese rule two decades ago. But this generation’s identity has been shaped by the handover. – New York Times
China’s tech groups and media companies have bowed to government demands to limit online freedoms by closing down hundreds of mobile video platforms, firing thousands of journalists and promising to promote state media opinions. – Financial Times
Editorial: Beijing’s attempts to intimidate dissent are making Hong Kong’s rising generation more insistent that democracy is needed to guarantee their freedoms. The third decade under Chinese rule looks to be even more turbulent. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Chris Patten writes: Hong Kong is a small place, but its fate will loom large over the 21st century. For what happens there will answer the question: Can China be trusted? – New York Times
Martin Lee and Joshua Wong write: If Xi wants Hong Kong people to celebrate 20 years of Chinese rule, this is the moment to finally make good on Beijing’s promise of democracy and free and fair elections. ‎He should begin by understanding and trusting Hong Kong — and especially our young people. – Washington Post
Korean Peninsula
The Trump administration notified Congress on Thursday that it approved sales of $1.42 billion in weapons to Taiwan, the first such proposed transfer since President Donald Trump took office. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Ian Easton and Dee Wu write: Chinese threats to Taiwan are growing. So too must efforts to meet them. Going forward, it is imperative that U.S.-Taiwan defense and security cooperation become more robust. Action should proceed with an eye to shoring up Taiwan’s last line of defense. – The Diplomat
East Asia
The United States will likely bar Japanese investigators from interviewing USS Fitzgerald crew manning the guided missile destroyer when it was struck by a cargo ship in Japanese waters killing seven American sailors, a U.S. navy official said. - Reuters
Josh Rogin reports: The Trump administration on Thursday announced sanctions against Chinese entities accused of aiding North Korea’s illicit nuclear and missile programs. The action is a sharp turn in President Trump’s approach to China and the beginning of a new and unpredictable effort to use sticks instead of carrots with Chinese President Xi Jinping. – Washington Post
Dan Blumenthal writes: The choices are sub-optimal. But Moon would do well to prioritize the defense of his people from North Korean attack. On that we will find agreement in the White House. – AEI Ideas
Southeast Asia
China has built new military facilities on islands in the South China Sea, a U.S. think tank reported on Thursday, a move that could raise tensions with Washington, which has accused Beijing of militarizing the vital waterway. - Reuters
A Vietnamese court jailed a prominent blogger for 10 years on Thursday for publishing propaganda against the state, her lawyer said, the latest crackdown on critics of the Communist Party. - Reuters
Myanmar will refuse entry to members of a United Nations probe focusing on allegations of killings, rape and torture by security forces against Rohingya Muslims, an official said on Friday. - Reuters


Defense Budget
The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved $658.1 billion in 2018 defense spending on Thursday. – Defense News
A Senate panel plans to authorize a fraction of the extra soldiers the Army has requested, with committee aides saying Thursday that the request for 17,000 troops was not a realistic goal for the year. – The Hill
Testimony in which acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley said a single Littoral Combat Ship in 2018 was the minimum needed to preserve the two shipyards was taken to heart in crafting the Senate Armed Services Committee’s defense bill that held to one LCS, SASC staffers on Thursday. – USNI News
The Senate Armed Services Committee backed the 2.1 percent military pay raise proposed by the White House, compared to the 2.4 percent increase suggested by the House Armed Services Committee earlier this week. – Military.com
President Donald Trump made rebuilding the U.S. armed forces a signature promise during the presidential campaign, but it's the GOP-controlled Congress that's leading the way by adding tens of billions of dollars to the annual defense policy bill to pay for active-duty troops, combat aircraft, and ships that he didn't request. – Associated Press
The downsizing of the Army overseas has cost more money than expected because of a reliance on expensive rotational forces when forward-based units can perform the same roles more cheaply, according to a new U.S. Army War College report. – Stars and Stripes
The Air Force is aggressively accelerating its hypersonic weapons development effort, following findings from a recent service report identifying Russian and Chinese ongoing hypersonic weapons testing. – Scout Warrior
From the Pentagon to Capitol Hill, everyone seems to agree military space projects are among the most important to U.S. national security. But they don’t agree on what they should do about it. – Defense One
Missile Defense
Kirk Lippold writes: Robust and realistic testing scenarios and the failures that will result from them are a normal occurrence and should be accepted as part of the program, specifically to uncover the types of system and weapons system shortfalls that we experienced while fielding a next-generation destroyer and the latest iteration of the Aegis Combat System….Failure may not be an option, but when it occurs, the key to success is to learn from those failures to succeed in the future; those who defend our nation deserve no less. – Real Clear Defense
The cyber attack that crippled computer systems in Ukraine and other countries this week employed a ruse — the appearance of being ransomware — that seems designed to deflect attention from the attacker’s true identity, security researchers said. – Washington Post


Ukraine is on the frontline of defending western democracies against Russia's global disinformation campaign, Lithuania's former defense minister said Wednesday. – Washington Free Beacon
Stephen Blank writes: President Trump’s trip to Poland next week is an exceptional opportunity to reassert U.S. leadership and American greatness. In Warsaw Mr. Trump can reaffirm the U.S. commitment to European security by giving Ukraine the weapons it urgently needs to defend itself against Russia’s continuing aggression. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A Russian jury convicted five men on Thursday in the 2015 assassination of Boris Y. Nemtsov, the opposition leader and former first deputy prime minister, but his family called the trial a cover-up and said that those who had ordered and arranged for the killing had not been brought to justice. – New York Times
The Senate sent back to the House of Representatives an aggressive sanctions package targeting Russia, setting the stage for a clash between House Republican leaders and the White House ahead of President Donald Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin next month. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
A Pentagon report released Wednesday warns of a rising military threat from Russia and says the Kremlin believes the United States is seeking regime change, an assertion that could color the already fraught relationship between the two powers. – Foreign Policy's The Cable
President Donald Trump plans to sit down with Vladimir Putin next week, pursuing warmer relations with the Russian leader, despite multiple investigations into his campaign’s alleged ties to the Kremlin. - Politico
Donald Trump has told White House aides to come up with possible concessions to offer as bargaining chips in his planned meeting next week with Vladimir Putin, according to two former officials familiar with the preparations. – The Guardian
As U.S. officials investigated in January the FSB's alleged role in election cyber attacks, U.S. technology firms were quietly lobbying the government to soften a ban on dealing with the Russian spy agency, people with direct knowledge of the effort told Reuters. - Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin received former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Kremlin on Thursday, the Kremlin said in a statement. - Reuters
Kimberly Dozier reports: Moscow believes its leader, ex-spy master Vladimir Putin, can extract major concessions from President Donald Trump when the two meet for the first time next week, European officials tell The Daily Beast. – The Daily Beast
Evelyn Farkas and Jacquelyn Ramos write: Together, Republicans and Democrats must provide Trump with the leverage to send a clear message to Russia that America will unequivocally stand up for democratic principles and resist any who attempt to undermine its sovereignty. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government
Serbian lawmakers elected Ana Brnabic as prime minister on June 29, making history by choosing both the conservative Balkan nation's first female prime minister and its first openly gay leader. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Macedonia’s special prosecutor has called for the arrest of the country’s former prime minister in a further escalation of an anti-corruption clampdown in the Balkan nation. – Financial Times
Paris police say a driver has been arrested after unsuccessfully trying to drive a car into barriers around a suburban mosque. – Associated Press
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) writes: This heinous plot should be a warning to every American that we cannot treat Russia’s interference in our 2016 election as an isolated incident. We have to stop looking at this through the warped lens of politics and see this attack on our democracy for what it is: just one phase of Putin’s long-term campaign to weaken the United States, to destabilize Europe, to break the NATO alliance, to undermine confidence in Western values, and to erode any and all resistance to his dangerous view of the world. – USA Today
NATO's chief says U.S. President Donald Trump and the leaders of other nations in the world's biggest military alliance will meet in Brussels next summer. – Associated Press


United States of America
Before the 2016 presidential election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
White House officials and a group of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are pushing for new laws intended in part to keep closer tabs on the surge of Chinese money into America. Some in Washington say that money could help China expand its technological and military abilities. While any legislation would face congressional debate and review, a large number of Trump administration employees who deal with both trade and national security have said they support some sort of overhaul of how the United States vets such deals. – New York Times
After five months of bitter legal squabbling, the Trump administration’s modified travel ban was poised to take effect Thursday night under new guidelines designed to avert the chaos of the original rollout. But the rules will still keep many families split and are likely to spawn a new round of court fights. – Washington Post
One of the lawyers whom special counsel Robert Mueller has hired to investigate President Trump is pulling double duty, still working part time as a deputy solicitor general in the Justice Department. – Washington Times
The Trump administration is quietly preparing sweeping new trade policies to defend the U.S. steel industry, a move that could reverberate across global economies and incite other countries to retaliate. - Politico
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wants the Senate to vote on Christopher Wray's nomination to be the next FBI director before they leave for the August recess. – The Hill
Editorial: By appearing to repudiate and persecute Mr. Ziadeh, the U.S. government sends a message to Syria’s remaining anti-Assad forces that even Washington’s closest allies are subject to betrayal. The contrast between Vladi­mir Putin’s unwavering defense of the blood-soaked Assad clique and the pending refusal of the United States to grant Mr. Ziadeh safe harbor is stark — and sickening. – Washington Post
A House of Representatives committee voted Thursday to repeal the post-Sept. 11 law that undergirds the U.S. war on terror, in a sign that members of Congress are preparing to reassess the scale and scope of America’s military commitments for the first time in more than a decade. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is crying foul over an amendment to a defense spending bill that would revoke the 2001 law giving the president authority to undertake war against terrorist threats. – The Hill
Latin America
A spying scandal in Mexico widened Thursday after it was confirmed by experts that several of the country’s top opposition leaders — along with journalists and human rights advocates — were targeted by high-tech spyware exclusively sold to governments. – Los Angeles Times
Embattled Brazilian President Michel Temer picked a successor to Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, who earlier this week charged the president with taking bribes and is set to step down in September. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The United Nations human rights office on Friday criticized President Nicolas Maduro government's curtailing the powers of the embattled chief state prosecutor and called on it to uphold the rule of law and freedom of assembly in Venezuela. - Reuters
Venezuela's state prosecutors' office said on Thursday that it is calling in the former head of the National Guard for questioning about "serious and systematic" human rights violations during the recent wave of anti-government protests. - Reuters
Jose Cardenas writes: A policy combining aggressive, multilateral diplomacy and targeted individual sanctions offers the best hope to pull Venezuela back from the abyss. Challenging the current government’s legitimacy both regionally and within Venezuela will increase pressure on those with the constitutional mandate to ensure internal order to decide which path will best extricate the country from its current crisis. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room


The United Nations Security Council on Thursday approved a major reduction of peacekeepers in Darfur, the vast region of Sudan where violence continues against civilians, according to human rights groups, and millions remain displaced after years of fighting. – New York Times
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast comes to an end Friday, 13 years after it intervened to implement a peace agreement as the West African economic powerhouse was split in two by civil war. – Associated Press
A jail raid in Democratic Republic of Congo's capital on Thursday killed a police officer, police and diplomatic sources said, and President Joseph Kabila failed to appear on television for a customary address, heightening fears over security. - Reuters

Trump Administration

President Trump on Thursday nominated Matt Donovan, a former F-15C pilot and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee professional staff, as the next undersecretary of the Air Force. – Military Times
President Donald Trump says he has nominated Kay Bailey Hutchison, a former Republican senator from Texas, to be the U.S. ambassador to NATO. – Associated Press


Garry Kasparov writes: I have been asked frequently to use my life experience with authoritarian regimes to shed light on Trump’s plans and behaviors, which are very troubling indeed. But I hope the anti-Trump forces on the left will also heed me when I say that those who believe that the government cannot solve anything are easily matched in their potential to do harm by those who believe the government can solve everything. – Washington Post

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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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