FP’s Situation Report: Iran covers for Syria’s use of chemical weapons; Washington wants help from Europe in Ukraine; Ashton Carter walks an easy path to a tough job; and much more from around the world.
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat Iran gives Syria cover on chemical weapons. The United States wants to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people. Iran is using a series of backchannel diplomatic maneuvers to protect him. FP’s Colum Lynch with the exclusive: “The latest sign of Tehran’s willingness ...
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat
Iran gives Syria cover on chemical weapons. The United States wants to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people. Iran is using a series of backchannel diplomatic maneuvers to protect him. FP’s Colum Lynch with the exclusive: “The latest sign of Tehran’s willingness to shield an ally came Tuesday, when Iran tried to block a move by the United States and Russia to present a mildly worded statement to the executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCM) that would have merely expressed ‘serious concern’ about the likely use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria.”
More on Iran below.
The United States wants more from Europe in Ukraine. The existing economic sanctions against Moscow don’t appear to have daunted Russian President Vladimir Putin. Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Europe today to push European leaders to do more to staunch Moscow’s military front. FP’s Gopal Ratnam reports on Europe’s decision on whether to step up. Meanwhile, FP’s David Francis details how President Barack Obama’s lethal assistance policy toward Ukraine changed in just a few short days. As NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels today, the White House appears to be on the cusp of sending weapons.
More on Ukraine below.
Ashton Carter has an easy interview but a hard job. When Carter stepped down as deputy secretary in December 2013, Ukraine was whole and few had heard of the Islamic State. Priorities at the Pentagon are now very different. FP’s Kate Brannen: Russia and the Islamic State “dominated Carter’s [nomination] hearing Wednesday, and they will likely soak up most of his time and attention when he begins as defense secretary later this month.”
More on Carter below.
PRESS PACK: Muslim anger toward the Islamic State grows.
The Washington Post’s William Booth and Taylor Luck: “Jordan’s King Abdullah II vowed Wednesday that his military forces would hit Islamic State militants with ‘relentless’ strikes upon ‘their own homes,’ an escalation that could place Jordan in the middle of the Syrian civil war.”
The New York Times’ Rod Nordland and Anne Barnard: “There was one sentiment that many of the Middle East’s competing clerics, fractious ethnic groups and warring sects could agree on Wednesday: a shared sense of revulsion at the Islamic State’s latest atrocity, burning alive a Jordanian pilot inside a cage.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Nour Malas and Suha Ma’ayeh: “Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar — the three key Gulf Arab partners in the anti-Islamic State coalition — all offered condolences to Jordan, calling the killing a crime and a defamation of Islam.”
The Guardian’s Martin Chulov on a swell of anger in Jordan: “[I]nside tea houses, universities, shopping malls and restaurants, people seethed. Radio and television stations played patriotic hymns on high rotation and all 23 minutes of the gruesome images were being widely circulated on social media.”
Welcome to Thursday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we’ve never told tall tales about being on a downed helicopter in Iraq.
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WHO’S WHERE WHEN TODAY
9:00 a.m. Senator Tom Cotton speaks at the U.S. Institute for Peace on “Advancing U.S.-Afghan Ties.” 9:15 a.m. The Atlantic Council hosts a panel on “The 2015 Trade Agenda and The Trans-Pacific Partnership.” 9:30 a.m. The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on Guantánamo. 2:30 p.m. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal speaks on “Overcoming the U.S.-India Divide” at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Vice President Biden and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attend NATO meetings in Brussels.
Secretary of State John Kerry visits Ukraine.
WHAT’S MOVING MARKETS
The Financial Times’ Kathrin Hille on an exodus of expats from Russia: “The most significant departures are from countries that have long been among the largest foreign investors in Russia.”
Reuters’s John O’Donnell and Jan Strupczewski on complications in Greece: “The European Central Bank abruptly canceled its acceptance of Greek bonds in return for funding on Wednesday, shifting the burden onto Athens’ central bank to finance its lenders and isolating Greece unless it strikes a new reform deal.”
Bloomberg’s Ben Sills, Vassilis Karamanis, and Nikolaos Chrysoloras on Greece’s growing financial woes: “Unless the 15 billion-euro ($17 billion) limit on short-term borrowing set by Greece’s troika of official creditors is raised, the government may run out of cash on Feb. 25.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Scaggs on a failure to predict a decline in oil prices in recent months: It “stands as a cautionary tale for investors reassessing the sector after crude’s 19 percent rise over four sessions through Tuesday.”
IRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani blasts nuclear nations.
AFP: “Rouhani berated the world’s nuclear powers Wednesday, saying atomic weapons had not kept them safe and reiterating that his country was not seeking the bomb.”
UKRAINE CONFLICT: Pro-Russian rebels advance as Ukraine’s economy teeters on the brink of ruin. Meanwhile, Europe attempts to quell the conflict as NATO defense ministers convene in Brussels.
Reuters’s Aleksandar Vasovic: “Pro-Russian rebels appeared to be in full control on Wednesday of one of the towns that has been a principal target of their advance, as they attempt to surround a nearby garrison of Ukrainian forces.”
The Guardian’s Shaun Walker: Ukraine’s “currency drop has caused inflation to surge, eroding wages, and the country’s banking system has essentially collapsed.”
The New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon: “The accelerated Western diplomatic efforts came as the Obama administration was considering whether to send anti-tank missiles, battlefield radars, reconnaissance drones and other arms to help Ukraine’s beleaguered forces stave off attacks.”
The BBC on the expected outcome of today’s NATO meeting: “A new rapid reaction ‘spearhead’ force of up to 5,000 is expected to be announced, with its lead units able to deploy at two days’ notice.”
ASHTON CARTER: Obama’s nominee warns Russia on treaty violations as he sails toward confirmation.
Reuters: “President Barack Obama’s nominee to become the next U.S. defense secretary said on Wednesday that Russia needed to be reminded that a Cold War-era arms control agreement was a ‘two-way street’ and that Washington could respond to any violations.”
The New York Times’ Helene Cooper: “A former deputy defense secretary, Mr. Carter, 60, presented himself as an advocate of forceful yet prudent use of American power overseas.”
ISLAMIC STATE: The terror group says immolation was justified. Foreign fighters are dominating in the Islamic State stronghold Raqqa as the ghosts of past alliances follow Saudi Arabia.
The Washington Post’s Terrence McCoy and Adam Taylor: “The use of immolation was especially shocking because it was so unusual — burning someone to death is almost unheard of in the modern Middle East and throughout Islamic history — and the killing sparked a theological argument.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov: “Running the show, residents say, are the thousands of foreigners who have converged [in Raqqa] to establish an Islamic utopia they believe will soon conquer the planet.”
The New York Times’ Ben Hubbard and Scott Shane: “Saudi Arabia continues to be haunted by what some suspect was a tacit alliance with Al Qaeda in the years before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”
The BBC: For the first time since 2004, Baghdad lifts its nighttime curfew.
SOUTH ASIA: The United States signals it’s ready to help India’s navy.
Reuters’s Sanjeev Miglani on India’s interest in U.S. aircraft carrier technology: “The proposal, referred to only obliquely in a joint statement at the end of President Barack Obama’s recent visit to New Delhi, is the clearest signal yet that Washington is ready to help India strengthen its navy.”
ISRAEL: Some pro-Israel Democrats want to postpone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned address to Congress next month.
FP’s John Hudson: “A growing number of Democrats in recent days have privately, or in some cases publicly, threatened to boycott Netanyahu’s speech.”
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA: Houthis give peace a chance in Yemen as Boko Haram continues to terrorize northern Nigeria.
The Wall Street Journal’s Asa Fitch and Hakim Almasmari: “[A] leading Houthi official said the group would likely allow more time for talks to take place and wouldn’t make a unilateral move to seize power.”
Nigeria’s News24: “Boko Haram fighters went on the rampage in the Cameroonian border town of Fotokol on Wednesday, massacring civilians and torching a mosque before being repelled by regional forces.”
The Bertelsmann Foundation’s Anthony Silberfeld, Josh Stanton, and Kara Sutton write about the “essential relationship” between Germany and the United States ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington next week.
EBOLA: The fight against the disease enters a new phase as a vaccine shows promising results.
The New York Times’ Sheri Fink: “The medicine, which interferes with the virus’s ability to copy itself, seems to have halved mortality — to 15 percent, from 30 percent — in patients with low to moderate levels of Ebola in their blood.”
AND FINALLY, FP’s Siobhán O’Grady on Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner mocking Chinese accents on a visit to China.
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