The Cable

FP’s Situation Report: GOP lawmakers threaten Iran nuke deal; Is Bergdahl a POW or a deserter?; Iraqi forces are close to retaking Tikrit; and much more from around the world.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat The Republicans threaten to torpedo a nuclear deal with Iran. Forty seven members of the GOP sent a letter to Iran’s political leadership, telling them a deal would last only as long as Obama’s presidency. FP’s Elias Groll on the unprecedented letter, which “represents the second time this Congress ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

The Republicans threaten to torpedo a nuclear deal with Iran. Forty seven members of the GOP sent a letter to Iran’s political leadership, telling them a deal would last only as long as Obama’s presidency. FP’s Elias Groll on the unprecedented letter, which “represents the second time this Congress has gone further than any of its predecessors in its efforts to kill a deal being negotiated by a sitting American president.”

More on Iran below.

Is Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a prisoner of war or a deserter? Bergdahl, who spent five years in the hands of the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, is in legal limbo as the Pentagon debates whether or not to charge him. FP’s Kate Brannen: “Today, the soldier, who turns 29 later this month, remains on active duty, and has quietly been working in an administrative job at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. But legal experts say it’s unclear how much longer the Army can retain Bergdahl in the military while top brass decides what to do.”

More on Afghanistan below.

Iraqi forces — without U.S. air support — are on the verge of recapturing Tikrit. The Iraqi army has taken areas surrounding Saddam Hussein’s hometown as the Islamic State desperately holds onto the city. The New Yorker’s Robin Wright: “The fragile Iraqi Army and an umbrella group of Shiite militias are in charge, under the direction of the swashbuckling Iranian general Qassem Suleimani … and dozens of advisers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s élite Quds Force.”

More on the Islamic State below.

PRESS PACK: Republicans threaten the nuclear deal with Iran.

The Wall Street Journal’s Michael R. Crittenden and Byron Tau: “The already heated battle between Congress and the White House over U.S.-led nuclear talks with Iran got nastier Monday as President Barack Obama chastised 47 Senate Republicans who wrote directly to Iran’s leaders to criticize U.S.-led nuclear talks.”

The New York Times’ Peter Baker: “The letter appeared aimed at unraveling a framework agreement even as negotiators grew close to reaching it.”

The Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe and Sean Sullivan: “The letter, written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), suggests that any deal between Obama and the Iranian leadership would amount to only an ‘executive agreement’ that could be undone by Congress or a future president.”

NBC News’ Carrie Dann: “Most Americans believe that a nuclear deal with Iran would not make a real difference in preventing that country’s production of a nuclear weapon, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.”

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we’re wondering if the tattoo-regret trend will also make it to China.  

Contact me at david.francis@foreignpolicy.com 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.

WHO’S WHERE WHEN TODAY

9:00 a.m. General John E. Hyten, commander of the Air Force Space Command, speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 10:00 a.m. Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on U.S. policy in Ukraine. 12:15 p.m. New America Foundation hosts a panel on “Obstacles and Solutions to International Intelligence Sharing.”

WHAT’S MOVING MARKETS

Bloomberg’s Lucy Meakin, Max Julius, and Anchalee Worrachate: “The [European Central Bank] and national central banks started buying sovereign debt on Monday under the 19-month plan to inject 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) into the economy.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Todd Buell on Deutsche Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann’s opposition to the ECB’s move: “The most vocal critic of the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program has criticized the large-scale bond buys on the very day that the program has started.”

Nikkei’s Yoichi Takita: “China’s economic deceleration is causing sweaty palms in the U.S. The yuan is losing strength against the dollar, and now there is nervous talk about what would happen if China launched quantitative credit-easing moves.”

Reuters’s Kazunori Takada and Leika Kihara:  “Chinese regulators are turning to Japan for lessons on economic history, determined to keep the world’s second biggest economy from taking the same path of recession and deflation that has blighted its neighbor for the past 20 years.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Corrie Driebusch, Ryan Dezember, and Mike Cherney: “Investors are snapping up new stock and bonds from energy producers as they search for bargains amid the tumult caused by the plunge in oil prices.”

The New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer: “Facing Western sanctions and low oil prices, Russian companies are lining up for subsidies from the government. But the demand for bailouts is quickly outstripping the supply of money, raising the prospect of an economic crisis here if the funds run out.”

ISLAMIC STATE: U.S. officials want spending reforms in Iraq; Turkey has been unable to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.

The Washington Post’s Missy Ryan: “The top U.S. military officer urged Iraqi leaders Monday to take steps to ensure the effectiveness of U.S. and allied security aid, calling for additional reforms to military leadership and pay systems and increased recruitment of troops to fight the Islamic State.”

The Guardian’s Jessica Stern and JM Berger detail how the Islamic State recruits foreign fighters.

The New York Times’ Tim Arango and Eric Schmitt: “Foreign jihadists, with long beards and trademark fanny packs who once filled the cafes and streets in border towns, now slip quietly through Turkey, trying to attract little attention.”

McClatchy’s Roy Gutman reports the U.S. Air Force is bombing the al-Nusra Front in Syria.

SOUTH ASIA: Pakistan freaks out India by testing a new missile. And former Afghan President Hamid Karzai worries about his successor’s cooperation with Pakistan.

The Washington Post’s Tim Craig: “Pakistan on Monday test-fired a ballistic missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to every part of India, another escalation in Islamabad’s effort to keep pace with its neighboring rival’s formidable military advancements.”

The Guardian’s Jon Boone: “Afghanistan’s historic struggles against British imperialism and Soviet invasion will have been in vain if the country succumbs to pressure from neighbouring Pakistan, Hamid Karzai has warned.”

RUSSIA: Russian President Vladimir Putin nabs convenient suspects in Boris Nemtsov’s murder. Meanwhile, Russian bombers are buzzing nations in western Europe.

The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian: “Russian authorities appeared Monday to bolster claims that opposition activist Boris Nemtsov was killed by an Islamist gunman over perceived criticism of Muslims, deepening skepticism among Nemtsov’s supporters that justice will be served.”

Bloomberg’s Carol Matlack: “Two Russian bombers, flying with their transponders turned off to avoid detection, swooped so close to the Irish coast that Dublin’s control tower delayed the takeoff of one passenger plane and ordered another to alter its route to steer clear of the bombers.”

UKRAINE: The United States beefs up its presence in eastern Europe as the Germans claim Obama agreed — a month ago — not to arm Ukraine. Meanwhile, Putin changes his story on the Crimean invasion.

Deutsche Welle: “The United States is sending 3,000 troops to the Baltic states to partake in joint military exercises with NATO partners in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania over the next three months.”

The Associated Press’s Josh Lederman: “President Obama agreed last month not to send lethal defensive aide to Ukraine, a top German diplomat said Monday.”

The New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar: “Putin said he made the decision around 7 a.m. on Feb. 23, 2014, after an all-night emergency meeting with his security chiefs on the crisis in Ukraine. Viktor F. Yanukovych had just been deposed as the president of Ukraine, and the meeting was called to discuss his rescue.”

AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST: Niger and Chad send troops to fight Boko Haram as Obama keeps ties with world leaders — notably in Iraq, Jordan, and Afghanistan — to a minimum.

The Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff: “The troops began their push Sunday, a day after a series of suicide bombings in northeastern Nigeria killed as many as 100 civilians, and weeks before the country’s presidential election, which many worry could turn violent.”

The New York Times’ Michael D. Shear: “The lack of such a relationship was starkly evident in Washington last week, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel took the extraordinary step of denouncing Mr. Obama’s Iran policy in a speech to a joint meeting of Congress.”

CLINTON: The former senator and top diplomat will all but officially launch her 2016 campaign next month.

The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs: “With plans to hire as many as 40 staffers in the battleground state around the beginning of April … there is essentially no turning back on Clinton campaign expenditures — nor on the starting gun for the 2016 election.”

The New York Times’ Nick Corasaniti: “Hillary Rodham Clinton is preparing in coming days to address her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state.”

UNITED NATIONS: The United States wants more European peacekeepers as a new report paints a depressing picture of global violence against women.

The Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman: “In a speech in Brussels, [U.N. Ambassador] Samantha Power said President Barack Obama will host a summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September to press for increased personnel commitments to U.N. missions.”

TIME’s Nolan Feeney on the U.N. report, which “finds that so far, ‘uneven progress’ has been ‘unacceptably slow with stagnation and even regress in some contexts.’”

BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING: Videos show the bloody aftermath of the attack.

The Boston Globe’s Milton J. Valencia: “The movements of the Tsarnaev brothers in the minutes just before and after the deadly April 15, 2013, explosions were traced in detail for a federal jury Monday, pieced together from surveillance videos and photos, patched into a grim video timeline.”

ASIA PACIFIC: German Chancellor Angela Merkel lectures Japan about coming to terms with its wartime past. Meanwhile, the human rights report on North Korea is almost ready and will also focus on abductions of Japanese and South Korean citizens.

The Asahi Shimbun’s Toru Tamakawa: “Pointing to her own nation’s history with neighboring countries such as France, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Japan to work toward reducing tensions with its Asian neighbors.”

Reuters’s Stephanie Nebehay: “A United Nations human rights investigator on Monday recommended international pressure be put on North Korea to clarify the fate of hundreds of foreign nationals allegedly abducted over decades, mainly from Japan and South Korea.”

LATIN AMERICA: Venezuela’s leader Nicolás Maduro has two problems: One is the U.S. rapprochement with Cuba, the other is his predecessor Hugo Chávez. With new sanctions, Obama declares Venezuela a national security threat.

TIME’s Karl Vick: “President Obama’s decision to reopen relations with Cuba is having an interesting side effect: It’s helping isolate Latin America’s other hardline leftist regime in Venezuela.”

The New York Times‘ William Neuman: “[T]wo years after the death of Mr. Chávez, with his country sinking deeper into an economic crisis, what was once Mr. Maduro’s greatest advantage — his absolute loyalty to the late leader — may have become his greatest handicap.”

Al Jazeera: “The White House says the new set of targeted sanctions excludes the Venezuelan people and any trade relations with the nation, and are instead specifically aimed at government officials the US accuses of violating human rights.”

REVOLVING DOOR

The Washington Business Journal’s Jill R. Aitoro: “Reston-based Maximus Inc. signed a definitive agreement to buy Acentia for $300 million — the latest in a rapid string of acquisitions among mid-tier contractors.”

Defense One’s Gordon Lubold: “PACOM commander Adm. Samuel Locklear asked to delay retirement so [Defense Chief Ashton] Carter can consider him for chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

AND FINALLY, writing for Foreign Policy, Andrew Heger on the underdogs we’re now rooting for: Afghanistan’s cricket team.

 

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