FPI Overnight Brief: July 24, 2017

The Must-Reads

Middle East/North Africa

After a contentious meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week, President Donald Trump instructed a group of trusted White House staffers to make the potential case for withholding certification of Iran at the next 90-day review of the nuclear deal. The goal was to give Trump what he felt the State Department had failed to do: the option to declare that Tehran was not in compliance with the contentious agreement. – Foreign Policy
Iran announced Saturday that it had started on a new missile production line, a move that comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. – The Hill
In the event of an armed conflict with Iran, the single-seat, twin-engine F-22 would be integral in the opening minutes as the U.S. sought to gain air superiority over Iranian skies. Fortunately, this is the exact type of mission for which the F-22 was built. Iran’s military would have little effective recourse against the F-22. – Scout Warrior
Iranian lawmakers have proposed changes to the country’s tough antidrugs laws, a move that could abolish the death penalty for some drug-related crimes. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Iran's top judge called on the United States on Monday to release Iranians held in U.S. jails and billions of dollars in Iranian assets, days after Washington urged Tehran to free three U.S. citizens. - Reuters
As Assad’s troops gain a foothold in Dair Alzour, the crossroads of a strategic land corridor from Tehran to Beirut, U.S.-trained opposition fighters and allies nearby said they hope to take a stand with American backing, potentially drawing the U.S. into a long and costly conflict. – Los Angeles Times
Speaking on a panel at the Aspen Security Forum, Gen. Raymond Thomas, the commander of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), said the U.S. asked the People’s Protection Unit, or YPG, to re-brand because of its alleged linkages to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), an internationally designated terrorist group – Military Times
Advances against the Islamic State group in its stronghold in the Syrian city of Raqqa have slowed down amid stiff resistance from the militants, said the spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group. – Associated Press
Syrian jihadists linked to a former al Qaeda affiliate consolidated their grip over large parts of the northwestern province of Idlib on Sunday after their main rival evacuated a major border crossing with Turkey, rebels and residents said. - Reuters
Josh Rogin reports: Special Operations Command chief Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas defended the Trump administration’s decision to end the CIA program to arm Syrian rebels in public remarks here at the Aspen Security Forum on Friday, arguing that the program had problems and ending it was not a gift to Russia. – Washington Post
Rogin also reports: Although the Trump team inherited a terrible hand in Syria, the way it is playing it repeats the same fundamental mistakes made by President Barack Obama — and it will likely have the same negative results for the Syrian conflict, as well as for American interests. – Washington Post
Editorial: It’s hard to imagine a stable Syria as long as Mr. Assad is in power. But if he stays, then the U.S. goal should be a divided country with safe areas for Sunnis and the Kurds who have helped liberate Raqqa. Then we can perhaps tolerate an Assad government that presides over a rump Syria dominated by Alawites. But none of that will happen if the U.S. abandons its allies to the Russia-Assad-Iran axis. And if abandoning Syria to Iran is the policy, then at least own up to it in public so everyone knows the score. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Michael Vickers writes: The United States faces growing challenges to the international order from Sunni global jihadists and the Iranian regime in the Middle East, from Russia in Europe and from China in East Asia. Making common cause with Russia and Iran in Syria can only lead to the further erosion of U.S. global power. – Washington Post
The fight to drive Islamic State from Iraq will likely get tougher for Iraqi security forces and the U.S.-backed coalition supporting them, despite Baghdad securing one of the most important victories of the three-year war against the terrorist group. – Washington Times
Such is the challenge Iraq faces in rebuilding cities and towns liberated from Islamic State amid a cycle of sectarianism that shows little sign of ending and an insurgency that remains active across much of the country. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Jackson Diehl writes: One goal of Qadir’s visit to Washington was to revive U.S. interest in promoting Kurdish democracy, which all but evaporated during the Obama administration. “The United States didn’t focus on those issues, and that undermined all that we accomplished since 2003,” he said. Persuading the Trump administration to make Kurdish elections a priority is a tall order. Yet Congress might listen to Qadir’s compelling point: “The more we have free and fair elections,” he says, “the less chance we will get into instability and violence.” – Washington Post
On the day the Islamic State overran the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, it laid claim to one of the greatest weapons bonanzas ever to fall to a terrorist group: a large metropolis dotted with military bases and garrisons stocked with guns, bombs, rockets and even battle tanks. But the most fearsome weapon in Mosul on that day was never used by the terrorists. Only now is it becoming clear what happened to it. – Washington Post
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is assuming that Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still alive and guiding the terror group in some capacity, Mattis said Friday. – Military Times
France said it will host talks on Tuesday between Fayez al-Serraj, head of Libya's U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, and Khalifa Haftar, a powerful military commander in the divided country's east who has so far rejected his authority. - Reuters
Arabian Peninsula
The ongoing cholera crisis in Yemen is one of the worst outbreaks in the world and is expected to get far worse, with the World Health Organization warning that the rainy season will increase the pace of transmission. Tens of millions of Yemenis lack access to clean water, sanitation and basic health care, as three years of civil war have decimated the country and shows no sign of resolution. – Washington Times
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that the United States was “satisfied” with Qatar’s counterterrorism efforts under a new bilateral agreement, and called on a four-country bloc led by Saudi Arabia to lift its “land blockade” of Qatar as “a sign of good faith.” – Washington Post
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz has overhauled the kingdom’s security agencies, further concentrating power in the hands of the king and his son, the youthful crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman. – Financial Times
Iran on Monday denied reports that Kuwait had expelled its ambassador, saying it would maintain a dialogue with the Gulf Arab state after a diplomatic row over Tehran's alleged links to a "spy and terror" cell. - Reuters
The Israeli security cabinet convened for urgent discussions late Sunday, amid fears that a standoff over Israel’s placement of metal detectors at entrances to the sacred Aqsa Mosque compound could result in a long wave of violence. – New York Times
Senior Trump administration Israel adviser Jason Greenblatt will head to Israel Sunday evening, just days after violence broke out in Jerusalem and Palestinian terrorists killed several Israeli citizens, according to senior Trump administration officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon. – Washington Free Beacon
Officials in the Trump administration's State Department are standing by a recent report criticized by Congress that blamed Israel for terror attacks and claimed Palestinians rarely incite violence, telling the Washington Free Beacon that it remains unclear why terrorists engage in violent acts. – Washington Free Beacon
A deadly shooting at Israel’s Embassy in Jordan further complicated Israeli government efforts on Monday to find a way out of an escalating crisis over Jerusalem’s most contested holy site, including mass Muslim prayer protests and Israeli-Palestinian violence. – Associated Press
President Trump will host Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the White House on Tuesday, officials announced. – Washington Times
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey raised the stakes in a long-running diplomatic spat with Germany on Friday, dismissing the threat of an informal German economic embargo and rejecting calls to release several German citizens held in Turkish jails. – New York Times
Wary of Sunni dominance of public life, Alevis are key stakeholders in the secular Turkish state, and yet have suffered under staunchly secular governments, too. They exemplify the parts of Turkey that feel most threatened by Mr. Erdogan — secularists and minorities like the Kurds and Alevis — while highlighting both the authoritarianism and religious nationalism that predated him, as well as the disparate nature of the coalition that opposes him. – New York Times
President Trump's team should negotiate a free trade agreement with Turkey, according to a Republican lawmaker. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., has introduced legislation directing the U.S. trade representative to initiate the talks, in a somewhat unusual assertion of congressional interest.  – Washington Examiner
A big government stimulus has helped gross domestic product recover from a 1.8 per cent contraction in the third quarter of last year to 5 per cent growth in the first three months of 2017. – Financial Times
Journalists and staff from a Turkish newspaper staunchly opposed to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have gone on trial in Istanbul, accused of aiding terror organizations - a case that has added to concerns over rights and freedoms in Turkey. – Associated Press
Turkish police detained 61 protesters in the capital Ankara on Sunday demonstrating in support of two teachers jailed two months ago for going on hunger strike, private broadcaster CNN Turk reported. - Reuters


U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday the Trump administration is close to completing a strategic reassessment of the more than 15-year-old U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. – Wall Street Journal (Subscription required)
In the latest sign of intensifying Taliban violence across Afghanistan, insurgents overran two districts in the north and the west of the country on Sunday, in one case shooting patients at a hospital and torching government facilities, Afghan officials said. – New York Times
A Taliban bombing early Monday killed dozens of people in Kabul, the Afghan capital, the latest in a series of deadly attacks in the city. – New York Times
An American airstrike in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand killed several members of the Afghan security forces, Afghan and American officials said Friday. The death toll was uncertain, but officials said at least nine police officers were killed. – New York Times
Early Thursday morning, Taliban fighters in southern Helmand Province launched a daring attack…On Saturday, the Taliban released an astonishing bit of information about that attack, which took place in the province’s Gereshk district: One of the suicide bombers was the son of their supreme leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada. – New York Times
The operation against the Islamic State in Khorasan — or ISIS-K, as the Syria-based group’s Afghan contingent is known — is now into its fourth month of unremitting warfare…. The battle is lopsided, but each day the front line here in Achin district moves back only slightly. Both local intelligence officials and the U.S. military believe that ISIS-K is replenishing its stock of fighters almost as quickly as it loses them. A sense that this may be an indefinite mission has set in. – Washington Post
Last week, President Trump’s senior Cabinet officials and top national security advisers met for a contentious meeting to finally agree on a new strategy for America’s longest war. After months of wrangling, they would ask Trump for a modest troop increase and a more intense commitment to the seemingly endless struggle in Afghanistan. But the session of the National Security Council Principals Committee…proved no more successful than months’ worth of previous Afghan policy debates. - Politico
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis clarified on Friday that while DOD is setting troop numbers for Afghanistan, President Donald Trump is still setting the strategy that will drive those numbers. – Military Times
The Pentagon is expected to address the findings of a report that said it spent $28 million on camouflage uniforms for Afghan soldiers despite the lack of forests in the country. – The Hill
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has decided that the Pentagon will not give Pakistan the remainder of a key U.S. military reimbursement fund allotted to the country for 2016, a move that could signal a burgeoning hard-line approach by the Trump administration toward Islamabad. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
Within five days of publicly vowing absolute loyalty to Mr. Xi and extolling his “superlative political wisdom,” Mr. Sun was dismissed and put under investigation and has since disappeared, his career terminated by the man he had praised. The sudden fall from grace was taken as a warning that Mr. Xi will play succession politics by his own ruthless rules. – New York Times
China’s government reined in one of its brashest conglomerates with the approval of President Xi Jinping, according to people with knowledge of the action—a mark that the broader government clampdown on large private companies comes right from the top of China’s leadership. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Many hundreds of Chinese investors who paid into what the police have called a pyramid investment scheme took to the streets of Beijing on Monday, not to denounce the business in which some had placed their life savings, but to oppose the government investigation that threatened their earnings. – New York Times
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) announced Sunday that Chinese authorities have released a 25-year-old American college student detained a week ago. – The Hill
A secretive U.S. government panel has objected to at least nine acquisitions of U.S. companies by foreign buyers so far this year, people familiar with the matter said, a historically high number that bodes poorly for China's overseas buying spree. - Reuters
The former Communist Party boss of one of China's most important cities, the southwestern megalopolis of Chongqing, is under investigation for "suspected serious violations of discipline", the party's anti-corruption watchdog said on Monday. - Reuters
Korean Peninsula
North Koreans are becoming more independent of the ruling Kim regime, with the vast majority of households earning their living through markets rather than relying on the state, according to a new survey that attempts to shed light on ordinary life inside North Korea. – Washington Post
The Trump administration plans to prohibit Americans from traveling to North Korea, the State Department announced Friday, citing serious risks of arrest and imprisonment in the isolated totalitarian state. – Washington Post
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested Saturday that Americans must be prepared for the possibility of a military confrontation with North Korea, whose nuclear program he deemed an urgent threat. - Politico
North Korea's economy grew at its fastest pace in 17 years in 2016, South Korea's central bank said on Friday, despite the isolated country facing international sanctions aimed at curbing its defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons. - Reuters
Tom Malinowski writes: Political change in Pyongyang and the reunification of Korea, as hard as it may be to imagine, is actually much more likely than the denuclearization of the present regime. The central aim of our strategy should be to foster conditions that enable this natural, internal process to move faster, while preparing ourselves, our allies and the North Korean people for the challenges we will face when change comes. - Politico
East Asia
Japan’s relationship with India has become increasingly important in the effort to contain China amid uncertainty in both countries over the extent of the U.S. military’s commitment to region. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Preliminary findings in the investigation into the collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine cargo ship off the coast of Japan in June suggest the accident was caused by multiple errors by the Fitzgerald's crew and a failure to take action in the minutes leading to the collision, according to two defense officials. - CNN
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his ratings sinking over a suspected cronyism scandal, on Monday said he had never instructed officials to give preferential treatment to a long-time friend, adding that the latter had never sought favors. - Reuters
The Philippine Congress voted on Saturday to extend martial law in the southern part of the country, giving the military five more months to crush a rebellion there by Islamic State-inspired militants. – New York Times


President Donald Trump urged Congress to pass a budget that provides for higher, stable and predictable funding for the U.S. military. - Bloomberg
Congress has formed a new advisory committee of top defense thinkers, in order to provide a pathway forward for the Department of Defense. – Defense News
The Navy is knee deep in an analysis on how best to replace its Super Hornet and Growler aircraft. Though much work is still left to be done, the resulting platform could look a lot different than both those jets, with a much higher priority on range and speed. – Defense News
Proponents of a space force say only a new service, removed from the Air Force’s organizational and management structure, would have the leeway to shore up America’s eroding advantage in space….But several key lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee would at best need serious convincing — a bad sign for the proposal becoming reality. Ultimately, lawmakers in the two chambers must reconcile their versions of the annual defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act. – Defense News
With praise and a blessing for the military, President Donald Trump helped hand over the USS Gerald R. Ford to the Navy on Saturday and said the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier will send a “100,000-ton message to the world” about America’s military might when it is ultimately deployed. – Military Times
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson is working to increase both the size and the capability of the fleet, with part of his plans relying on the notion to “network everything to everything” and allow sensors and weapons payloads to become a service available to fleet commanders. – USNI News
Analysis: Senate appropriators’ forthcoming Pentagon spending bill for fiscal 2018, which will contain tens of billions of dollars less than the House’s measure, should be taken seriously, but not literally. The Senate spending panel’s defense funding proposal is likely to grow, assuming — as is likely — that an agreement to slightly raise the budget caps is reached, as it has been for every year since the caps called for by the sequester were enacted in 2011. – Roll Call
The War
The Trump administration has brought a man suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda to the United States to face trial in federal court, backing off its hard-line position that terrorism suspects should be sent to the naval prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rather than to civilian courtrooms. – New York Times
Missile Defense
The day national security planners feared and anticipated arrived this month when Kim Jong Un's regime successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile theoretically capable of hitting Alaska. But with the North's threat looming larger than ever, the high ground for U.S. ICBM defenses might not be ground at all. – Washington Examiner
The U.S. will conduct as soon as next weekend another test of a missile defense system meant to counter threats from North Korea. – Military Times


The new U.S. special envoy for Ukraine peace negotiations said he was stunned by the number of cease-fire violations in the ex-Soviet nation’s war-torn east after making his first visit to the region. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The career of Sergei Yeliseyev helps to explain why Ukraine's armed forces gave up Crimea almost without a fight - and why NATO now says it is alert to Russian attempts to undermine military loyalty in its eastern European members. - Reuters
The White House indicated on Sunday that President Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to Moscow and sought to tie his hands. – New York Times
In out-of-the-way places like Izhevsk, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s protest movement is running into efforts by the Kremlin and its allies to nip that movement in the bud. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
At a time when Russia is facing increased international isolation for its annexation of Crimea and accusations that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a resurgence of Kremlin-promoted nationalism has put pressure on historians or anyone else who dares to bring attention to Russia’s difficult history. – Los Angeles Times
The House will hold a vote on the Russia, Iran and North Korea Sanctions Act on Tuesday, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. – Washington Examiner
The European Commission plans to hit back “within days” at the United States if possible new sanctions against Russia, which could be finalized by the end of the month, are agreed upon and leave European energy and other companies vulnerable to U.S. interference. - Politico
Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, cast doubt Saturday on the prospect of a Russia-U.S. cybersecurity unit, saying now "is probably not the best time" for such an endeavor, according to Reuters. – The Hill
The Russian parliament's lower house has passed a bill that would prohibit the use of Internet proxy services including virtual private networks, or VPNs. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he might decide to stay in office for life – The Hill
Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador who has been a central figure in the controversies surrounding the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Moscow, is leaving Washington, the Russian embassy said Saturday. – The Hill
Analysis: Mr. Putin is beginning to pay a price for what John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, described last week as the Russian president’s fateful decision last summer to try to use stolen computer data to support Mr. Trump’s candidacy. For his part, Mr. Trump ignited the movement in Congress by repeatedly casting doubt on that intelligence finding, then fueled it by confirming revelation after revelation about previously denied contacts between his inner circle and a parade of Russians. – New York Times
Andrew Foxall writes: NATO’s recent reassurance measures are necessary to enhance deterrence of Russian military adventurism in eastern Europe, but they should be supplemented with robust measures to mitigate the risks should an incident occur as a result of Russia’s aggressions near the alliance’s skies. These measures could include increased military-to-military communication and greater public and private messaging, as well additional diplomatic and economic incentives. – The National Interest
Western Europe
Strictly speaking, French law classifies as terrorism any grave act of violence whose individual or collective intent “is to seriously disturb public order through intimidation or terror.” Legally, it is France’s chief public prosecutor for Paris who decides whether to launch a terrorism investigation. In the Halimi case, François Molins, who occupies that position, declined to consider it as terrorism — and, initially, as an act of anti-Semitic violence. – Washington Post
President Trump will make a “dummy visit” to the United Kingdom this year, amid concerns that an official visit from the U.S. president could embarrass Queen Elizabeth, according to a report from The Daily Mail. – The Hill
Britain and Germany may be going their separate ways after negotiations for the U.K. exit from the European Union are complete, but the two nations are still planning to deepen defense cooperation on a bilateral basis according to a document released in London earlier this week. – Defense News
Liam Fox writes: I am committed to securing the best possible global trading framework for the U.K. It is a source of great personal pride to lead the Department for International Trade, tasked with upholding Britain’s centuries-long tradition of advocating free trade and commerce. In that spirit, I look forward to working together with our American allies to deepen a relationship based upon not only our shared values of freedom and democracy, but our shared history, culture and economic success. – Wall Street Journal (Subscription required)
Poland’s president defied expectations on Monday and vetoed two proposed laws that would have given the right-wing governing party direct control of the judiciary, in a move that had been widely condemned as a violation of democratic norms. – New York Times
The Polish Parliament’s move on Saturday to subvert judicial independence has opened a searing debate about whether a nation once held up as a paragon of post-communist democracy has slid back into a darker era. – Washington Post
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has vowed to defend Poland from EU sanctions over Warsaw’s attempts to purge the country’s highest courts, deepening an east-west European split over the contentious judicial reforms. – Financial Times
Editorial: On Friday, the State Department issued a bland statement calling on “all sides to ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland’s constitution,” while saying it was “confident about the strength of Poland’s democracy.” That faith hardly seems warranted — and if Mr. Trump himself is perturbed by the impending liquidation of the “freedom” he lauded, there’s no sign of it. – Washington Post


United States of America
Two former senior Obama administration intelligence officials on Friday expressed anger at President Trump’s statements disparaging the intelligence community and disbelief at his embrace of Russia. – Washington Post
The White House said it is conducting a broad review of the strength of the U.S. defense-industrial sector to try to correct weaknesses in advanced technology and industrial policy. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
An Army sergeant stationed in Hawaii was charged with trying to provide equipment, training and classified military information to the Islamic State, after undercover F.B.I. agents documented his offers of support to the militant group in a series of meetings in June and July, according to an indictment. – New York Times
Following media reports throughout the week that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was considering jettisoning the State Department's cybersecurity office, 24 House Democrats sent a letter Friday imploring him not to. – The Hill
A senior attorney at the Labor Department is accusing agency officials of writing and manipulating regulations to intentionally delay and deny congressionally mandated compensation to nuclear-weapons workers who suffered from sicknesses—and in some cases died—as a result of their work building the nation's Cold War nuclear arsenal. – Washington Free Beacon
A whistleblower is making some of the same complaints against the Obama administration over its record of providing congressionally mandated payouts to nuclear workers as Barack Obama did about the George W. Bush administration's. – Washington Free Beacon
The Pentagon press secretary has yet to hold an official briefing, three months after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s assistant for public affairs, Dana W. White, was sworn in. – Buzz Feed
Republicans are battling behind the scenes over an amendment that would ban the Pentagon from funding the gender reassignment surgeries and other transgender-related healthcare of service members. – The Hill
Two women have become the first females to enlist as candidates to join the Navy's special operations teams, CNN reported Saturday. – The Hill
Russian Election Interference
President Trump on Saturday asserted the “complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly even himself in response to investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, as he came to the defense of Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days after expressing regret about appointing him. – New York Times
Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials. – Washington Post
President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said on Monday that he had been unaware that a June 2016 meeting he attended at Trump Tower was set up in the hope that a Russian lawyer would provide the Trump campaign with damaging information about Hillary Clinton. – New York Times
The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. last year after his father had won the Republican nomination for president had once represented Russia’s top intelligence agency in court, according to at least two public records. – New York Times
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating possible money laundering by Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s  former campaign manager, as part of his criminal investigation into what U.S. intelligence agencies say was a Kremlin-backed campaign to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, according to a person familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Aras Agalarov, the real estate magnate and amiable purveyor of high-end goods in all sizes and shapes, has emerged as a possible conduit from the Kremlin to Trump. He is a man who rose through the Moscow luxury, real estate and entertainment worlds by playing the role of consummate fixer and reliable executor, building political capital in the Moscow region, and increasingly in the Kremlin itself. – Washington Post
Congressional investigators will question senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on Monday, as the multiple probes into contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign intensify and focus more directly on those closest to the president. – Washington Post
The Senate Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena on Friday to compel the founder of a firm that compiled a dossier of unverified research about President Donald Trump to testify in front of Congress. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Susan Rice, who served as former President Barack Obama's national security adviser, quietly met behind closed doors Friday with Senate intelligence committee investigators probing Russian meddling in the elections, according to an official familiar with the matter. - CNN
Latin America
Mexican authorities are willing to discuss ways for the U.S. to reduce its trade deficits under the North American Free Trade Agreement as long as they don’t threaten to curb Mexico’s ability to export, the country’s economy minister said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Drug war bloodshed in Mexico has spiked to record levels, with more homicides recorded in June than in any month in at least two decades. – Los Angeles Times
[Venezuela’s] opposition-held congress swore in 13 new supreme court judges Friday as replacements for pro-government justices, in a bid to undermine the government’s plan to have a special assembly draft a new constitution. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Venezuela's opposition planned to plaster election centers with banners and rally in honor of dead protesters on Monday in a final week-long push to force President Nicolas Maduro into aborting a controversial congress. - Reuters
Francisco Toro writes: We’re still talking about protests, not war. But the warning lights are flashing bright red all around. A negotiated solution to the crisis is still possible — its outline is just about discernible. But without it, Venezuela could slide into the first outright civil war in the hemisphere this century. There is still time to prevent that outcome. But it is growing short. – Washington Post


The deeply unpopular Mr. Kabila, 46, was supposed to step down last Dec. 20 at the end of his second term, as constitutionally mandated. But he refused, setting off a profound political and economic crisis whose resolution could turn chaotic and violent. – New York Times
Malian and French troops have arrested a close associate of a preacher whose jihadist group has claimed dozens of attacks against Western and Malian targets, Mali's security minister said on Sunday. - Reuters
Christian militias in Central African Republic have launched several attacks in the town of Bangassou in recent days, attempting to seize a cathedral housing displaced Muslims and killing a Moroccan peacekeeper, the United Nations said on Sunday. - Reuters

Trump Administration

Reince Priebus took the punishing job of President Donald Trump's chief of staff with the idea that he would stick it out for at least one year. Six months in, with one of his top allies in the West Wing — press secretary Sean Spicer — on his way out, Priebus is in defensive mode, his role diminished and an internal rival hogging the limelight. - Politico
Eli Lake reports: This sub rosa conflict punctures a bit of Washington conventional wisdom about the court politics of the Trump White House. Call it the axis of adults. It includes McMaster, Tillerson and Mattis, and is seen as a counterweight to the populists such as senior strategist Steve Bannon. It's the pros against the amateurs, the restrainers against the encouragers. – Bloomberg View
Rosie Gray reports: That Cohen-Watnick, 31 years old and largely unknown before entering the administration, has become unfireable reveals how important he has become to the Trump White House, where loyalty is prized. – The Atlantic
Derek Chollet writes: Acknowledging what’s “good” about Trump’s foreign policy can hardly compensate for what is fundamentally bad about it — on trade, on Russia, on global threats like climate change, on its selfish and cynical view of America’s role in the world. And the presence of some admirable people currently serving in important national security positions cannot make up for the fundamental flaw at the top. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government
Bret Stephens writes: If you’re a liberal judging Donald Trump’s foreign-policy record at the six-month mark, it’s not hard to guess the grade you’d give him. An F is too generous for your taste. An F-minus? How about a negative F? What if you’re conservative? Here your grade will depend on what kind of conservative you happen to be. – New York Times

Democracy and Human Rights

Such provocative public awareness campaigns are part of a new push in Lebanon and across the Middle East to repeal longstanding laws that allow rapists to avoid criminal prosecution if they marry their victims. The laws were built around patriarchal attitudes that link a family’s honor directly to a woman’s chastity; the marriage option is aimed at shielding the victim’s family from “the scandal,” as one victim’s brother put it in an interview. – New York Times
Jared Genser writes: Even with these measures, securing the release of wrongfully imprisoned Americans will remain difficult. But perhaps high-profile hostage cases like those of the Namazis and Warmbier will focus the government on fulfilling one of its most basic duties: protecting its citizens when they most desperately need help. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


Walter Russell Mead writes: We must hope today that American leaders, from the president on down, can be informed and inspired by the example of that historic success. Truman’s combination of strategic vision and political pragmatism is exactly what the U.S. and our turbulent world need right now. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

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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