The Cable

FP’s Situation Report: Pentagon walks back Mosul plans; Russia plays petro-politics with Europe; U.S. calls for South Sudan sanctions in writing; and much more from around the world.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat The Pentagon tries to walk back plans to retake Mosul. Last week DoD unexpectedly released key details on its efforts to retake the Iraqi city from the Islamic State. U.S. officials apparently failed to check in with their Iraqi counterparts, FP’s Kate Brannen reports. Meanwhile, former Iraqi Prime Minister ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

The Pentagon tries to walk back plans to retake Mosul. Last week DoD unexpectedly released key details on its efforts to retake the Iraqi city from the Islamic State. U.S. officials apparently failed to check in with their Iraqi counterparts, FP’s Kate Brannen reports. Meanwhile, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is trying to make a comeback, reports FP’s David Kenner.

More on the Islamic State below.

Russia plays petro-politics in Europe. Numerous times over the last decade Russia has cut off gas supplies to Ukraine — and in turn, western Europe — as a show of force. With the West considering new sanctions, Moscow is threatening to turn off the valves once more. FP’s Keith Johnson: “The move marks the second time Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has thumbed his nose at the West in recent days. On Monday, Russia offered to sell advanced air-defense systems to Iran in defiance of pleas from Washington and its allies to avoid arming Tehran.”

More on Ukraine below.

The United States puts its call for potential sanctions against South Sudan in writing. Washington has repeatedly threatened to levy punishment if South Sudan’s warring parties don’t stop fighting. With the country on the verge of famine, FP’s Colum Lynch reports American diplomats “circulated a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council that establishes a sanctions committee, as well as an independent panel of experts, to lay the groundwork for possible travel bans and asset freezes.”

More on Africa below.

PRESS PACK: The Islamic State takes more Christian hostages.

Reuters’s Suleiman al-Khalidi: “Islamic State militants have abducted at least 150 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria they had raided.”

The New York Times’ Anne Barnard: “In recent weeks, villages have changed hands several times as the Kurdish groups, some Arab Muslim factions and a Christian group called the Syriac Military Council have joined forces against the Islamic State.”

The Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen: “ISIS militants have often singled out Christians and minorities for persecution. Thousands of Christians fled Iraq’s Mosul and Nineveh after ISIS’s lightning advance last summer amid reports of forced conversions.”

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we’re starting to wonder if Derrick Rose is doomed.

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.


8:30 a.m. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno speaks at the New America Foundation’s “ Future of War” conference. 9:00 a.m. The National Democratic Institute and the Brookings Institution host a conference on “U.S.-Ukraine Cooperation: A View from Ukrainian Parliamentarians.” 10:00 a.m. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, head of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, testifies before the House Armed Services Committee. 10:00 a.m. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 1:30 p.m. John Allen, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter the Islamic State, testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


FP’s David Francis: Fed chief Janet Yellen said the “Federal Open Market Committee would consider raising rates on ‘on a meeting by meeting basis,’ more code to investors not to expect a change in the next few months.”

The New York Times’ James Kanter and Niki Kitsantonis: “In revising the terms of the bailout program, the new Greek government pledged to take a disciplined approach to budgets, spending and tax collection, while remaining committed to relieving the ‘humanitarian crisis’ caused by years of economic hardship and high unemployment.”

The Financial Times’ Peter Spiegel: “The International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank complained that the six-page list of reforms presented by Yanis Varoufakis, Greek finance minister, failed to adhere to the current programme, as Athens had promised last week.”

FP’s David Francis: “President Barack Obama has vetoed the transcontinental Keystone XL pipeline, a project that’s become more about politics than the limited energy benefits it would provide.”

ISLAMIC STATE: The United States makes an uneasy alliance with Qatar.

The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau: “Mr. Obama, in an Oval Office meeting with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, described the situation in Syria as an ‘extraordinary challenge,’ saying they agreed that Mr. Assad has lost legitimacy and should relinquish power.

FP’s Elias Groll: “Some American intelligence officials believe that Qatar’s patronages has included financing terrorist groups — or at the very least turning a blind eye to Qatari financiers backing organizations such as Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.”

UKRAINE: Britain sends military advisers to Ukraine as the United States puts on a show of force in Estonia. Meanwhile, Ukraine gets into the western weapons trade without NATO’s permission.

The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour: “The decision — announced on Tuesday but under consideration by the U.K. national security council since before Christmas — represents the first deployment of British troops to the country since the near civil war in eastern Ukraine began more than a year ago.”

The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum: “The armored personnel carriers and other U.S. Army vehicles that rolled through the streets of Narva, a border city separated by a narrow frontier from Russia, were a dramatic reminder of the new military confrontation in eastern Europe.”

Defense News’s Joe Gould: “The deal is a sign that Ukraine is not only seeking, but finding defense industry partners outside the region as it wages an uphill fight against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.”

AFGHANISTAN: Members of a minority group are kidnapped as an Afghan army fuel contract comes under scrutiny.

Reuters’s Sarwar Amani: “Unidentified gunmen in southern Afghanistan stopped two buses traveling to the capital, Kabul, and seized around 30 people belonging to the ethnic Hazara minority.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Margherita Stancati: “The preliminary probe had found signs of unspecified procedural irregularities in the fuel tender, as well as what investigators said were several bids submitted above the market price, according to Afghan officials familiar with the investigation.”

EUROPE: Three London schoolgirls are believed to have made it to Syria to join the Islamic State as more details emerge about the woman who recruited them.

The New York Times’ Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura: “Aqsa Mahmood’s family … did not expect her to leave her home in Glasgow in November 2013 to go to Syria, where the authorities now say she is one of the most active recruiters of young British women to join the Islamic State.”

The Guardian’s Vikram Dodd, Josh Halliday, and Constanze Letsch: British authorities “said on Tuesday it believed that Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15, had crossed from Turkey into Syria.”

IRAN: Distrust between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency persists as Secretary Kerry defends progress toward a deal.

The Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman: “The International Atomic Energy Agency has been in talks with Iran for years about Iran’s past work, which western officials believe was aimed at getting nuclear know-how.”

The New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon: “Kerry sought Tuesday to rebut critics of a potential nuclear deal with Iran, making his case on Capitol Hill just a week before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is scheduled to deliver his broadside against the emerging accord in an address to Congress.”

CYBER: The United States offers big bucks for a cyber thief.

Reuters: “The U.S. State Department and FBI have announced a $3 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Russian national Evgeniy Bogachev, the highest bounty U.S. authorities have ever offered in a cyber case.”

AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST: Chad makes gains in Nigeria as a U.S. missionary disappears. Palestinians pledge to appeal a U.S. court decision; American officials slam Bibi’s planned visit.

The Wall Street Journal’s Michael M. Phillips and Drew Hinshaw: Chad’s army “has been on the offensive in Nigeria, swinging momentum in a conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives, displaced more than a million people and seen Boko Haram abduct perhaps thousands of adolescents.”

Newsweek’s Polly Mosendz reports on a $300,000 ransom request for an American woman kidnapped in northern Nigeria: “The police have not begun ransom negotiations, and the Free Methodist Church declined to comment on whether it would pay the amount for her release, although it did say the FBI and the U.S. Embassy have become involved in the search for the hostage.”

The Washington Post’s William Booth and Ruth Eglash on the U.S. court ruling: “Palestinian officials pledged Tuesday to fight the decision through the appeals process, saying that the court did not have jurisdiction and that the Palestinian government did not order or pay for the attacks.”

The New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis: “Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Tuesday over his plans to address a joint meeting of Congress next week, saying his actions had hurt his nation’s relationship with the United States.”

CHINA: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has his own vision for how the U.N. should work.

The Diplomat’s Shannon Tiezzi: “Wang’s statements at the debate emphasized China’s view for how the U.N. should function — an important point, as China is determined to revamp international institutions to be more reflective of the 21st century (which, in part, would involve more influence for China and other developing powers).”

HOMELAND SECURITY STANDOFF: Republicans find a way to break the deadlock over Homeland Security funding by decoupling it from immigration.

The New York Times’ Ashley Parker: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “offered a path to avert a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, saying he would allow a vote on a bill solely to fund the agency, followed by a second vote on legislation that would halt President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration.”

AMERICAN SNIPER TRIAL: Eddie Ray Routh is convicted of killing former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield.

The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe: “The trial in Stephenville, Tex., centered on whether Routh should be held responsible despite being diagnosed in recent years with psychosis, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.”


The Washington Business Journal’s Jill R. Aitoro: “Marion Blakey will serve as the new CEO of aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce North America in Reston.”

AND FINALLY, the Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola on the debate over whether Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is a historical tool or a haunted relic of Germany’s past.

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