The Cable

FP’s Situation Report, presented by the UAE Embassy: U.S. braces for torture report release; Critics allege Obama’s Iran strategy is failing; U.S. general warns of potential disaster in Afghanistan; and much more.

By David Francis and Sabine Muscat The United States and its military brace for the release of the CIA torture report. Portions of the report expected to be released by the Senate today found post-9/11 enhanced interrogation techniques did not result in better intelligence. Obama administration officials have already warned that its release could spark ...

By David Francis and Sabine Muscat

The United States and its military brace for the release of the CIA torture report. Portions of the report expected to be released by the Senate today found post-9/11 enhanced interrogation techniques did not result in better intelligence. Obama administration officials have already warned that its release could spark violence, and American troops around the world are now on high alert. Former Bush administration officials are defending their actions during the Iraq and Afghan wars. Former spies are also taking preemptive steps to push back against the report’s findings.

FP’s John Hudson with an exclusive: “[A] group of former senior intelligence officials is planning to rebut those criticisms with a flurry of op-eds, media interviews, and newly-declassified documents. The backbone of the media campaign will be a newly-launched website with a rather blunt and straightforward title: ‘CIASavedLives.com.’” More here.

More on the torture report below.

Armed with new ammunition, critics of a potential nuclear deal with Iran say Obama’s strategy is failing. Foreign Policy’s revelation yesterday that Iran is trying to buy new equipment for a nuclear facility lends credence to the primary Israeli concern prior to the Nov. 24 deadline: Iran simply cannot be trusted to abide by terms of the deal, even if one is made. Now, armed with the new U.S. revelation and with Secretary of State John Kerry saying a deal could be just months away, critics say the Obama administration’s policy is not working.

FP’s Colum Lynch and John Hudson: “The Foreign Policy report has sparked concern from the loud chorus of Iran hawks in Congress. On Monday afternoon, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) called Iran a ‘determined cheater, showing no willingness to accept an effective verification regime.’” More here.

More on Iran below.

As the United States and NATO close their combat command in Afghanistan, an American general warns of potential disaster. The 13-year combat mission came to a formal end Monday as Kabul, once thought to be relatively isolated from the war, is under siege. Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the departing American commander, warned yesterday that the future of Afghanistan could be bleak despite proclamations of success.

The New York Times’ Azam Ahmed: “More than 5,000 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed this year, eclipsing previous years, and surpassing the entire coalition death toll since the invasion began in 2001. The deaths mount even as many soldiers and police officers are reluctant to leave their bases, and the deadly attacks have continued into the cold months when fighting typically stops.” More here.

More on Afghanistan below.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of the Situation Report.

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Who’s Where When Today

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is in Baghdad.

9.00 a.m. Rose Gottemoeller, under secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, and Brian McKeon, principal deputy under secretary of Defense for Policy, testify on “Russian arms control cheating and the administration’s responses” before two House subcommittees. 2:00 p.m. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the “Authorization for the use of military force against ISIL.” Watch here. 6:45 p.m. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James delivers the keynote address at the Project on Nuclear Issues 2014 Winter Conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

What’s Moving Markets

The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe on Congressional delays of a spending bill before current funds expire on Thursday: “Plans to quickly approve a $1.1 trillion spending package to keep most of the federal government open through the end of the fiscal year fell apart late Monday, increasing the chance lawmakers will miss a Thursday deadline.” More here.

FP’s Keith Johnson on how falling oil prices are driving the economy of Venezuela to the brink of collapse: “Oil prices are flirting with yet another five-year low, which is straining plenty of governments from Tripoli to Tehran. But few countries are as fundamentally threatened as Venezuela, where the sudden collapse in crude prices is making a dire economy downright dismal.” More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Schechner reports U.S. Internet businesses are opening data centers in Europe to regain European customers’ trust after the Snowden revelations. “‘We already see a substantial increase of foreign-direct investment in digital technologies in storage centers, data centers, processing,’ said Paul Nemitz, a director in the European Commission’s Justice Unit, speaking at a data-protection forum organized by France’s data-protection watchdog.” More here.

The South China Morning Post’s Victoria Ruan on how China’s latest record trade surplus exposes its lack of domestic demand. “Slower export growth and an unexpected fall in imports pushed the mainland’s trade surplus to a record US$54.5 billion last month, adding to fears of a sharper dip in fourth-quarter economic growth, even after the central bank cut interest rates for the first time in two years last month.” More here.

Torture Report

The New York Times’ Mark Landler and Peter Baker on the clash between Republicans and the White House: “On the eve of a long-awaited Senate report on the use of torture by the United States government — a detailed account that will shed an unsparing light on the Central Intelligence Agency’s darkest practices after the September 2001 terrorist attacks — the Obama administration and its Republican critics clashed on Monday over the wisdom of making it public, and the risk that it will set off a backlash overseas.” More here.

More from the Times’ Baker on an unapologetic Dick Cheney: “Former Vice President Dick Cheney offered a full-throated defense of the Central Intelligence Agency on Monday, arguing that its harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects a decade ago were ‘absolutely, totally justified’ and dismissing a new Senate report criticizing them.” More here.

Writing for Foreign Policy, Micah Zenko on problems with the report: “[N]o torture victims were interviewed by … investigators, nor does the report evaluate the troubling interrogation techniques used by the Department of Defense on a vastly greater number of detainees.” More here.

The New York Times’ Peter Baker on Bush administration officials’ damage control: “The report is said to assert that the C.I.A. misled Mr. Bush and his White House about the nature, extent and results of brutal techniques like waterboarding, and some of his former administration officials privately suggested seizing on that to distance themselves from the controversial program, according to people involved in the discussion. But Mr. Bush and his closest advisers decided that ‘we’re going to want to stand behind these guys,’ as one former official put it.’” More here.

CNN’s Barbara Starr reports Marines are on high alert. “The alert status means the units are put on a shorter readiness time to be available and capable of deploying to a crisis such as an embassy or U.S. base coming under threat.” More here.

Newsweek’s Jeff Stein reports former spies are divided on enhanced interrogation. “If some key former U.S. intelligence officials can’t agree on basic facts in the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program, how are ordinary Americans supposed to figure out what the truth is?” More here.

The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris and Kimberly Dozier: “U.S. spies are worried the long-awaited Senate review will paint targets on their backs. So the CIA is offering to help erase those targets.” More here.

Iran

Reuters’s Louis Charbonneau on another possible sanctions breach: “United Nations sanctions monitors have said photographs taken inside Iraq appear to confirm that the head of Iran’s elite military Quds Force, one of Iran’s most powerful people, has been in the country in violation of a U.N. travel ban.” More here.

The Associated Press reports Iran has formally charged a Washington Post reporter. “Jason Rezaian, the newspaper’s bureau chief in Tehran since 2012, appeared in court almost five months after he was arrested July 22. The charges were the first against him since the arrest, the Post said.” More here.

Afghanistan

The Daily Beast’s Jonathan Foreman reports on the hard-won trust between ISAF and Afghan forces. More here.

The Associated Press covers the return of the 10th Mountain Division, the first U.S. division deployed to Afghanistan in 2001, to its base in Fort Drum, NY. More here.

Islamic State

The Washington Post’s Missy Ryan on Hagel’s visit to Baghdad: “The United States is providing increasing assistance to Iraq as it battles Islamic State militants, but the outcome of that fight will hinge on the Shiite-led government’s ability to build wide support among Iraqis, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday during a visit to Baghdad.” More here.

The New York Times’ Eric Schmitt on a dispute between Iraq and the Pentagon: “ Allied warplanes and Iraqi ground troops are increasingly isolating Islamic State militants in the captured city of Mosul, prompting Iraqi officials to push for a winter offensive to wrest control of the area months ahead of the previous schedule — and over American warnings.” More here.

The Washington Post’s Missy Ryan with details on the allied force: “U.S. allies are expected to send as many as 1,500 soldiers to Iraq to complement a growing American military force that will train and advise Iraqi troops in their battle against the Islamic State, a senior U.S. commander said Monday.” More here.

NPR’s Deborah Amos on an unprecedented military alliance in the Middle East: “The NATO-inspired force — which goes beyond existing structures — will be established this week at the [Gulf Cooperation Council] summit in Doha, Qatar.… The new, unified GCC military command is to be based in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.” More here.

The Associated Press’s Robert Burns on U.S. claims that the Islamic State on its heels:  “Islamic State fighters have lost the initiative in Iraq and are now ‘on defense’ with far less ability to generate the kind of ground maneuvers that enabled the extremists to capture large chunks of Iraq earlier this year, a senior U.S. general said Monday.” More here.

Reuters’s Isabel Coles on old rivalries complicating the fight: “The blood of two militants killed during Islamic State’s rout in the Iraqi town of Jalawla has yet to be washed away, but a turf war is already brewing between Kurdish and Shiite forces that jointly drove the insurgents out.” More here.

The BBC on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini pledging $85 billion to aid Syrian refugees in Turkey: “The visit is the most high-profile EU delegation to Turkey in several years. The EU team is also set to discuss ways of making progress with Turkey’s negotiations to join the EU, which have been going on since 2005.” More here.

The Washington Post’s Kevin Sullivan on American teens joining the Islamic State: “The Khan teens are part of a growing number of young Americans who are joining or attempting to travel to Syria or Iraq to join the Islamic State.” More here.

Yemen

FP’s Elias Groll on the high cost of trying to save American lives: “This isn’t the tragic story of this weekend’s failed raid in Yemen to free American journalist Luke Somers, who was shot by one of his captors Saturday as the SEALs pushed deeper into the compound and died while in emergency surgery aboard a waiting U.S. Navy vessel. It’s the story of Linda Norgrove, an aid worker from the U.K. who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 during a similar rescue attempt.” More here.

Reuters on an al Qaeda leader distancing himself from the brutal methods of the Islamic State: “A senior leader of al Qaeda in Yemen has criticized beheadings by Islamic State (IS) fighters as un-Islamic, and said his own group had banned such acts.” More here.

Israel

The New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren on Israel’s struggle with its identity: “Israel’s Parliament was dissolved on Monday in part over legislation proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ultranationalist politicians that some Israelis fear would elevate the state’s Jewishness above its democratic character, exposing the inherent tension in the nation’s core principles with a law that critics say would subject a fifth of its citizens to permanent second-class status.” More here.

Ukraine

FP’s David Francis on efforts to resolve the conflict in Ukraine with diplomacy: “The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Monday refused to rule out sending weapons to the Ukrainian army, but insisted that the crisis in Ukraine would be solved with diplomacy, not armies.” More here.

CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt on Putin’s cold feet: “With Russia hit hard by a slump in the ruble, tumbling oil prices and Western sanctions, could President Vladimir Putin be wondering whether Ukraine was worth the pain?” More here.

The Associated Press’s Peter Leonard: “Government troops and Russian-backed separatists largely suspended hostilities in east Ukraine Tuesday in a fresh attempt to revive a largely ignored cease-fire deal.” More here.

Special Forces

The Daily Beast’s Kevin Maurer on the man who hustled tens of millions from the Special Forces: “First he worked for U.S. commandos. Then he made millions. Then the American government seized his money. Now, for the first time, Hikmatullah Shadman is publicly fighting back.” More here.

Surveillance

FP’s Siobhán O’Grady on the Senate’s refusal to move forward on the USA Freedom act: “The USA Freedom Act would have halted the NSA’s legal authority to collect some data, including phone numbers and timestamps. Now the agency can continue doing so through Feb. 27.” More here.

Ebola

The BBC reports Ebola cases in Sierra Leone outnumber cases in Liberia: “[The] latest estimate of the cumulative number of cases since the start of the outbreak in March now stands at 7,780 in Sierra Leone and 7,719 in Liberia.” More here.

Revolving Door

From Defense Daily: “Northrop Grumman [NOC] on Monday announced that Kenneth Bedingfield, the company’s vice president for Finance in the corporate office, will become chief financial officer next year after the company files its 2014 annual report.” More here.

And finally, the Associated Press reports that the International Olympic Committee, desperate for candidate host cities, tries to make it easier to host the games. More here.

 

 

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