FP’s Situation Report: Secretary of State Kerry tries to mend fences with Israel; New tensions between Israelis and Palestinians; Iraqi Kurds have joined the fight in Kobani; Ebola Quarantine Standoff Continues; and much more.
By David Francis Secretary of State John Kerry tried to mend fences with Israel Thursday following a report that an unnamed Obama administration official called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "chickenshit" for failing to take risks on behalf of the peace process, while another said he was a "coward" too scared to actually bomb Iran. ...
By David Francis
By David Francis
Secretary of State John Kerry tried to mend fences with Israel Thursday following a report that an unnamed Obama administration official called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "chickenshit" for failing to take risks on behalf of the peace process, while another said he was a "coward" too scared to actually bomb Iran. American and Iranian negotiators are locked in marathon talks designed to hash out a nuclear deal before a Nov. 24th deadline. For the first time, hints are emerging throughout Washington that the White House thinks it may be able to strike a deal, one certain to infuriate Israel and its many allies on the Hill. Anonymous sniping aside, the tense relationship between Israel and the U.S. seems likely to get even worse in the weeks and months ahead.
From Tom McCarthy and Dan Roberts in The Guardian: "Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday condemned as ‘disgraceful’ a description of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "chickenshit," attributed to an unnamed US official….It’s not the first time the Obama administration has had to push back against reports of private sniping at Netanyahu. Three years ago, a French media outlet reported that Obama and then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy had been caught by a hot mic at a G-20 meeting criticizing Netanyahu." More here.
However, Kerry’s apologetic statement brought the sides no closer together. Earlier this week, Wendy Sherman, the top U.S. negotiator, gave an optimistic speech saying the "components of a plan that should be acceptable to both sides are on the table." The U.S. and Israel are also clashing over Netanyahu’s decision to build 1,060 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. Resentment lingers from peace talks between Israel and Palestinians initiated by Kerry.
From Kathy Gilsinan at Defense One: National Security Adviser Susan Rice insists U.S.-Israel ties aren’t broken. "The relationship is not in crisis. The relationship is actually fundamentally stronger in many respects than it’s ever been." More here.
As rumors of a deal continue to circulate, officials in Tehran cautioned that no deal would be made if economic sanctions were in place. But it appears as if the West is calling Iran’s bluff.
From AFP: "As the clock ticks down to a November 24 deadline for an agreement on reining in Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, Kerry vowed global powers were going to be ‘very careful, everything will be based on expert advice…Whether Iran can make the tough decisions that it needs to make will be determined in the next weeks,’ Kerry told a forum hosted by The Atlantic magazine." More here.
Over at The Washington Times, K.T. McFarland argues that the United States, not Iran, is desperate for a deal. More here.
From Isabel Kershner and Jodi Rudoren, new tensions between Israelis and Palestinians: "Under heavy pressure and the threat of new Israeli-Palestinian strife, Israel announced on Thursday that it would reopen a contested holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday morning, a day after closing it for the first time in years. The site, which Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims the Noble Sanctuary, has become an increasingly combustible flash point in the underlying Israeli-Palestinian conflict." More here.
Gregg Carlstrom writing from Jerusalem for FP, on how the attempted assassination of right-wing activist Yehuda Glick led to the current strife. "Following months of simmering unrest, Jerusalem seems to be heading into uncharted territory. The attempt on Glick’s life was the second high-profile attack this month: Last week, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem drove his car into a crowd of passengers disembarking from the light rail, killing two people, among them a 3-month-old baby. Both attackers seemed to be working alone, but a range of Palestinian factions rushed to take credit for their actions, which were met with a degree of public sympathy." More here.
On to the Islamic State. Iraqi Kurds have joined the fight in Kobani, but they’ve yet to turn the tide of the battle. This is yet another sign that the battle appears to be at a stalemate and that can’t be resolved without a significant change in strategy — something the Obama administration has refused to consider thus far.
Writing for FP, Mark Perry asks if Gen. John Allen, the commander selected by Obama to lead the fight, is up for the job. "When U.S. President Barack Obama appointed retired Marine Gen. John Allen to serve as his special envoy to the global coalition against the Islamic State, the news was greeted with applause from the jihadi group’s greatest enemies. Kurdish and Iraqi Sunni leaders welcomed the appointment, with good reason — these same leaders had requested that Allen, widely known as one of Obama’s favorite generals, be appointed to the position." More here.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, says U.S. advisers are needed in Anbar. More from Phil Stewart and David Alexander of Reuters, here.
Dempsey also says the United States is considering empowering Sunni tribes in Iraq. More here.
The Washington Post’s Greg Miller on how U.S. airstrikes have been ineffective in stopping the flow of foreign fighters into Syria. "The magnitude of the ongoing migration suggests that the U.S.-led air campaign has neither deterred significant numbers of militants from traveling to the region nor triggered a spike in the rate of travel among Muslim populations inflamed by American intervention." More here.
Liz Sly, also in The Washington Post, on Syria’s condemnation of Turkey allowing foreign fighters to enter, a small yet symbolic step by Ankara for Kurds in the region. More here.
According to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. strategy against Islamic State is hitting major hurdles. More here.
From the Associated Press, on the Islamic State’s brutality. "Some 600 male Shi’ite inmates from Badoosh prison outside Mosul were forced to kneel along the edge of a nearby ravine and shot with automatic weapons, Human Rights Watch said in a statement based on interviews with 15 Shiite prisoners who survived the massacre." More here.
Missy Ryan in The Washington Post, on how Iraqi forces remain on the defensive against the Islamic State. More here.
From The Guardian: "The United Nations has warned that foreign jihadists are swarming into the twin conflicts in Iraq and Syria on ‘an unprecedented scale’ and from countries that had not previously contributed combatants to global terrorism." More here.
The Islamic State is getting a lot of attention, but FP’s Ratnam explores a growing list of problems in Afghanistan. "Insurgent attacks have reached the highest levels since 2011, the Afghan army has sustained heavy combat losses and is experiencing high attrition rates, and opium poppy cultivation has more than doubled from its pre-1999 levels when the Taliban ruled the country, potentially undermining the Afghan state’s legitimacy even as the nation is experiencing budget shortfalls, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said in a quarterly report sent to Congress Thursday." More here.
According to the Military Times, U.S. bases around the world are under threat from the Islamic State. More here.
Hagel won’t comment on his critical Syria memo. "The memo from Hagel to White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice was first reported by the New York Times, which said he warned President Barack Obama’s Syria policy was in jeopardy due to its failure to clarify its intentions toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad." More from Reuters, here.
The collision of Ebola-related public-health concerns and civil liberties continued Thursday, when a nurse who was exposed to the disease refusing to remain in quarantine. It’s important to remember that people can be asymptomatic for days while still carrying the disease; the New York City doctor who has Ebola was fine for days upon his return. What makes dealing with Ebola so difficult is that scientists haven’t had much of a chance to study it. The Pentagon is trying to change that.
FP’s Francis: "The Defense Department is seeking research that shows federal public-health officials and the broader medical community have a limited understanding of the Ebola virus, despite their assurances that the public should not panic about the deadly disease.
"The Pentagon’s search for more information does not mean that the outbreak underway in West Africa can spread like the common cold…However, public-health experts agree that more research is necessary. Academic work on Ebola is scant. Therefore, to stem future outbreaks, they need a better understanding of the disease." More here.
Scott Dolan for The Portland (Maine) Press Herald: "Gov. Paul LePage says negotiations have broken down with Kaci Hickox, the nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa, and that the state is prepared to use ‘the full extent of his authority allowable by law’ to protect the public’s health…He was not specific, however, about what steps the state was taking and said such specifics could not be discussed because of confidentiality provisions in the law." More here.
From The New York Times’ Jess Bidgood and Kate Zernike, the response to Ebola remains inconsistent: "As more doctors and nurses return from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa, public anxiety has soared about the potential for contagion — even though only one person in the United States has died from the virus, and several have recovered or returned from West Africa and never shown symptoms. In response, governors of both parties are struggling to define public health policies on the virus, leaving a confusing patchwork of rules regarding monitoring, restricting and quarantining health care workers who have treated Ebola patients, whether domestically or abroad." More here.
An Ebola scare in North Carolina. Details from The Fayetteville Observer, here.
The New York Times’ Helene Cooper, on the Liberian president’s struggles during the Ebola outbreak. "For the last eight years, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 76, has walked a precarious political tightrope. As Liberia’s first elected leader after a devastating civil war, she has juggled enemies and allies while pushing this country on its first sustained course of economic growth in decades. Now, Ebola has brought many of those gains to a screeching halt. The foreign investors so lovingly wooed by Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, a former World Bank bureaucrat, have fled." More here.
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Who’s when where today: From DOD, "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work have no public or open media events on their schedules…Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey is traveling." More here.
What’s moving markets today: Russia and Ukraine have reached a gas deal, forestalling an energy crisis for Europe this winter. EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said the deal symbolizes the "first glimmer" of detente between Moscow and Kiev since the start of the Ukraine crisis. More from Reuters, here.
The deal doesn’t mean Russia is backing down. From FP’s Elias Groll, Russian warplanes are violating European airspace. "Twenty-six Russian planes — everything from bombers to tankers to refueling planes — have been intercepted by NATO fighter jets. These aerial sorties represent a serious increase in Russian aerial operations on NATO’s borders. From January to early October, NATO jets carried out about 100 intercepts. During the same period last year, the alliance carried out 40 such missions, according to a NATO military officer." More here.
U.S. sanctions bite Putin’s "personal banker," from Philip Shishkin in The Wall Street Journal. Dividend freeze by U.S.-listed company indirectly costs bank Rossiya nearly $21 million. More here.
According to Paul McLeary at Defense News, DOD’s top weapons buyer is set to meet with "Boeing CEO Chris Chadwick, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson and others in a meeting chaired by Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) Chairman Mike Strianese." More here.
On energy security, FP’s Keith Johnson on Canada’s plan to cash in on its oil wealth. "TransCanada, the biggest Canadian pipeline company, submitted its application to Canadian energy regulators for a nearly 3,000-mile-long, million-barrel-a-day pipe running from oil-rich western Canada to refineries and shipping terminals in the east. The so-called Energy East Pipeline Project, which TransCanada officials hope could be in operation as soon as 2018, would provide an export outlet for huge volumes of current and future oil production that right now has no easy way to get to market." More here.
From FP’s John Hudson, on why a win for Republicans in midterm elections next week would also be a win for the intelligence community. "If the Nov. 4 elections deliver a GOP-controlled Senate, the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee is likely to go to a North Carolinian whose unwavering support for the CIA and NSA could radically transform the committee’s oversight agenda." More here.
From Alastair Gale in The Wall Street Journal: U.S. envoy to North Korea Sydney Seiler said the United States needs "oranger carrots and thornier sticks" to get Pyongyang to the bargaining table on nuclear issues. More here.
Enduring Problems Continue at the VA. Heath Druzin, for Stars and Stripes, here.
From FP’s staff, a slideshow of the anti-government protests taking place in Burkina Faso. According to CNN, the military has seized control of the government.
And finally, Happy Halloween. Is there a better way to celebrate than with dogs in costumes? See them here.
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