FPI Overnight Brief: July 14, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

The Trump administration, delaying an anticipated confrontation with Iran until the completion of a long-awaited policy review, plans to recertify Tehran’s compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal, according to U.S. and foreign officials. – Washington Post
Report: Specifically, the United States must vigorously enforce the JCPOA, rebuild military pressures against Iran, cooperate closely with regional allies including Israel and Gulf countries, support these allies’ efforts to cooperate more closely with one another and use strategic communications to amplify all these steps and demonstrate newfound resolve to Iran. – Jewish Institute for National Security of America
U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson writes: In the troubled landscape of the Middle East, success is measured by the crises we avoid. The JCPOA has neutralized the supreme danger of a nuclear-armed Iran for at least a decade. That’s one less threat to worry about. – Washington Post

Michael Warren and Jenna Lifhits write: Donald Trump hates the Iran nuclear deal. Brokered by the Obama administration and officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement has the stated purpose of preventing Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability. But the president believes the deal gave Iran what it desperately wanted—relief from economic sanctions—while providing few to no mechanisms for pressuring Tehran to stop expanding its nuclear program. So the administration has quietly started talking about negotiating a new deal instead. – The Weekly Standard
Ray Takeyh writes: It is unlikely that the professoriate and the American left will abandon their myths about 1953. They are too invested in their narrative and too obsessed with defending the Islamic Republic to defer to history’s judgment. The clerical complicity in the demise of Mossadeq is sure to embarrass the theocratic regime that has gained much from Roosevelt’s legendary story. The documentary disclosures and declassifications may not nudge the left in the right direction, but for those with an open mind, the case is now closed. – The Weekly Standard
In their final days in Mosul, Islamic State militants dispatched dozens of suicide bombers—including women with babies in their arms—and searched homes for young boys they could force into battle, said Iraqi commanders who led the fight and residents who survived. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
A leading human rights group urged Iraqi authorities to investigate allegations of abuse against alleged Islamic State fighters and their families, after videos surfaced of detainees being beaten and executed. – Washington Post
The White House’s top envoy in the fight against the Islamic State made clear Thursday that Washington and its allies will not support Kurdish plans to hold an independence referendum vote in northern Iraq. – Washington Times
After nine months of vicious street-to-street fighting to drive the Islamic State out of Mosul, it could take many years more to fully remove explosives and other munitions from one of Iraq’s most populous cities, U.S. State Department officials said. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
A delegation of Iraqi generals met with reporters in Washington on Thursday and expressed their gratitude for the coalition support that made the liberation of Mosul possible. – Washington Examiner
Iraqi forces faced further pockets of resistance from Islamic State militants in Mosul's Old City on Friday, four days after the prime minister declared victory. - Reuters
Iraqi security forces have forcibly moved dozens of women and children with alleged links to the Islamic State group to a tent camp near Mosul that authorities describe as a "rehabilitation camp" for IS suspects' families, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. – Associated Press
Aziz Ahmad writes: The risk of sticking with a broken model is considerable. But a return to the unending conflict to which Iraq has been condemned for much of the past century is not an option. The Kurds are tired of war. We want to live in peace, alongside neighbors governed by shared values and the rule of law. – New York Times
Howard is not one of the hundreds of U.S. troops deployed in Syria. The U.S. Marine Corps veteran from San Francisco came here as a volunteer, part of a small group of freelance recruits who have traveled to Syria from the U.S., Europe and other regions to help local forces fight Islamic State. – Los Angeles Times
The Donald Trump administration is pushing Congress for the authority to build new “temporary” facilities in Iraq and Syria as part of the US-led campaign against the Islamic State. – Al-Monitor
Scores of civilians are fleeing Syria's Raqqa traumatized, with families torn apart and conditions worsening as the battle to oust Islamic State intensifies, a senior U.N. official said on Thursday. - Reuters
Russia has said it is willing to deploy monitors to prevent any violations of a ceasefire in southwestern Syria by Syrian government forces, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday. - Reuters
Robert Ford writes: America also risks forfeiting its role in shaping the contours of a future Syria. Tillerson has said that the country must be stable in order to prevent ISIS from rising anew. But if a ceasefire process does actually work and expands, it will produce a Syria dominated by different factions: the Assad government, Syrian Kurds, and Syrian Arabs—a de facto divided Syria (partition is a dirty word in the Middle East). Such a Syria, surrounded by meddlesome neighbors, would be unstable, and mired in endless peace talks, like the moribund Geneva peace talks. The Assad regime, backed by Iran, would continue nibbling away at opposition-held territories. – The Atlantic
Gulf States
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday ended his first stab at mediating a bitter spat in the Persian Gulf region, an effort that took him to three countries over four days but yielded little discernible progress in resolving the dispute. – Washington Post
The U.N. human rights office called on Bahrain on Friday to "unconditionally and immediately" release rights campaigner Nabeel Rajab, who was sentenced to two years in jail this week. - Reuters
David Ignatius writes: The Qatar quarrel may seem like a tempest in an Arabian teapot. But at its heart is the question that has vexed the world for a decade: Is there a role for political Islam in the modern world? Qatar says yes. The UAE counters that Islamist agitators are the enemy of tolerance and modernity. It falls to Tillerson to see whether there’s a middle ground. – Washington Post
North Africa
Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christians have been told by church leaders to cancel all events and activities outside churches in July because of a security threat, church and security sources said on Thursday. - Reuters
In an extraordinarily brazen assault early Friday, three Arab citizens of Israel armed with guns and knives killed two Israeli police officers guarding an entrance to Jerusalem’s holiest site for Jews and Muslims, an emotional and volatile focal point of the Israeli-Arab conflict – New York Times
President Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Green­blatt, on Thursday announced a water-sharing agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that will provide additional supply to the parched populations in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip. – Washington Post
Critics of the building plans say they will further alter the demography of East Jerusalem, the putative capital of a future Palestinian state, making a viable separation from Israel more difficult, and fraying the city’s delicate social fabric. – Financial Times
Grant Rumley and Amir Tibon write: The Second Intifada was a seminal moment in Abbas’s political career: His aversion to terror was tested at home and praised abroad, yet his inability to effect real change on the ground revealed a broader weakness. This inability to convince the Palestinian street of the merits of his arguments plagues him still. – The American Interest
After a tumultuous year, Mr. Erdogan’s justifications for his post-coup norm are beginning to wear thin — and even starting to be drowned out by criticism from Turkey’s newly energized opposition, putting pressure on an increasingly authoritarian president still reliant on democratic institutions. – Washington Times
Turkey is inching closer to buying Russian-made S400 missiles, despite a flurry of entreaties from the US for it to remain reliant on its Nato ally for air defence, according to two officials familiar with the matter. – Financial Times
A year after Mr Erdogan first declared Mr Gulen guilty, few, if any, of his allies share his conviction that the cleric’s group masterminded and carried out the coup single-handedly. – Financial Times


South Asia
A damning judicial report into the family wealth of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif threatens not just his premiership, but has also imperiled the political career of his daughter and heir apparent. - Reuters
Indian lawmakers are set to elect the country's next president, drawn from the main Hindu nationalist group, in a vote on Monday, tightening the control of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing associates on positions of power. - Reuters
Liu Xiaobo, the renegade Chinese intellectual who kept vigil at Tiananmen Square in 1989 to protect protesters from encroaching soldiers, promoted a pro-democracy charter that brought him a lengthy prison sentence and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while locked away, died under guard in a hospital on Thursday. He was 61. – New York Times
The loss of the country’s most prominent dissident, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who died of cancer under police guard at a Shenyang hospital on Thursday, leaves China’s fractured activist community at its weakest in a generation – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The death on Thursday of China’s most prominent political prisoner, Liu Xiaobo, set off a frenzied effort by government censors to block discussion of his legacy online. – New York Times
China’s economic might is catching up to the United States — or is seen to be catching up. That’s according to a new report from the Pew Research Center, which released results of a 38-nation survey Thursday afternoon. While the majority of those polled still correctly believe the United States is the world’s biggest economy, 12 nations — including Canada, Russia, and most of western Europe — believe China has the largest economy in the world. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
Friends of China's Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo, who died of liver cancer in custody, said on Friday they were unable to contact his widow, Liu Xia, and that ensuring her freedom was now a top priority. - Reuters
Analysis: Mr. Liu’s fate reflects how human rights issues have receded in Western diplomacy with China. And it shows how Chinese Communist Party leaders, running a strong state bristling with security powers, can disdain foreign pleas, even for a man near death. – New York Times
Editorial: Shortly before Mr. Liu died, the man ultimately responsible for this and so many other abuses in China, President Xi Jinping, was basking in the glamour and glory of international politics at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg. Yet throughout Mr. Xi’s rule, the true locus of honor in China has been any place of confinement occupied by Liu Xiaobo. – Washington Post
Editorial: Without political reform, China will continue to use its growing economic and military clout to spread its authoritarian model. Pressuring Beijing to free the imprisoned human-rights lawyers who have taken up Liu’s freedom fight would serve the interest of China’s people, as well as the rules-based international order that its undemocratic government seeks to subvert. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Editorial: Liu Xiaobo was, in a sense, the leader of China. He was the country’s foremost proponent of freedom, democracy, and human rights. He thought that Communism was a gross imposition on China and that it could not last indefinitely, if enough Chinese stood up against it. – The Weekly Standard
FPI Senior Fellow Ellen Bork writes: Today, we are discovering that America’s posture of uncritical engagement has far-reaching consequences. China is not only crushing democracy at home but challenging the universal rights and liberal democratic norms and universal abroad. A response to this will not come from the White House. Just hours after Liu died, President Trump praised Xi Jinping as a “terrific guy” at a press conference in Paris. Liu cannot comment on Xi’s ascendancy, and the attendant U.S. retreat. But we still have his writings to guide us. “Tyranny is not terrifying,” he wrote in 1996, “what is really scary is submission, silence, and even praise for tyranny.” – The Weekly Standard
Xiaorong Li writes: Liu Xiaobo never harbored the illusion that nonviolent action would not be returned by violence. Chinese lawyers who used the courts to challenge the state-controlled judiciary, attempting to hold the police accountable for using torture to extract confessions or keeping detainees in secret locations, have been detained or tortured themselves. But Xiaobo didn’t let the repression cloud his unflappable optimism. His firm belief that freedom is “the source of humanity and the mother of truth” should continue to guide all of us. – New York Times
Fred Hiatt writes: On some level, Xi and his colleagues must know that Liu and Wang are right and they are wrong. Clearly they fear that their people will come to that realization. Maybe they are also afraid to admit it to themselves. – Washington Post
John Pomfret writes: Liu was heir to this great tradition of Chinese liberal thought. And like his comrades, one day his contributions will get the respect and appreciation that they deserve — not only in China but also across the globe. – Washington Post
Hong Kong
In a decisive blow to Hong Kong’s democracy movement, a local court removed four elected legislators on Friday after Beijing intervened in the city’s independent legal system. – New York Times
Last week, the Asia Society sought to put behind it accusations that it had censored a prominent democracy activist in Hong Kong. But at a luncheon on Thursday at the organization’s Manhattan headquarters, the issue arose again when Ronnie Chan, a Hong Kong billionaire and the society’s co-chairman, asserted that the group was apolitical and should steer clear of disputes. – New York Times
Korean Peninsula
North Korea’s trade deficit with China has risen to its highest level, as trade between the two countries continues to rise, suggesting there is little distress in the North Korean economy despite rounds of international sanctions on Pyongyang designed to punish it for its weapons program. – Washington Post
Frustrated that China has not done more to rein in North Korea, the Trump administration could impose new sanctions on small Chinese banks and other firms doing business with Pyongyang within weeks, two senior U.S. officials said. - Reuters
Ethan Epstein writes: President Obama gussied up his do-nothing North Korea policy by calling it “strategic patience.” With North Korea distressingly close to being able to launch a nuclear attack on the United States, the time for patience is over. President Trump should embrace a new posture towards China and North Korea: Call it “strategic impatience.” – The Weekly Standard
East Asia
Beijing has ramped up diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Taipei to accept its “One China” point of view and it is driving the United States to better define what that means in Washington, experts on cross-straits relations said Thursday. – USNI News
Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, battered by a smoldering scandal and voters' perception he is taking them for granted, has fallen below 30 percent, the lowest since he returned to power in 2012, a survey released on Friday showed. - Reuters
The leader of the junior partner in Japan's ruling coalition on Friday urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to focus on regaining public trust after a slide in his popularity, and said revising the pacifist constitution was not a priority for voters. - Reuters
Southeast Asia
The official in charge of prosecuting government misdeeds in the Philippines on Friday ordered that criminal charges be filed against former President Benigno S. Aquino III for a botched assault in 2015 on a Muslim rebel camp that left 44 police commandos dead. – New York Times
Rep. Ted Yoho (R., Fla.) called for the United States take a more active role in preventing the spread of radical Islam into Southeast Asia at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee meeting on Wednesday amid the emergence of ISIS militants in the city of Marawi on the Philippine island of Mindanao. – Washington Free Beacon
Indonesia renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea on Friday, the latest act of resistance by Southeast Asian nations to China's territorial ambitions in the maritime region. - Reuters


The Department of Defense’s inspector general believes it has found $33.6 billion in missed savings for the Pentagon, and that some can be recovered — if the department follows through on 58 suggestions made by the IG’s office, many of which have been sitting unfulfilled for years. – Defense News
The man U.S. President Donald Trump chose to lead the Navy he pledged to build up to 350 ships doesn’t sound confident that a shipbuilding surge is going to happen. – Defense News
The House on Thursday voted down a defense policy bill provision that would have taken out language preventing a new round of base closures, going against White House wishes. – The Hill
As the first-in-class USS America (LHA-6) begins operations on its first major overseas deployment, leadership has a good understanding of the basics of operating this new type of ship – an amphibious assault ship without a well deck – but also a lot of room to learn how to maximize the new capability it brings to the fleet – USNI News
Look past whether a proposed U.S. “Space Corps” — which survived the House version of the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act late Wednesday — eventually becomes a fully functional military branch, a U.S. Air Force general said Thursday. – Defense Tech
The Army is integrating an emerging software product for its Warfighter Information Network – Tactical Satcom communications system that increases protections and adds a key interface between otherwise less-connected nodes on the network. – Scout Warrior
Artificial intelligence is coming soon to a battlefield near you — with plenty of help from the private sector. Within six months the US military will start using commercial AI algorithms to sort through its masses of intelligence data on the Islamic State. – Breaking Defense
Mackenzie Eaglen writes: Congress’ urge to get serious about space warfare is noble, but proposing a neutered Space Corps does not align with those aims. Lawmakers should adjust their objectives and instead double down on the new United States Space Command. As STRATCOM is already in the process of elevating command of space to a four-star position, service buy-in is assured. This initiative would achieve the objectives of the Space Corps without a disruptive reorganization or the dangers of overly-redundant chains of command. – Breaking Defense
Missile Defense
The United States faces a growing threat of ballistic and cruise missiles from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, according to a military intelligence report. – Washington Free Beacon
Ariel Cohen writes: Military technology will always remain a competition between offense and defense, between the sword (or spear), and the shield. As Congress and the White House consider the country’s defense priorities, let’s make sure the U.S. has the toughest and the best, as well as the most cost-effective, missile shield we can make. – The Hill
The War
A new generation of al Qaeda is surging, according to experts testifying before the subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence on Thursday. – Washington Free Beacon
The State Department plans to require other countries to provide in-depth data on visa applicants in order to vet whether travelers pose terrorist threats, Reuters reported Thursday. – The Hill
The Pentagon has expanded the criteria for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal to include the U.S. campaign against ISIS in Libya. – Military Times
Katherine Zimmerman testified: Al Qaeda has become more resilient and ready to exploit our own strategic weaknesses. It seized the opportunity presented by conflicts in the Muslim world to advance its strategic objectives. It has acted deliberately below the thresholds that would set off alarms in Washington. It embedded itself in local insurgencies from Mali to Syria to Afghanistan that will serve as a source of strength for the global organization. The rise of the ISIS galvanized the Salafi-jihadi movement globally, which will continue to strengthen al Qaeda long after ISIS is gone. America’s strategy to counter al Qaeda has remained relatively unchanged since 2001 even as the organization has adapted. The US does not even recognize any more the seriousness of the threat al Qaeda poses. – American Enterprise Institute
Candice Malcolm writes: Upon his release from prison in 2015, Khadr was asked if he would categorically denounce violent jihad. “It’s not something I believe in right now,” said a coy Khadr. Right now. The Trudeau government should hope, in the wake of this highly publicized and deeply unpopular cash settlement, that violent jihad is not something Omar Khadr ever revisits. – The Weekly Standard
The United States needs “bold action” to convince the world’s hackers that they can’t work with impunity, says Eric Rosenbach, once a chief of staff to then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter. – Defense One
House lawmakers late Wednesday advanced a provision that would require the Pentagon to report attempts by Russian actors to hack its systems. – The Hill


Adrian Karatnycky writes: The U.S. and Europe must respond forcefully to this new intensification in Russia’s hybrid war. The engagement of Mr. Volker to shape diplomacy on the Russia-Ukraine conflict signals that the U.S. will adopt a pragmatic hard-line policy. It is a welcome sign that the personal chemistry between Messrs. Trump and Putin won’t override the physics of power politics and diplomacy. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Ambassadors to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization squared off with Russian diplomats in Brussels on Thursday over Moscow’s planned military exercises near the Western bloc’s borders. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Donald Trump is touting his policies to boost energy production and exports as a bulwark against Russia. But some industry observers say the U.S. shale boom—which reshaped world markets for crude oil and natural gas before Mr. Trump took office—has only limited impact on Russia’s standing as a major energy provider to Europe and Asia. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Trump says that he will invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House, but only at “the right time.” – The Hill
Four Senate Democrats are urging a top State Department official to not return a pair of Russian compounds previously seized by the Obama administration. – The Hill
Russia will next week take a decision about if and how it will retaliate against the United States over the seizure of its diplomatic compounds on U.S. soil, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday. - Reuters
U.S. congressional negotiators are making progress on resolving a dispute that has stalled a bill to impose new sanctions on Russia, congressional aides said on Thursday, and one lawmaker said the matter could be resolved as soon as Friday. - Reuters
Russian authorities have detained the chief executive of Russian electricity turbine maker Power Machines on suspicion of attempted divulgence of state secrets, TASS news agency reported on Thursday citing a law enforcement source. - Reuters
FPI Board Member Eric Edelman writes: Putin decided that Obama was someone whose “greater flexibility” in the second term he could use to advantage. Hamburg no doubt taught him he is not facing a more determined adversary but rather that he is getting more of the same. – The Weekly Standard
Garry Kasparov writes: There was nothing normal about the July 7 meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit in Hamburg. The mere scheduling of this friendly chat handed Putin a PR victory, which the Kremlin-controlled media exploited gleefully. Not only was the Russian dictator not isolated or under pressure for invading Ukraine, enabling Bashar al-Assad’s genocide in Syria, and interfering in the U.S. presidential election, but the American president announced that it was an honor to meet with him. – The Weekly Standard
Charles Frattini and Genevieve Casagrande write: Russian President Vladimir Putin is establishing a long-term military presence in the Mediterranean Sea in part to contest the United States’ ability to operate freely and hold NATO’s southern flank at risk. – Institute for the Study of War
Western Europe
Two young men on a scooter raced through London and threw acid in the faces of five people apparently chosen at random late Thursday night, according to the police. – New York Times
Weakened by the loss of her parliamentary majority, Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, pressed ahead on Thursday with legislative plans to extract her country from the European Union, publishing a dense, technical bill that will ultimately test her fragile grip on the job she wrested from a pack of rivals a year ago. – New York Times
U.S. President Donald Trump and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, lavished praise on one another on Thursday as they touted the growing bond between their two nations, in a pointed effort to move past the deep divisions on display at last week’s Group of 20 summit. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
While France was rocked in November 2015 by a coordinated assault that killed 130 people in the heart of Paris, authorities say the Nice massacre was a kind of watershed moment that began what has since been macabre wave of simplified terror strikes in several Western European nations. – Washington Times
Eastern Europe
Russia is planning its biggest military exercise in years, and its neighbor Finland is going underground. A subterranean city beneath Helsinki forms a crucial line of defense for the capital. Finnish soldiers routinely train here, with a mission to keep Finland’s government running and city residents safe in a network that features more than 124 miles of tunnels, passageways and shelters. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Amid a continuing debate over a bill to tighten sanctions on Russia, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are looking to highlight Kremlin-inspired mischief around the world. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
Brussels intensified the EU’s confrontation with Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, on Thursday, stepping up its action against the country over laws that target civil society groups and universities with foreign links. – Financial Times
Vuk Jeremic writes: I believe that a stable and prosperous Western Balkans that increasingly looks like the rest of Europe is an eminently reachable goal in this generation. The region is blessed with a favorable geographical position, abundant natural resources, and perhaps most importantly, smart and creative people who possess the wherewithal to compete at a global level in their respective fields. It has the potential to catch up with Central Europe in terms of economic development and continental standards. Yet this can be achieved only if the free exchange of ideas, thoughtful debate and meritocratic advancement can flourish within a genuinely democratic framework. – Washington Post
Stephen Blank writes: Moscow, by fanning the flames of conflict in South Ossetia and Abkhazia against Georgia and in Nagorno-Karabakh by selling high-performance weapons to both sides, encourages the very outcome it professes to abhor. Russia’s policies all but ensure that ancient grudges will lead to new wars—an outcome that neither Washington nor Europe can passively accept. As Tillerson’s visit suggests, the time for neglect is over and the time for engagement is now. – Atlantic Council


United States of America
A group of six girls from western Afghanistan will be able to attend an international robotics competition for which they had spent months preparing after the United States this week reversed a decision to deny them entry to the country. – New York Times
The Justice Department on Thursday released a single redacted page from Attorney General Jeff Session’s security clearance form from November that indicated he had not had any contact with a foreign government official in the past seven years. – Washington Post
Years before the words “collusion” and “Russian hacking” became associated with President Vladimir V. Putin, some prominent Republicans found far more laudatory ways to talk about the Russian leader. – New York Times
The conventional wisdom held that Sullivan was a lock to be the national security adviser in a Clinton administration. At 40, he would have been the youngest to hold that position in U.S. history. Instead, Donald Trump won the presidency, and Sullivan says he sometimes feels like a “ghoulish reminder” to friends of an election that shook the Washington establishment like no other in decades. – Washington Post
The House narrowly voted down a Republican proposal to bar the Pentagon from paying for gender-transition surgeries. – Defense News
Jared Kushner has updated a list of foreign contacts on the federal disclosure form needed to obtain a security clearance three times and added more than 100 names to it, according to a report. – Washington Examiner
Interview: The following are excerpts, as prepared and released on Thursday by the White House, from a conversation aboard Air Force One between President Trump and members of the press corps as they flew to Paris on Wednesday night. – New York Times
Russian Election Interference
President Trump said on Wednesday that he had confronted President Vladimir V. Putin twice about whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and changed the subject after Mr. Putin flatly denied it because, “What do you do? End up in a fistfight?” – New York Times
A Senate committee is asking President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman to testify about a meeting he attended last year between Trump confidants and a Russian lawyer who was said to have information from the Kremlin intended to boost Mr. Trump’s candidacy. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Donald Trump on Thursday backed his eldest son’s decision last June to accept a meeting to discuss what was described as a Russian government offer of allegedly damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and others on the Trump team after a promise of compromising material on Hillary Clinton was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist — a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, NBC News has learned. - NBC News

Two months before Donald Trump Jr.’s encounter with a Russian figure, a key House subcommittee chairman received a similar overture in Moscow offering derogatory information about a U.S. policy that was upsetting Vladimir Putin. – The Hill
The Russian lawyer whose June meeting at Trump Tower is rocking American politics was just the tip of the spear of a massive, years-long effort by the Kremlin against human rights laws named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died under mysterious circumstances as a prisoner of the Russian government. - Politico
Charles Krauthammer writes: I leave it to the lawyers to adjudicate the legalities of unconsummated collusion. But you don’t need a lawyer to see that the Trump defense — collusion as a desperate Democratic fiction designed to explain away a lost election — is now officially dead. – Washington Post
Latin America
Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s most popular politician, vowed Thursday to overturn his conviction for corruption, declaring his innocence and his intention to return as the leader of Latin America’s biggest country in elections next year. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva vowed on Thursday to appeal his conviction on corruption charges and run for president next year, calling the case against him a politicized effort to influence the 2018 election. - Reuters
The United Nations called on Venezuela's government to let people take part in an unofficial referendum on the constitution on Sunday and make sure security forces do not use excessive force against protesters. - Reuters
A rogue Venezuelan police pilot wanted for lobbing grenades and shooting at government buildings appeared briefly at an opposition vigil on Thursday night in a surreal twist to the crisis-worn country’s political drama. - Reuters


Sudan will continue to cooperate with the United States, including on intelligence-sharing, even though it has halted the work of a committee formed to negotiate relief from U.S. sanctions, Khartoum's foreign minister said on Thursday. - Reuters
The United Nations says it is considering opening a peacekeeping base in South Sudan’s troubled Yei region, which has “gone through a nightmare” in recent months amid warnings of ethnic violence. It would be the U.N.’s first such expansion since civil war began in 2013. – Associated Press
Alex Entz writes: With sanctions on Sudan inducing the government to negotiate, Washington should seize the opportunity and look to foster continuous improvements rather than temporary changes. This would provide the Trump administration the best opportunity to secure a meaningful and lasting deal with Sudan. – Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Trump Administration

Sen. John McCain tried twice Thursday to get a floor vote set for President Trump's pick to be deputy defense secretary but was blocked each time by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. – Washington Examiner
The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday approved investment banker and former Marine Corps pilot Richard V. Spencer to serve as the top civilian official in the Navy. – The Hill

Democracy and Human Rights

Christopher Walker writes: The phenomenon of authoritarian internationalism has not emerged overnight. It has built momentum over a period of years. But it is clear now that the autocrats’ growing ambitions present a significant strategic vulnerability to democracy. It is for this reason that the democracies will need to devise a more grounded, longer-term response if they are to take up and prevail in the face of this serious, multifaceted challenge. – International Reports


Mustafa Akyol writes: Today Muslim reformists point out that these values are much better protected in Western democracies than in “Islamic” states. They add that the passion for Shariah should be translated into a doctrine of the inalienable rights of all people — a vision that is desperately lacking in today’s Middle East, where the alternative to archaic literalist Shariah is often only secular but despotic rule. – New York Times

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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