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FP’s Situation Report: U.N. efforts to supply aid to Syrians fall short; Putin proves difficult to break; Palestinian statehood bid fails; and much more.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat U.N. efforts to supply aid to Syrians in rebel-held areas fall woefully short. The United Nations promised it would deliver much needed food to two million people trapped in areas along Syria’s border. Fears of angering President Bashar al-Assad have resulted in major delays. Six months later, the number ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

U.N. efforts to supply aid to Syrians in rebel-held areas fall woefully short. The United Nations promised it would deliver much needed food to two million people trapped in areas along Syria’s border. Fears of angering President Bashar al-Assad have resulted in major delays. Six months later, the number of people in crisis has grown to 12.2 million and private aid organizations are stepping up.

FP’s Colum Lynch: “The American relief agency Mercy Corps has sent 688 trucks carrying more than 17,000 metric tons of food, shelter, and hygiene and winter supplies into Syria since July. That’s more than the total aid sent by all of the U.N.’s own relief agencies combined, which together sent only 422 trucks carrying more than 10,000 metric tons worth of supplies, according to Nigel Pont, a spokesman for Mercy Corps.” More here.

More on the Islamic State below.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military prove difficult to break. It was a very good year for Putin. He began 2014 with a successful Winter Olympics in Sochi. Days after the closing ceremonies, he upended the post-Cold War order with his annexation of Crimea and incursions into Ukraine. Even with the Russian economy in crisis, Putin won’t blink and remains a major player on the international stage.

Writing for Foreign Policy, James T. Quinlivan: “For years, Russian aircraft have been doing fly-bys of European neighbors, largely without much public notice. But as Russia’s relations with the United States and Europe have deteriorated in recent months following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine, these incidents in the skies seem to have taken on a new urgency — they may even herald a revival of Cold War-era tactics.” More here.

More on Russia below.

Palestinian statehood push at the U.N. fails. The United States and Australia opposed the resolution demanding an end to Israel’s occupation by 2017 — the only two Security Council members to vote this way. Ties between Jerusalem and Washington suffered in 2014, and the resolution’s failure saves the United States from having to veto it. But U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said the no-vote was not an endorsement of the state of play between Israel and the Palestinians.

FP’s John Hudson: ”Exasperated by the defunct peace process, Palestinians are seeking to internationalize the conflict at the U.N. by seeking membership and recognition from the world body. Israel, which withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, has long stated that its eastern flank would be vulnerable if it pulled out entirely from the West Bank. Many Israeli security officials are particularly concerned that a withdrawal would put Ben Gurion International Airport and many of Israel’s largest cities within reach of even low-range rockets fired from Palestinian-controlled land.” More here.

More on the U.N. vote below.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of the Situation Report.

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The Situation Report will be taking a break on New Year’s Day. We’ll be back in your inbox Friday.

Who’s Where When Today

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey have no public or media events on their schedules.

President Obama is in Hawaii on vacation.

What’s Moving Markets

The Wall Street Journal’s Ian Talley and Anjani Trivedi on the global impact of the dollar: “The soaring U.S. dollar is squeezing companies in emerging markets from Brazil to Thailand that now face higher costs on roughly $1 trillion in bonds sold to investors before the greenback’s surge.” More here.

Reuters’s Valerie Volcovici on U.S. oil exports: “The main U.S. export authority is telling some oil companies that they should consider exporting a lightly processed form of crude oil called condensate without formal permission.” More here.

The New York Times’ Jo Becker and Jim Yardley on a Russian gas deal going south: “[I]f the story of South Stream shows how larger geopolitical concerns can, at least temporarily, limit Mr. Putin’s ability to use his energy riches as a foreign-policy tool, it is also a case study of how he has operated in Europe, and will probably continue to do so.” More here.

Islamic State

The BBC on Iraq’s success: “Iraqi government forces and allied Shia militia have recaptured the town of Dhuluiya, north of Baghdad, from Islamic State, security sources say.” More here.

Writing for Foreign Policy, Aaron David Miller on hope for the Middle East: “Optimists, believers, and the interminably upbeat: prepare yourselves. This coming year may actually be better than the past one. Indeed, 2015 could well be potentially — I said potentially — pivotal on several key fronts.” More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Karen Leigh and Matt Bradley with a preview of next year’s fight: “The battle against Islamic State, defined so far by a U.S.-led air campaign, will turn this year to a counteroffensive on the ground by a coalition of Iraqi forces. A push to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, will be the centerpiece.” More here.

Defense News’s Paul McLeary on a military deal between Iran and Iraq: “As the United States and a handful of allies begin flowing thousands of troops into Iraq to train and equip Iraqi and Kurdish army brigades, Baghdad and Tehran have signed an agreement to continue Iranian training of Iraqi units.” More here.

The New York Times’ Tim Arango on American troops back in Iraq: “The United States has begun training a first wave of Iraqi Army recruits, in recent days putting them through morning fitness exercises and instructing them in marksmanship and infantry tactics, in an effort to gather enough forces to mount a spring offensive against the extremists of the Islamic State.” More here.

Russia

The Guardian’s Anna Nemtsova and Luke Harding on a Putin dissenter: “The Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was arrested on Tuesday after breaking house arrest to join an opposition rally in Moscow, hours after a court gave him a suspended sentence for fraud. His brother, Oleg, was jailed for three and a half years for the same offence.” More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Harriet Torry on Berlin’s hard line with Moscow: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel will open her traditional New Year’s address with a pledge to stand firm against Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine, saying Europe won’t accept Russia’s strong-arming in the region.” More here.

U.N. Vote

The Washington Post’s Carol Morello and Ruth Eglash with more on the failed Palestinian statehood bid: “Over the previous two days, Secretary of State John F. Kerry made a flurry of calls to 13 foreign ministers and leaders to express his concern that a resolution would only deepen the conflict, officials said. Still, the resolution won the backing of several U.S. allies including France and Jordan.” More here.

Haaretz on Jerusalem’s reaction: “Israel’s UN representative Israel Nitzan-Tikochinski says ‘I have news for the Palestinians — you cannot provoke your way to a state.’ Nitzan-Tikochinski accused the Palestinians of finding every possible opportunity to avoid direct negotiations,’ and urged the UN Security Council to ‘stop indulging the Palestinians and put an end to their march of folly.’” More here.

Afghanistan

ABC News’ Ely Brown on what’s next: “The U.S. will also continue to provide Afghan troops with combat air support if they should come under attack from Taliban fighters. However, of the 10,600 U.S. troops remaining in the country — about 1,000 of them will be special operations forces capable of carrying out counterterrorism missions against the Taliban if they pose a direct threat to U.S. and Afghan Forces.” More here.

The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe on a video showing U.S. Marine snipers urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan: “The recently retired commandant of the Marine Corps and a three-star general remain at odds over the handling of a scandal that bruised the commandant’s reputation and led to allegations of abuse of power, according to the results of a Defense Department inspector general report obtained by The Washington Post.” More here.

North Korea

The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris on the FBI’s fixation with Pyongyang: “In spite of mounting evidence that the North Korean regime may not have been wholly responsible for a brazen cyberassault against Sony — and possibly wasn’t involved at all — the FBI is doubling down on its theory that the Hermit Kingdom solely bears the blame.” More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Fritz, Danny Yadron, and Erich Schwartzel with an inside look at the Sony hack: “The day after Sony Pictures employees discovered that company email was unusable following a cyberattack, senior executives came up with an old-style communication network: a phone tree, in which updates on the hack were relayed from person to person.” More here.

Guantánamo

The New York Times’ Helene Cooper: “The United States transferred five detainees from the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to Kazakhstan, the Defense Department announced late Tuesday. It was the last in a flurry of year-end moves as President Obama sought to fulfill his promise to close the American-run prison.” More here.

China

Writing for Foreign Policy, Andy Hu on China’s view of its relationship with the United States: “Cui Tiankai, Beijing’s top envoy in Washington, described growing trust between the two countries as ‘a fairly obvious trend’ on Dec. 12. In a year-end review on Dec. 17, China’s official Xinhua News Agency compared Sino-U.S. ties to ‘a vessel that keeps moving ahead’ even while buffeted by waves.” More here.

AFP with more on China’s Gmail blackout: “Google’s unwillingness to obey Chinese law is to blame for the shutdown of its hugely popular email service, state-run media have said after the last easy way to access Gmail was apparently blocked.” More here.

Iran

Reuters on U.S. denials of a prisoner swap: “The United States called on Tuesday for the release of U.S. citizens held in Iran, but denied a report that Washington had proposed a prisoner exchange for a former U.S. Marine.” More here.

Yemen

Al Jazeera on recent bloodshed: “At least 20 Houthi rebels have been killed in a suicide bomb attack at a gathering in Ibb city of central Yemen, while fighting in Radaa district has killed at least 34 others.” More here.

Cuba

The New York Times’ Mark Landler on how the swap for Bowe Bergdahl catalyzed the thaw in relations: “The Cuban negotiators seized on his release as a precedent that would allow a reluctant White House to agree to a swap of Mr. Gross for three Cuban agents jailed in the United States.” More here.

Africa

The New York Times’ Eric Schmitt: “An American drone strike in Somalia has killed the chief of intelligence for the Shabab, the Qaeda affiliate in that country, Somali officials said Tuesday.” More here.

Writing for Foreign Policy, Christopher Holshek on failures in South Sudan: “That transitions have been so persistently problematic speaks to a systemic failure in Washington and elsewhere to take peace as seriously as war — in programs, budgets, and authorities as much as in policy statements. Diplomacy and development agencies continue, for instance, to be dumping grounds for political hirelings.” More here.

The BBC interviews Gambian President Yayha Jammeh after a reported coup attempt. More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Matina Stevis: “A U.S. special envoy to Africa urged Congo and United Nations peacekeepers to launch a military offensive to root out Rwandan rebels hiding in the country’s east.” More here.

Ebola

The Wall Street Journal’s Patrick McGroarty and Drew Hinshaw on Ebola’s impact: “Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone were finally experiencing a turnaround from decades of conflict and political tumult when Ebola interrupted. Now the countries are likely to tip into recession in 2015, the World Bank and government leaders say, the consequence of an epidemic that has killed more than 7,500 people in those three hardest-hit countries.” More here.

The BBC’s Michelle Roberts on patient zero: “The Ebola victim who is believed to have triggered the current outbreak — a two-year-old boy called Emile Ouamouno from Guinea — may have been infected by playing in a hollow tree housing a colony of bats, say scientists.” More here.

Sky News on a Scottish nurse with the disease: “Nurse Pauline Cafferkey who fell ill after returning from Sierra Leone is being treated for Ebola at a specialist infectious diseases unit in London.” More here.

Missing Plane

The Jakarta Post‘s Ina Parlina and Wahyoe Boediwardhana on the AirAsia pilot: “Iriyanto started out his career as an F-5 and F-16 fighter pilot after having graduated from the Adi Sucipto Air Force pilot school in 1983.” More here.

And finally, happy New Year! Australia is already celebrating. More from the Sydney Morning Herald here.

 

 

Tag: Syria