Situation Report

A weekly digest of national security, defense, and cybersecurity news from Foreign Policy reporters Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, formerly Security Brief. Delivered Thursday.

FP’s Situation Report: The West and Iran are reportedly extending nuclear talks; Afghanistan is set to restart controversial night raids; Corruption undermines the Iraqi military; and much more.

  By David Francis with Sabine Muscat The West and Iran are reportedly extending nuclear talks. Today is the deadline for a deal, and multiple reports indicate that an extension is likely. Despite a late push from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, no agreement is yet in hand. This would be the second time ...



By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

The West and Iran are reportedly extending nuclear talks. Today is the deadline for a deal, and multiple reports indicate that an extension is likely. Despite a late push from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, no agreement is yet in hand. This would be the second time these talks have been extended.

FP’s Elias Groll and John Hudson: "Kerry had a long of day of meetings [in Vienna] Sunday, shuttling from appointments with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and his partners in the so-called P5+1. But the scramble to secure a deal that would ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran freezing or rolling back its nuclear program appeared to be out of reach going into the last day of talks. A report in the Iranian media, from the Iranian Students’ News Agency, quoted an unidentified Iranian official involved in the talks saying that it ‘would be impossible’ to reach a deal by the deadline." More here.

An extension is likely to face opposition from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who question what the White House can achieve with a few more months of negotiations. It also shows that optimism about a deal getting done earlier this month was misplaced hope. Failure to reach a deal is also a blow to the White House, which made it a priority.

More on Iran below.

Afghanistan is set to restart controversial night raids in 2015. These operations were stopped in 2013 after controversy over intrusions into private homes prompted former Afghan President Hamid Karzai to forbid them. The new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, quietly lifted the ban. The news comes a day after the White House announced the American military would be permitted to carry out limited combat operations.

The New York Times‘ Rod Nordland and Taimoor Shah: "American military officials have long viewed night raids as the most important tactic in their fight against Taliban insurgents, because they can catch the militant group’s leaders where they are most vulnerable. …Two Afghan army generals in some of the country’s most active combat zones — Helmand and Kandahar Provinces in southern Afghanistan — said in interviews on Saturday that they welcomed the lifting of a ban on night raids, and the possibility of American support for them." More here.

The Afghan government’s announcement and the change in American policy will allow American planes to provide support for Afghan Special Forces as the raids are conducted. It is another reminder that the fight for the future of Afghanistan is far from over. The United States now has a larger role in it.

More on Afghanistan below.

Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State is undermined by corruption in the Iraqi military. The Islamic State launched a new offensive to take Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province located 56 miles west of Baghdad. Tribal fighters and airstrikes turned back the group and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi has ordered the Iraqi military to the region. According to a new report, graft is undermining the effectiveness of this fighting force.

The New York Times‘ David D. Kirkpatrick: "The Iraqi military and police forces had been so thoroughly pillaged by their own corrupt leadership that they all but collapsed this spring in the face of the advancing militants of the Islamic State — despite roughly $25 billion worth of American training and equipment over the past 10 years and far more from the Iraqi treasury. Now the pattern of corruption and patronage in the Iraqi government forces threatens to undermine a new American-led effort to drive out the extremists, even as President Obama is doubling to 3,000 the number of American troops in Iraq." More here.

News of widespread corruption comes as the United States considers sending more weapons to Iraq and as U.S. military advisors prepare the Iraqi army for an offensive next year. The Pentagon has asked for $1.3 billion to provide weapons for government forces for 2015. Military planners could reconsider this request now that weapons and equipment already provided to the Iraqi army are on the black market and are being used by the enemy.

More on the Islamic State below.

Welcome to Monday’s edition of the Situation Report.

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Who’s Where When Today

9:30 a.m. International Energy Agency releases World Energy Outlook for 2014 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. 10:00 a.m. U.S. Army Europe Commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges provides an update on the current status of Operation Atlantic Resolve and NATO. 12:00 p.m. U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern speaks at the Center for American Progress. 1:00 p.m. Obama meets with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. 1:00 p.m. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel welcomes Minister of Defense of New Zealand Gerry Brownlee.

What’s Moving Markets

CNBC reports global economic confidence is at a five-year low. "[C]ompany hiring and investment intentions at or near their weakest levels in the post-global financial crisis era." More here.

Defense News’ Paul McLeary on changes to the Pentagon’s acquisition policies: The "Defense Department is shifting its institutional weight toward developing a new acquisition and technology development strategy that focuses more on major state competitors." More here.

The Associated Press’ Elwood Brehmer on how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is adjusting to budget cuts: "Military construction activity continues to decline across Alaska, but work with other federal agencies should keep government contractors busy." More here.

China cut interest rates for the first time in two years to stimulate the economy and lower the debt burden. The Economist thinks that the Chinese government made the "right call." More here.

Bloomberg’s Jonathan Burgos reports that China could cut rates again this week. More here.


The Wall Street Journal‘s Laurence Norman reports that talks are likely to resume next month. "U.S. officials have said that it the risks of ending the diplomacy are greater and insist that talks have made progress and a deal could be reached." More here.

Writing for Foreign Policy, Nancy Gallagher on Iranian public opinion of the negotiations: "Iranians do not support the much tighter limitations on nuclear capabilities that some U.S. experts consider necessary to ensure that Iran could not ‘break out’ of an agreement and amass a bomb’s worth of fissile material in less than a year — one metric that U.S. officials have used to quantify whether a deal would be acceptable." More here.

The Hill‘s Rebecca Shabad reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the United States not to agree to deal that could allow Iran to produce a weapon. More here.

The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg on Iranian obstacles to the deal: " I don’t believe that either the diplomatic solution, or a solution that requires crushing sanctions and the credible threat of force, are overly likely to neutralize [the Iranian nuclear threat]." More here.

Commenting for Deutsche Welle, Barbara Wesel argues that the time might not be right for a deal with Iran as long as the country remains internally divided: "[A]s long as internal power struggles in Tehran continue to make any real progress all but impossible, it makes perhaps more sense to put talks on the back burner." More here.

The Daily Beast‘s Christopher Dickey on why failure to reach a deal is dangerous: "Only a few hours are left before time runs out on negotiations with Iran to contain its nuclear program, and everyone’s asking, ‘Deal or no deal?’ But the real question is, ‘War or peace?’" More here. 


From Reuters’ Zaid Sabah on weekend fighting: "Islamic State holds parts of Anbar including the city of Fallujah, scene of violent battles between U.S. forces and al-Qaeda during Iraq’s last round of sectarian conflict more than five years ago. The fall of Ramadi would deal a blow to efforts to curb Islamic State, which declared a so-called caliphate in areas under its control in Syria and Iraq in June after capturing Mosul, the most-populated city in northern Iraq." More here.

The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan on new American powers: "Senior administration officials said that Obama agreed that U.S. military leaders in Afghanistan are authorized to approve combat operations, using ground forces, manned aircraft and drones, under three sets of circumstances." More here.

The Los Angeles Times‘ Hafiz Ahmadi and Shashank Bengali on a suicide attack at a volleyball tournament: "A suicide bomber blew himself up Sunday amid a crowd at a volleyball tournament in eastern Afghanistan, killing 45 people and injuring dozens more in the deadliest attack since a new government took power, officials said." More here. 

The New York Times‘ Azam Ahmed on the Taliban’s control over territory outside of Kabul: "Afghan soldiers in Tagab district will not leave their base except for one hour each day starting at 9 a.m., when the Taliban allow them to visit the bazaar as long as the soldiers remain unarmed." More here.

Islamic State

The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung reports Turkey and the United States are moving closer to cooperation: "After an extended period of public estrangement and sniping, the United States and Turkey have made up and say they are heading toward close cooperation on defeating the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and eventually seeing the end of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad." More here.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Sam Dagher on the Islamic State and Kurdish fight for Syrian oil fields: "The Wall Street Journal found the conflict as murky as the sludge that spills from the makeshift kilns onto land grazed and farmed since Biblical times." More here.

The New York Times‘ C.J. Chivers on the destruction of Iraqi chemical weapons: "The United States recovered thousands of old chemical weapons in Iraq from 2004 to 2009 and destroyed almost all of them in secret and via open-air detonation." More here.

The Associated Press’ Vivian Salama and Zeina Karam on children and the Islamic State: "Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle and committing abuses against the most vulnerable at a young age, according to a growing body of evidence assembled from residents, activists, independent experts and human rights groups." More here.

The New York Times‘ Melissa Eddy on European dealing with fighters returning from the Middle East: "Across Europe, governments are scrambling for ways to prevent suspected radicals from leaving to join the conflict. Yet even as they seek to stem the flow outward, many find themselves struggling with how to deal with those fighters who want to return home." More here.

The Guardian‘s Mona Mahmood on U.S. airstrikes causing rebels to join the Islamic State: "Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups are joining forces with Isis, which has gained control of swaths of Syria and Iraq and has beheaded six western hostages in the past few months." More here.

The BBC reports that lawmakers in the United Kingdom are set to introduce a terrorism bill: "Under the bill, UK-based insurance companies are to be banned from covering the cost of terrorist ransoms." More here.

Reuters’ Phil Stewart reports on U.S. plans to arm Sunni tribesmen. More here.

The Washington Post‘s Jeremy W. Peters: Rand Paul wants a formal declaration of war against the Islamic State. More here.


The Wall Street Journal‘s Alexander Kolyandr on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s future plans: "Russia’s constitution restricts the country’s president to two consecutive, six-year terms, requiring Mr. Putin to step down by 2024 at the latest. The Russian leader has repeatedly said before that he plans to abide by the term limits." More here.

The Washington Post‘s Griff Witte on Finland’s NATO aspirations: "As Russian-backed separatists have eviscerated another non-NATO neighbor this year — Ukraine — Finnish leaders have watched with growing alarm. They are increasingly questioning whether the nonaligned path they navigated through the Cold War can keep them safe as Europe heads toward another period of dangerous standoffs between West and East." More here.

Reuters’ Gabriela Baczynska on Putin blaming the United States for frosty ties: " Putin blamed the West for worsening relations with Russia since the Ukraine crisis and said Moscow would not allow itself to become internationally isolated behind another ‘Iron Curtain.’" More here.

Al Jazeera reports that there are 7,500 Russian troops in Ukraine. More here.

Reuters reports U.S. troops are to remain in the Baltics, Poland next year. More here.


The Guardian‘s Peter Beaumont on Israel’s legislation defining nation-state of Jewish people. More here.

Writing for Foreign Policy, Dalia Hatuqa on house demolitions in East Jerusalem: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to step up demolitions of the perpetrators’ homes, reinstating a practice that lasted decades before it was halted in 2005, after an internal review committee deemed it an ineffective means of deterrence." More here.

The Washington Post‘s William Booth and Taylor Luck report relations between Jordan and Israel are suffering because of tensions in Jerusalem: "The rising animosity between Jordan and Israel, whose governments are tethered by a peace treaty, could undermine U.S.-led efforts to fight Islamist extremists. It also threatens a multibillion-dollar natural gas deal that is important to both countries." More here.


FP’s Alexa Olesen on massive corruption shaking the Chinese military: "When China’s Ministry of Defense announced on Oct. 28 that the investigation into former Gen. Xu Caihou for alleged corruption had concluded and his case had been transferred to prosecutors, the ministry declared the bribes received by Xu and his family members as tebie juda, or ‘extremely huge.’" More here.


The Los Angeles Times‘ Christi Parsons on Benghazi: "A top Republican on Sunday dismissed as ‘full of crap’ a report by the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee that largely absolves the Obama administration for its handling of the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya." More here.


FP’s Colum Lynch on Sudan’s bad behavior in Darfur: "Late last month, a senior U.N. investigator scolded officials with the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, UNAMID, for repeatedly withholding evidence of alleged Sudanese government crimes against civilians and peacekeepers. Clearly, UNAMID didn’t get the memo." More here.

Al Shabaab

CNN’s Phillip Taylor and Dana Ford on a massacre in Kenya: "On Saturday, Islamist militants ambushed a bus in Kenya and sprayed bullets on those who failed to recite Quran verses, killing at least 28 people, according to authorities." More here.


AFP reports that Germany is dropping its probe into NSA spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel: "Six months after the investigation began, the experts have failed to find any solid proof to back the case, and have therefore recommended that it be dropped." More here.

Suicide Report

Military Times‘ Patricia Kime on shortcomings with the Defense Department’s suicide report. More here.

And finally, the Washington Post‘s Paul Schwartzman and Mike DeBonis on Washington’s goodbye to former Mayor Marion Barry. More here.



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