FPI Overnight Brief: July 21, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

Iran
 
Reuel Marc Gerecht writes: Fearfully maintaining an arms-control agreement that through sunset clauses guarantees the Islamic Republic an industrial-size uranium enrichment program isn’t how to do it. Economically or militarily, the United States needs to scare Iran’s ruling class, convince it that hostage-taking carries an unbearable price. But it seems increasingly clear that President Trump will not intimidate the mullahs. – New York Times
 
Emanuele Ottolenghi writes: JCPOA negotiators believed that sanctions worked and that Iran, when put to a choice, would act rationally. The Trump administration should put that choice to them again: Iran should not be allowed to fly Hezbollah and Boeing at the same time. – The Weekly Standard
 
Tyler Stapleton and Behnam Ben Taleblu writes: The post-deal behavior of Iran and its agents/affiliates indicates that the Islamic Republic has absolutely no intention of slowing down the strategic programs that have made it such a threat to international peace and security for over three decades. As the administration weighs its options, it would be wise to see sanctions and designations like the ones issued on Tuesday as the foundation – not the cap – for future action against Iran. – Foundation for Defense of Democracies
 
Tzvi Kahn writes: In the coming months, America should sanction the thousands of Iranian companies that facilitate the full range of its malign behavior, from its regional aggression to its domestic repression. In so doing, the United States can send Iran a message that its efforts at blackmail will no longer find a receptive ear in Washington. – Foundation for Defense of Democracies
 
Matt Trevithick writes: We must stay true to our deepest American values while trying to minimize the risk inherent in engaging with today’s world. With this open-minded realism, the United States doesn’t need to slam the door shut to students completely. But until Iran can ensure that Western academics can study and better understand the fascinating Persian world in peace, it’s best that American universities keep their distance. – Washington Post
 
Syria
 
Syrian rebel commanders said Thursday that they were disappointed in the Trump administration’s decision to end a covert CIA weapons and training program for opposition fighters, an initiative that began under President Barack Obama but fizzled out amid battlefield losses and concerns about extremism within rebel ranks. – Washington Post
 
Members of Congress said they were deeply concerned following reports that the U.S. is planning to abandon a covert operation to train and equip Syria moderate rebels. – Defense News
 
A bipartisan pair of Senate Armed Services Committee members is calling for the annual defense policy bill to create a panel to study U.S. policy in Syria. – The Hill
 
The U.S. is seeking a political resolution to the crisis in Syria and won't insist on Syrian President Bashar Assad's immediate ouster, President Donald Trump's homeland and counterterrorism adviser said Thursday. – Associated Press
 
Jihadist insurgents in northwestern Syria took ground from rival Turkey-backed Islamist fighters as they battled for a second successive day on Thursday, rebel sources said. - Reuters
 
Around 150 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels arrived in Idlib province on Thursday to reinforce rebel group Ahrar al-Sham's escalating conflict with a rival Islamist insurgent group formerly known as the Nusra Front, rebel sources told Reuters. - Reuters
 
Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched an offensive to drive insurgents from their last foothold at the Syrian-Lebanese border on Friday, a pro-Damascus military commander said. - Reuters
 
Some 250 residents of Syria's Raqqa province Thursday became the latest batch to graduate from a brief U.S. training course, part of an internal security force to hold and secure areas as they are captured from Islamic State group militants. – Associated Press
 
David Ignatius writes: Contrast the sad demise of the CIA’s anti-Assad program in western Syria with the rampaging campaign against the Islamic State in the east. What’s the difference? In the east, motivated, well-organized Syrian fighters are backed by U.S. warriors on the ground and planes in the sky. In this game, halfway is not the place to be. – Washington Post
 
Iraq
 
An execution site has been discovered in the Iraqi city of Mosul, Human Rights Watch says, citing it as the latest evidence of retribution carried out by government forces after the defeat of Islamic State extremists. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable
 
Interview: Marine Corps Times talked to Brig. Gen. Robert “G-Man” Sofge recently about what happens after Mosul and how U.S. forces helped Iraqi forces achieve their most important victory to date. Sofge is currently the director of the Combined Joint Operations Center in Baghdad. – Military Times
 
ISIS
 
A State Department report released Wednesday underscores the persistence of the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State, which despite military setbacks posted a record number of attacks and fatalities in 2016, surpassing all other militant groups worldwide. But at the same time the sophistication of the group’s operations is slipping, suggesting that counterterrorism measures arrayed against the militants is taking a toll, U.S. and European counterterrorism officials say. – Washington Post
 
House lawmakers emerged from a briefing on the administration’s anti-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) strategy generally confident in the military aspect of the plan, but some worried the plan still lacks an endgame for the Syrian civil war. – The Hill
 
Gulf States
 
Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday a big promotion for a veteran security officer who United States officials recently said was without a job and confined to his home. – New York Times
 
Qatar said Thursday that interference with its government media sites that culminated in a late-May cyberattack that sparked an ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf began more than a month earlier, when hackers first infiltrated its network. – Washington Post
 
The United States will post officials at the Qatari state prosecutor's office as part of a Qatari-U.S. agreement signed this month to fight the financing of terrorism, people familiar with the matter said. – Reuters
 
Saudi King Salman on Thursday decreed the consolidation of counter-terrorism and domestic intelligence under a new body, in a major overhaul of the security apparatus weeks after the interior minister was ousted from the royal succession. - Reuters
 
North Africa
 
Tunisia's prime minister vowed on Thursday to push ahead with a war against corruption to restore trust in the state, adding this would exclude no-one whatever their political affiliation. - Reuters
 
Police fired tear gas and used truncheons to scatter hundreds of protesters in northern Morocco, a Reuters witness said on Thursday, part of the biggest wave of demonstrations in the kingdom since Arab Spring-inspired rallies in 2011. - Reuters
 
The Libyan National Army, the main military force in eastern Libya, on Thursday denied accusations that its troops were involved in torture and killing of prisoners after the United Nations urged the LNA to investigate. - Reuters
 
Military commander Khalifa Haftar, a powerful figurehead in the east of Libya, and Fayez Seraj, head of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on July 25, al-Hayat newspaper reported. - Reuters
 
Levant
 
Thousands of Muslim worshipers held prayer services at noon Friday outside the gates of Jerusalem’s Old City after being denied entry to the al-Aqsa Mosque, or refusing to enter in protest, as tensions mounted after the Israeli government decided to keep in place controversial security arrangements at the entrance to the sensitive holy site. – Washington Post
 
The State Department is facing harsh criticism for claiming in an official report that Israel is to blame for terrorism attacks committed by Palestinians and accusing the Jewish state of being largely responsible for an impasse in peace negotiations, according to a leading member of Congress who is calling on the State Department to correct its "inaccurate and harmful" characterization of Israel. – Washington Free Beacon
 
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday ordered a comprehensive review of the defense establishment’s procurement ties to retired officers and former officials with business interests amid a widening scandal here that has already ensnared a former Israeli Navy commander and deputy national security adviser, also a retired Navy officer. – Defense News
 
Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation on Thursday seeking to increase sanctions on Hezbollah, accusing the powerful Shi'ite Muslim political group of violence in Syria and amassing rockets along Israel's border. - Reuters
 
Turkey
 
Germany told its citizens on Thursday to exercise caution when traveling to Turkey and warned that it might cut off export insurance guarantees and other forms of economic cooperation, the latest step in the deterioration of relations between the two powers. – New York Times

Asia

Afghanistan
 
President Trump suggested in a visit to the Pentagon Thursday that he might hold off on sending more troops to Afghanistan, despite a recent order that he signed authorizing the Pentagon to add more forces. – Washington Post
 
U.S. President Donald Trump on July 20 tapped a veteran diplomat who currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Turkey to be his envoy to Afghanistan. The White House said John Bass will be nominated for the Afghanistan job. Bass has also served in Iraq. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
Afghan pilots will begin training on U.S. UH-60 A model Black Hawk helicopters sometime in early October. – Military Times
 
India
 
A Dalit was elected India’s 14th president on Thursday, a rare achievement for a member of a community once known as “untouchables” and one of the most deprived groups in India. – New York Times
 
Sadanand Dhume writes: With the numbers on their side, Messrs. Modi and Shah could have shown a little imagination and given India a president like Kalam, someone whose nonpolitical achievements merited respect and whose personality attracted affection. Instead the country just got yet another humdrum politician meant to check the right boxes and not rock the boat. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
China
 
Mr. Liu’s death last week of liver cancer, after a final, futile attempt by friends to bring about his release, has dealt a withering blow to the pro-democracy movement. Some say it is now at its weakest point since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. – New York Times
 
[T]he death by cancer of Mr. Liu, who was serving an 11-year prison sentence for his role in Charter 08, a manifesto for peaceful political change, also deepened concerns over the fate of Lee Ming-cheh, a human rights advocate from Taiwan who went missing after his arrival in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong in March. – New York Times
 
The head of the U.S. and Chinese navies talked about future naval engagements and North Korean issues but not South China Sea issues or freedom of navigation operations during a Thursday video teleconference – USNI News
 
Liu Xiaobo was one of the "Four Gentlemen" of Tiananmen Square, the group that staged a hunger strike in the final days of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in China and tried to hold off tanks and troops moving in to crush the student-led movement. Liu, who died in state custody last week, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and was regarded as China's best-known dissident. But the other three have largely faded from the public eye and none have publicly commented on Liu or his death. - Reuters
 
Korean Peninsula
 
The United States plans to bar American citizens from traveling to North Korea, the general manager of a major operator of tours to the country said on Friday. – New York Times
 
North Korea is suffering its worst drought in 16 years, a United Nations agency reported on Friday, raising fears of worsening food shortages in the country, where children and other vulnerable groups have suffered malnutrition for years. – New York Times
 
South Korea's proposed military talks aimed at easing tension between the two Koreas planned for Friday failed to happen after the North snubbed the call, a setback for new President Moon Jae-in's hopes for dialogue. - Reuters
 
Ralph Savelsberg and James Kiessling write: Originally the Unha SLV was thought to be a close relative of the Taepodong 2. It remains North Korea’s most powerful rocket and its quickest, most credible route towards a purpose-built ICBM. In this article, we assess the performance of five credible military variants using missile stages that have successfully flown, mated with the proven Unha stage 1, via computer simulations – Breaking Defense
 
Southeast Asia
 
The central command of the Islamic State in Syria has funneled tens of thousands of dollars to militants in the Philippines over the last year, most likely aiding their spectacular seizure of the southern Philippine city of Marawi, a report released Friday said. – New York Times
 
Ms de Lima has certainly earned implacable enmity from Mr Duterte for her efforts to probe his bloody drugs wars first as a provincial mayor and now as president. She maintains her innocence but also accepts her stay in jail could be a long one. The same day she marks five months in detention next week, Mr Duterte will give an annual state of the nation speech against a background of soaring approval ratings. – Financial Times
 
As a lengthy, urban battle drags on between Philippine forces and Islamist militants in the southern city of Marawi, a new report by a think-tank has warned of more attacks by radicals in Southeast Asia, including on foreigners. - Reuters
 
Lynn Kuok writes: Whether Beijing’s behavior should be attributed to its appreciation that flouting the ruling undermines trust and respect for China or to a more short-sighted desire to avoid direct confrontation just before its critical nineteenth party congress in September remains an open question. Whatever the case, respect for international law is critical to China’s long-term interests in peace and stability. Beijing will do well to recognize this and act accordingly. – Foreign Affairs

Security

Defense
 
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded BAE Systems a $4.6 million contract for its Mobile Offboard Clandestine Communications and Approach (MOCCA) program. The MOCCA program’s goal is to enable submarines to detect other submerged vessels at greater distances, while minimizing the risk of counter-detection. – Scout Warrior
 
The War
 
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to impose sanctions against eight individuals and businesses linked to the Islamic State extremist group and al Qaeda in a wide-ranging resolution aimed at stepping up international efforts “to counter terrorism and terrorist financing.” – Associated Press
 
Some 180 airlines worldwide that fly directly to U.S. airports have complied with a first phase of enhanced security measures outlined in June and do not face any new restrictions, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Thursday. - Reuters
 
Cybersecurity
 
The Trump administration is preparing to conduct aggressive action against foreign nations that hit the United States with cyber attacks, a White House policymaker said Thursday. – Washington Free Beacon

Russia/Europe

Ukraine
 
PwC suffered the latest blow to its reputation late on Thursday as Ukraine’s central bank pulled its bank auditing rights in the country for failing to identify alleged improprieties that led to a $5.5bn balance-sheet hole at PrivatBank, the country’s largest lender. – Financial Times
 
Maxim Eristavi writes: As a Ukrainian journalist, I’m tired of living in fear. I’m tired of being haunted by my father’s terrified face. Let’s create an environment where no one in Eastern Europe has to be afraid of telling the truth. It all starts with Ukraine finding justice for Pavel Sheremet. – Washington Post
 
Luke Coffey writes: Ukraine finally appears to be heading in the right direction, and the Euro-Atlantic community should do all that it can to keep them on this path. – The National Interest
 
Timothy Evans writes: As one of three international members of NAKO, the Independent Defence Anti-Corruption Committee set up by TI to oversee defense reform in Ukraine, I helped assess how corruption affects the provision of security assistance to the country. We found that while security assistance is now better monitored on the ground at the tactical level, problems persist at the strategic level. Unnecessary secrecy at this level, where security needs are articulated, limits the ability of donors – and the Ukrainian public – to understand how defense funds are being allocated and spent. – Defense One
 
Russia
 
A White House effort to secure changes to a Russia sanctions bill constraining President Donald Trump appears likely to fall short, in a major rebuff by the GOP-led Congress to the leader of its own party. - Politico
 
Bipartisan negotiators involved in finalizing legislation to impose sanctions on Russia expressed confidence on Thursday that a deal could be reached soon after a monthlong delay. – The Hill
 
The Senate's Russia sanctions legislation has generated objections from a wide array of US business industries, which have undertaken a lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill to try to make changes to the bill. - CNN
 
The upholding of a Russian ban on Jehovah's Witnesses has prompted criticism from the State Department and a federal religious freedom watchdog. – Washington Free Beacon
 
A new offensive by Microsoft has been making inroads against the Russian government hackers behind last year’s election meddling, identifying over 120 new targets of the Kremlin’s cyber spying, and control-alt-deleting segments of Putin’s hacking apparatus. – The Daily Beast
 
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and a prominent former commander of Russia-backed separatists sparred over patriotism and the war in Ukraine in a debate that stoked widespread discussion and criticism among political players and watchers after it was announced last week. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
The German industrial conglomerate Siemens says it is cutting some of its ties to Russia after receiving information that four gas turbines it sold to for use at a Russian power plant had been "illegally" diverted to the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
 
The Russian Embassy still has buildings spread throughout the nation’s capital, but that wasn’t by grand design. The official emphasized that there was no plan to buy buildings in different parts of the city. Rather, one building predates the 1917 Russian Revolution, and during the Cold War, the Soviet government bought what it could when it could — at market price and with the U.S. government’s approval. Here’s a list of known Russian diplomatic properties in the Washington, D.C., area: - Foreign Policy’s The Cable
 
Russia and the US are in talks on establishing a joint working group on cyber security, Moscow said on Thursday, in remarks that will fuel bipartisan anxiety in Washington over how Donald Trump is dealing with Russia. – Financial Times
 
Tom Malinowski writes: The advancement of democracy and human rights is as serious a business as anything we do in our foreign policy and cannot be treated as an afterthought in our relations with great powers. After all, the stakes for them, and ultimately for us, are existential. – Washington Post
 
Paulina Kovaleva writes: Despite efforts by the Trump White House, Congress should pass this sanctions bill—if nothing else, in the name of all of the political prisoners currently held as part of the Ukraine crisis. – Atlantic Council
 
Western Europe
 
As discussions got serious this week in Brussels — amid open feuding, cabinet splits and confusion over policy objectives back in London — Britain’s handling of its most important negotiations since World War II was starting to look shambolic. Nearly four months after Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50, starting the clock on a two-year window to negotiate Britain’s departure, little or nothing of substance has been accomplished. – New York Times
 
Germans’ wary attitude to patriotism and the idea of a national culture is decades old. But circumstances both global and domestic are forcing a reconsideration. – Washington Post
 
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the armed forces will be the only government ministry to receive a spending increase next year, as he renewed a pledge to boost the 2018 defense budget to €34.2 billion (U.S. $39.4 billion). – Defense News
 
Citing lessons learned from recent big military exercises, the U.S. Army's top general in Europe urged Germany to spend more on transportation and missile defense to help it meet its NATO target of 2 percent of economic output. - Reuters
 
Josef Joffe writes: The best news is that the eurozone is growing again, while France seems earnest about loosening the grip of statism. The populist revolt has been contained in France and Holland. Disarmament has turned into rearmament thanks to Mr. Putin. And Mr. Trump’s America? The U.S. has been quietly moving troops and some 2,000 pieces of heavy equipment into Europe to deter Russia. Men and guns speak louder than tweets. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Gary Schmitt and Rebecca Burgess write: It is far too early to conclude that the current state of French politics will result in effective, sustained, and sound governance. The French would do well to keep in mind that the electoral system that made an Obama presidency possible is the same one that gave the United States Donald Trump. – The Weekly Standard
 
Eastern Europe
 
U.S. European Command is monitoring a series of coming exercises between Russia and China in the Baltic Sea, warning Moscow to observe safety protocols that American officials accuse Russia of flouting. – Stars and Stripes
 
U.S. allies in eastern Europe and Ukraine are worried that Russia's planned war games in September could be a "Trojan horse" aimed at leaving behind military equipment brought into Belarus, the U.S. Army's top general in Europe said on Thursday. - Reuters
 
NATO should permanently deploy anti-aircraft weapons in the Baltics to deter Russia, Lithuania's president said on Thursday as the United States put Patriot missiles on display after including them in an exercise in the region for the first time. - Reuters
 
Lawmakers voted to overhaul Moldova's electoral system on Thursday, as thousands of opposition activists massed outside saying the changes favored the two largest parties. - Reuters
 
Poland
 
Poland’s lower chamber of parliament approved a bill that would allow the government to replace every judge on the supreme court, a move opposition politicians and European Union leaders warned undermines democracy in the once-communist nation. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets on Thursday night to protest against the passing of a Supreme Court bill that critics fear will undermine the independence of Poland’s judiciary. – Financial Times
 
The European Union executive holds only limited leverage to stop ruling nationalists eroding the rule of law in Poland but they risk facing consequences including sharp cuts in EU funds that help develop the ex-communist state. - Reuters

Americas

United States of America
 
Christopher Wray, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next FBI director, cleared a key hurdle in his confirmation process on Thursday when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in a show of unity to advance his nomination to the full Senate. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
The Treasury Department and ExxonMobil locked horns in a legal battle Thursday, with the oil giant filing a lawsuit to stop a $2 million fine the department slapped on it earlier in the day it for violating sanctions against Russia in 2014, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was head of the company. - Politico
 
Rebuffing a Republican president, a GOP-led Senate panel on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to foreign aid and deep reductions in spending on domestic programs such as education, housing and energy. – Associated Press
 
McCain
 
FPI Board Member William Kristol writes: The noble simplicity of sentiment in McCain’s tweets is a world removed from Trump’s gaudy and boastful displays. And McCain’s demonstration of character and courage is a far more reliable guide to American greatness than the pronouncements of a president who speaks of it nonstop and embodies it not all. – The Weekly Standard
 
Dov Zakheim writes: Others have begun to write about McCain as if he has left us. That most assuredly is not the case. A man who withstood torture in Vietnam as a prisoner of war should never be written off. McCain is a national treasure. May he recover quickly and continue to be a shining light and inspiration not only to me, as he has been, but to all Americans, and indeed, all people who are free or long to be. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room
 
Kori Schake writes: McCain fervently believes in the ennoblement of caring about something bigger than your own interests. It’s defined his life. So send him your prayers. Then pick up the batons he has always uncomplainingly carried. Respect your fellow Americans. Model civility in our public discourse. Find ways to bridge the chasm and solve our country’s problems. Take seriously the threats our country’s enemies pose. Hold governments accountable for their actions toward their own people. Help people striving for liberty and dignity. There’s important work to be done. – Foreign Policy’s Elephants in the Room
 
Trade
 
Editorial: If Mr. Trump wants a political victory, he’ll push to further open Mexican and Canadian markets rather than impose trade barriers that hurt American businesses and consumers. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
 
Mark Perry writes: Improvements can be made in NAFTA that are part of the process of improved relations with two of our major trading partners. Reforming and updating our trade policies is the best way to renew our commitment to free trade. The stakes for the United States (including Michigan), Mexico and Canada are high. Let’s not allow reckless protectionism to disrupt trade with our North American neighbors that is vital to our mutual economic strength and prosperity. – American Enterprise Institute
 
Haley Skinner writes: As NAFTA is renegotiated, the fair trade versus free trade argument needs to stop.  Trade must be both fair and free in order to achieve economic efficiency and permit growth via multinational collaboration. – e21
 
Russian Election Interference
 
The Obama administration pondered deploying armed federal agents to polling places last November to counter any potential cyberattacks targeting the U.S. election system, according to a newly released playbook prepared during last year’s race. – Washington Times
 
President Donald Trump’s chief counterterrorism adviser said Thursday that the Russian government clearly tried to manipulate the 2016 election, and declared that the Obama administration’s retaliatory sanctions didn’t go far enough. - Politico
 
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday he is "confident" Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and he contends that Moscow has been interfering in U.S. elections long before last year. – Washington Examiner
 
Denis McDonough writes: Russia poses a threat to our democracy. Yet the past several months have also seen too much denial, finger-pointing and partisan posturing on this issue. Instead, we must build on the experience of past year, find a bipartisan path to complete a comprehensive review of what happened — and ensure that renewed efforts by Russia will not succeed. – Washington Post
 
Mueller Probe
 
Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort. – Washington Post
 
President Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort. - New York Times

The FBI is routinely asking witnesses in its Russia investigation about the accusations in a dossier against Donald Trump, further expanding the reach of a discredited opposition research paper sourced from the Kremlin and financed and distributed by Democrats. – Washington Times
 
The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. - Bloomberg
 
President Donald Trump’s decision to talk off the cuff about the Russia probe to reporters allowed him to put out his version of events — but increased the legal risks to him, as well as to his children and the growing number of associates who have been pulled into the expanding investigation. - Politico
 
Venezuela
 
An anti-government strike paralyzed large sections of Venezuela on Thursday as the nation risked spiraling into a deeper crisis ahead of a vote that many fear could move the country further down the path of authoritarian rule. – Washington Post
 
A senior diplomat representing Venezuela at the United Nations in New York has broken with President Nicolas Maduro over abuses during anti-government protests, opening another crack in the unpopular leftist's administration. - Reuters
 
Russia's top oil producer Rosneft is negotiating to swap its collateral in Venezuelan-owned, U.S.-based refiner Citgo for oilfield stakes and a fuel supply deal - a move to avoid complications from U.S. sanctions, two sources with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters. - Reuters

Africa

West Africa
 
Gunmen, some of them in military uniforms, attacked the base of an elite security unit in Ivory Coast's main city, and stole stocks of weapons as part of a series of overnight clashes, the defense minister said on Thursday. - Reuters
 
Cameroonian forces have been torturing suspects in a campaign against Islamist group Boko Haram, with much of the torture happening at a base used extensively by American troops and visited by French ones, Amnesty International said on Thursday. - Reuters
 
East Africa
 
Exiled South Sudanese opposition figure Riek Machar declined to renounce violence or declare a unilateral ceasefire and instead demanded new peace talks outside the war-torn country, an international mediator told the United Nations on Thursday. - Reuters
 
Ugandan police have arrested 56 people for holding illegal assemblies, the police said on Thursday, but an opposition official accused them of cracking down on opponents of a plan by the president to extend his rule. - Reuters
 
Central Africa
 
Congo President Joseph Kabila and his family own stakes in more than 80 companies at home and abroad that are likely worth 10s of millions of dollars, a report by a U.S.-based body said on Thursday. - Reuters

Trump Administration

President Trump has offered the post of United States ambassador to Germany to Richard Grenell, a former diplomatic aide to President George W. Bush and a Republican strategist who once worked for Senator John McCain, two people briefed on the conversation said on Thursday. – New York Times
 
Even if Mr. Sessions remains in his job, the relationship between him and Mr. Trump — the Alabama lawyer and the Queens real estate developer, an odd couple bound by a shared conviction that illegal immigration is destroying America — is unlikely to ever be the same, according to a half-dozen people close to Mr. Trump. And this is not the typical Trump administration feud. – New York Times
 
The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to send four more Pentagon nominees to the Senate floor for approval. – Defense News
 
Esper probably is unlikely to rock any boats at the Army Department, instead serving as the soft-spoken civilian wingman to the wisecracking Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley. Esper’s whole career has been about quiet, low-key performance, not controversy. But that makes him much more likely to survive the Senate than Trump’s previous candidates. – Breaking Defense

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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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