The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

FP’s Situation Report: At least 12 are dead in Paris terror attack; Pentagon investigates civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria; U.S. is determined to keep MRAPs out of Islamic State hands; Putin’s Eurasian economic dreams are dying; and much more.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat The Associated Press’s Jamey Keaten and Lori Hinnant with the latest breaking news on a terror attack in Paris: “Masked gunmen stormed the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper Wednesday, killing 12 people before escaping, in France’s deadliest terror attack in at least two decades.” More here. Check for ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

The Associated Press’s Jamey Keaten and Lori Hinnant with the latest breaking news on a terror attack in Paris: “Masked gunmen stormed the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper Wednesday, killing 12 people before escaping, in France’s deadliest terror attack in at least two decades.” More here.

Check for updates on the situation in France throughout the day.

The Pentagon admits it is investigating the possibility of U.S. air strikes killing Iraqi and Syrian civilians. A Centcom spokesman said Tuesday the Pentagon has determined that 13 of 18 allegations of air strikes killing civilians are not credible. Still, the prospect of civilian casualties raises pressure on President Barack Obama to move American troops closer to the front lines to better identify targets. It’s also a reminder that civilian deaths are nearly inevitable as the fight ratchets up.

FP’s Kate Brannen: “Credible groups on the ground, including Iraqi news agencies and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, have made several claims that noncombatants have been killed by U.S. bombs, but even they acknowledge that it is difficult to confirm these deaths, especially in areas controlled by the Islamic State, which is often where the United States is striking. Given the number of strikes launched in both Iraq and Syria — about 1,400 at this point — and without American troops forward-positioned to call in the strikes, civilians have clearly faced risks of accidental death. But for the last several months, the Pentagon has maintained that it has yet to see any believable reports of civilian deaths caused by U.S. bombs.” More here.

The United States is determined to keep 250 mine-resistant armored vehicles out of Islamic State hands. Baghdad has long asked for more equipment to fight the Islamic State. Congress has resisted these demands over concerns that weapons might fall into the hands of Islamic extremists — just as they did when the Iraqi army retreated last summer. Now, a fresh set of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs), tanks, anti-missile systems, and other U.S. equipment is arriving in country as U.S. military advisers begin training Iraqis to take back territory conquered by the Islamic State.

FP’s Gopal Ratnam: “Unlike the summer of 2014, when Iraqi forces under the leadership of then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki abandoned their equipment, the next offensive against the Islamic State, being planned for this year, will be under the watchful eyes of American trainers and advisors, likely making it difficult for the Iraqis to once again give up the fight. Used as intended, the armored vehicles can save soldiers’ lives — especially for a force that lacks the American capability to use helicopters to quickly evacuate injured troops from the battlefield.” More here.

More on the Islamic State below.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian economic dream is dying. One of Putin’s most ambitious foreign policy projects is the creation of the Eurasian Union, a post-Soviet economic bloc made up of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia meant to counter the EU. The Russian economic crisis and tanking oil prices have already undermined the union, which only became official last week.

FP’s Reid Standish: “[T]he ruble’s fall will continue to create economic strain for the Eurasian Union’s four non-Russian members and 180-million-person market. In the medium and long term, the economic bloc will likely fail to deliver on its promises of breathing new life into its members’ industries and stimulating much-needed economic growth.” More here.

More on Russia below.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of the Situation Report.

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Who’s Where When Today

9:00 a.m. Canadian Mubin Sheikh, a former jihadi, speaks on a New America Foundation panel on homegrown terrorism in Western societies. 10:00 a.m. Senate holds hearing on Keystone XL pipeline. 10:00 a.m. Republican House leaders hold a news conference. 10:30 a.m. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna. 10:30 a.m. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz speaks at the Wilson Center. 11:00 a.m. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition Sean J. Stackley participates in a defense industrial policy discussion at the Atlantic Council. 12:30 p.m. Council on Foreign Relations hosts a panel on sources of instability and conflict in 2015. 4:05 p.m. President Obama delivers remarks at Ford’s Michigan assembly plant in Detroit.

What’s Moving Markets

FP’s Elias Groll on groundhog day in Europe: “Polling showing [the left-wing coalition] Syriza on the cusp of a ‘decisive’ victory has Europe once more talking about the possibility of a ‘Grexit,’ the headline-friendly term for a Greece abandoning the euro and leaving the currency union.” More here.  

The Washington Post’s Katie Zezima on Obama’s threat to veto the Keystone bill: “The White House’s announcement came as the Republican-controlled Congress was being sworn in. GOP leaders have pledged to pass a bill authorizing the pipeline’s construction.” More here.

Reuters’s Catherine Ngai on signs of a coming oil price war between Canada and Saudi Arabia: “As a test of wills between OPEC nations and US shale drillers fuels a global oil market slump, a brewing battle between Canadian and Saudi Arabia heavy crudes for America’s Gulf Coast refinery market threatens to drive prices even lower. More here.

Bloomberg’s Peter Coy and Matthew Philips on why low oil prices are not (yet) a problem for the world economy: “Cheaper oil is still creating more winners than losers. Far more people live in oil-importing countries than live in oil-exporting countries. ” More here.

Islamic State

The Associated Press on new Islamic State attacks: “A suicide blast targeting Iraqi security forces and subsequent clashes with Islamic State extremists on Tuesday killed at least 23 troops and pro-government Sunni fighters in the country’s embattled western province of Anbar, officials said.” More here.

The Middle East Eye on the Syrian opposition dismissing peace talks: “The newly elected head of Syria’s key opposition National Coalition … ruled out taking part in a Russian bid for new talks with the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Moscow.” More here.  

Writing for Foreign Policy, Liana Aghajanian on the Kurdish diaspora’s new sense of purpose: “Across Europe, there are hundreds of diaspora Kurds … who have answered the call to arms, left behind family, jobs, and peaceful suburban lives, and joined to fight the Islamic State alongside the Peshmerga and the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).” More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Emre Peker ‏and Ayla Albayrak on an attack in Turkey: “A woman armed with hand grenades attacked a police guard post near one of Turkey’s leading attractions.” More here.

Al Jazeera on a new report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war: “The report by a fact-finding mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which deals with investigating the use of chemical weapons, includes eyewitness accounts of helicopters dropping barrel bombs with toxic chemicals.” More here.

The Washington Post’s Liz Sly details worsening conditions for Syrian refugees. More here.


Deutsche Welle on Ukraine preparing for war ahead of peace negotiations next week: “Ukraine has beefed up its heavy weaponry, German news agency DPA reported. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko himself was on hand to deliver fighter jets, howitzers, and armored cars to the military in Zhytomyr in the north of the country.” More here.


The Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Hodge, Habib Khan Totakhil, and Josh Chin on a new forum for peace talks: “China has taken the unusual step of a hosting a delegation of Afghan Taliban officials, creating a potential new avenue for peace negotiations between the insurgents and the government in Kabul.” More here.

The Marine Corps Times’ Derrick Perkins: “Just months after marking the end of the Corps’ combat operations in Afghanistan, officials revealed that Marines are headed back into the war-torn country, but details of the deployment remain scarce.” More here.  

North Korea

Yonhap News Agency’s Oh Seok-min on North Korea’s progress with delivery systems for its nuclear weapons: “North Korea appears to have achieved ‘a significant level’ of technology to miniaturize nuclear warheads to fit on its ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the United States mainland, South Korea’s defense ministry said Tuesday.” More here.

The Associated Press reports South Korea estimates the size of North Korea’s cyber army at 6,000. More here.

Writing for the Diplomat, Joseph A. Bosco covers a raging debate in the U.S. foreign policy community on whether regime change in North Korea should be a goal. More here.


FP’s Shujie Leng and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian report on China’s disinterest in America’s “decline.” “According to searches on Weibo, China’s huge Twitter-like microblogging platform, in 2014 ‘American decline’ was mentioned 255,688 times on Weibo, while mentions of ‘Chinese rise’ nearly doubled that, with 478,384 mentions in the same period.” More here.” More here.


The Associated Press’s Ian Deitch and Mohammed Daraghmeh on the alleged expulsion of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal from Qatar to Turkey: “The Israeli government on Tuesday claimed Qatar had expelled the leader of the Hamas militant group, in what would be a significant diplomatic victory for Israel. Hamas officials denied the claims as ‘baseless.’” More here.

Ynetnews’s Yoav Zitun: “The Judea military court on Tuesday sentenced Hossam Kawasmeh, a member of Hamas, to three life sentences over the killing of three Israeli youths, whose abduction in the West Bank set off a chain of events leading to the 50-day Gaza war last summer.” More here.

Torture Report

WRAL’s Matthew Burns and Michelle Marsh: “Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, the incoming chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that he won’t try to rewrite the report issued last month cataloging brutal interrogation tactics.” More here.


The Washington Post’s Tim Craig and Shaiq Hussain on the legal process for accused terrorists: “Lawmakers … voted Tuesday to try terrorism suspects in new military courts, approving a key component of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s plan to crush the Pakistani Taliban and other Islamist militant groups.” More here.


Reuters’s Mohammed Ghobari reports a car bomb killed more than 30 outside a police college in Yemen. More here.

VA shooting

The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi with details of an attack on a VA clinic in Texas: “One person was shot and killed in an El Paso Army medical facility Tuesday afternoon, and the alleged shooter is dead, army officials said Tuesday night.” More here.  

Lord’s Resistance Army

The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz on a potential blow to Joseph Kony: “The man, who said he was senior commander Dominic Ongwen, surrendered to U.S. troops in the Central African Republic, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. U.S. military personnel are there helping African forces search for Joseph Kony and his forces.” More here.

Boston Marathon Bomber Trial

The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen on jury selection for the alleged bomber’s trial: “Once testimony begins, we’ll get a good idea of some of the things accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev believes in. But if his appearance Monday in federal court is any indication, we can assume he does not believe in that old defense tactic of cleaning up for the jury.” More here.


The New York Times’ Somini Sengupta reports Ebola undermined the World Health Organization chief. “Now, Ebola is battering three fragile countries in Africa and with it, the W.H.O.’s standing — in large part, Dr. [Margaret] Chan’s critics say, because she let governments around the world steer the agency to fit their own needs, instead of firmly taking the helm as the world’s doctor in chief.” More here.

The BBC’s Smitha Mundasad on new drug trials in Liberia: “The antiviral — brincidofovir — is being tested on Ebola patients on a voluntary basis. People who do not consent to it receive standard care.” More here.


FP’s Raymond Tanter on Obama’s gambles on regime change in Cuba and Iran: “When [the 114th Congress] convenes, its agenda will inevitably include how to deal with Cuba and Iran — two sides of the same coin of a foreign policy of giving up too much too soon in the Obama administration’s negotiations. A bipartisan consensus is emerging critical of trying to moderate rogue regimes, and that it is necessary to take a tougher negotiating approach with such regimes.” More here.

The Washington Post’s Carol Morello and Karen DeYoung report on the mystery surrounding the 53 political prisoners Cuba agreed to release. More here.

Revolving Door

Stars & Stripes’ Travis J. Tritten: “The Senate has decided to delay consideration of Ashton Carter as the new secretary of defense until next month.” More here.

The Military Times’ Hope Hodge Seck: “Recently retired Gen. Jim Amos, former commandant of the Marine Corps, has joined the board of directors at LORD Corporation, a manufacturing company with defense and aerospace customers.” More here.

Reuters’s David Lawder and Richard Cowan on House Speaker John Boehner’s narrow re-election: “The number of Republican defectors was more than twice the dozen who withheld their support from him in an election two years ago, evidence of the stark party divisions that could make it hard to pass legislation, including bills to keep government agencies operating without interruption.” More here.  

Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports on Rep. Chris Gibson’s (R-N.Y.) retirement. More here.

And finally, the New York Times’ Dennis Overbye reports scientists discover eight new potentially habitable planets. More here.



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