The Cable

FP’s Situation Report: U.N. peace efforts in Syria backfire; U.S. and Iranian interests align in Yemen; Carter cruises to confirmation; and much more from around the world.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat U.N. peace plans in Syria backfire. The U.N. was counting on fears about the rise of the Islamic State to bring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and groups who oppose him to the bargaining table. Months later, the opposite has occurred. FP’s Colum Lynch: “In the end, the Syrian government ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

U.N. peace plans in Syria backfire. The U.N. was counting on fears about the rise of the Islamic State to bring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and groups who oppose him to the bargaining table. Months later, the opposite has occurred. FP’s Colum Lynch: “In the end, the Syrian government and the opposition are more committed to fighting one another than fighting the Islamic State.”

More on the Islamic State below.

U.S. and Iranian interests align in Yemen. The Iran-backed Houthis publicly chant “Death to America.” But behind the scenes, they want to partner with the United States in its fight against al Qaeda, making them a potential ally to U.S. Special Forces already in Yemen. FP’s Seán D. Naylor: “That the U.S. special operations task force remains in Yemen, even though the Houthis owe their success in part to Iranian support, adds another complication to the awkward balancing act that U.S. military and intelligence forces are performing across the Middle East when it comes to Iran.”

More on Yemen below.

Ashton Carter cruises to confirmation. The next defense chief got a bipartisan endorsement with a 93 to 5 vote to confirm him. When he starts the job Tuesday, he’ll face an array of challenges, including whether to push President Barack Obama to reconsider his Afghanistan withdrawal plans, FP’s Kate Brannen reports.

More on Carter and Afghanistan below.

PRESS PACK: Reaction to the Ukraine-Russia cease-fire

FP’s David Francis: The deal “allows Ukraine to receive a cash injection that is needed to save its failing economy.”

The New York Times’ Andrew Higgins: “When President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sat down Wednesday in the Belarussian capital of Minsk with the leaders of Ukraine, Germany, and France to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine, he still held the decisive cards.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Andrey Ostroukh, Gregory L. White, and Julian E. Barnes: European leaders “reminded one another publicly that they can’t trust Mr. Putin or the separatists to stick to their promises after a previous deal in September collapsed into all-out civil war—and that even the new cease-fire agreed to begin on Sunday is far from certain to take hold.”

The Economist: “Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, hopes that by the time other Western donors pile in, Ukraine will get about $40 billion-worth of cash. That is very optimistic.”

The Financial Times’ Stefan Wagstyl: “German officials concede that full implementation of the latest Minsk agreement might be a long shot — but believe even a ‘frozen conflict’ in which the two sides did nothing more than stop fighting, would be worth the huge diplomatic effort.”

Welcome to Friday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we’re saddened and shocked by the passing of David Carr.

Connect with me at and @davidcfrancis and spread the word about SitRep — your 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.


9:00 a.m. House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on Islamic extremism. 10:30 a.m. The Hudson Institute hosts an event on “Falling Oil Prices: Assessing the Economic, Political, and Geopolitical Impact.” 2:20 p.m. President Obama speaks at a cybersecurity summit at Stanford University.


FP’s Jamila Trindle: “Many companies that send money from immigrants in the United States to friends and family in Somalia shut down this week, but the State Department doesn’t see any need for an emergency response.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Louise Ensign: “In recent months, Boris and Arkady Rotenberg—Russian businessmen and friends of Vladimir Putin—have sold off assets to their sons that include holdings in a Gazprom drilling contractor and the sleek Finnish Langvik Congress Wellness Hotel.”

Reuters’s Renee Maltezou and Ingrid Melander: “Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, attending his first European Union summit, agreed with the chairman of euro zone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, that Greek officials would meet representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF on Friday.”

The New York Times’ Keith Bradsher: “China’s Commerce Ministry issued a cautiously worded statement on Thursday evening that ‘expressed regret’ that the Obama administration had started a trade case at the World Trade Organization challenging Chinese subsidies.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Hannon and Stacy Meichtry: “A strong pickup in Germany led an acceleration in eurozone economic growth in the final three months of 2014, but large parts of the currency area were either close to stagnation or still contracting.”

ISLAMIC STATE: The Islamic State gets closer to U.S. military advisers as Shiite militias fill a void in Iraq.

The Washington Post’s Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim: “Islamic State militants seized parts of a town in Iraq’s western province of Anbar on Thursday, sparking fierce fighting within miles of a military base where hundreds of U.S. advisers are stationed.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov: “Wary that the rise of militias can further inflame the regional conflict and empower Iran, the U.S. is trying to rebuild nonsectarian national-security forces that would one day take the lead in freeing Mosul and other Iraqi cities from Islamic State.”

KAYLA MUELLER: The U.S. government had good intelligence on the location of Islamic State hostages but failed to act.

The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer and Shane Harris: “British officials, as well as private security contractors, said they were frustrated by Washington’s hesitance to give the go-ahead for a rescue attempt.”

AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban fragments; a former U.N. official warns the drug trade could doom Afghanistan.

The Washington Post’s Sudarshan Raghavan on an increasingly fragmented Taliban: “The Taliban in this northern province allows girls to attend school. It doesn’t execute soldiers or police. Its fighters are not Pashtun, the main ethnic group that bred and fueled the insurgency. Some members are even former mujahideen, or freedom fighters, who once despised the Taliban and fought against its uprising.”

The New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg and Eric Schmitt on an increase in U.S. covert missions in Afghanistan: “The raids appear to have targeted a broad cross section of Islamist militants. They have hit both Qaeda and Taliban operatives, going beyond the narrow counterterrorism mission that Obama administration officials had said would continue after the formal end of American-led combat operations last December.

Writing for the Diplomat, former U.N. counternarcotics official Najibullah Gulabzoi with a warning: “In the wake of the NATO and U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of combat mission, if the Afghan government continues to disregard the extent to which its roots lie in the narcotics industry, Afghanistan will ultimately be a failed state, with most of the warlords — many of them incumbent government officials — recreating their 1990s regional narco-fiefdoms.”

PAKISTAN: Pakistan’s teachers are carrying guns as their army thanks Afghanistan for its help.

The BBC on the hunt for the Peshawar school massacre plotters: “Since the massacre, teachers have been given permission to carry guns. Security has been stepped up in the region, and a new combat group has been formed to tackle the Taliban.”

The New York Times’ Salman Masood: “Maj. Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, the Pakistani Army spokesman, told reporters that the Afghan security forces had captured six militants who had been linked to the attack. Afghanistan has also stepped up intelligence and military cooperation along the countries’ mutual border, he said.”

AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST: Boko Haram is suspected in a deadly attack in Nigeria; al Qaeda makes a move in Yemen.

Premium Times’ Ola’ Audu: “A deadly explosion from a bomb that went off in a crowded market in Biu, the largest town in Southern Borno state, has killed many, witnesses said.”

The Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor and Ali al-Mujahed: “Militants linked to al-Qaeda overran a military base in southern Yemen on Thursday in a sophisticated attack that signaled the extremist group’s desire to exploit widening turmoil in this Arabian Peninsula nation.”

EUROPE: A Muslim political party inserts itself into French elections.

AFP: “A Muslim party that aims to promote Islamic finance and overturn France’s ban on wearing the veil in schools will take part in regional elections next month.”

CHINA: Obama needs a refresher on how China works.

The South China Morning Post’s Kristine Kwok: “As the nations await September’s summit, the Obama administration’s lack of high-level interest in China and Xi’s more opaque than ever decision-making process will pose more challenges.”

CYBER: Obama moves forward on cybersecurity.

The Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta: “President Barack Obama on Friday will sign an executive order that aims to make it easier for the government to share classified cyberthreat information with companies, an effort designed to spur collaboration and deter hackers.”


Just shy of six months on the job, Ebola czar Ron Klain leaves the White House — again. More from the White House here.

AND FINALLY, AFP reports North Korea unleashed 310 new slogans on its citizens, from “Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms!” to “Play sports games in an offensive way!”

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