FPI Overnight Brief: July 17, 2017

The Must-Reads

  • Josh Rogin: Trump’s short-sighted war on terrorism
  • Fred Hof: Defining victory down to defeat
  • US, Europe are on a collision course over Iran
  • North Korea may have more plutonium than thought
  • Chen Guangcheng and Sen. Cruz on Liu Xiaobo’s legacy
  • Administration considers trading carrots for sticks on Pakistan
  • Brands, Edel: The gathering storm vs. the crisis of confidence
  • Lake: The dirt-diggers at the heart of the Trump-Russia scandal
  • UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari govt. sites, sparking crisis

Middle East/North Africa

Since President Trump took office, Europe and the United States have pursued increasingly different courses on Iran, casting doubt over the future of the nuclear accord, which limits Iranian nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief and other trade. – Washington Post
An American student from Princeton University was arrested in Iran and has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges he was spying for the United States, an Iranian judiciary official said on Sunday, an action bound to aggravate relations between the two countries. – New York Times
Iran blamed President Trump's "arbitrary and conflicting policies" on Saturday for global instability, while rejecting the U.S. description of the nation as a rogue state. – The Hill
Human rights groups and Iranian activists say a visit to the Evin prison that was organized for diplomats was a PR stunt aimed at covering up “the dark truth” about a feared facility that has become a symbol of state repression. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The younger brother of Iran’s president was detained at the weekend in connection with unspecified financial matters. The country’s hardline judiciary announced on Sunday that 54-year-old Hossein Fereydoun, who is President Hassan Rouhani’s “special assistant”, was arrested on Saturday on “financial charges,” although it did not give further details. – Financial Times
Philip Gordon and Richard Nephew write: What the deal has done, at least for the next decade, is remove any realistic threat of a near-term Iranian nuclear weapon. The United States should use that decade wisely: standing up to and imposing costs on Iranian transgressions, supporting U.S. allies in the region, making clear to the Iranian public that the West is not an enemy, and preparing for the day when some of the deal’s restrictions will no longer apply. – The Atlantic
Across the country, Iranian-sponsored militias are hard at work establishing a corridor to move men and guns to proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon. And in the halls of power in Baghdad, even the most senior Iraqi cabinet officials have been blessed, or bounced out, by Iran’s leadership. – New York Times
After a nearly nine-month campaign to wrest Mosul, once Iraq’s second-largest city, from Islamic State control, images captured by DigitalGlobe reveal that vital parts of the city are now in ruins. – New York Times
A week after Iraqi officials declared victory in Mosul, all that remains in the Old City is rubble and unknown hundreds of bodies. Aid groups say that thousands of civilians were killed in the nine-month offensive. A final death toll is unlikely to ever be known, robbing families of answers and a grave for their grief. – Washington Post
A looming vote by northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, setting the stage for the possible secession of the region from the country, is illegal in terms of the country’s constitution, a top Iraqi diplomat said Sunday. – Washington Times
Josh Rogin reports: While in Paris last week, President Trump praised the liberation of Mosul while blaming the Obama administration for allowing the Islamic State to run amok in Iraq in 2014. But Trump’s administration is repeating mistakes of the past on counterterrorism, neglecting the long game and increasing the likelihood that the terrorists will be back. – Washington Post
The European Union is set to target 16 Syrian scientists and military officers in a new round of sanctions against the Assad regime on Monday, seeking to punish those responsible for chemical weapons attacks against civilians. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Iran has sent thousands of Afghan Shi'a to the battlefields of Syria, catapulting them to the front lines of President Bashar al-Assad and his allies' brutal six-year war against armed rebels, some of them foreign-backed, and Islamist extremists. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Frederic Hof writes: Perhaps we have indeed discovered a new and effective way of waging war in faraway places, using “partner forces.” But responsibility for sealing the victory cannot be subcontracted or assigned without inviting dire consequences. There would, after all, be no war to liberate eastern Syria from ISIS had the United States not launched and sustained it. In the end, post-combat responsibilities can indeed be evaded. They can be handed off to militiamen or ignored altogether. But the consequences of this evasion, as demonstrated in Iraq 2003 and Libya 2011, can be catastrophic. – Atlantic Council
North Africa
To its enemies, the Brotherhood is a terrorist group that seeks to unravel the established Arab order, and not just in Egypt, where the group was founded in 1928, but in countries like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, where the group has inspired similar movements. Yet, members like Mr. Shalash, many of whom are either in jail in Egypt or in exile in countries like Turkey, say the group is not only democratic, but decimated and divided. They say it has little ability to exert control over even its own members, let alone the governments of the Middle East. – New York Times
A man in his 20s stabbed six women, two of them fatally, in attacks at two hotels in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurghada, Egyptian officials and witnesses said Friday. – Washington Post
Gulf States
The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors, according to U.S. intelligence officials. – Washington Post
Israel began implementing new security measures, including checkpoints and metal detectors, at entrances to one of Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites on Sunday, two days after three gunmen killed two police officers there. – Washington Post
A widening scandal in Israel over a slew of suspected criminal offenses is likely to torpedo a €1.2 billion (U.S. $1.4 billion) submarine deal between Israel and Germany, as a former Israeli Navy commander and the personal attorney of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are the latest to be caught up in an ongoing probe. – Defense News
Less than a week after the largest opposition rally in Turkey in years, hundreds of thousands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s supporters made their own show of strength by gathering on Saturday night to commemorate the anniversary of last year’s failed coup. – New York Times
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg attempted to bring top diplomats from Turkey and Germany to the negotiation table Sunday, as Berlin and Ankara remain at odds over the fallout from last year’s attempted military coup in Turkey. – Washington Times
The U.S. House of Representatives is putting national security officials on notice over a proposed small arms sale to Turkey in yet another example of continued fallout from the violent brawl that took place outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in May. – Washington Times
Safak Pavey writes: I have been a member of Turkish Parliament representing Istanbul for the opposition Republican People’s Party for the past six years. It has forced me to become a specialist in the Turkish prison system as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (A.K.P.) government has increasingly persecuted politicians, activists, professionals and all sorts of citizens who oppose his rule and arrested thousands after the failed coup attempt last July. – New York Times
Soner Cagaptay writes: Erdogan fears that if he allows democracy to flourish in Turkey again, his opponents could vote him out and then make him pay for his transgressions against them. Maybe they will not do the latter, but Erdogan is so deeply molded by his past that he will not take the risk. This is why Turkish democracy is in deep trouble: it is stuck in Erdogan’s authoritarian chamber. – The Atlantic
Nate Schenkkan writes: He is now turning that symbolic union between his person and the state into reality, by warping state institutions to fit his needs and subordinating the other branches of government to the presidency. But the more he succeeds in his goal, the more Erdoğan creates a Turkey that cannot survive him. Whatever comes next, and whenever it comes, the damage will take decades to repair. – Freedom House’s Freedom at Issue


The long war in Afghanistan continues to set records for civilian casualties, the United Nations mission in the country said on Monday, even as the violence is expected to intensify in the coming months with no hope of peace talks anytime soon. – New York Times
The leader of the Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan, Abu Sayed, was killed by an American drone strike this week, the Pentagon said on Friday. – New York Times
Within two years, Helmand, Afganistan’s largest province, all but returned to the hands of the Taliban…After days of traveling and talking with Marines and their Afghan allies, it is clear there is little glory. Instead, the new mission is a treacherous grind in temperatures well over 100 degrees — described as a “hair dryer in your face” — to achieve expectations lowered to the most basic. – New York Times
The Pentagon's top leader says officials are still mulling the proper strategy in Afghanistan to avoid rash decisions that could hurt the United States and its allies in the long run. – Military.com
For Afghan men, revealing the names of their female relatives in public is considered shameful and dishonorable. But a group of young women are trying to eradicate many of these long-standing taboos in their lives and help women reclaim their identities. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faces a fight for his political survival this week, as Pakistan’s Supreme Court considers disqualifying him from office or putting him on trial on corruption charges. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricket star turned politician, believes his moment of political triumph has finally arrived. On Monday, the country’s Supreme Court will begin a series of hearings in a highly anticipated corruption case that could result in the removal of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif from office. – New York Times
The Trump administration is weighing a new approach toward Pakistan that could include an end to U.S. assistance to the country and strengthening security cooperation with India, CNN reported Friday. – The Hill
Pakistani officials say at least tone soldier was killed and four others wounded when a suicide bomber hit a vehicle carrying Pakistani paramilitary force members in the morning on July 17. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Central Asia
Competitive elections are few and far between in Central Asia, a region better known for its longstanding, autocratic leaders. But gold-exporting Kyrgyzstan is on course for the region’s most open presidential election in history with dozens of candidates in contention as the ruling party’s control over the ballot slips. – Financial Times
Now, as the two countries mark Sunday’s deadline for completing the agreements, affected American companies say Beijing has met the letter of its pledges, yet fallen short of the spirit. Their assessment: slow, modestly improved access in some sectors, while lingering obstacles in others will continue to stymie foreign firms for years, even as specific targeted barriers have been removed. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
President Xi Jinping announced the setup of a cabinet-level committee to coordinate China’s financial regulation at a high-level meeting that ended Saturday, as Beijing focuses on keeping risks at bay ahead of a twice-a-decade leadership shuffle later this year. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
China’s Communist Party placed under investigation a senior official once seen as a possible successor to President Xi Jinping, people familiar with the matter said, in a change that allowed the Chinese leader to promote an ally. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
China’s Communist Party leaders will gather this fall for a closely watched congress to decide who will take the party into its eighth decade of power. Yet for all the speculation about who will emerge at the top of the ruling party, one result seems certain: Few, if any, will be women. – New York Times
On Monday, the country announced that its economy had expanded 6.9 percent in the second quarter, unchanged from the year-on-year growth rate in the first quarter. – New York Times
It came as little surprise when, after the death of the dissident Liu Xiaobo last week, China’s vast army of censors kicked into overdrive as they scrubbed away the outpouring of grief on social media that followed. – New York Times
Winnie the Pooh has become too politically sensitive to be mentioned on Chinese social media…While no official explanation was given, observers suggested the crackdown was related to previous comparisons of President Xi Jinping with the portly bear created by the English author AA Milne that went viral. – Financial Times
China is ramping up acquisitions of overseas ports as it expands its reach as a maritime power, doubling its investments over the past year to $20bn and pushing ahead with plans to open new shipping routes through the Arctic circle. – Financial Times
Liu Xiaobo
China cremated its only Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, on Saturday, but watchful officials allowed only his widow and a few other mourners to bid farewell to the man who was also the country’s most famous political prisoner. – New York Times
Activists expressed concern for the wife of deceased Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, as she remained out of touch with friends despite the government saying she is “free.” – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
As Liu Xiaobo, China’s most famous political prisoner, lay dying under police guard, he struggled to finish what was probably his last written work. It was not a political statement, but a sometimes playful, sometimes darkly cryptic, tribute to his wife, Liu Xia, an artist and poet who endured house arrest while he served an 11-year prison sentence. – New York Times
Members of Congress, human rights activists, and Chinese dissidents called on the Trump administration and other world leaders to impose new sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the arrest, imprisonment, and death this week of Liu Xiaobo, China's most famous political prisoner. – Washington Free Beacon
Chen Guangcheng writes: Now is the time for all of us living in freedom to take our own stand, to collectively demand justice for Liu Xiaobo and for Liu Xia, and to support all those who seek liberty in banishing tyranny from the world. – Washington Post
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TZ) writes: I intend to continue my longstanding effort to honor Liu Xiaobo and to secure Liu Xia’s livelihood, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democrat: If there is a cause that should unite us all, it is that the wife a Nobel Peace laureate speaking out for peace and democracy should not be kept hostage in Communist China. – National Review Online
Korean Peninsula
South Korea on Monday proposed holding military and humanitarian talks with North Korea, aimed at easing tensions along their heavily armed border and arranging reunions of families divided decades ago by the Korean War. – New York Times
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Friday he thinks the package to impose sanctions on Russia and Iran should also target North Korea. – The Hill
House lawmakers have voted to approve a provision that would bar the Pentagon from doing business with telecommunications firms knowingly supporting North Korean cyberattacks. – The Hill
North Korea may have more plutonium that could be used to boost its nuclear weapons stockpile than previously thought, according to a U.S. monitoring group. – Stars and Stripes
North Korea has little the world wants. But it does have iron. Despite the international opprobrium over its nuclear ambitions, North Korea has managed to take advantage of a loophole in United Nations sanctions by increasing its exports of iron ore. - Bloomberg
A full-blown war with North Korea would be "catastrophic," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said more than once. A war, he says, would be "more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we've seen since 1953," the year the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. – Washington Examiner
Southeast Asia
The co-founder of encrypted messaging app Telegram said Sunday that it will put together a team of moderators who are familiar with Indonesia’s language and culture to remove terrorist-linked content after Indonesia’s government limited access to the service and threatened a complete ban. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Editorial: As Congress weighs expanding U.S. military engagement with Burma, it should consider attaching conditions, including a vetting process to ensure that human rights violators do not become partners. After years of encouraging democratic reform in Burma, Congress should not sit by as things move in the wrong direction. – Washington Post
Joseph Bosco writes: In conclusion the U.S. Navy should be allowed to conduct both formal FONOPs and normal freedom of navigation activities unfettered by an epistemological fear of FONOPs, which sees them as either accomplishing too little or purporting to do too much. Under the authors’ approach, FONOPs are not considered to be a substitute for normal freedom of navigation activities; yet, freedom of navigation activities are not supposed to look too much like FONOPs. Such criticism puts the Navy in a no-win situation. The FONOPS tail should not wag the freedom of navigation dog. The USS Dewey operation should be the model throughout the South China Sea. – The National Interest
Trans-Pacific Partnership
This week, those countries indicated that they wanted to press ahead with the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a sweeping multinational trade agreement that had originally been sold as a way to tether the United States more closely to East Asia and to create an economic bloc capable of standing against an increasingly muscular China. – New York Times


The U.S. House passed a $696.5 billion defense policy bill in a bipartisan vote on Friday, but it exceeds statutory budget caps, setting up a showdown. – Defense News
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said he is “very comfortable” with the priorities forming the backbones of both the House and Senate defense bills, despite some outstanding issues. – Defense News
The Trump administration and congressional GOP leaders say they want to give the military a budget boost in 2018, but the spending bills they are drawing up are so far beyond legal limits that they’ll be automatically chopped back down — unless a much broader budget deal can be worked out on Capitol Hill. What does Defense Secretary Jim Mattis make of all this? He just wants to know how much he has to spend. – Defense One
President Donald Trump is scheduled to preside over the commissioning this week of the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, even though it won’t be ready for its first combat deployment for at least four years, according to congressional auditors - Bloomberg
After two incidents where small civil drones invaded U.S. Air Force airspace — and in one event almost collided with an F-22 Raptor — the head of Air Combat Command is clamoring for congressional authorities that would allow him to deal with future incursions of unmanned aircraft. – Defense News
A contingent of lawmakers is worried the United States isn’t keeping pace with its adversaries when it comes to outer space. Their solution: A new branch of the military dedicated solely to space. – The Hill
On Tuesday morning, a hacker going by the name Johnnie Walker sent a group email to an unknown number of recipients claiming to have a trove of emails from the private account of a U.S. intelligence official. – Foreign Policy
After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation's military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America's ability to wage cyber war against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials. – Associated Press


Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, recently filed financial reports with the Justice Department showing that his lobbying firm earned nearly $17 million for two years of work for a Ukrainian political party with links to the Kremlin. Curiously, that was more than the party itself reported spending in the same period for its entire operation — the national political organization’s expenses, salaries, printing outlays and other incidentals. – New York Times
A former Ukrainian lawmaker says Russia-backed separatists in the eastern region of Donetsk have confirmed that they are holding a blogger who contributes to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
More than 2,000 relatives are expected to gather in the Netherlands to unveil a memorial to family members on the third anniversary of the day a passenger jet was shot down by a missile over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Three years after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, the bereaved Dutch father -- who also lost his in-laws in the crash -- is still waiting. As are the loved ones of all 298 passengers and crew killed when the Boeing 777 was shot down during what should have been a routine trip from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Russia is losing patience and is prepared to expel American diplomats if the United States does not reverse its decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats and block access to Russian diplomatic estates, the country’s Foreign Ministry said Friday. – New York Times
Three times this week, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a White House spokesperson could not say whether the Trump administration considers Russia a friend or foe…The lack of an answer is frustrating many within national security circles who say the inability or the unwillingness of the White House to settle on a view of Russia has paralyzed policy making. – Buzz Feed
The controversial joint United States–Russia cybersecurity unit would focus on hashing out rules for cyber espionage between the countries, not sharing intelligence, according to White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert. – The Hill
Over the course of a week, Aleksandr Turovsky became a cause celebre among Kremlin opponents after he was severely beaten by police who raided opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s presidential campaign headquarters in Moscow. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Wolfgang Ischinger writes: Leverage goes hand-in-hand with flexibility—and the Senate bill would curtail flexibility. Its unilateral approach could tip the scales in favor of those who want to end Europe’s participation in the existing trans-Atlantic policy approach on Russia, including the sanctions regime. If the bill becomes law in its current form, it would alienate America’s important European allies, complicating our alliance at a critical moment. A better approach would be to revise the bill in line with realities and recommit to a joint trans-Atlantic approach. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Damir Marusic writes: The paradox is that Donald Trump’s cabinet has managed to construct a pretty solid strategy, perhaps despite their leader. No less a critic than Obama’s Russia hand, Ambassador Mike McFaul, praised the recent op-ed by General H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn in the New York Times: “Wish it was ACTUAL policy,” he tweeted. As a matter of fact, it does appear to be actual policy. Whether Donald Trump abides by it—well, that’s another question altogether. – The American Interest
Western Europe
With a warm clasping of hands, President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France cemented an unlikely but budding relationship on Friday, capped by a Bastille Day military parade in Paris meant to emphasize the alliance between the United States and its oldest ally. – New York Times
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose hard-line politics have earned him few friends across the French ideological spectrum, arrived for talks on Sunday, the French president condemned anti-Zionism as the new form of anti-Semitism. – Washington Post
France and Germany agreed to study building together a new fighter jet to succeed respectively the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon following a July 13 joint Cabinet meeting held here. – Defense News
James Kirchick writes: America’s geography, sheer size, military prowess, and unique history as a propositional nation of immigrants with universal values make it the only country capable of leading the community of democratic nations against the free world’s many and determined enemies. This is why Trump’s abdication of America’s traditional leadership role is so dangerous and so grave: there is no one, not even a well-meaning German Chancellor, prepared to replace it. – The Daily Beast
Eastern Europe
Poland’s senate approved new laws on Saturday that allow the current government to demote and reassign judges and then choose their replacements, including Supreme Court judges who would be forced into retirement pending a third bill under discussion. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Some major improvements are underway at the Joint National Training Center in Romania that are designed to ultimately strengthen capability across NATO forces, and it’s being made possible largely by U.S. funding through the European Reassurance Initiative. – Defense News
Anne Applebaum writes: When Trump was elected president, many people, myself included, wrote of the impact he might have on international democracy. Many worried that he would encourage populist, nationalist or illiberal parties in Europe and elsewhere. And now he has. – Washington Post


United States of America
The Trump administration is weighing a new policy to dramatically expand the Department of Homeland Security’s powers to expedite the deportations of some illegal immigrants. – Washington Post
President Trump’s travel ban is already headed back to the Supreme Court after a Hawaii judge late last week put severe limits on the administration’s ability to enforce the ban, forcing the Mr. Trump to seek again the help of the high court. – Washington Times
Twice rejected for U.S. visas, an all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan arrived in Washington early Saturday after an extraordinary, last-minute intervention by President Donald Trump. – Associated Press
Congress should enact a law authorizing the use of the military to fight ISIS, al-Qaida, the Taliban and other enemies fighting the U.S. so that members of Congress have to join the president in taking responsibility for war costs, according to Sens. Jeff Flake and Tim Kaine. – Defense News
A push to include a new war authorization in a House spending bill appears to have hit a roadblock, while a separate provision forcing Congress to discuss a new war authorization was stripped from the chamber's annual defense policy bill this week. – The Hill
President Donald Trump has looked to make protectionism respectable again, citing Abraham Lincoln’s embrace of tariffs, pulling the U.S. out of a Pacific trade pact and preparing tariffs on steel imports. But changes in the international economy and the institutions governing trade are acting as constraints on what Mr. Trump can achieve. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Peter Navarro, one of the White House’s top trade advisers, is widely viewed throughout the West Wing and Capitol Hill as a prickly personality with extreme policy ideas. But he has nonetheless emerged as an influential force in the White House who appeals to President Donald Trump’s protectionist impulses. - Politico
Russia’s propaganda schemes and shell companies are so complex that investigators call them “matryoshkas” for the Russian nesting dolls that hide one inside the other. Capitol Hill lawmakers say they are now wrestling with one that appears to have twisted American oil and gas policy in Moscow’s favor. – Washington Times
Editorial: Energy Secretary Rick Perry traveled to Capitol Hill last month , asking Congress for $28 billion in funding for everything from nuclear weapons to clean-coal research. Yet one of the most controversial elements in his department’s budget proposal was a request for a relatively tiny $120 million — to restart work on Nevada’s Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site. – Washington Post
Russian Election Interference
President Trump unleashed a new fusillade of tweets on Sunday morning, defending his son Donald Trump Jr., slashing the news media and tarring his long-vanquished opponent, Hillary Clinton. – New York Times
The Russian lawyer whom Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met last year with the hopes of receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton says she talked with the office of Russia’s top prosecutor while waging a campaign against a U.S. sanctions law and the hedge-fund manager who backed it. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Mr. Akhmetshin, a gregarious, fast-talking man with a sharp sense of humor, was a skilled practitioner in the muscular Russian version of what in American politics is known as opposition research. From his base in Washington, Mr. Akhmetshin has been hired by an ever-changing roster of clients, often Russians, to burnish their image and blacken those of their rivals. – New York Times
Mr. Agalarov, 61, also worked on a project with a future president, Donald J. Trump. Last week, the Russian developer and his crooner son and heir, Emin, were thrust into the swirl of speculation about whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election…While there is no indication beyond what was said in the emails that the Agalarovs were serving as a conduit between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, wealthy and well-connected businessmen are often called on to do the bidding of the Russian government. – New York Times
On Election Day alone, there were nearly 150,000 attempts to penetrate the state’s voter-registration system, according to a postelection report by the South Carolina State Election Commission. And South Carolina wasn’t even a competitive state. If hackers were that persistent against a state that President Donald Trump won comfortably, with 54.9% of the vote, it suggests they may have targeted political swing states even more. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said President Trump's unwillingness to fully accept that Russia meddled in the 2016 election makes it more difficult to prevent foreign interference in future elections. – Washington Examiner
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower last year is "clear evidence" the Trump campaign intended to collude with the Russians during the 2016 election. – Washington Examiner
Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., wouldn't say Saturday whether the House Oversight Committee is going to call former Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes to testify about potentially playing a role in the leaks from the Trump administration of classified information to reporters. – Washington Examiner
Eli Lake writes: As the Trump-Russia scandal reaches a tipping point, it's worth going back to the first big break in the story: the dossier. Back in January, when Buzzfeed first published an opposition research document on President Donald Trump's ties to Russia, it wasn't clear what to make of it. – Bloomberg View
Julia Ioffe writes: Natalia Veselnitskaya has a tendency to appear from out of nowhere and become the center of attention. Before a now-infamous meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower last summer—one that also involved a former Soviet counterintelligence officer and current American citizen and D.C. lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin—Veselnitskaya was a relatively unknown figure, even in Moscow. When her name did find its way into the international news, it was because of her spirited defense of some of Russia’s least defensible actions. – The Atlantic
Christian Caryl writes: Putin is contemptuous of freedom, and he sneers at the idea of representative democracy. He believes in corruption, lying and poison as tools of statecraft. His only version of Christianity is one in which priests serve as his stooges. I don’t see how you can defend a man like this and still believe in the values that America is supposed to stand for. I don’t see how you can claim to be a patriot and simultaneously embrace a leader who hates our way of life. – Washington Post
Canadian MP Peter Kent writes: Mr. Trudeau’s actions are an affront to the memory of Christopher Speer, to Tabitha Speer and her children, to Layne Morris, to our U.S. allies, and to all men and women in uniform. This payout was a cynical subversion of Canadian principles. Mr. Trudeau made Omar Khadr a millionaire, and he didn’t have to. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Latin America
The extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, Mexico’s long-dominant drug lord, has led to an explosion of violence in his home state of Sinaloa, the birthplace of the country’s narcotics industry. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Venezuelans at home and abroad voted Sunday in an unauthorized referendum staged by government opponents to defy President Nicolás Maduro and his plans to rewrite the country’s constitution. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
During his 14 years in power, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proved a master at prodding infighting amid his country’s pesky but fractured opposition — a “divide and conquer” strategy apparently not lost on his embattled successor, Nicolas Maduro. – Washington Times
Cuban President Raul Castro on Friday blasted President Trump's reversal on some Obama-era policies intended to thaw relations with the island nation, saying that Cuba does "not need to receive lessons from the United States" on human rights issues. – The Hill
Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president, was set to fly to Cuba on Sunday on a mission to convince Havana to support a regional diplomatic push to staunch Venezuela’s growing crisis, which has left 90 dead after three months of protests. – Financial Times
Venezuela’s foreign reserves have dropped below $10bn for the first time in 15 years as chronic mismanagement, corruption and subdued oil prices continue to batter what used to be the wealthiest country in South America. – Financial Times


Aid workers lauded President Donald Trump's decision this week to postpone permanently lifting U.S. sanctions on Sudan as a win for civilians in the country who have suffered through a brutal civil war perpetuated by human rights abuses. – Washington Free Beacon
With Mr Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding president, only a few points ahead in the polls of his main rival, Raila Odinga, and only a small percentage of the electorate undecided, analysts say the respective sides’ grassroots operations will decide who runs east Africa’s dominant economy for the next four years. – Financial Times

Trump Administration

President Trump has filled far fewer top jobs in cabinet or cabinet-level agencies than President Barack Obama had at this point in his presidency. This is largely because of the slow pace of Mr. Trump’s nominations, according to a New York Times analysis. – New York Times
At the end of an eight day trip, Tillerson gave two State Department press pool reporters a rare 10-minute interview Thursday evening in which he talked about the Gulf crisis, the difficulties of his new job, and the jarring culture of shock of going from chief executive of an oil giant to diplomat-in-chief. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
There are multiple candidates for U.S. Army secretary still being evaluated, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Friday. – Defense News


Hal Brands and Charles Edel write: History is never a perfect guide to the future, of course, and it rarely provides concrete, specific lessons about what policies the United States should pursue today. But history does provide reference points that can help us make sense of our own moment, as well as warnings about what might occur if America falters. Let us all hope that this administration — or, perhaps more likely, its successors — finds the purpose and wisdom necessary to make sure that we someday look back on the present as a prelude to renewal, not a prelude to disaster. – Foreign Policy
Tyler Roylance writes: The real question, then, is not whether the West has the will to survive, but whether the citizens of democracies have the will to support their fellow human beings’ struggle for freedom—no matter where they live—rather than simply defending their own frontiers. – Freedom House’s Freedom at Issue

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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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