blog_thecable_full3

FP’s Situation Report: Western fears are realized in ‘Charlie Hebdo’ attack; Europe’s anti-Muslim sentiment could boil over; Paris gunmen are in a standoff with French police; and much more.

FP’s Situation Report: Western fears are realized in ‘Charlie Hebdo’ attack; Europe’s anti-Muslim sentiment could boil over; Paris gunmen are in a standoff with French police; and much more.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

The West’s worst fears are realized in the Charlie Hebdo attack. The alleged masterminds, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, have been advocating Islamic extremist causes for more than a decade. Cherif was part of a Parisian jihadi outfit known as the 19th Arrondissement Network, which recruited French Muslims to fight the United States in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. He spent time in a French prison after being arrested on his way to Iraq. Said, his older brother, reportedly trained with al Qaeda in Yemen in 2011. The two represent one of the West’s worst nightmares: homegrown jihadis known to law enforcement lashing out against a soft target.

FP’s Kate Brannen and Gopal Ratnam: “That a man like Cherif would plot for a decade to find a way to kill those he viewed as blaspheming Islam highlights the long and slow-burning fuse of radicalists in Europe, especially in France. And the apparent role of a would-be holy warrior — one with at least two prior arrests and his name on the U.S. no-fly list — in the Charlie Hebdo attack also underscores the magnitude of the challenge facing French counterterrorism officials and police, given the growth of radicalized Muslims in France over the last 10 years.” More here.

Europe’s anti-Muslim sentiment is boiling over into action. It took only hours for anger over the attack to manifest into violence. In France, shots were fired at a Muslim prayer hall, grenades were launched at a mosque in Le Mans, and a restaurant linked to another mosque was bombed. Prior to the attacks, France, Sweden, and Germany treated domestic anti-Muslim attitudes as fringe movements. The Paris attack could shift these sentiments into the mainstream.

FP’s Colum Lynch and Keith Johnson: “Right-wing leaders in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Italy also stepped up their rhetoric in the hours after the shooting. Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, said that the Paris shooting shows that the continent is already ‘at war,’ and he called for stricter measures to limit immigration. Leaders of Italy’s right-wing Northern League denounced the ‘Pandora’s box’ of immigration policies that have led to increased populations of Muslims across the continent.” More here.

The Kouachi brothers are in a standoff with French authorities. It seems inconceivable that two people accused of killing 12 in downtown Paris could simply disappear into the French countryside. But that’s exactly what happened Thursday, with authorities scouring small towns and Parisian suburbs in a frenetic manhunt. On Friday morning, the gunmen have taken a hostage and are surrounded by police in a small town outside of Paris.

The Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola, Griff Witte, and Daniela Deane: “The search narrowed to a printing business in Dammartin-en-Goele, about 25 miles northeast of Paris, where authorities believe the brothers headed in a stolen car. Authorities say the suspects held at least one hostage, but gave no further details.” More here.

More on France below.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of the Situation Report.

If you’d like to be one of our subscribers, I’d love to have you. Send me a note at david.francis@foreignpolicy.com and I’ll sign you up. Like what you see? Tell a friend. Don’t like what you see? Tell me. And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to me early. Follow me: @davidcfrancis.

Who’s Where When Today

10:40 a.m. House of Representatives votes on the Keystone pipeline. 2:00 p.m. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with business executives to discuss the USA pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015.

What’s Moving Markets

The Wall Street Journal’s Josh Mitchell on a debate about raising the gas tax: “The sharp drop in gasoline prices over the past few months is providing a rare political opening for state and federal officials who want to raise gasoline taxes to repair highways and boost construction jobs.” More here.

The Hill’s Laura Barron-Lopez on Senate approval of the Keystone pipeline: “The Senate and President Obama launched down a collision course Tuesday over the Keystone XL oil pipeline, with 60 lawmakers introducing a new bill to approve the controversial project and the White House promising to veto it.” More here.

China Daily on the top destination for Chinese capital in 2014: “The United States is China’s top destination for ODI, with more than $7 billion dollars in the first three quarters of 2014, according to data compiled by Rhodium Group. Some of the deals were high profile, including Lenovo’s acquisition of IBM’s x86 Server Business ($2.3 billion).” More here.

Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio on the Pentagon seeking less war funding: “The Pentagon will request about $51 billion in war funding for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, a 20 percent reduction from the $64 billion Congress approved this year and the least since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials and congressional aides said.” More here.

France

The New York Times’ Eric Schmitt, Michael S. Schmidt, and Andrew Higgins with more on links to al Qaeda: “The suspect, Saïd Kouachi, 34, spent ‘a few months’ training in small arms combat, marksmanship and other skills that appeared to be on display in videos of the military-style attack on Wednesday carried out by at least two gunmen on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper.” More here.

FP’s Jamila Trindle on Congress extending the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act: “The program’s renewal received an unexpected boost from the tragic and deadly terrorist attack in Paris on Wednesday, when three gunmen killed 12 people at a French satirical weekly. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Wednesday that the violent events in France ‘remind us that terrorism remains a real threat in today’s world’ and urged Senate passage.” More here.

The Guardian’s Anne Penketh on the police officer executed during the attack: “Tributes to Ahmed Merabet poured in on Thursday after images of his murder at point blank range by a Kalashnikov-wielding masked terrorist circulated around the world.” More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Cassell Bryan-Low, Stacy Meichtry, and Anton Troianovski on European concerns after the attack: “European security and intelligence officials said people who act alone or in small groups and sow carnage with guns are among the biggest threats to emerge from the current wave of Islamic extremism.” More here.  

France 24’s Leela Jacinto on the journey of Cherif Kouachi from petty criminal to jihadist: “[A]t least one of the Kouachi brothers is well known to French security officials and the radicalisation pattern apparent from his criminal record is a familiar one in France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim population.” More here.

The BBC covers reactions to the attack in Middle Eastern media. More here.

Islamic State

The Washington Post’s Loveday Morris reports on the limitations of U.S. training: “With the Iraqis dependent on their own logistics, there is a shortage of weapons and ammunition available for training. For the time being, soldiers at Camp Taji are restricted to shouting ‘bang bang’ to simulate firing during exercises. And, mindful of how Iraqi troops fled their positions last June during a major offensive by Islamic State extremists, U.S. trainers have added some new elements to boot camp.” More here.

Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin and Eli Lake on U.S. weapons in unintended hands: “U.S. weapons intended for Iraq’s beleaguered military are winding up in the possession of the country’s Shiite militias, according to U.S. lawmakers and senior officials in the Barack Obama administration.” More here.  

Reuters’s David Alexander on building pressure on the Islamic State: “General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces were not sitting idly in the key Iraqi cities of Baghdad or Arbil waiting until spring to launch an offensive but were actively working to weaken Islamic State in several areas.” More here.

Reuters’s Patricia Zengerle on a formal request for military action: “The White House is expected to ask the U.S. Congress soon for a formal authorization to use military force against Islamic State, a top Republican senator said on Thursday.” More here.

Deutsche Welle’s Jared Reed on attacks in Samarra: “At least three people died in Samarra on Thursday when fighters from the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ (IS) detonated car bombs at security checkpoints on the city’s western outskirts.” More here.

Russia

FP’s David Francis on problems with force consolidation in Europe: “The Pentagon announced Thursday, Jan. 8, that as part of its response to Russian aggression, it would dispatch two squadrons of next-generation fighter jets to the United Kingdom to replace military personnel currently being withdrawn. The only problem is that these jets are far from battle-ready.” More here.

The New York Times’ Melissa Eddy and Alison Smale on Germany’s efforts to find a solution for Ukraine: “Germany has taken the lead in diplomatic efforts to end the violence in eastern Ukraine, and Ms. Merkel is scheduled to attend what she pointedly called ‘a possible meeting in Astana,’ in Kazakhstan, with the presidents of France, Russia and Ukraine.” More here.

EUobserver’s Andrew Rettman on the EU’s attempts to counter Russian propaganda: “The Netherlands is funding a study on how the EU can fight back against Russia’s ‘information war,’ in one of several counter-propaganda initiatives.” More here.

Afghanistan

The Washington Post’s Pamela Constable on the nagging problem of drug addiction: “The principal causes of this epidemic, officials say, are rampant unemployment, the return of addicted workers from wartime exile in Iran or Pakistan, and bumper harvests of opium poppies. Despite years of costly international efforts to curb the traditional Afghan crop, led by the U.S. government, it is thriving more than ever.” More here.

North Korea

Wired’s Kim Zetter on lingering doubts about North Korea’s involvement in the Sony hack: “Despite assertions from FBI Director James Comey that he has very high confidence in the attribution to North Korea and a statement by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that North Korean General Kim Youn Choi was directly responsible for ordering the attack, security experts still doubt the veracity of the claims based on the evidence provided so far.” More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta: “The director of the National Security Agency said Thursday that the government should more forcefully respond to foreign countries that engage in cyberattacks, arguing that some hackers have come to believe that there is ‘little price to pay’ for stealing U.S. government or corporate data.” More here.

Nextgov’s Jack Moore on the Pentagon playing catch up: “The Defense Information Systems Agency is turning to industry for ‘novel’ approaches to secure the millions of devices plugged in — and virtually connected — to the Pentagon’s computer networks.” More here.

The Associated Press’s Ted Bridis and Josh Lederman: “The U.S. government was not responsible for sustained electronic attacks that crippled North Korea’s Internet infrastructure last month, just after President Barack Obama promised that his administration would respond to the hacker break-in at Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., two senior U.S. officials told The Associated Press.” More here.

Pakistan

The Washington Post’s Tim Craig on gunmen in Pakistan killing a mentally unstable man who had been jailed for blasphemy: “With the world still stunned by the massacre in Paris, Pakistan is living through yet another example of the brutal street justice that is meted out here when someone is accused of disrespecting the prophet Muhammad.” More here.

Egypt

The Associated Press on Egypt’s president calling for the modernization of Islam: “Egypt’s president opened the new year with a dramatic call for a ‘revolution’ in Islam to reform interpretations of the faith entrenched for hundreds of years, which he said have made the Muslim world a source of ‘destruction’ and pitted it against the rest of the world.” More here.

Boston Marathon Bomber Trial

USA Today’s Kevin Johnson on similarities between Boston and Paris: “As in Boston, French police are seeking two apparent radicalized brothers, who allegedly planned and executed a methodical attack against a specific target that has brought another major city to a standstill.” More here.

Nigeria

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Aminu Abubakar: “Boko Haram have destroyed at least 16 towns and villages in a major attack in north-east Nigeria, local officials said Thursday, as President Goodluck Jonathan kicked off his campaign for re-election.” More here.

Cuba

Reuters on meetings between the United States and Cuba: “The US will send its highest-level delegation in decades to Havana later this month, for talks on migration and normalising relations between the countries after decades of cold war hostility.” More here.

Revolving Door

The Air Force Times’ Kristin Davis on general officer nominations. More here.

Breaking Defense’s Colin Clark: “The youngest senator on Capitol Hill, and one of the very few lawmakers who can wear a Bronze Star and a Ranger tab, has stepped right from his one-term House seat to chairmanship of one of the most important subcommittees on Capitol Hill.” More here.

And finally, the Global Times’ Liu Sha on China’s military worrying about skyscrapers next to its bases: “Ma Yifei, a bureau chief in charge of military facility protection at the General Staff Headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), told Oriental Outlook that many buildings have exceeded the set height limits and now pose a security threat to China’s military facilities.” More here.