FP’s Situation Report: What’s the trigger for new Russia sanctions?; Iran says a nuke deal is close; American ambassador attacked in South Korea; and much more from around the world.
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat
The United States and Europe edge toward new sanctions against Russia, but what’s the trigger? The calls to arm Ukraine are growing louder inside the Obama administration, but so far the White House is sticking to economic penalties to punish Russia for meddling in Ukraine. It has a new round of sanctions lined up, but it’s not clear what would compel the West to spring them. FP’s Jamila Trindle and Keith Johnson: “While [Assistant Secretary of State Victoria] Nuland said sanctions could come down on Russia for continuing to aggravate the Ukrainian conflict, European leaders said a ‘serious’ violation of the cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists negotiated in Minsk, Belarus, on Feb. 12 would prompt the next wave of measures.”
More on Russia and Ukraine below.
Iran on nuclear deal: We’re close. That’s the message from Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who met with leaders from the P5+1 — the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany — in the face of forceful opposition from Israel and Republicans in Congress, FP’s Elias Groll reports.
More on Iran below.
The U.S. ambassador to South Korea injured in knife attack. Ambassador Mark Lippert was hurt when a middle-aged man wielding a 10-inch knife attacked him Thursday morning at a seminar in central Seoul where he was set to give a talk. The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield: “Yonhap reported that the assailant, identified as Kim Ki-jong, 55, was immediately apprehended. He is a member of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation.”
More on the attack below.
PRESS PACK: Clinton’s email problems continue.
The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas and Laura Meckler: “Some Democrats are uneasy about the reports involving Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account during her time as secretary of state and her foundation’s fundraising practices, calling on her to break her silence and personally address the two controversies.”
The Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig: “A House investigative committee issued subpoenas late Wednesday afternoon to the State Department, seeking a deeper look into former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton’s nearly exclusive use of personal e-mails to do her official business during her tenure.”
FP’s David Francis: “This is a fresh scandal, but given the GOP’s bloodlust over finding wrongdoing on Clinton’s connection to the Benghazi attack, it’s unlikely to be resolved soon.”
Tweet from Clinton late Wednesday: “I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”
State Department spokesperson Marie Harf: “The State Department will review for public release the emails provided by Secretary Clinton to the Department, using a normal process that guides such releases. We will undertake this review as quickly as possible; given the sheer volume of the document set, this review will take some time to complete.”
The New York Times’ Amy Chozick and Steve Eder: “Obtaining an account from that domain became a symbol of status within the family’s inner circle, conferring prestige and closeness to the secretary.”
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WHO’S WHERE WHEN TODAY: Please keep in mind the bad weather on the East Coast today — some of these might be canceled, so check before you go.
9:00 a.m. General Hans-Lothar Domröse, commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum, speaks on the future of NATO at the Atlantic Council. 3:00 p.m. U.N. Security Council meets about Libya.
Secretary of State John Kerry is in Saudi Arabia for meetings with King Salman and with foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
WHAT’S MOVING MARKETS
Reuters’s Richard Leong: “Stock prices around the world fell on Wednesday on profit-taking, while the euro dropped to an 11-1/2-year low ahead of a European Central Bank meeting where policymakers are expected to offer details on their bond-purchase stimulus plan.”
The Financial Times’ Joe Leahy: “Brazil’s currency slid to a 10-year low against the dollar on Wednesday as concerns grew that a corruption scandal at state-run oil group Petrobras engulfing the country’s political elite threatens to scupper the government’s austerity.”
CNBC’s Li Anne Wong and Ansuja Harjani: “The Reserve Bank of India surprised markets on Wednesday by cutting rates for the second time this year, sending stocks to a record high.”
RUSSIA: Moscow accuses the United States of meddling in its domestic politics.
Bloomberg’s Evgenia Pismennaya and Henry Meyer: “The U.S. is funding Russian political groups under the guise of promoting civil society, just as in the ‘color revolutions’ in the former Soviet Union and the Arab world.”
UKRAINE: Questions remain over the removal of weaponry from the contested eastern part of the county.
The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Shchetko: “International observers said Wednesday that fighting between government forces and Russia-backed militants continued to subside but they haven’t been able to verify the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines.”
Reuters: “In an interview on MSNBC, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director said the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia separatists have been battling the government, is a huge distraction in efforts to reform the country’s economy.”
IRAN: U.S. demands still haven’t been met as Kerry arrives in the Middle East to sell allies on a possible deal. Meanwhile, it’s not clear whether Bibi will get a boost at home from his speech to Congress.
The Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman: “Iran and six major powers are nearing an understanding that a final nuclear deal must be structured around the U.S. demand that Tehran stay at least a year away from amassing enough fuel for a nuclear weapon, according to people familiar with the negotiations.”
The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner: “With a little less than two weeks to go before the March 17 elections, in which Mr. Netanyahu is running for a historic fourth term, having first been elected in 1996, he is again staking his political future on the struggle against Iran’s nuclear quest.”
SOUTH KOREA: Seoul expresses regret as more details about the attacker emerge.
Yonhap News: “South Korea expressed deep shock and regret over the knife attack on U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Mark Lippert on Thursday, vowing to step up safety protection for foreign envoys and embassy facilities here.”
The Korea Herald’s Song Sang-ho and Jeong Hunny on the attacker’s record of violence: “In 2007, Kim set himself on fire during a one-man protest in front of Cheong Wa Dae, calling on the government to thoroughly probe a case in which a member of his civic group was attacked by unidentified men at the group’s office in Seoul.”
ISLAMIC STATE: Iran flexes its muscles in the Middle East as Americans are charged with helping the Islamic State.
The New York Times’ Helene Cooper: “Obama is becoming increasingly dependent on Iranian fighters as he tries to contain the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria without committing American ground troops.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Bill Spindle: “The Islamic Republic of Iran, which failed to export its 1979 revolution, now claims an arc of influence that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, say allies and enemies alike.”
The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky: “A 17-year-old Northern Virginia high school student who federal authorities believe successfully helped a man make his way to Syria to fight with the Islamic State has been taken into custody.”
The Wall Street Journal’s John R. Emshwiller: “The indictment filed Wednesday against 21-year-old Adam Dandach, of Orange, Calif., also included charges of attempting to destroy evidence to impede the investigation and making a false statement to obtain a passport as part of an effort to ‘facilitate an act of international terrorism.’”
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan police face a tall task.
The New York Times’ Azam Ahmed: “The Afghan Police are on the front lines of both fights that matter in Afghanistan: one to defeat the Taliban, the other to gain the loyalty of the people.”
AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST: The hunt is on for Boko Haram’s leader as the United States tries to build diplomatic ties with the developing Yemeni government.
Reuters’s Madjiasra Nako: “President Idriss Deby of Chad said on Wednesday he knew the whereabouts of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, and called on him to surrender or risk being killed.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz: “The U.S. ambassador to Yemen will work out of a U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, establishing a U.S. diplomatic foothold it can use as the Yemeni leader recognized by Washington stages a bid to regain control of the country hundreds of miles away, in Aden, Yemen.”
HOMELAND SECURITY FUNDING: The fight to fund the DHS is over.
McClatchy’s Lesley Clark: “Obama signed the bill in the Oval Office, telling photographers capturing the scene that he wanted to thank Congress for a bill ‘that’ll ensure that we can continue to fund the extraordinary work of our men and women at the Department of Homeland Security.’”
BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING: Tsarnaev comes clean.
The Boston Globe’s Milton J. Valencia: “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense attorney acknowledged Wednesday that her client had participated in the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.”
CHINA: China’s military budget is set to rise by 10 percent while the army continues its anti-graft crackdown.
The BBC: “China says the spending is required to modernise the People’s Liberation Army — the world’s largest standing military.”
The South China Morning Post’s Minnie Chan: “Major General Xing Yunming, the former liaison office head of the People’s Liberation Army’s General Political Department, was taken away by the army’s anti-graft watchdog on February 17.”
SNOWDEN: Snowden’s confidant claims it’s no surprise that the NSA whistleblower wants to return home.
The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald: “Snowden had never said he wouldn’t negotiate for his return; as I’ve demonstrated, he’s been negotiating this through his lawyers informally for a long time, and his position has always been the same: he’d like to return home if he could be assured a fair trial.”
AND FINALLY, Reuters’s Juliana Woitaschek on residents of Hamburg striking back at late night partiers.