The Cable

FP’s Situation Report: Christians under siege in Iraq; Nigeria calls in outside help to fight Boko Haram; Germany: no weapons for Ukraine; and much more from around the world.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat Congress sits by as Christians are besieged by the Islamic State. Last August, President Barack Obama signed a bill creating a special envoy charged with helping Iraq’s Christian communities and other minority religious groups targeted by the Islamic State. Seven months later, the post is still vacant, and Congress ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

Congress sits by as Christians are besieged by the Islamic State. Last August, President Barack Obama signed a bill creating a special envoy charged with helping Iraq’s Christian communities and other minority religious groups targeted by the Islamic State. Seven months later, the post is still vacant, and Congress seems in no rush to fill it. FP’s Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Yochi Dreazen report on a “small but concrete example of Washington’s passivity in the face of an ongoing wave of atrocities against the Assyrian, Chaldean, and other Christian communities of Iraq and Syria.”

More on the Islamic State below.

Nigeria is using outside help to push back Boko Haram. Earlier this week, Nigerian officials boasted of their sudden success in fighting militants. Turns out they’re getting some outside assistance from South African mercenaries. FP’s Siobhán O’Grady and Elias Groll: “Abuja turned to South African defense contractors to provide helicopters and pilots. That happened after the United States refused to provide weapons and blocked the sale of Cobra attack helicopters from Israel to Nigeria.”

More on Boko Haram below.

Germany is emphatic: No weapons for Ukraine. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is using a three-day swing through Washington to drive home Berlin’s position: U.S. guns will serve more harm than good in Ukraine as Kiev tries to fight off a separatist movement backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, FP’s David Francis and Lara Jakes report.

More on Ukraine below.

PRESS PACK: Iraqi forces secure their hold on Tikrit.

The Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham: “The showdown in Tikrit — waged without significant American air support — is also a test of coordination between government-led Sunni forces and Shiite militias backed by Iran. The two groups have often been at odds but have joined forces against the common enemy of the Islamic State.”

The New York Times’ Helene Cooper, Anne Barnard, and Eric Schmitt: “The Islamic State is facing growing dissension among its rank-and-file fighters and struggling to govern towns and villages it has seized, but the militant Sunni group is still managing to launch attacks and expand its ideological reach outside of Iraq and Syria.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy and Maria Abi-Habib on the motivation of Shiite fighters: “They are engaged in a holy war against Sunni extremists for control of their lands, legitimized by a fatwa issued last year by Iraq’s highest-ranking Shiite cleric.”

Welcome to Friday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we hope this investigation doesn’t turn up anything untoward, as we — like the rest of the world — can’t wait to read Harper Lee’s new book.

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

9:30 a.m. The Atlantic Council launches its “Strategy Initiative” on “America’s Role in the World.” 1:00 p.m. CIA Director John Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Egypt to meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

WHAT’S MOVING MARKETS

FP’s Keith Johnson on what might be a missed opportunity to roll back energy subsidies in the Middle East: “In a region where government largesse remains one of many regimes’ few tangible carrots, there may be a lot less maneuvering room than international bankers and credit analysts might think.”

The New York Times’ David Jolly: “Greece will get advice from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on ways to revamp the country’s economy.”

Reuters: “Greece is in a position to meet its financial obligations even if does not receive a further instalment of its frozen international bailout, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday.”

ISLAMIC STATE: The Islamic State embraces Boko Haram as a top U.S. military official warns the United States is vulnerable to militants. Is America’s fight pushing Washington and Jerusalem apart?

The Washington Post’s Greg Miller: “In a speech distributed on social media, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, a spokesman for the Islamic State, praised the recent declaration of allegiance by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.”

Voice of America’s Carla Babb: General John Kelly “said that about 100 Islamist militant recruits have left the Caribbean and South America to train and fight in Syria.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov: “There is clearly a growing divergence in U.S. and Israeli approaches over who represents the biggest danger—and who should be seen, if not as an ally, at least as a lesser evil in the regional crisis sparked by the dual implosion of Syria and Iraq.”

Reuters reports Spanish police arrested eight suspected Islamic militants early this morning.

BOKO HARAM: The Nigerian military might be taking credit for work not their own.

The New York Times’ Adam Nossiter: “The mercenaries’ role was crucial, part of a new offensive against Boko Haram after a nearly six-year insurrection. The Nigerian military, under pressure because of a presidential election to be held this month, has recently claimed a string of successes against Boko Haram.”

RUSSIA: The murder of an opposition politician opens rifts in Moscow as America’s wingman in Europe fades. Meanwhile, where’s Putin?

Reuters’s Christian Lowe and Jason Bush: “The killing of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov within sight of the Kremlin has exposed rarely seen tensions between different camps inside President Vladimir Putin’s system of rule.”

The Washington Post’s Griff Witte: “A report issued this week by a respected British think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, found that Britain’s regular army could shrink to just 50,000 troops by 2019 – about half the number of the amount when the decade began and just a fraction of the figure from the height of the Cold War.”

The Guardian’s Alec Luhn: “Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has been forced to deny that the 62-year-old president is in poor health after a string of meetings were canceled and the Kremlin published old photographs to claim work was proceeding as usual.”

UKRAINE: Officials connected to Ukraine’s former president are ending up dead under weird circumstances. The most clear cut evidence emerges that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for downing a commercial plane last summer.

The BBC: “A former regional governor has been found dead in Ukraine, the latest in a series of deaths involving allies of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.”

Reuters’s Anton Zverev: “Villagers in eastern Ukraine have told Reuters they saw a missile flying directly overhead just before a Malaysian airliner was shot out of the sky on July 17 last year, providing the most detailed accounts to date that suggest it was fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels.”

SECRET SERVICE: The agents allegedly driving drunk disrupted a bomb investigation at the White House.

The Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig and Peter Hermann: “Two Secret Service agents suspected of being under the influence while striking a White House security barricade drove through an active bomb investigation and directly beside the suspicious package.”

AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN: A merger between extremist groups could strengthen Pakistan’s Taliban. Meanwhile, a rift in the leadership of the Afghan Taliban appears to be the main obstacle to peace talks.

The Wall Street Journal’s Saeed Shah and Safdar Dawar: “Three militant groups in Pakistan say they have joined forces, potentially giving that country’s Taliban insurgents more heft to resist a military campaign by the government and stepping up the general threat from extremist organizations.”

Reuters’s Jibran Ahmad and Mehreen Zahra-Malik: “The warning was a reminder of how tough it will be to get insurgents and the Afghan government around the same table, let alone agree a lasting peace, even with help from Pakistan, the Taliban’s erstwhile backer that still wields influence over them.”

IRAN: A deal appears close as new voices join the chorus of critics against the GOP’s Iran letter. Meanwhile, Congress presses for a vote on a deal.

Reuters’s Louis Charbonneau: “Major world powers have begun talks about a United Nations Security Council resolution to lift U.N. sanctions on Iran if a nuclear agreement is struck with Tehran, a step that could make it harder for the U.S. Congress to undo a deal.”

The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung: “European allies are joining the Obama administration in criticizing Republican congressional interjection into nuclear negotiations with Iran.”

Reuters’s Sam Wilkin: “Iran’s Supreme Leader hit out on Thursday at a letter by U.S. Republican senators threatening to undo any nuclear deal between Washington and Tehran.”

The New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and David E. Sanger: “The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged President Obama on Thursday not to seek a United Nations endorsement of the emerging nuclear agreement with Iran without first giving Congress a chance to vote on it.”

AFP details what an Iran deal could look like.

ISRAEL: Israel’s top diplomat Avigdor Lieberman could soon be out of a job as West Bank settlers pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Washington Post’s William Booth and Ruth Eglash: “Now Lieberman’s days as Israel’s face to the world may be numbered. According to the latest polls, his party may have barely enough support to get into parliament.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Casey: “The settlers’ misgivings about Mr. Netanyahu could siphon votes from Likud, and their growing clout makes it more uncertain he will get to try to form a government.”

YEMEN: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula shows off its media savvy.

The Wall Street Journal’s Maria Abi-Habib: “Instead of the standard silence surrounding such top-secret U.S. attacks on Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the shadowy group sent photos of the charred vehicle and detailed obituaries to reporters within hours.”

NORTH KOREA: Pyongyang tests seven ground-to-air missiles.

The BBC: “It comes on the last day of an annual U.S.-South Korea military exercise.”

HELICOPTER ACCIDENT: Search teams find the wreckage and suspend a search for the victims of this week’s training tragedy.

Reuters: “With no hope of finding any survivors after more than 36 hours of searching, the U.S. Coast Guard said it had ended active efforts to look for the bodies of the service members not already recovered.”

CLINTON EMAILS: Benghazi is not going away.

The Wall Street Journal’s Michael R. Crittenden and Kristina Peterson: The House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy “last week issued a subpoena for all of Mrs. Clinton’s communications related to Libya, and Mr. Gowdy said in an interview Wednesday that the investigation will expand.”

SURVEILLANCE: Snowden continues to make his mark in Great Britain.

The Telegraph’s Tom Whitehead: “Snooping laws surrounding GCHQ and Britain’s spy agencies need to be overhauled in the wake of the Ed Snowden leaks, a major review has concluded.”

CHINA: China’s President Xi Jinping calls for greater civil-military integration.

Xinhua: “Efforts must be made to ensure “coordinated, balanced and compatible development” of the country’s economic and national defense capabilities, he said.”

EBOLA: An American aid worker contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The New York Times’ Sheri Fink and Alan Cowell: “The Partners In Health worker was the first in that group to be infected since it made an ambitious commitment last fall to help combat Ebola in West Africa.”

REVOLVING DOOR

Third Way announced former Department of Defense official Todd M. Rosenblum has joined them as a visiting fellow for a new cybersecurity initiative the organization has created.

AND FINALLY, from FP’s Justine Drennan: Check out this amazing photo of an international spacecraft landing in Kazakhstan.

 

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

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