The Cable

FP’s Situation Report: The man in the middle of the U.S./Israel spat; Defiant Russians take to Moscow’s streets; U.S.-backed rebels in Syria split; and much more from around the world.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat Meet the man in the middle of the U.S./Israel spat. American-born Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer was in Israel last week helping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draft his controversial speech to Congress, a testament to the closeness of their relationship. But Dermer’s absence from D.C. allowed the flames of controversy ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

Meet the man in the middle of the U.S./Israel spat. American-born Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer was in Israel last week helping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draft his controversial speech to Congress, a testament to the closeness of their relationship. But Dermer’s absence from D.C. allowed the flames of controversy to grow. FP’s Yochi Dreazen and Colum Lynch: “The Israeli leader will be getting what he wants — a high-profile chance to press his case against a nuclear deal with Iran to the very lawmakers who would one day have to approve or reject its key terms — but only after doing potentially irreparable damage to his relationship with the president. And Dermer, the man charged with preserving Jerusalem’s ties to Washington, may have instead allowed them to deteriorate to one of their lowest points ever.”

More on Israel below.

Defiant Russians take to the street to mourn Boris Nemtsov. Russia’s most famous opposition politician was gunned down just steps from the Kremlin on Friday, the highest-profile political assassination since President Vladimir Putin took power 15 years ago. On Sunday, thousands of Russians marched the streets of Moscow as fear of a new round of political violence grows, the Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum reports.

More on Russia below.

Western-backed rebel group in Syria splinters. Harakat Hazm was the first group to receive U.S. weapons to fight the Islamic State. After months of fighting the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, it disbanded. The Wall Street Journal’s Raja Abdulrahim: “The development offered a new example of the Western-backed rebel groups and moderate Islamist rebels being wedged out in the war while extremist groups such as Nusra Front and Islamic State and the regime hold or gain ground.”

Breaking this morning, the Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy and Ghassan Adnan: “Iraq’s military, backed by some 20,000 volunteer fighters, began a campaign to reclaim the city of Tikrit on Monday, state television said, in what is seen an important political and military step in the fight against Islamic State militants.”

More on the Islamic State below.

PRESS PACK: Bibi comes to Washington.

The Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkie: “Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday sought to downplay the growing diplomatic rift between the United States and Israel, telling ABC’s ‘This Week’ that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ‘welcome to speak in the United States.’”

The Guardian’s Dan Roberts, Mairav Zonszein, and Oliver Laughland: “As he flew out of Ben Gurion airport, Netanyahu described his 48-hour trip to Washington as ‘a fateful, even historic mission,’ which is to culminate in a controversial speech to Congress in which he will speak out against an emerging pact with Iran over its nuclear programme.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee: “Leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, outlined a strategy moving forward of working through Congress to disrupt any nuclear agreement with Tehran that is deemed too weak in denying the country a nuclear weapons capability.”

The Washington Post’s Ruth Eglash and William Booth: “Hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set off Sunday for Washington, a group of 180 retired Israeli generals and former top security officials warned that his upcoming address to a joint meeting of Congress on Iran’s nuclear program will cause more harm than good.”

The New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon: “On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Switzerland to meet again with Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister who earned a Ph.D. in international law and policy from the University of Denver, to try to negotiate the very accord that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel arrived in Washington that same day to denounce.”

Welcome to Monday’s edition of the Situation Report, where there’s no way we would have missed Leonard Nimoy’s funeral. Live long and prosper, everyone.

Connect with me at david.francis@foreignpolicy.com 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

10:00 a.m. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the AIPAC summit. 10:00 a.m. The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a panel on the future of land forces in Europe. 1:00 p.m. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. 5:00 p.m. Gen. John Allen, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter the Islamic State, speaks at the Atlantic Council.

WHAT’S MOVING MARKETS

The New York Times’ Stanley Reed: “The German utility RWE and a Russian-controlled investment company signaled on Sunday that they expected to complete a deal for the oil and gas subsidiary RWE Dea on Monday, despite objections from the British government.”

Reuters’s Paul Taylor: “A nascent cyclical recovery in the euro zone, aided by lower oil prices, a weaker euro and ECB money-printing, may narrow the imbalances that have led skeptics to predict the euro’s demise.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Anant Vijay Kala and Rajesh Roy on India’s budget: “India’s government said Saturday that it would delay deficit-reduction plans to increase spending on infrastructure to help accelerate growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.”

Reuters’s Pete Sweeney: “Weakness in China’s vast manufacturing sector, aggravated by high real borrowing costs and weak demand, appears to have driven the central bank to accelerate the pace of monetary easing to ward off deflation in the world’s second-largest economy.”

ISLAMIC STATE: Kerry says the United States would not outline plans to retake Mosul as more details about “Jihadi John” come out.

The Hill’s Mark Hensch: “Kerry was refuting reports that a senior U.S. Central Command official informed reporters of the timeline for retaking Mosul last month.”

The Guardian’s Martin Chulov: “Mohammed Emwazi, the Briton identified as an Islamic State executioner, was once a star salesman for a Kuwaiti IT company, the Guardian has learned, in fresh revelations about the journey from normality to infamy of the man known as Jihadi John.”

The BBC reports on the Islamic State’s release of 19 of an estimated 220 hostages who are members of an Assyrian Christian community in Syria.

RUSSIA: Could Nemtsov’s murder spark opposition to Putin? The shooting is a throwback to chaos that followed the Soviet Union’s collapse. And the U.N. blames Russia for escalating the Ukraine crisis.

The New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer: “Some in the crowd on Sunday said they hoped the turnout for the vigil for Mr. Nemtsov would signal a revival of opposition street politics in Russia.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Gregory L. White: “The killing—the highest-profile political assassination of the Putin era—appeared a throwback to the violent shootouts of the 1990s.”

The New York Times’ Nick Cumming-Bruce: “The United Nations said on Monday that an influx of troops and heavy weapons from Russia had intensified the conflict in eastern Ukraine, undermining prospects for peace and causing a significant rise in casualties.”

AFGHANISTAN: How much did an Afghan life cost during the war? Meanwhile, U.S. Marines are still fighting and Afghanistan is still struggling with women’s rights.

The Intercept’s Cora Currier: “The payments … accompanying this story are not a complete accounting, but they do offer a small window into the thousands of fractured lives and personal tragedies that take place during more than a decade of war.”

The Marine Corps Times’ Derrick Perkins: “As the bulk of the Corps bid farewell to Afghanistan months ago, a small group of Marines stayed behind, continuing the fight in the war-torn country.”

The New York Times’ Alissa J. Rubin: “Parveena’s story — she was one of six policewomen killed in 2013 — is an extreme case, but it reflects the dangers and difficulties of Afghan policewomen and the broader Western effort to engineer gender equality in Afghanistan.”

NIGERIA: Mob justice for a possible female suicide bomber in Nigeria.

The Associated Press: “People overpowered one girl and discovered she had two bottles strapped to her body, he said. They clubbed her to death, put a tire doused in fuel over her head and set it on fire.”

UKRAINE: Are pro-Russian separatists using the cease-fire to regroup?

Reuters: “Ukraine’s military said on Sunday a ceasefire had been fully observed in eastern separatist territories overnight, but warned that pro-Russian rebels were using the truce to regroup for new attacks on government positions.”

CHINA: Chinese journalist Chai Jing starts the conversation about air pollution

Writing for Foreign Policy, Yiqin Fu: “In a style similar to Al Gore’s 2006 influential environmental documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Chai’s Under the Dome integrates various interviews and statistics with a keynote speech Chai delivered to a live audience this January in a film studio in Beijing.”

GERMANY: Germany’s government is struggling to meet global expectations for its military as the country is haunted by a recent surge of anti-Semitism.

The Financial Times’ Jeevan Vasagar: “Germany has pledged to raise military spending in coming years, as Berlin seeks to reconcile a commitment to play a more assertive role in global security with a military that is in dire need of overhaul.”

Der Spiegel’s Peter Maxwill on Jews in Germany: “Still, the community in Germany feels threatened from three sides here: from right-wing extremists, who are responsible for most violent attacks on Jews, from the anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist left-wing and from Islamists.”

YEMEN: Yemen’s Houthi rebels find a friend in Shiite Iran as Gulf states relocate their embassies from Sanaa to Aden.

Bloomberg’s Mohammed Hatem, Nafeesa Syeed, and Glen Carey: “Yemen’s Shiite Muslim Houthi group is boosting ties with Iran shortly after Sunni Gulf Arab monarchies moved their embassies to a southern port city to back the government of President Abdurabuh Mansour Hadi.”

CUBA: Progress was slow in the second round of U.S.-Cuba talks as American companies pump the brakes on doing business there.

CNN’s David E. Wright: “But despite the rhetoric, meaningful obstacles remain before normalization can be achieved. In particular, the Cuban delegation stressed that Cuba’s status on the United States’ list of State Sponsors of Terrorism was a sticking point.”

USA Today’s Alan Gomez and Rick Jervis: “Although companies such as MasterCard, American Express, Netflix and Twitter have announced plans to expand operations in Cuba, they can’t flourish on the island until two essential U.S. industries get on board: banking and telecommunications. And so far, officials in those fields are hesitant to jump into the risky Cuban market.”

BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES: More than a decade later, arrests are made for atrocities in Bosnia.

The New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau: “In all, officials have identified about 300 immigrants who they believe concealed their involvement in wartime atrocities when they came to the United States as part of a wave of Bosnian war refugees fleeing the violence there.”

EBOLA: The disease returns to West Africa from the sea as tales of violence connected to its spread emerge.

The New York Times’ Sheri Fink:Sick fishermen came ashore in early February to the packed wharf-side slums that surround the country’s fanciest hotels, which were filled with public health workers. Volunteers fanned out to contain the outbreak, but the virus jumped quarantine lines and cascaded into the countryside, bringing dozens of new infections and deaths.”

The Washington Post’s Amy Brittain: “On a September day in a peaceful Guinean farming village, a simple presentation turned into a slaughter. Two days later, authorities uncovered the bodies of eight people in a ditch used for human waste. The dead, who had come to the village of Womey to teach about Ebola, were local officials, doctors, journalists and a popular pastor. Several had their throats slit.”

NORTH KOREA: North Korea prods its southern neighbor.

The Wall Street Journal’s Jeyup S. Kwaak: “North Korea fired two suspected Scud ballistic missiles between 6:32 a.m. and 6:41 a.m. local time, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said. They flew east from Nampho, a port south of Pyongyang, and landed in the sea about 490 kilometers (304 miles) away, the ministry said.”

AND FINALLY, the Washington Post on the huge gender disparity among leaders who have spoken to Congress.

 

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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