The Cable

FP’s Situation Report: Egypt and Libya pound Islamic State targets; More similarities between Copenhagen and Paris attacks emerge; Ukrainian military and separatists battle for a key eastern city; and much more from around the world.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat Egypt and Libya pound Islamic State targets in eastern Libya. Egyptian and Libyan warplanes bombed targets in Libya one day after Islamic State militants executed 21 Coptic Christians, opening a new front in the fight against the terror group. The Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham and Heba Habib: “The statement ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

Egypt and Libya pound Islamic State targets in eastern Libya. Egyptian and Libyan warplanes bombed targets in Libya one day after Islamic State militants executed 21 Coptic Christians, opening a new front in the fight against the terror group. The Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham and Heba Habib: “The statement marked the first time Egypt has publicly acknowledged military involvement in Libya, which has been torn apart by political chaos since an uprising that ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011.”

More on the Islamic State below.

More similarities between Copenhagen and Paris attacks emerge. Details about alleged gunman Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein trickled out yesterday, including that he spent time in prison and was affiliated with gangs. While incarcerated, he drew the attention of authorities when he said he wanted to travel to Syria to fight with the Islamic State. The New York Times’ Andrew Higgins and Melissa Eddy analyze additional similarities: “French authorities have identified prison as a catalyst for radicalism. Two of the three gunmen responsible for [the Paris attacks] spent time in French prisons, coming into contact with jihadist militants who turned the men’s previously tepid faith in Islam into radical zealotry.”

More on Denmark below.

Fighting never stopped in a key eastern Ukraine town. The cease-fire between Russia and the West largely held Sunday. But in Debaltseve, a key railway city, the war continues unabated, report the Wall Street Journal’s James Marson and Anton Troianovski.

More on Ukraine below.

PRESS PACK: The Islamic State in North Africa

The New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick: “Nearly three and a half years after the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, two rival coalitions of militias are battling for control over Libya and its vast resources, including nearly $100 billion in financial reserves, untapped oil deposits, and a long Mediterranean coast facing Europe.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy and Matt Bradley: “The Egyptian president’s request for expanded coalition military efforts highlights one aspect of the emerging debate over the new authority President Barack Obama seeks from Congress to wage military action against Islamic State.”

The Guardian’s Jared Malsin and Chris Stephen: “Libya’s air force meanwhile announced it had launched strikes in the eastern city of Darna, which was taken over by an Isis affiliate last year. The announcement, on the Facebook page of the air force chief of staff, did not provide further details.”

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we hope everyone is safe from the winter storm hitting the east coast.

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.

WHO’S WHERE WHEN TODAY: The federal government is closed today, so there’s a chance events in Washington listed below are canceled.

8 a.m. Ashton Carter begins his first day as Defense Secretary, arriving at the Pentagon’s River entrance. 8:30 a.m. The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts an event on human rights in North Korea. 9:00 a.m. U.S. Institute of Peace hosts a conference on “China’s Emerging Role in the Middle East.” 10:00 a.m. U.N. Security Council holds consultations on Iraq. 11:00 a.m. Carter is sworn in as defense secretary. 3:15 p.m. Carter meets with President Obama in the Oval Office. 4:00 p.m. General John Allen, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, speaks at the Atlantic Council.


The Wall Street Journal’s Gabriele Steinhauser and Stephen Fidler: “Negotiations over how to keep Greece afloat broke down abruptly Monday, demonstrating a wide gulf between Athens and its European creditors and triggering a new, heightened state of uncertainty about the country’s future inside the currency bloc.”

In an interview with Der Spiegel’s Thomas Hüetlin and Alexander Neubacher, Greek finance minister Giannis Varoufakis explains why he compares the EU’s bailout conditions to waterboarding and why he would welcome a “Merkel Plan” to rebuild the European periphery.

The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Stevens, Suzanne Kapner, and Leslie Josephs: “As employers at the ports along the West Coast on Monday refused to unload ships for the sixth day out of the past 10, their nine-month contract dispute with port workers is becoming a significant business problem.”

The Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola: “To much of the West, he is the Machiavellian strongman of a newly belligerent Russia. But inside the Gothic Revival parliament building in this elegant capital, Russian President Vladimir Putin will be welcomed Tuesday as a generous benefactor of the Hungarian state.”

ISLAMIC STATE: Hezbollah acknowledges its fighters are in Iraq as the Obama administration ups efforts to combat Islamic State propaganda.

The Washington Post’s Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous: “The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement acknowledged for the first time Monday that the Shiite militia has sent fighters to Iraq, and he urged Arab states throughout the region to set aside sectarian rivalries to confront the threat posed by the Islamic State.”

The New York Times’ Eric Schmitt: “The Obama administration is revamping its effort to counter the Islamic State’s propaganda machine, acknowledging that the terrorist group has been far more effective in attracting new recruits, financing and global notoriety than the United States and its allies have been in thwarting it.”

DENMARK: More details emerge about Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, who was a study in contrasts, as Denmark debates free speech.

The Washington Post’s Griff Witte and Karla Adam: “[A]uthorities said Hussein was part of a network — a criminal gang called the Brothas that has traditionally traded in drugs and theft but whose members have lately been lured by radical Islam.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Jens Hansegard and Christina Zander: “Tens of thousands of people rallied in Copenhagen after the weekend shootings in Denmark, with many vowing to defend free speech in the face of threats, echoing a similar moment a decade ago when a newspaper stirred outrage with its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.”

UKRAINE: Ukraine suffers its first casualties since the cease-fire as its troops are trapped.

The Guardian’s Alec Luhn: “The Ukrainian military said on Monday that rebels had fired on its troops 112 times in the past 24 hours. At least five Ukrainian fighters have been killed and 25 wounded since the ceasefire began on Sunday.”

The New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer: “The plight of as many as 8,000 Ukrainian troops trapped in the vicinity of Debaltseve, as well as the prospects for an already fragile truce, look decidedly dimmer on Monday after a Russian television correspondent strolled down what was supposed to be a hotly contested road.”

KAYLA MUELLER: More details about the final months of Mueller’s life emerge.

The Arizona Republic’s Rebekah L. Sanders and Richard Ruelas: “A now-33-year-old Syrian photographer identified as Omar Alkhani who worked for years to document the civil war in his country and was known to her family and friends as Mueller’s boyfriend, and at times even as her fiancé or husband.”

IRAN: Iran denies cooperation with Washington on the Islamic State.

Reuters: “Iran has denied a Wall Street Journal report that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently responded to a letter sent in October by U.S. President Barack Obama suggesting cooperation with Iran in fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”

AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST: Houthis threaten a takeover as fears of civil war mount. European leaders reject calls for Jews to return to Israel. Meanwhile, Nigerian troops have reclaimed a town from Boko Haram.

The Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor on a hostile move by Houthis: “The Shiite insurgents who have toppled Yemen’s government are threatening to take over a key oil-producing province to the east of the capital, triggering fears that the country could explode in all-out civil war.”

The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont on European leaders rejecting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s calls for European Jews to migrate to Israel: “[T]he French prime minister, Manuel Valls — who was speaking after several hundred Jewish headstones were vandalised at a cemetery in eastern France – said that he regretted Netanyahu’s call.”

The BBC: “The recapture of Monguno was considered key to protecting the far larger city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno state.”

NORTH KOREA: North Korea’s U.N. ambassador defended his country’s human rights record after a threat to refer the country to the International Criminal Court.

Reuters’s Michelle Nichols: “Jang also said he asked the United States to scrap a conference on human rights in North Korea to be held at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank on Tuesday.”

CHAPEL HILL SHOOTINGS: Protests over the shooting go international.

The Raleigh News and Observer’s Anne Blythe: “The day after several thousand people marched in Qatar to show solidarity with the families of three Muslims killed last week in Chapel Hill, a Durham County grand jury handed up indictments against the man accused of killing them.”

CYBER: A Russian firm accused the National Security Agency of corporate espionage.

Reuters’s Joseph Menn: “The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.”

EBOLA: Liberian children return to school for the first time since the outbreak began.

The Associated Press: “Students in Liberia returned to their classrooms Monday after a six-month closure during the Ebola epidemic that left thousands dead, lining up in their uniforms to have their temperatures taken before they could enter school gates.”

AND FINALLY, given the inclement weather on the east coast, here’s something to get excited about: thunder snow.



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