FP’s Situation Report: Iraq gives the U.S. a surprise of its own; Clapper wants guns for Ukraine; Russia brings its anti-gay agenda to the U.N.; and much more from around the world.
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat Iraq repays DoD’s Mosul leaks with a surprise of its own. Iraqi officials were angry after the Pentagon released details on plans without Baghdad’s approval to retake Mosul. They returned the favor Monday with an unexpected offensive to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State. FP’s Kate Brannen and Lara ...
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat
Iraq repays DoD’s Mosul leaks with a surprise of its own. Iraqi officials were angry after the Pentagon released details on plans without Baghdad’s approval to retake Mosul. They returned the favor Monday with an unexpected offensive to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State. FP’s Kate Brannen and Lara Jakes on the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, “which the Defense Department says is providing no support to the Tikrit operation. After conducting more than 2,000 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, the absence of the United States from the Tikrit fight is telling and speaks to how little influence the United States may have on this complicated battlefield.”
More on the Islamic State below.
Clapper breaks with White House to urge guns for Ukraine. “This is just me, Jimmy Clapper, speaking,” said the director of National Intelligence on Monday, renewing his call for lethal assistance for Ukraine. So far his pleas have fallen on deaf ears at the White House, FP’s Seán D. Naylor reports.
Russia brings its anti-gay agenda to Turtle Bay. Russia’s campaign against gay rights within its own borders is drawing condemnation from groups around the world. Moscow is demanding Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reverse his decision to provide full benefits to all of the U.N.’s lesbian and gay employees. FP’s Colum Lynch: “Moscow has been weighing whether to force a vote in the budget committee, known as the Fifth Committee, to halt funding such benefits, a vote that it likely could win.”
More on Ukraine and Russia below.
PRESS PACK: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Congress this morning.
FP’s John Hudson: “In a slickly orchestrated lobbying event in Washington, Israeli and American leaders used speeches to a massive audience of pro-Israel activists to paper over the simmering tension between their respective governments and emphasize the ‘unbreakable bond’ between the two countries.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee and Jay Solomon: “But the rhetorical embraces, in speeches before 16,000 members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, came as Mr. Netanyahu prepared to make his biggest attempt to scuttle a potential deal with Iran. The Israeli leader, who opposes any Iranian nuclear-enrichment capability, laid bare his distrust of the Obama administration’s effort.”
More from FP’s Hudson: “On Monday night, White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice made the case for a diplomatic solution to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon — an argument that rankled many of the 16,000 activists who flooded Washington for the annual confab of the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization in the country.”
Reuters’s Jeff Mason with details on the developing deal: “Iran must commit to a verifiable freeze of at least 10 years on sensitive nuclear activity for a landmark atomic deal to be reached, but the odds are still against sealing a final agreement, U.S. President Barack Obama told Reuters on Monday.”
The New York Times’ Ashley Parker on the hottest ticket in town: “Even Democrats, some of whom are not attending [Netanyahu’s] speech in order to express their frustration over what they say is the politicization of Mr. Netanyahu’s address, are hanging on to their tickets, distributing them as if they were a form of valuable currency.”
The Associated Press’s Matthew Lee: “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday delivered a vigorous defense of Israel before the U.N. Human Rights Council, urging its members to end what the United States says is its unfair and biased focus on the Jewish State that could undermine its credibility.”
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we’re wondering how it took nine years for this to come out.
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WHO’S WHERE WHEN TODAY
10:00 a.m. The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State. 11:00 a.m. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Congress. 12:00 p.m. Stephen F. Szabo, executive director of the Transatlantic Academy, presents his book on Germany’s Russia Policy at the German Marshall Fund. 1:30 p.m. President Barack Obama meets with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. 2:30 p.m. Carter testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
WHAT’S MOVING MARKETS
Bloomberg’s Aaron Eglitis: “Greece could need a third bailout deal when its current program expires in June because markets may still not be prepared to lend to its government, even with a euro-area credit line, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman and Alkman Granitsas: “Fresh tensions between Greece and some of its eurozone partners spilled into the open on Monday with the European Commission confirming it had received complaints from the Portuguese and Spanish governments about comments made over the weekend by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.”
The Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hiltzik on the NASDAQ reaching record highs: “So the question is whether Monday’s close above 5,000 represents a return to the bad old days, when a ‘.com’ after a company’s name was enough to propel it into IPO (initial public offering) heaven, even if it hadn’t seen a dime of profit in, like, ever.”
Reuters: “Obama said he was concerned about Beijing’s plans for a far-reaching counter-terrorism law that would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the passcodes that help protect data, and install security ‘backdoors’ in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access.”
ISLAMIC STATE: The Iraqis try again to take Tikrit — with Iran’s support — as more details about ‘Jihadi John’ come out.
The Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham: “The offensive — announced on Iraqi state television — marks the third attempt by government forces to regain control of the city from the Islamic State militants, who seized it in June.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes: “U.S. officials said Iran is supporting the offensive to retake Tikrit, supplying artillery, rocket fire and aerial drones.”
The Guardian’s Randeep Ramesh and Raya Jalabi: “Mohammed Emwazi, the west London man unmasked as the Islamic State’s knife-wielding killer, said he was told by MI5 five years ago that they would keep a ‘close eye’ on him despite his denials that he was involved in extremist militancy.”
RUSSIA: A witness to Nemtsov’s assassination says she didn’t see the shooter.
The New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer: “Though she was less than half his age, Anna Duritskaya, a Ukrainian model, was often with Boris Nemtsov, a beleaguered Russian opposition leader, including on Friday evening, when a gunman carried out the highest-profile political assassination in Russia during the tenure of President Vladimir V. Putin.”
UKRAINE: The European Union brokers a gas deal between Russia and Ukraine as the number of casualties continues to grow. Meanwhile, concerns grow about declines in British spending commitments to NATO.
Deutsche Welle: “A deal was finally struck after tense talks in Brussels late on Monday, effectively securing the gas supply to Ukraine and the European Union until the end of the winter.”
Voice of America: “The United Nations says the number of people killed in eastern Ukraine since fighting broke out in April now tops 6,000.”
Defense News’s Andrew Chuter: “None of the major political parties here will commit to maintaining spending at that level and with further cuts expected after the May 7 general election, think tanks like the Royal United Services Institute reckon it could fall to as little as 1.6 percent by 2020.”
STATE DEPARTMENT: Clinton kept things personal as secretary of state.
The New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt: “Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.”
AFRICA: Boko Haram gets into the beheading business as a former cab driver in Northern Virginia is detained.
CNN’s Aminu Abubakar: “Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group already blamed for numerous horrific attacks in West Africa, posted a graphic video online Monday showing the apparent beheadings of two men who the group said were suspected spies.”
The Washington Post’s Adam Goldman and Matt Zapotosky: “Liban Haji Mohamed, 29, was detained shortly after prosecutors unsealed a warrant for his arrest and the FBI added him to the wanted list in late January. It is unclear how he was taken into custody or how soon he could be brought back to the United States.”
LATIN AMERICA: Thaw with Cuba, ice age with Venezuela: Fidel Castro welcomes the Cuban Five back home, while Venezuela accuses the United States of plotting regime change and orders the U.S. embassy to cut its staff.
CNN’s Patrick Oppmann: “Castro reportedly met the agents Saturday at his home in Havana, ending speculation over why the former Cuban President had not yet seen the men, who are referred to as ‘the five heroes’ by Cuba’s government.”
Reuters’s Diego Ore: “Venezuela on Monday ordered the U.S. embassy in Caracas to reduce staff from 100 to 17 amid the worst diplomatic flare-up between the two ideological foes since socialist President Nicolas Maduro was elected in 2013.”
NORTH KOREA: Clapper ate well in North Korea but after-dinner drinks were likely uncomfortable.
Reuters: “U.S. spy chief James Clapper said that when he made a secret visit to North Korea in November to bring home two jailed Americans he was first given a 12-course banquet and then later told by his hosts that his security could not be guaranteed.”
PHILIPPINES: The U.S. special operations mission comes to an end.
The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda: “After 13 years of providing operational advice and support, the U.S. special operations mission in the Philippines, which was set up to help the Philippine military fight an Islamic militancy in the country’s south, is officially coming to a close.”
EBOLA: The fight against the disease moves to American courts.
The Dallas Morning News’s Jennifer Emily: “Nurse Nina Pham, who contracted Ebola while caring for a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, filed a lawsuit Monday in Dallas County against the hospital’s parent company, Texas Health Resources.”
LONG-RANGE BOMBER: Mystery and cost concerns surround DoD’s next-generation bomber.
The Washington Post’s Christian Davenport: “Highly classified, the program is one of the Air Force’s top priorities — and its most expensive. The service estimates it will cost $55 billion to build as many as 100 of what it calls the Long Range Strike Bomber.”
AND FINALLY, FP’s Elias Groll on questions surrounding China’s official panda census.