Situation Report

FP’s Situation Report: Congress to re-evaluate Iraq’s request for weapons; Secretary Kerry pushes for a nuclear deal with Iran; the United States raises the stakes with Russia in Ukraine; and much more.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat Congress plans to re-evaluate Iraq’s request for several big-ticket items to fight the Islamic State. The request for weapons has been on hold since March because of concerns that former Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki could use them against opponents and that they could end up in Islamic State hands. ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

Congress plans to re-evaluate Iraq’s request for several big-ticket items to fight the Islamic State. The request for weapons has been on hold since March because of concerns that former Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki could use them against opponents and that they could end up in Islamic State hands. Now, with new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi promising to run a more inclusive government, Congress is set to reevaluate the request.

FP’s Gopal Ratnam and Kate Brannen: "The weapons’ list includes as many as 175 M1A1 Abrams tanks; 146 Stryker anti-tank guided missile vehicles; 50 Stryker nuclear, biological, and chemical reconnaissance vehicles; and a number of Bradley fighting vehicles." More here.

The downside of the re-evaluation is that it comes too late to help Iraq in the current battle against the Islamic State. The upside is that the Iraqi army, decimated during this summer’s fight, could get a restock of useful supplies as U.S. military trainers and advisers prepare it for an offensive next year to retake captured land.

More on the Islamic State below.

Secretary of State John Kerry pushes for a deal with Iran ahead of the Nov. 24 deadline. Kerry said negotiators are "not talking about an extension" even as officials close to the talks call an extension the most likely outcome. Kerry is now in Vienna to push for consensus on crucial elements of an agreement by Monday’s deadline. But even if an accord is reached, there is no guarantee that Iran would live up to the terms of the deal.

The New York Times‘ Thomas Erdbrink: "In Iran, the final decision on a nuclear deal lies with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader. And if history is an accurate guide, the real debate over an accord, should one be reached, will not begin to unfold until after it is announced. When that debate gets underway, the voices of the hard-liners — the clerics, Republican Guard commanders, conservative lawmakers and others who are by and large closest to the supreme leader — will be raised against any compromise on Iran’s right to enrich uranium." More here.

In recent weeks, Israeli officials have argued Tehran would not live up to the terms of the deal even if one were agreed to. According to Erdbrink, hard-liners in Tehran are already raising concerns about possible outcomes. But he also notes that some Iranian moderates were hopeful a deal could start a "fundamental shift in Iran’s ideology."

More on Iran below.

The United States is set to increase non-lethal aid to Ukraine. The supplies, including Humvees, will come from excess in the Pentagon’s inventory and would arrive with previously promised equipment. The Defense Department did not provide a price tag for the help. For now, the administration is holding off on sending lethal aid.

Reuters‘ Warren Strobel and Patricia Zengerle: "The aid falls short of what Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko requested during a visit to Washington in September when he appealed for lethal aid — a request echoed by some U.S. lawmakers in response to what NATO allies say is Russia’s movement of tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine. Officials in the Obama administration had said Washington believed Ukraine had enough lethal aid and the types of weaponry requested for Ukraine would be of only marginal value. They had also emphasized the need for a diplomatic outcome." More here.

The increase in non-lethal aid is a change in tone from the White House that could represent the start of a policy reevaluation hinted at by administration officials this week. But it does little to placate lawmakers like Sen. John McCain, an advocate of providing arms to Ukraine. The Arizona Republican called the increase in aid "a continuation of the ridiculous," according to the Reuters report.

More on Ukraine below.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of the Situation Report.

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The title of yesterday’s Situation Report incorrectly referred to a nuclear deal with Iraq, not Iran. I deeply regret the error.

Who’s Where When Today

Vice President Joe Biden is in Ukraine to address the crisis there.

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Vienna for nuclear talks with Iran.

The Halifax International Security Forum starts in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The conference features former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, U.S. General John Allen (Ret.), and former Turkish President Abdullah Gül.

What’s Moving Markets

From Reuters: "China cut its benchmark interest rates for the first time in more than two years on Friday to lower borrowing costs and lift a cooling economy that is on track for its slackest annual growth in 24 years." More here.

British finance minister George Osborne warns of a global slowdown. Reuters‘ Kylie MacLellan reports: "Osborne said economic performance in the eurozone was a cause of ‘real worry and concern,’ particularly in Britain whose main export markets are in the bloc." More here.

From the New York Times‘ Edward Wong: "China plans to set a cap on coal consumption in 2020, an important step for the country in trying to achieve a recently announced goal of having carbon dioxide emissions peak by around 2030." More here.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Doug Cameron and Julian E. Barnes report that the Pentagon tells defense contractors to innovate: "Defense Department officials have voiced concern that the U.S. is losing the military superiority built over decades, as China and Russia develop new fighters, missiles and cybersystems. The Pentagon also has criticized defense contractors for reducing spending on research and development." More here.

China secured its biggest ever overseas engineering contract with a $12 billion deal to build a railway in Nigeria. Tom Mitchell reports for the Financial Times here.

The Islamic State

The New York Times‘ Tim Arango on the Turkish premier’s visit to Baghdad: "The visit by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the first from a Turkish prime minister in nearly four years, was a vivid example of a scramble taking place all across the Middle East, as former adversaries are seeking to mend relationships, or at least try to work together, at a time of unprecedented crisis." More here. 

Reuters on the death of a senior Islamic State leader: "Radwan Taleb al-Hamdouni, whom the sources described as the radical militant group’s leader in Mosul, was killed with his driver when their car was hit in a western district of the city on Wednesday afternoon." More here.

From McClatchy‘s Roy Gutman on a dispute between Turkey and Kurdistan over the fate of the Yazidis: "U.S. airstrikes provided the cover for Yazidis to escape the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, but it was the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known by its Kurdish initials as the PKK, that set up a security corridor and guided them to safety through Iraqi Kurdistan and later to Turkey." More here.

FP’s Keith Johnson on the oil feud between Baghdad and Erbil: "Late last week, Baghdad and Erbil reached a breakthrough of sorts, announcing a preliminary deal under which Iraqi Kurdistan will give the Iraqi government about 150,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for $500 million in immediate cash payments. Kurdish officials said the deal, which became effective Wednesday, Nov. 19, paves the way for further talks in Baghdad as soon as next week to address the real nub of the question that has long poisoned relations between the two sides: How should the revenues from Iraq’s oil income be shared among the different regions?" More here.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Adam Entous reports the Kurds want more weapons: "The Kurdish local government in Iraq is urging the Obama administration to provide it with heavy arms, including helicopters, tanks and artillery pieces, to fight better-armed Islamic State insurgents, a Kurdish official said Thursday, providing new details on the request." More here.

The Washington Post‘s Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports on drones being used to deliver supplies to Syrian refugees. More here.

Iran

From the New York Times‘ Michael R. Gordon, the United States lays out limits in Iran nuclear talks: "American officials say the agreement should slow the Iranian nuclear program enough that it would take Iran at least a year to make enough material for a nuclear bomb if it decided to ignore the accord." More here.

FP’s Jamila Trindle on how a deal could pave the way for humanitarian trade: "Advocates in the United States are pushing for a special ‘financial channel’ between the United States and Iran that would facilitate approved deals for medical equipment, food, and cell phones. Now they want negotiators to include the proposal in any broader nuclear deal that the United States and its allies strike with Iran ahead of the Monday, Nov. 24, deadline." More here.

The Times of India‘s Indrani Bagchi on New Delhi wanting a seat at the nuclear table: "Showcasing India’s non-proliferation credentials and the potential of Indian industry, foreign secretary Sujatha Singh told the India-U.S. high technology cooperation group that the country’s inclusion in the regimes would benefit U.S. industry." More here.

Russia and Ukraine

From the Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung: "Biden’s ‘number one message is, we’ve got your back,’ said [an administration] official, traveling with the vice president aboard Air Force Two. The ‘other’ message to Ukraine, the official said, is that ‘we’re committed to helping you, but we can’t do it alone, so you have to help us help you.’" More here.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that "color revolutions" should be prevented in Russia. "Revolutions in other countries offered Russia a lesson, Putin told a meeting of the state Security Council in Moscow Thursday. The authorities needed a long-term plan to fight extremism and prevent upheavals caused by outside interference," Ilya Arkhipov reports for Bloomberg. More here.

Reuters‘ David Mardiste and Jonathan Saul: "NATO warplanes have had to scramble 400 times this year in response to an increase in Russian air activity around Europe not seen since the Cold War, the alliance’s chief said on Thursday." More here.

The death toll in the conflict in Ukraine has risen to more than 4,300, according to a new report released by the U.N. More than 9,900 have been wounded. More from the BBC here.

Israel

FP’s David Francis: "After four rabbis were killed in gruesome attacks at a synagogue in Jerusalem this week, a former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) military attaché to Washington warns that the hard-hitting steps now being taken by Israel will not be enough to stop future attacks." More here.

From the Associated Press Joe Federman: "The mayor of a southern Israeli city sparked a national uproar Thursday by barring Israeli Arab construction workers from jobs in local preschools, citing security concerns after a rash of attacks by Palestinian assailants elsewhere in the country." More here.

Immigration Reform

USA Today‘s David Jackson and Alan Gomez on national security aspects of Obama’s immigration overhaul: "DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson will lay out a set of immigration enforcement priorities, ensuring Border Patrol agents, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers and U.S. attorneys will focus their deportation efforts almost exclusively on undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to national security, are members of gangs or have serious criminal records." More here.

FP’s Justine Drennan, Elias Groll and Siobhán O’Grady report on immigration problems unfixed by Obama last night. More here.

Guantanamo

The Washington Post‘s Adam Goldman and Julie Tate on prisoner transfers out of Guantanamo: "U.S. officials said that three Yemenis were sent to Georgia and that the two other men were moved to Slovakia, reducing the number of detainees at the prison to 143. This is the first time a Yemeni has been transferred from the prison since 2010." More here.

Cyber

The Washington Post‘s Ellen Nakashima: "Several foreign countries, including China, have infiltrated the computers of critical industries in the United States to steal information that could be used in the planning of a destructive attack, the director of the National Security Agency said Thursday." More here.

New revelations from documents leaked by Edward Snowden have caused outrage in the U.K. and Germany. Britain’s Channel 4 and three German media organizations report that Cable & Wireless, a company now owned by Vodafone, had close ties with the spy service GCHQ. In Germany, one of Vodafone’s key markets, there are calls for cancelling the  government’s contract with Vodafone. Geoff White reports for Channel 4 here.

Niklas Magnusson and Niclas Rolander report for Bloomberg: "Julian Assange lost a second bid to overturn a Swedish arrest warrant in a sexual assault probe amid a fight to leave Ecuador’s embassy in London where he sought asylum more than two years ago." More here.

Ebola

The New York Times Helene Cooper on the slowing spread of Ebola in Liberia: "The international response to West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, coupled with more effective action by local communities, has stopped the exponential spread of the disease in one of the hardest-hit countries, Liberia, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday." More here.  

2016 Presidential Race

The Wall Street Journal‘s Reid J. Epstein on decorated Vietnam veteran and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb as the first official 2016 candidate: "Mr. Webb, 68 years old, served as Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan… Webb was largely considered a centrist Democratic during his one term in the Senate, but in recent years he has been held up as a progressive alternative to a Clinton campaign." More here.

Revolving Door

The United States Institute of Peace has selected Nancy Lindborg as the Institute’s new president. More here.

From the Washington Business Journal‘s Jill R. Aitoro: Lou Addeo, "the man promoted by ManTech International Corp. to lead an effort to rev up acquisitions is moving on." More here.

And finally, writing for Foreign Policy, Daniel Altman suggests ways to improve overseas assistance. More here.

 

 

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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