FP’s Situation Report: U.S. anti-terror dragnet blocks Somali payments back home; Is the Homeland Security Dept. still viable?; Showdown set for the AIPAC conference; and much more from around the world.
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat U.S. anti-terror dragnet blocks Somali-American support for families back home. The United States has cracked down on money sent from Somali-Americans back to the motherland in an effort to financially starve al-Shabab, forcing big money transfer companies out of the Somali remittance business. FP’s Jamila Trindle with an exclusive ...
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat
U.S. anti-terror dragnet blocks Somali-American support for families back home. The United States has cracked down on money sent from Somali-Americans back to the motherland in an effort to financially starve al-Shabab, forcing big money transfer companies out of the Somali remittance business. FP’s Jamila Trindle with an exclusive from the Somali diaspora in Columbus, Ohio: “Across the world, banks’ unwillingness to work with money transmitters has increased costs and caused delays from Pakistan to El Salvador. The specter of unwittingly funding the Islamic State has added to the caution.”
More on Africa below.
Does the United States still need the Homeland Security Department? DHS funding is tied up in an immigration dispute between President Barack Obama and Republicans, prompting some to ask if the agency, created in the chaotic wake of the 9/11 attacks, is still viable FP’s John Hudson reports.
More on DHS below.
High noon at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference. National Security Advisor Susan Rice blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress as a partisan play meant to influence the U.S. debate over Iran’s nuclear program. Rice and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power are set to address the AIPAC conference. FP’s John Hudson and Colum Lynch: “Rice’s comments to Charlie Rose this week so clearly conveyed this administration’s frustrations with Netanyahu that one thing is already clear: They can expect a chilly reception from many in the crowd of 16,000 pro-Israel activists.”
Friday bonus: A once inspirational U.S. president has fallen flat. Six years ago, Barack Obama burst on to the international stage promising change after a Bush presidency nearly killed America’s world standing. The visions he laid out early in his presidency remain unfulfilled, and he appears uninspired, according to analysis by FP’s James Traub: “The world that Barack Obama confronts today is a barely recognizable version of the one he faced, or perhaps thought he was facing, in 2009.”
PRESS PACK: “Jihadi John” is revealed as British national Mohammed Emwazi.
The Washington Post’s Souad Mekhennet, Adam Goldman, and Griff Witte: “The Kuwaiti-born Emwazi appears to have left little trail on social media; his invisibility is so striking it appears his online presence may have been deliberately erased. Those who knew him in London say he had a penchant for wearing stylish clothes while adhering to the tenets of his Islamic faith. He had a beard and avoided eye contact with women.”
The Guardian’s Randeep Ramesh, Ian Cobain, and Ewen MacAskill: “Emails and other documents that emerged on Thursday also showed that security services had been tracking Emwazi since 2009, starting when he was refused entry to Tanzania, until the middle of 2013 when they informed his family that he had crossed over to Syria.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Margaret Coker and Jenny Gross: “The fact that he was a person of interest raises questions about the effectiveness of British counterterrorism agents, who have already faced criticism for not having done more to monitor two Islamist extremists who killed a soldier on the streets of London in 2013.”
The New York Times’ Steven Erlanger: “Given important constitutional and legal protections, how do counterterrorism and police officials draw the line when they find enough evidence to suspect someone, but do not have enough to prosecute them, or even to keep them under legal surveillance?”
Welcome to Friday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we have no idea if the dress is blue and black, white and gold, or blue and brown.
Connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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
9:00 a.m. The Brookings Institution hosts a conference on “China’s Security and Foreign Policies: Comparing American and Japanese Perspectives.” 11:05 a.m. President Obama meets Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. 1:00 p.m. The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a panel on “The Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative: A View from the States.”
WHAT’S MOVING MARKETS
The BBC: “The German parliament has voted to extend financial aid to Greece by another four months.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Stelios Bouras: “Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras urged the government on Thursday to fulfill reforms commitments promised to European partners in exchange for future funding as soon as possible to help the country’s economic recovery to take place.”
The Hill’s Vicki Needham on a U.S. increase in trade with Africa: “U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the deal will ramp up the U.S. partnership with the East African Community (EAC), which includes Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, while reaching deeper into Africa to improve trade.”
The Christian Science Monitor’s Cristina Maza on the passage of net neutrality: “The new rules aim to ensure that Internet service providers (ISPs) cannot discriminate between content-makers by blocking or deliberately slowing some content while offering prioritization for those willing or able to pay.”
ISLAMIC STATE: Obama officials send mixed messages on the state of the fight. In the meantime, Islamic State fighters expand their attack on Christians and smash ancient art; the Kurds want more from the United States.
FP’s David Francis: “The mixed messages have only served to cloud the congressional debate over how broad the president’s war authorization should be.”
The New York Times’ Anne Barnard: “Members of the Assyrian diaspora have called for international intervention, and on Thursday, warplanes of the United States-led coalition struck targets in the area.”
TIME’s Maya Rhodan: “A new video purporting to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul has sent waves through the global art community.”
The Huffington Post’s Akbar Shaid Ahmed: “Kurdish fighters on the frontlines against the Islamic State group have been successful thus far but urgently need expanded support from the U.S. and other nations, according to the top Kurdish representative in the U.S.”
U.S. TERROR SUSPECTS: Online activity led to the suspects’ capture as Osama bin Laden’s ghost creeps into court proceedings.
The New York Times’ Marc Santora and Nate Schweber: “Like countless 19-year-olds, Akhror Saidakhmetov lived much of his life online. But it was some of the darkest corners of the Internet that compelled him, according to the authorities.”
CNN’s Ray Sanchez: “In a Brooklyn, New York, courtroom, a federal jury this week was the first to hear the contents of the letter and other documents seized during the bin Laden raid in Pakistan.”
AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST: Violence in northern Nigeria continues as explosions rock Egypt.
CNN’s Aminu Abubakar: “At least 35 people were killed on Thursday in two attacks in the northeast Nigerian town of Biu and central Nigerian city of Jos, according to residents and the military.”
The New York Times’ Merna Thomas and David D. Kirkpatrick: “A wave of explosions killed a passer-by and wounded at least nine other people early Thursday morning across the Nile from Cairo, raising alarms about a pattern of attacks by diffuse groups against retail stores.”
UKRAINE: Ukraine matches pro-Russian separatists with heavy weapons withdrawal as another Obama administration official calls for Western arms for Kiev.
The BBC: “Ukraine’s army is starting the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line in the east as part of a truce.”
The Washington Post’s Missy Ryan: “James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said providing weapons to Ukraine would likely trigger a ‘negative reaction’ from the Russian government, which Western officials are hoping will ensure that separatists stick to a European-brokered cease-fire that took effect this month.”
YEMEN: The Houthis accuse Saudi Arabia of meddling in Yemeni affairs.
The New York Times’ Shuaib Almosawa and Kareem Fahim: “The leader of the Houthi rebel group here, in an unusually combative speech Thursday that reflected frustration by the rebel movement at its deepening isolation, accused Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s powerful neighbor, of financing armed opponents and trying to divide the country.”
IRAN: EU’s foreign policy chief indicates a nuclear deal is close.
The Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman: “Nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers are getting close to agreement after more than a decade of diplomacy, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said.”
CYBERSECURITY: DNI Clapper spills the beans on a cyber incident.
Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio, David Lerman, and Chris Strohm: “The top U.S. intelligence official confirmed for the first time that Iran was behind a cyber attack against the Las Vegas Sands Corp. last year.”
CHINA: China’s neighbors prepare for military conflict.
The Wall Street Journal’s Trefor Moss: “China’s neighbors are moving forward with the modernization of their militaries with new fighter jets, submarines and other hardware, even as Beijing has tried to tamp down territorial tensions in the region.”
CUBA: The United States and Cuba start the second round of talks about normalizing diplomatic relations.
USA Today’s Alan Gomez: “The day-long meeting will be held at the State Department in Washington and focus on challenges that remain before each country can establish an embassy in the other’s capital.”
HOMELAND SECURITY STANDOFF: Republicans try to extend the standoff over DHS and Obama’s executive action on immigration.
The National Journal’s Daniel Newhauser: “The proposed measure, which the GOP was discussing behind closed doors Thursday evening, would fund the department for three weeks, giving Republicans another opportunity to tie DHS funding to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration and go to conference with the Senate.”
FP’s David Francis: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12 to 8 to move Obama’s pick for attorney general, Brooklyn’s U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote.
Lynch is likely to garner sparse opposition from Republicans, who are eager to move on from an acrimonious relationship with outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder.
One noticeable hole on Lynch’s resume was the lack of a major national security investigation during her time in New York. That changed Wednesday, when Lynch announced the arrest of three Brooklyn men for allegedly conspiring with the Islamic State.
AND FINALLY, the Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe: The United States is now in “the longest period without a U.S. military combat-zone death since 9/11.”