The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

FP’s Situation Report: Who will be Obama’s point man in Havana?; It’s Cold War-redux in Russia; Boko Haram pledges allegiance to the Islamic State; and much more from around the world.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat The fight for the top U.S. diplomatic post in Cuba will be ugly. Washington and Havana are taking initial steps to normalize relations. But it’s still unclear who will lead the U.S. delegation. The frontrunner is Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

The fight for the top U.S. diplomatic post in Cuba will be ugly. Washington and Havana are taking initial steps to normalize relations. But it’s still unclear who will lead the U.S. delegation. The frontrunner is Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. FP’s John Hudson: “Many inside the State Department wonder whether any nominee — however nonpartisan or highly regarded — will be able to survive the fire and brimstone of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, home to the two most pugnacious Cuba hawks in the country: Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).”

It’s Cold War-redux for the Russian public. Anti-American sentiment among Russians is at the highest level since before the Berlin Wall fell. The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum: “The indignation peaked after the assassination of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, as conspiracy theories started to swirl — just a few hours after he was killed — that his death was a CIA plot to discredit Russia.”

Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State ups the urgency of anti-terror missions in Africa. The potential of this cataclysmic partnership has military commanders in Africa on edge. The New York Times’ Eric Schmitt: “These worries have prompted American and allied commandos to rush to train African counterterrorism troops to fight extremists on the continent.”

PRESS PACK: Violence continues as Boko Haram partners with the Islamic State.

The Wall Street Journal’s Drew Hinshaw and Gbenga Akingbule: “Nigerian police said the death toll from multiple bomb blasts that struck the country’s northeast rose to 58 on Sunday as the search for suspected suicide bombers has intensified.”

The BBC: “Forces from Niger and Chad have launched a ground and air offensive against militant group Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria.”

The New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi: “With thousands of fighters and some parts of northeastern Nigeria under its control, Boko Haram is believed to be the largest jihadi group to pledge fidelity to the Islamic State. But terrorism experts say that the practical significance of the move announced Saturday is as yet unclear.”

Welcome to Monday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we were moved by the words and images coming out of Selma, Alabama, this weekend.

Contact me at and follow me @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.


11:00 a.m. European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Frederica Mogherini attends a U.N. Security Council meeting. 11:00 a.m. U.S. Institute of Peace hosts a panel on “Ukraine: Public Opinion Amid War.” 11:30 a.m. President Barack Obama speaks at the National League of Cities annual Congressional City Conference. 3:00 p.m. Obama holds a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk.


The New York Times’ Liz Alderman on Greece “scrambling to find new, even radical ways to fill the shortfall — including a proposal to recruit citizens and tourists to spy on suspected tax evaders.”

Der Spiegel’s Manfred Ertel, Katrin Kuntz, and Mathieu von Rohr interviewed Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: “He knows, he says, that life is full of compromises and that compromises are also vital for his country’s cooperation with the European Union.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Jon Hilsenrath and Mark Magnier on the impact of China’s slower growth: “Because China accounts for a bigger share of global growth than it did before, its slowdown will surely have bigger global consequences than it might have in the past. But an improving U.S. and stabilizing Europe would help the rest of the world manage to weather China’s problems.”

The New York Times’ Noam Scheiber on the winners of job growth in the United States: “Of all the country’s major racial and ethnic groups, only Hispanics, as of late last year, had returned to their unemployment levels before the recession, according to the recent Economic Report of the President.”

CUBA: There are signs of warming relations in the boardroom and on the soccer pitch.

The Miami Herald’s Mimi Whitefield on the first U.S. telecom company connecting with Cuba: “IDT reached an agreement with Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA), the island’s national telecom provider, to exchange international long-distance traffic in February, and the Federal Communications Commission gave IDT the green light for the deal earlier this week.”

The New York Times’ Andrew Das: “The New York Cosmos will play the Cuban national team in June in Havana, becoming the first American professional team to play on the island in 16 years and the first since the United States government restored full diplomatic relations with Cuba in December.”

RUSSIA: Two Chechens are charged with the murder of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s political rival. Three others were arrested in connection to the crime and another blew himself up.

The Wall Street Journal’s Andrey Ostroukh and Gregory L. White: “The two men arraigned on Sunday were charged with committing murder in a group for commercial gain, a charge usually used in prosecuting contract killings.”

The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian: “Russian news agencies reported that at least one of the suspects, Zaur Dadayev, admitted his involvement in the crime to Judge Natalia Mushnikova of Moscow’s Basmanny district court. Dadayev and Anzor Gu­bashev, the two suspects first named by the head of Russia’s federal security service Saturday, were ordered into custody until April 28.”

The Telegraph’s Tom Parfitt: “A sixth suspect, Bislan Shavanov, blew himself up with a grenade as police tried to detain him.”

UKRAINE: Ukraine’s soldiers are unprepared for the mental toll of war. In Germany, Russia’s aggression leads to a rethink on the military; Europe backs away from new sanctions.

The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian: “Despite continued warnings from inside and outside the country about the war’s mental toll, it was not until the latest mobilization, which began a few weeks ago, that Ukraine ordered new recruits to go through a short psychological training course.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Anton Troianovski: “A chorus of leading German politicians is saying the Ukraine conflict calls for boosting military spending—until recently, a political taboo.”

The New York Times’ James Kanter and Andrew Higgins: “Europe was not yet ready to further tighten sanctions against Russia despite continuing provocations by President Vladimir V. Putin.”

ISLAMIC STATE: Is the Islamic State starting to disintegrate? The U.S. still shoulders the heaviest burden in the fight against the terrorist group.

The Washington Post’s Liz Sly: “The Islamic State appears to be starting to fray from within, as dissent, defections and setbacks on the battlefield sap the group’s strength and erode its aura of invincibility among those living under its despotic rule.”

Al Jazeera on the battle for Saddam Hussein’s home town: “Iraqi troops have continued fierce battles with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters on the outskirts of Tikrit, as they try to wrest control of the city from the armed group, security officials said.”

The Washington Post’s Missy Ryan: “The fight against the Islamic State comes as many leaders in Europe confront major fiscal challenges and grapple with questions about what sort of militaries their societies require. In the Middle East, leaders have trod carefully in launching strikes within fellow Arab nations, mindful of precedents they create.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher reports the Kurds have turned back an Islamic State assault on Christian villages in northeastern Syria.

Reuters reports on Kurdish forces attacking the Islamic State in Kirkuk.

IRAN: Obama says Iran is being offered a “reasonable deal” as Republicans warn Tehran that a deal won’t last.

The New York Times’ Peter Baker: “Even as negotiators appear close to an agreement, Mr. Obama highlighted the challenge of what comes next: ensuring that any pact forged in Geneva can pass muster in Tehran, where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has expressed deep skepticism about a settlement with the outside world.”

Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin: “A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.”

AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST: Chaos in Yemen continues and violence ramps up in Mali. In Israel, protesters call for Bibi’s ouster as he takes a hard line on settlement withdrawals from the West Bank.

Reuters: “Yemen’s defense minister has fled Houthi-controlled Sanaa for Aden, officials said on Sunday, in a move expected to bolster President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in his power struggle with the Shiite Muslim group.”

Reuters: “The incident is the third attack in the West African country this weekend, pointing to ongoing unrest two years after France helped retake the desert north from al Qaeda-linked militants.”

The Guardian’s Mairav Zonszein: “Organised under the banner, ‘Israel wants change’ and dubbed an ‘anti-Netanyahu’ event, the rally was headlined by former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who told the crowd Israel is facing the worst leadership crisis in its history.”

The New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said in a campaign statement Sunday, ‘There will be no withdrawals’ from the occupied West Bank and ‘no concessions’ to the Palestinians, renewing questions about his declared commitment to the two-state solution.”

AFGHANISTAN: President Ashraf Ghani raises eyebrows in Kabul.

The New York Times’ Mujib Mashal and Azam Ahmad: “In recent weeks, Mr. Ghani has made concessions to the Pakistanis that would have seemed unimaginable under the last administration, including tailoring anti-militant raids to Pakistani requests.”

CLINTON EMAILS: Scott Gration, a retired Air Force general and former ambassador who was fired by Clinton, says there’s a double standard for the former secretary of State. Meanwhile, Republicans worry about overreach.

The Guardian’s Tom McCarthy: “Gration, as head of the U.S. embassy in Kenya, chafed at rules barring him from using his Google email account, according to an internal State report which listed his ‘lack of adherence’ to the ban as one of multiple reasons for his firing.”

CNN’s Eric Bradner: “House GOP investigators’ eagerness to put Clinton in their crosshairs and keep the details of her latest scandal front-and-center is a reminder that they face a risk, too: Turning Clinton into a sympathetic figure, instead of allowing her to do the damage herself.”

CHINA: Beijing wants to step up on the international stage as Japanese warplanes confront their Chinese rivals.

The South China Morning Post’s Teddy Ng: “China aims to expand its influence abroad by mediating in international conflicts and having a more active role in the United Nations, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday as he outlined the nation’s diplomatic agenda.”

The New York Times’ Martin Fackler: “Japan’s refusal to back down over months of consistent challenges also represents a rare display of military spine by this long-dovish nation, and one that underscores just how far the rise of China and its forceful campaign to control nearby seas has pushed Japan out of its pacifist shell.”

NORTH KOREA: Pyongyang denies involvement in the knife attack that wounded the U.S. ambassador to South Korea; evidence of North Korea’s illegal economy emerges.

AFP’s Jung Ha-Won: “North Korea hit out Sunday at accusations that it may be behind a shocking knife attack on the US envoy to the South, branding the claims a ‘vicious’ smear campaign by Seoul.”

FP’s Elias Groll: “On Friday, the latest evidence of this enterprise surfaced from below the murky waters of the North Korean state when one of its diplomats was arrested at the airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, trying to smuggle $1.4 million worth of a gold into the country.”

AND FINALLY, to commemorate International Women’s Day, U.S. News & World Report’s Teresa Welsh and Tierney Sneed post charts that illustrate stark income inequality between women and men.  



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