FPs Situation Report: In new video, al Qaeda claims credit for Paris attack despite lack of proof; New issue of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ raises concerns of more violence; McCain stymies Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo; and much more.
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat No fingerprints? No matter: Al Qaeda boosts its profile through Charlie Hebdo attack — despite no proof that it was directly involved. Senior defense officials and experts tell Foreign Policy that it’s unlikely al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind last week’s horrifying attack against the satirical magazine ...
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat
No fingerprints? No matter: Al Qaeda boosts its profile through Charlie Hebdo attack — despite no proof that it was directly involved. Senior defense officials and experts tell Foreign Policy that it’s unlikely al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind last week’s horrifying attack against the satirical magazine in Paris that killed 12 — even though a new video released today claims responsibility. Ties between the terror franchise and the Kouachi brothers date back years. Simply being associated with the tragedy is rejuvenating the group’s profile as an international menace after months of taking a publicity backseat to the Islamic State.
FP’s Kate Brannen: “Whether or not AQAP had a hand in the Charlie Hebdo attack, experts say it will benefit from the attention of being associated with it, especially as the al Qaeda brand has been increasingly upstaged by the Islamic State, whose conquests of large stretches of Iraq and Syria and whose brutal tactics have gained it worldwide notoriety.” More here.
Worries about violence grip France ahead of the new issue of Charlie Hebdo. The magazine is publishing a cover image of the Prophet Mohammed holding a sign reading “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) with the words “Tout est pardonné” (“All is forgiven”) above. Some see the image as a conciliatory gesture by the staff. Others believe the cartoon will add vitriol to an already tense relationship between France and its five million Muslims.
The Washington Post’s Griff Witte: “Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s highest authority for religious edicts, issued a statement calling the cartoon ‘unjustifiably provocative to the feelings of a billion and a half Muslims worldwide who love and respect the Prophet.’… Among extremist sympathizers online, calls for violence had already begun Tuesday, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors radical Web postings. One Twitter user wrote: ‘They want a car bomb this time.’” More here.
More on France below.
Senator John McCain pivots on President Barack Obama’s goal of closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Obama has made key strides toward his aim of closing the controversial detention site in recent months by transferring a number of prisoners from the facility. McCain (R-Ariz.) has been a Republican ally in this effort but reversed course Tuesday, accusing the White House of failing to come up with a comprehensive plan to close the facility. His change of heart dims hopes that the prison would close before Obama’s term ends.
FP’s John Hudson: “McCain and three other Republican colleagues introduced plans to sharply restrict the removal or transfer of detainees from the facility, which has served as a long-standing target of worldwide criticism.… The majority of the 127 detainees still being held — down from a high of about 680 — are from Yemen. But officials fear detainees who are released in Yemen, where al Qaeda commands a strong presence, could easily be lured into jihad.” More here.
More on Guantánamo below.
Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of the Situation Report.
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Who’s Where When Today
9:00 a.m. The Washington International Trade Association hosts a panel on “The Thawing of U.S.-Cuban Relations: What Does It Really Mean for Trade?” at the Ronald Reagan Building. 9:00 a.m. The Atlantic Council hosts a panel on “Advancing the U.S.-Brazil Agenda for 2015 and Beyond.” 12:30 p.m. The Stimson Center hosts a discussion on “The Myth of Deterrence Stability Between Nuclear-Armed Rivals.” 4:30 p.m. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks on “Bending the Cost Curve” at the Atlantic Council.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are set to meet for bilateral talks in Geneva.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visits the amphibious assault ship USS America off the Pacific coast.
What’s Moving Markets
Bloomberg’s Andrew Mayeda on the World Bank lowering its global growth forecast: “The world economy will expand 3 percent in 2015, down from a projection of 3.4 percent in June, according to the lender’s semiannual Global Economic Prospects report, released today in Washington.” More here.
Handelsblatt’s Thomas Sigmund and Axel Schrinner on Germany balancing its budget for the first time in 44 years: “It marks a singular achievement for Europe’s largest economy, which has succeeded in holding down its debt burden at a time when most European governments are struggling to keep spending under control.” More here.
FP’s Keith Johnson with an in-depth and long-term look at falling oil prices: “A top Saudi official, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, said late last week that the days of $100-a-barrel oil are gone forever. Many analysts believe that oil prices between $30 and $40 per barrel are a real possibility. That level was last seen during the darkest days of the 2008 global financial crisis; now oil traders are placing bets on oil sinking as low as $20 a barrel.” More here.
Dow Jones reports on the smallest U.S. deficit since 2007. More here.
The Washington Post’s Griff Witte and Anthony Faiola on AQAP’s latest claims of responsibility for the attack: “Al-Qaeda’s branch based in Yemen claimed responsibility Wednesday for last week’s massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, calling it the ‘blessed battle of Paris’ carried out as ‘vengeance’ for publishing images of the prophet Mohammed.… It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the recording, which carried the logo of the al Qaeda’s media group al-Malahem.” More here.
Business Insider’s Harrison Jacobs has an image of Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover. More here.
The New York Times’ Rick Gladstone and Ravi Somaiya on the debate over whether to publish Charlie Hebdo’s cover image: “The choice to republish the image (The Times, again, is not) goes to the heart of the debate about what constitutes free expression versus gratuitous images that at least some viewers find offensive, newspaper executives and other journalists said.” More here.
Writing for Foreign Policy, Philippe Le Corre on Nicolas Sarkozy positioning himself after the attacks: “Sarkozy will likely look at today’s political climate in France and attempt to position himself as France’s national savior, perhaps even as a new Charles de Gaulle.” More here.
The Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola on how French Muslims feel about #JeSuisCharlie: “Many of France’s Muslims … abhor the violence that struck the country last week. But they are also revolted by the notion that they should defend the paper.” More here.
The New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren on the Jerusalem funeral service for the four victims of the Paris market shooting: “Many in the crowd were newcomers from France, the largest feeder country to Israel last year with nearly 7,000 immigrants, almost twice the number in 2013.” More here.
The Wall Street Journal’s Stacy Meichtry, Noémie Bisserbe, and Benoît Faucon with details on gunman Amedy Coulibaly: “Interviews with friends and lawyers — as well as police interrogation transcripts, phone taps and court documents — show Mr. Coulibaly began having run-ins with the law at an early age.” More here.
ABC News’s Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz report on increased U.S. airport security after al Qaeda publishes a bomb recipe. More here.
Voice of America has details on new challenges to closing the prison. More here.
The BBC on German political leaders standing up to the anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck have attended a Berlin vigil organised by Muslim groups to promote tolerance and religious freedom in the country.” More here.
FP’s Reid Standish on a grisly new video: “In a video released Tuesday by the Islamic State, two men described as Russian agents testify that they had attempted to spy on the militants, infiltrate their computer networks, and assassinate the group’s leaders. Then a long-haired young boy calmly shoots the men in the back of the head with a handgun.” More here.
Defense News’s John T. Bennett on Senate expectations for the authorization for the use of military force: “Following a meeting between Obama and congressional leaders at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters he expects the president will send Congress an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) in ‘the near future.’” More here.
Reuters has details on the latest round of U.S.-led airstrikes. More here.
The Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman on a softening tone in Europe: “The European Union could significantly scale back sanctions and resume discussions with Russia on issues ranging from visa-free travel; cooperation with the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union; and the crisis in Libya, Syria and Iraq; if Russian President Vladimir Putin moves to end the crisis in eastern Ukraine.” More here.
Reuters’s Richard Balmforth on a deadly attack on a passenger bus in eastern Ukraine: “The latest violence flared after Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany scrapped plans for a summit in Kazakhstan this week because of the failure to implement a four-month-old ceasefire agreement.” More here.
Writing for Foreign Policy, Marvin Weinbaum and Meena Yousufzy on the first 100 days of Afghanistan’s new government: “However disappointed donor countries and international agencies are with a government that appears immobilized, there is wide appreciation that without their continued backing the regime would almost certainly collapse.” More here.
India and Pakistan
The Times of India on India-Pakistan relations: “Pakistan on Tuesday said that it will not start any dialogue with India if Kashmir issue was not part of the agenda, even as US secretary of state John Kerry advised the two neighbours to resume peace talks.” More here.
Bloomberg’s Nicole Gaouette on John Kerry’s push to repair India-Pakistan relations: “Kerry is seeking to stave off a proxy war between the nuclear-armed neighbors in Afghanistan as the U.S. withdraws most troops by the end of next year.” More here.
CNBC’s Heesun Wee on the U.S. administration hoping to limit North Korea’s access to international financing: “China provides North Korea with the ‘lion’s share’ of financial access, said Daniel Glaser, the U.S. Treasury‘s assistant secretary for terrorist financing.” More here.
Newsweek’s Damien Sharkov on North Korea’s growing friendship with Russia: “North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has accepted an invitation from Russian president Vladimir Putin to attend a military march in Moscow this May, according to South Korean media, making his first ever foreign visit since coming to power in 2011.” More here.
Business Insider’s Rob Price reports on North Korea’s KCNA news agency distributing malware through its website. More here.
China Daily’s Chen Weihua on a U.S.-China exercise in the South China Sea: “China and the United States started a joint drill on Monday on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) to further improve military-to-military ties, long regarded as the least developed part of the overall bilateral relationship.” More here.
Bloomberg’s Isabel Reynolds and Kyoko Shimodoi on Japan boosting its defense spending to counter China’s influence: “In August, Japan’s defense ministry requested a record budget that included funds for 20 P-1 fixed-wing patrol aircraft, six F-35 fighter aircraft and an unspecified number of unmanned aircraft.” More here.
The BBC on Obama’s legislative push: “The president is advocating legislation that would improve the way the government and private sector share information about cyber threats, and would update the legal framework needed to go after cyber criminals.” More here.
The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe on the embarrassing hack of Centcom’s social media accounts: “[Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren] reiterated Tuesday that the military does not believe that the hack affected their secure computer networks handling classified information.” More here.
The Wall Street Journal’s Emmanuel Tumanjong: “A five-hour gunbattle between Boko Haram and soldiers in Cameroon sent thousands fleeing in this West African country that has become the Islamist insurgency’s second front.” More here.
Reuters’s Elias Biryabarema: “A senior Lord’s Resistance Army commander who surrendered last week to the U.S. military in the Central African Republic (CAR) will be handed over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for trial, a Ugandan army spokesman said on Tuesday.” More here.
The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg on John McCain’s ascension to chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “The question is whether he will use his new clout (and ability to subpoena) to make war or some accommodation with the White House.” More here.
And finally, FP’s Elias Groll on China’s slow and steady progress with drones: “Similar in shape but smaller than the American Global Hawk, a flagship of the U.S. drone fleet, the Tian Yi is seen as a possible effort by China to develop the technology to build the kind of highly capable, long-range drones pioneered by the U.S. military.” More here.
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