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: The Islamic State fight goes global; Nigeria talks tough on Boko Haram; Ukraine gets help, but is it enough?; Iraqi forces take Tikrit; and much more from around the world.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat The Islamic State fight could go global. The U.S. campaign to destroy the group started with airstrikes limited to Iraq and Syria. As President Barack Obama seeks a new authorization in the fight against the Islamic State, the campaign could spread to Libya, Nigeria, or other countries where those ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

The Islamic State fight could go global. The U.S. campaign to destroy the group started with airstrikes limited to Iraq and Syria. As President Barack Obama seeks a new authorization in the fight against the Islamic State, the campaign could spread to Libya, Nigeria, or other countries where those claiming allegiance to the group are located, FP’s Kate Brannen reports.

More on the Islamic State below.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

The Islamic State fight could go global. The U.S. campaign to destroy the group started with airstrikes limited to Iraq and Syria. As President Barack Obama seeks a new authorization in the fight against the Islamic State, the campaign could spread to Libya, Nigeria, or other countries where those claiming allegiance to the group are located, FP’s Kate Brannen reports.

More on the Islamic State below.

Nigeria boasts it can beat back Boko Haram. The terrorist militants have held Nigeria’s security forces on the ropes for years. But Nigerian officials say recent military advances are a sign the government could claim back control over all disputed territory by March 28. FP’s Siobhán O’Grady: “That would be a jaw-droppingly quick military victory in a conflict that has killed an estimated 20,000 and displaced 1.5 million more since 2009. Just three weeks ago, the two [Nigerian] representatives said, the militants controlled 14 local governments in Nigeria’s north. Today, they control only four.”

More on Boko Haram below.

Ukraine receives help but it might not be enough. The United States committed an additional $75 million in non-lethal military aid to Kiev to counter pro-Russian separatists, and the International Monetary Fund approved a $17.5 billion loan to save its economy. But without U.S. weapons, these drastic measures might not be enough. FP’s David Francis and Jamila Trindle: “The biggest threat to the country’s economy — fighting with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine — still looms large, and a new U.S. aid package falls short of what Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he needs to defeat them.”

More on Ukraine below.

PRESS PACK: Iraqi forces score a major victory in Tikrit.

The Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy: “Iraqi forces raised the national flag over a number of landmarks in Tikrit, working with Iran-backed Shiite militias to chip away at Islamic State’s once-firm grip on the strategically important Sunni city.”

The Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham: “The gains by Iraqi troops and allied militia fighters could mark a crucial step in dislodging the Islamic State from other key areas, including the northern city of Mosul. But it was unclear whether Iraqi forces­ would hold their ground in Tikrit.”

The New York Times’ Anne Barnard: “As if to show that they could still inflict pain elsewhere even as they lost ground in Tikrit, Islamic State militants mounted one of the fiercest assaults in months in the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.”

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we’re still in disbelief this fight is actually happening.

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.


9:00 a.m. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosts an event on “A New Approach to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.” 11:00 a.m. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks at CSIS. 12:00 p.m. The Woodrow Wilson Center hosts a book event with Hassan Hassan, co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.


The New York Times’ Peter Eavis: “All the large United States banks passed an annual regulatory test that aims to assess whether they can make it through a financial and economic calamity.”

FP’s Jamila Trindle: “Sanctions issued against Venezuelan leaders this week were meant to punish Caracas’s harsh crackdown on the country’s political opposition. Instead, they may have played right into the hands of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro and his quest to stoke anti-U.S. sentiment.”

The New York Times’ David Jolly: “Millions of businesspeople on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as tourists planning trips in one direction or the other, are now watching with delight or dread as Europe’s main currency drops ever closer to parity with the dollar.”

FP’s Siddhartha Mahanta and Elias Groll report large companies are using an obscure trade provision to their advantage: “In the last decade, the number of investor-state cases has sharply increased, arguably as a tool for companies based in developed, wealthy countries to browbeat developing nations.”

ClimateWire’s Coco Liu: “China yesterday approved the construction of two new nuclear reactors, giving a long-awaited go-ahead to Chinese nuclear developers.”

ISLAMIC STATE: An aid group says U.N. sanctions on Syria are failing as we get a glimpse of life in Iraq.

FP’s Justine Drennan: “With no end to the Syrian civil war in sight and humanitarian conditions worse than ever, the report gives the Security Council an ‘F’ grade.”

FRONTLINE posted a new video from journalist Martin Smith called Life in Baghdad, a four-minute movie that offers “a rare and surprising glimpse into the everyday lives of ordinary young Iraqis who are trying to find moments to laugh, celebrate, and even flirt amid the chaos of war.”

The New York Times’ Dave Philipps and Thomas James Brennan on U.S. Iraq war veteran Patrick Maxwell joining the Kurds to fight the Islamic State: “He connected with a Kurdish military officer online, packed his body armor, some old uniforms and a faded green ball cap with a Texas flag patch on the front, and flew to Iraq.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes reports on efforts to keep U.S.-trained Syrian rebels upright.

BOKO HARAM: The United States needs a new strategy for dealing with the group as Nigerian officials claim success.

The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe: “The United States should develop a new approach to counter the Boko Haram militant group in Nigeria, in part because Nigerian leaders continue to use heavy-handed tactics that have alienated their citizens and yielded few results, according to a new report prepared for the U.S. military.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Gbenga Akingbule: Mike Omeri, a Nigerian government spokesman, “said the towns were retaken in a campaign that stretched from Friday into this week, as troops from Niger and Chad also crossed into Nigeria to get rid of militants.“

RUSSIA: Authorities apparently roughed up a suspect in the murder of President Vladimir Putin’s rival; Moscow eyes the Arctic as the United States asks Vietnam to close a base to Russian planes.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: “A chief suspect in the killing of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has reportedly retracted his confession, suggesting it was made under duress, and a rights activist said there are signs he was tortured.”

Defense News’ Matthew Bodner: “In order to secure its large swath of the resource-rich Arctic, Moscow has created a new Northern Command structure under which ground, sea and air units are being deployed to reopened Soviet-era bases along Russia’s northern frontier.”

Reuters’s David Brunnstrom: “The United States has asked Vietnam to stop letting Russia use a former U.S. base to refuel nuclear-capable bombers engaged in shows of strength over the Asia-Pacific region.”

UKRAINE: NATO warns that Russia is still dangerous as Moscow says it could send nukes to Crimea (if it wants to). Meanwhile, spies infiltrate Kiev’s equivalent of the FBI.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: “NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that ‘Russia is still in Ukraine’ and urged Moscow to withdraw all its forces and to end its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.”

RT: “The Russian Foreign Ministry has no information on nuclear weapons deployment in Crimea, but maintains that the country has the right to do so in principle.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Philip Shishkin on corruption in the Ukrainian intelligence agency: “Ukrainian officials said in interviews that by the time the war began last year, the SBU was riddled with Russian spies, sympathizers and turncoats, and many of its files had been stolen and taken to Russia.”

IRAN: Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledges any agreement won’t be legally binding. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia signs its own nuke deal with South Korea.

Reuters’s Lesley Wroughton: “’We have been clear from the beginning, we are not negotiating, a quote, legally binding plan, we are negotiating a plan that will have in it capacity for enforcement,’ Kerry said.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Ahmed Al Omran: “As U.S. and Iranian diplomats inched toward progress on Tehran’s nuclear program last week, Saudi Arabia quietly signed its own nuclear-cooperation agreement with South Korea.”

ISRAEL: Is Bibi in danger of losing?

The Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick: “Two polls on Wednesday put Isaac Herzog, leader of the dovish Labor Party, slightly ahead and suggest that support for Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud party among working-class Jews has eroded because of their widespread perception that he has focused on nuclear threats from Iran and extremist Muslims at the expense of economic problems.”

CHINA: China confirms the construction of a second aircraft carrier while two men were jailed for selling pictures of the first.

The Diplomat’s Shannon Tiezzi: “As Chinese media reports noted, this marked the first time PLAN officers publicly acknowledged the construction of a second aircraft carrier.”

CNN’s Shen Lu and Katie Hunt: “Two Chinese men have been jailed for selling military intelligence, including hundreds of photos of China’s first aircraft carrier, to foreign spies, state media reported.”

NORTH KOREA: South Korea thinks out loud about absorbing the North. For now, North Korea has found a new friend in Putin’s Russia.

Korea JoongAng Daily’s Lee Young-Jong and Sarah Kim: “The South Korean government is preparing for non-consensual unification scenarios such as absorption of North Korea, said the vice chairman of the presidential unification committee Tuesday.”

The Independent’s Adam Withnall: “North Korea and Russia have declared a ‘year of friendship’ for 2015, according to state media reports from Kim Jong-un’s secretive communist state.”

HELICOPTER ACCIDENT: Seven Marines and four soldiers are dead after a Black Hawk went down off the coast of Florida, the deadliest accident in years.

FP’s David Francis: “The latest crash is also a grim reminder than American troops are dying even as their combat missions abroad come to an end.”

SECRET SERVICE: Another possible black eye for those charged with protecting the president.

The Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig: “The Obama administration is investigating allegations that two senior Secret Service agents, including a top member of the president’s protective detail, drove a government car into White House security barricades after drinking at a late-night party last week.”

CLINTON EMAILS: AP sues for the release of the former secretary of State’s emails as Republicans threaten her with hearings.

USA Today’s Roger Yu: “The Associated Press said Wednesday it has sued the State Department to force the release of government documents and e-mails from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State.”

Reuters’s Susan Heavey and Alistair Bell: “Controversy over emails could overshadow the launch of Hillary Clinton’s expected presidential campaign after an influential Republican on Wednesday raised the prospect of congressional hearings into her use of personal email for work when she was America’s top diplomat.”

EBOLA: The outbreak could be halted by the summer, but it is not over yet. A British aid worker has been infected. Meanwhile, Liberia’s president regrets her choices.

The New York Times’ Nick Cumming-Bruce: “The Ebola outbreak that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives over the past 15 months could be halted by the summer, but only if international financial support is sustained, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.”

The New York Times’ Rick Gladstone: “The president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel peace laureate, said that in hindsight, her deployments of troops and police officers to seal off a vast neighborhood in her nation’s capital — which set off skirmishes with residents, fueled distrust of the government and led to the death of a teenager — had been counterproductive.”

CYBER: The State Department is still vulnerable to a cyberattack.

Defense One’s Aliya Sternstein: “This detail, buried in a 2016 funding request document, combined with State’s failing data protection grades on a recent governmentwide report card, paints a picture of an agency ripe for another attack.”


The Center for American Progress publishes two new reports on Turkey: “The U.S.-Turkey Partnership: One Step Forward, Three Steps Back” and “Kobani, Turkey’s Kurds, and the 2015 Turkish Parliamentary Elections.”

AND FINALLY, FP’s Justine Drennan reports that Finnish meatballs are now just balls.



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