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The Cable

FP’s Situation Report: No good deed goes unpunished in Somalia; Bibi gets a Churchill moment; Republicans are tripping over Iran bills; and much more from around the world.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat In Somalia, no good deed goes unpunished. Retired Delta Force soldier Brett Fredricks went to Somalia to train Ugandan soldiers to fight al-Shabab. On Christmas Day, he was gunned down when members of the terror group, some dressed as Somali soldiers, overran a base in Mogadishu. An exclusive report ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

In Somalia, no good deed goes unpunished. Retired Delta Force soldier Brett Fredricks went to Somalia to train Ugandan soldiers to fight al-Shabab. On Christmas Day, he was gunned down when members of the terror group, some dressed as Somali soldiers, overran a base in Mogadishu. An exclusive report by FP’s Seán D. Naylor: “One Ugandan soldier fell wounded, another dead. And an AK-47 bullet hit Fredricks between the eyes, killing him instantly.”

More on the fight against terrorism below.

Boehner gives Bibi a Churchill moment.  It was Winston Churchill who said, “Never, never, never give up.” But that could also apply to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he lobbies U.S. lawmakers to reject a negotiated deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program. If he accepts an invite to address a joint session of Congress next month, he will be the only other foreign leader besides Churchill to do so three times, reports FP’s Thomas Stackpole. Meanwhile, competing legislative proposals are complicating Republicans efforts to slap new sanctions on Iran. FP’s John Hudson: “The challenge for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be to find a peaceable solution among a diverse GOP Senate that doesn’t fracture the Democratic support for Iran sanctions legislation.”

More on Iran below.

Press Pack: Chaos in Yemen

The Wall Street Journal: “Rebels demanding a greater share of power in Yemen agreed to release the U.S.-backed president in exchange for more influence in running the country’s affairs.”

FP’s David Francis: “Even if U.S. money keeps flowing [to Yemen], a fragile power-sharing agreement reached by [President Abed Rabbo Mansour] Hadi and the Houthis makes it difficult to know how it would be used and who would spend it.”

The Washington Post: “A Yemeni presidential aide … said Hadi has been stripped of significant authority by the deal with the Houthis.”

The New York Times: “Only months ago, American officials were still referring to Yemen’s negotiated transition from autocracy to an elected president as a model for post-revolutionary Arab states.”

Writing for Foreign Policy, Evan Hill and Laura Kasinof: “Despite more than a decade of U.S. counterterrorism efforts targeting AQAP and its predecessors, which have cost hundreds of millions of dollars, the group remains both a local and transnational threat.”

The Associated Press: “Heavily armed Shiite rebels remain stationed outside the Yemeni president’s house and the palace in San’a, despite a deal calling for their immediate withdrawal to end a violent standoff.”

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we’re still a bit awed by Boehner’s chutzpah in inviting Netanyahu to deliver his own response to President Obama’s State of the Union.

Connect with me at and @davidcfrancis and spread the word about SitRep — your fully-inflated destination for global security news and Washington whatnot. Like what you see? Tell a friend. Tell your colleagues. Don’t like what you see? Tell me. Or holler with tips, reports, or anything else the world needs to know, and I’ll try to include it.

Who’s Where When Today

7:40 a.m. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno provides remarks at the AUSA Institute of Land Warfare breakfast at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va. 9:30 a.m. The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on training and equipping the Syrian opposition. 12:20 p.m. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on themes from his State of the Union address. 2 p.m. Odierno participates in a farewell ceremony for Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III. 3:00 p.m. The Woodrow Wilson Center hosts a panel on “The New Silk Road Initiative Post-2014:  Challenges and Opportunities.”

Secretary of State John Kerry is in London for talks on the Islamic State.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson is in Havana to participate in U.S.-Cuba talks.

What’s Moving Markets

FP’s Keith Johnson reports on cheap oil leading to calls for gas tax hikes.

Writing for Foreign Policy, Nicholas Spiro on Europe’s three-way game of chicken between Greece, Germany, and the European Central Bank.

The Wall Street Journal’s Brian Blackstone reports on the European Central Bank’s frantic efforts to lift the EU economy.

Davos Daily

FP’s Jamila Trindle details Ukraine’s struggle to attract foreign investment.

FP’s Isaac Stone Fish asks whether North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un should be at Davos.

Islamic State

The Anadolu Agency’s Todd Crowell with more details on the Japanese hostages.

The Washington Post’s Loveday Morris covers Kurdish gains in northern Iraq.

Paris Attacks

Der Spiegel staff report German Muslims fear a backlash after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

France 24 reports French prosecutors are charging four men for supporting the supermarket hostage-taker Amedy Coulibaly.

The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum on France boosting its counterterrorism forces.


The New York Times’ Rick Lyman and Andrew E. Kramer on raging battles in eastern Ukraine.

Reuters on Russian claims the United States wants to “dominate the world.”

Defense News’s Paul McLeary on U.S. troops headed to Ukraine.


The Associated Press’s Haruna Umar and Michelle Faul report on Boko Haram claiming responsibility for mass killings in Baga.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

AFP reports on turmoil over DRC President Joseph Kabila’s efforts to cling to power.


The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Nick Miroff cover the beginning of high-level diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Cuba in Havana.

The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg on a change of leadership at Guantánamo.


FP’s David Francis reports on Boehner’s breach of protocol with the Netanyahu invitation.

The Guardian’s Saeed Kamali Dehghan on Iran’s admission that the United States is negotiating in good faith.

FP’s Justine Drennan on an unexpected gesture from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


FP’s Kate Brannen and Gopal Ratnam on Ashton Carter, not Chuck Hagel, defending DoD’s budget.

Torture Report

The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti on early warnings of the inflated value of enhanced interrogation.


The New York Times’ Taimoor Shah and Joseph Goldstein report on the Islamic State exploiting fissures within the Afghan Taliban.


Voice of America’s Muhammad Ishtiaq reports Pakistan is blaming Saudi Arabia for destabilizing the Muslim world.

Bloomberg’s Kamran Haider and Khurrum Anis explain why Pakistan faces a fuel shortage crisis in the midst of record low global oil prices.


The New York Times’ Jonathan Gilbert and Simon Romero on a conspiracy in Argentina to cover for Iran.


National Geographic’s Caroline Alexander with a feature on veterans coping with life after war.

Only in SitRep! Revolving Door Profile: Alberto Fernandez

FP’s Lara Jakes: After three years as the U.S. diplomat in charge of countering terrorist propaganda, Ambassador Alberto Fernandez soon will no longer be baqiyya at the State Department.

Baqiyya is an Arabic word that is loosely translated as “here to stay” or “still around.” It has become a rallying cry on Twitter for the Islamic State. Over the last year, Fernandez and the staff he leads at State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications has pushed back against Islamic State propaganda by tweeting video of the extremists’ battle losses as a sign they are not so baqiyya after all.

But Fernandez, an ambassador who has served 32 years in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Washington, has had his fill of the government’s online war against Islamic State fanboys — the loyal following of propagandists, many of whom have never been to the region where the militants seek to build a caliphate. He will leave his post in March and officially retire in May.

The propaganda battle is far from a fair fight. Washington so far is unable to match the Islamic State’s far superior skills in flooding social media with headline-grabbing actions — including beheadings and bombings or issuing Islamic State currency or passports.

“We’re on the cutting edge compared to other governments and yet we are way behind,” Fernandez told Foreign Policy, in a call to arms for private citizens to get involved in the online fight.

And finally, FP’s Elias Groll on a bad look for the leader of Germany’s right-wing movement: posing as Hitler.


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