Situation Report

FP’s Situation Report: A ceasefire holds, for now; Jimmy Carter in FP: Treat Hamas like the political actor that it is; Border fighting spills into Lebanon; Firms committing $14 billion to Africa; Drew Davis retires; and a bit more.

FP’s Situation Report: A ceasefire holds, for now; Jimmy Carter in FP: Treat Hamas like the political actor that it is; Border fighting spills into Lebanon; Firms committing $14 billion to Africa; Drew Davis retires; and a bit more.


Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire amid frustration in Washington that it has been sidelined in the process to build even a temporary peace. The truce, if it holds, will allow Egyptian mediators to work with both sides in Cairo to work out an arrangement for Gaza. But at State and at the White House, there is anger that Israel dissed American diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting, straining, perhaps worse than ever, the U.S-Israeli relationship at a critical time. AP this morning: "Israel and Hamas began observing a temporary cease-fire on Tuesday that sets the stage for talks in Egypt on a broader deal on the Gaza Strip, including a sustainable truce and the rebuilding of the battered, blockaded coastal territory. Israel withdrew its ground forces from Gaza’s border areas, and both sides halted cross-border attacks as the three-day truce took effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The shelling stopped and in Gaza City, where streets had been deserted during the war, traffic picked up and shops started opening doors. If the calm holds, it would be the longest lull in almost a month of fighting that has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis." More here.

The current state of play in U.S.-Israeli relationship "lays bare a frustrating reality for the Obama administration." The NYT’s Mark Landler on Page One: "… With public opinion in both Israel and the United States solidly behind the Israeli military’s campaign against Hamas, no outcry from Israel’s Arab neighbors, and unstinting support for Israel on Capitol Hill, President Obama has had few obvious levers to force Mr. Netanyahu to stop pounding targets in Gaza until he was ready to do it." More here.

Ending this war in Gaza begins with recognizing Hamas as a legitimate political actor. Jimmy Carter and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson for FP: "…This tragedy results from the deliberate obstruction of a promising move toward peace in the region, when a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced in April.

"…The international community’s initial goal should be the full restoration of the free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through Israel, Egypt, and the sea. Concurrently, the United States and EU should recognize that Hamas is not just a military but also a political force. Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor — one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people — can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons. Ever since the internationally monitored 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power in Palestine, the West’s approach has manifestly contributed to the opposite result." More here.

Iran says it gave missile technology to Hamas. The AP’s Ali Akbar Dareini, here.

After four weeks, Israel returns to its initial strategy.  Defense News’ Barbara Opall-Rome: "After 17 days of deadly ground maneuvers primarily devoted to the unexpected need to destroy Hamas’ underground tunnel network, Israel’s Protective Edge operation is reverting largely to stand-off strikes from air, sea and land forces…. Israeli leaders belatedly realized that the underground facilities were vital to Hamas’ strategic effectiveness. This underestimation of the tunnels’ importance turned the ground assault into an unplanned nearly-house-to-house maneuvering operation." More here.

As Israel withdraws troops from Gaza, Hamas faces a dilemma. Avi Issacharoff for the Times of Israel: "…The Palestinian public, which now seeks quiet, will ask itself why the organization drove Gaza to ruin for no reason, with no results to show for its efforts. Hamas is aware of this, and is therefore likely to be tempted to do two things: first, fire more rockets so long as it can, despite the inevitable Israeli response; and second, to continue attempts to carry out significant attacks, mainly through tunnels that may have been left untouched, to render empty the Israeli assurances about finishing the tunnel demolitions. But an attack of that degree is likely to draw a very harsh response, perhaps even a renewed ground offensive – and once again, the Gazan public will pay the price." More here.

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Monument men: A group of Syrians are trying to put Syria back together again, almost literally. While the civil war in Syria has killed tens of thousands of people, it has also destroyed countless of the country’s ancient treasures. Now a number of Syrians are trying to save what artifacts they can — and are risking their lives to do so. Katrin Elger for Der Spiegel, here.

The Pentagon is selling and scrapping equipment in Afghanistan. The WaPo’s Ernesto Londoño, here.

One of the Taliban five was a "petty tyrant." Alex Quade for the Washington Times: "One of the five Taliban leaders released by the U.S. in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May ‘was a petty tyrant who justified his psychopathic behavior using a veneer of religion,’ says the director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council. But Mullah Mohammad Fazl, who was released with four other Taliban commanders, probably will not return to the battlefield before the end of his one-year supervision in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, said the director, Army Col. Mark Mitchell, a Green Beret who helped capture the Taliban leader in the early days of the war in Afghanistan." More here.

Border fighting intensifies between ISIS and Lebanon. The NYT’s Hwaida Saad and Rick Gladstone: "A deadly confrontation worsened on Monday between Lebanon’s armed forces and Islamist insurgents from Syria who seized the border town of Arsal over the weekend in what appeared to be the most serious spillover of the Syrian civil war into Lebanese territory since the conflict began more than three years ago." Read the rest here.

Iraq is backing the Kurds in the fight against jihadists. The WSJ’s Nour Malas in Baghdad: "Iraq’s government sent its air force on Monday to back Kurdish forces struggling to blunt a jihadist advance, an extraordinary move that reflects alarm over the insurgents’ brash new offensive against Kurds in both Iraq and Syria. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s authorization of air support came after the Kurdish forces, known as Peshmerga, lost a string of towns over the weekend to the militant group, which calls itself Islamic State. The Peshmerga had held off the insurgents in northwestern Iraq without central Iraqi government forces for nearly two months." More here.

How the U.S. got mixed up in a fight over Kurdish oil – with a unified Iraq at stake. The WaPo’s Steven Mufson on Page One: "…The core of the dispute: The Iraqi government says that the crude cargo belongs to the Baghdad Ministry of Oil and that it was never the property of the Kurdistan Regional Government. But the Kurds argue that the Texas court doesn’t have jurisdiction, and they filed a motion Monday in the court to lift the restrictions on the oil. Michael Howard, an adviser to the Kurdish minister of natural resources, said in an interview that ‘it’s a constitutional issue that should be determined in Iraq and shouldn’t be exported to U.S. courts.’" More here.

It’s time to stop treating Turkey and Qatar like they’re anything other than proxies for terrorists. FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer for FP: "…In the current negotiations, Qatar and Turkey have been pushing a plan that benefits Hamas above all else. They have been angling for a one-sided deal that would ignore Israel’s security concerns, ease Israel’s blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and help connect the Palestinian terror group-cum-government to the global economy." More here.

Meantime, Turkey is building a new refugee camp in Iraq. Hurriyet’s Sevil Erkus: "Turkey is accelerating its plans to help construct a new refugee camp in northern Iraq for Turkmens who were forced to flee north after the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL) captured the Sinjar region. With the move, the government is hoping to prevent a new influx of refugees into the country, by transferring more aid to Iraqi Turkmens within the border of the neighboring country, not on Turkish territory… Some 200 Turkmen families fled to the region near the Turkish-Iraqi border on the weekend when ISIL militants swept into the region between Sinjar and Mosul, but there is no accumulation of refugees at either the Zakho or Habur crossings between Turkey and Iraq, a Turkish official told Hürriyet Daily News." More here.

Who’s Where When today – Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work delivers remarks at the convocation ceremony for National Defense University in Washington, D.C… Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall provides morning keynote address at the 2014 Defense Acquisition and Modernization Symposium on "Department of Defense and Industry Partnership – A Way Ahead" at 9 a.m. at the Ronald Reagan Building International Trade Center in Washington… Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Alan Shaffer moderates panel discussion at the 2014 Defense Acquisition Modernization Symposium on "How Do We Establish Technical Superiority With a Reduced Force Structure?" at 10:15 a.m. at the Ronald Reagan Building International Trade Center in Washington…

Also today: Brookings’ Tamara Cofman Wittes, former U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, Khaled Elgindy and Natan B. Sachs discuss the situation in Gaza at 2 p.m.  Deets here.

A three-star is nominated to head Fleet Forces Command. Military Times’ Lance Bacon: "…Vice Adm. Phil Davidson has been nominated to lead FFC, a position that comes with a fourth star. Once confirmed by the Senate, the 1982 Naval Academy grad and surface warfare officer will take the helm of a command comprising 100,000 sailors and civilians, roughly 85 ships – a third of the fleet – and more than 1,000 aircraft."  More here.

Drew Davis just retired from the ROA. Davis, the retired Marine Reserve two-star who served as director of Marine Corps public affairs in the heady years between 2001 and 2003, a former president of publishing companies, a media educational institute and who never played for the Atlanta Falcons, retired Aug. 1 from the Reserve Officers Association. Davis, in an email to friends and colleagues this week: "…Looking back on the advances the association staff leadership team has made in rebranding, expanding membership eligibility to noncommissioned officers, creating the charitable STARS Foundation and successful annual gala to support Reserve families, and preparing to host the international congress of NATO reserve officers, it has been a high-impact assignment. I will most treasure the professional relationships I have enjoyed… Looking ahead, I intend to focus on family, friends, and community, including the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, from our home in Annapolis, MD… Thank you for all your support and all you do to honor our warriors."

Reading Pincus: Military services are seeking innovative ways to attract highly skilled recruits, here.

The U.S. government had a role in the experimental Ebola drug given to the aid workers infected in Liberia. AP: "Two American aid workers infected with Ebola are getting an experimental drug so novel it has never been tested for safety in humans and was only identified as a potential treatment earlier this year, thanks to a longstanding research program by the U.S. government and the military…. The Defense Department has long had a hand in researching infectious diseases, including Ebola. During much of the Cold War period this served two purposes: to keep abreast of diseases that could limit the effectiveness of troops deployed abroad and to be prepared if biological agents were used as weapons. The U.S. military has no biological weapons program but continues to do research related to infectious diseases as a means of staying current on potential threats to the health of troops. It may also contribute medical expertise as part of interagency efforts in places like Africa where new infectious disease threats arise." More here.

Obama will announce that U.S. businesses have committed to a $14 billion package of construction, clean energy, banking and information technology projects for Africa. Reuters this morning, quoting a White House official: "These investments will deepen U.S. economic engagement in Africa, fueling growth that will support broader African prosperity and emerging markets for US businesses, which will support jobs in both the United States and Africa." More here.

The answer in Africa? its youth, writes former under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs Tara Sonenshine in The Hill: "…If we are looking for a more hopeful world future, it lies with Africa’s youth. Given a chance, they can usher in a generation less marked by destruction and more fueled by construction across sectors like energy and communications. But to get there will require an American (and global) investment in African education." More here.

Why human rights are off the White House’s Africa agenda. The Guardian’s Chris McGreal, here.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey trusts the Senate report. US News & World Report’s Tom Risen, here.

It’s time to tame "the CIA monster." Eugene Robinson in the WaPo, here.

Russia’s troops on the border with Ukraine are battle-ready. The NYT’s Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt: "Russia has roughly doubled the number of its battalions near the Ukrainian border, Western officials said Monday, and could respond to the Kiev government’s gains there by launching a cross-border incursion with little or no warning. Over the past several weeks, Russia has built up 17 battalions – totaling 19,000 to 21,000 troops, according to one Western estimate – into a battle-ready force of infantry, armor, artillery and air defense within a few miles of the border. In addition, it has vastly expanded its firepower, increasing the number of advanced surface-to-air missile units to 14 from eight, and deploying more than 30 artillery batteries, according to the officials." More here.

Libya’s new parliament calls for unity as rival militias clash. Reuters’ Patrick Markey and Aziz El Yaakoubi: "Libya’s new parliament appealed for national unity at its first formal session on Monday as rival armed factions battled for dominance of a country struggling to hold itself together three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. Hours before parliament met in the eastern city of Tobruk, heavy artillery and rocket fire bombarded southern and western Tripoli, where Islamist-leaning Misrata brigades have fought for three weeks with rival militias allied with the town of Zintan.

"…Elected in June, the House of Representatives replaces the General National Congress (GNC) after a vote which, analysts said, eroded the political dominance that Islamist factions linked to the Muslim Brotherhood had in the legislature. In a sign of Libya’s deepening polarization, the Islamist former GNC president and a group of current and ex-GNC lawmakers rejected the Tobruk session as unconstitutional, setting the stage for more political infighting." More here.