FP’s Situation Report: U.S. eyes turn to the U.N. for Middle East peace push; Is the Iran deal good for Washington and Jerusalem?; Tourist massacre in Tunisia; and much more from around the world.
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat Netanyahu’s victory might force Washington to change course at the U.N. In an election countdown turnabout, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the creation of a Palestinian state, abandoning his years-long support for a two-state peace deal. Now, President Barack Obama is eyeing a reversal of his own to ...
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat
Netanyahu’s victory might force Washington to change course at the U.N. In an election countdown turnabout, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the creation of a Palestinian state, abandoning his years-long support for a two-state peace deal. Now, President Barack Obama is eyeing a reversal of his own to force a peace agreement with the Palestinians. An exclusive report by FP’s John Hudson and Colum Lynch: “After years of blocking U.N. efforts to pressure Israelis and Palestinians into accepting a lasting two-state solution, the United States is edging closer toward supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution that would call for the resumption of political talks to conclude a final peace settlement.”
More on Netanyahu’s win below.
Is a nuclear deal with Iran good for both Washington and Jerusalem? Differences on the Iran deal have pushed U.S.-Israeli relations to the lowest point in years. But according to a snap poll by the Teaching, Research, and International Policy project at the College of William & Mary in collaboration with Foreign Policy, U.S. and Israeli scholars generally believe a nuclear deal would be positive for both countries.
More on Iran below.
At least nineteen killed in an attack in Tunis. Gunmen dressed in military uniforms and firing automatic weapons targeted the country’s premier museum, a major assault on the country’s economic lifeblood — tourism — and its fledgling democracy. The New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick: “Neither of the two gunmen killed in the deadly attack on a museum in Tunis on Wednesday has been linked to any known terrorist group … Officials have identified the gunmen, who killed 19 people in a midday attack on the National Bardo Museum, as Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui.”
More on the attack in Tunis below.
PRESS PACK: The world reacts to Bibi’s big win.
FP’s David Francis: “In the first sign Netanyahu’s win may do little to quell tensions between Washington and Jerusalem, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday accused Likud of using ‘divisive’ anti-Arab rhetoric prior to the vote.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee and Joshua Mitnick: “The Israeli election results set Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama on a collision course in coming months over a series of high-stakes decisions on Iran policy and the Middle East peace process.”
FP’s Elias Groll: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is moving to dispatch his rivals and consolidate power in what appears will be a government composed of mostly right-wing parties. To do that, he has to get around Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a rival of Netanyahu’s for the loyalty of Israel’s nationalist, pro-settlement voters.”
Bloomberg’s Eli Lake: “His overwhelming victory shows that [the election] was equally a referendum on U.S. President Barack Obama.”
The New York Times’ Diaa Hadid: “With Mr. Netanyahu having dropped, for now at least, the pretense of seeking a two-state solution, the Palestinians can argue to Europe and the United States that they no longer have a negotiating partner.”
Welcome to Thursday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we’d wager productivity is going to drop precipitously a little after noon today.
Contact me at email@example.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
8:30 a.m. The House Foreign Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the Iran nuclear negotiations. 9:30 a.m. Admiral Mike Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee. 10:00 a.m. The Wilson Center hosts a panel on “The War in Ukraine: The Roots of Russian Conduct.” 4:00 p.m. The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a panel on “President Dilma Rousseff’s Second Term: What’s in Store for Brazil?”
Secretary of State John Kerry is in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he is meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
WHAT’S MOVING MARKETS
FP’s Keith Johnson: “Crude prices in the United States fell further on Wednesday to six-year lows after a government report showed that booming oil production just keeps going, filling up commercial inventories and storage tanks.”
FP’s Jamila Trindle: “Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen cleared the way for the end of the Fed’s zero-interest rate policy Wednesday, a move that could roil emerging economies like Turkey and Brazil.”
The New York Times’ Liz Alderman: “Just a few weeks ago, fears that Greece might exit the euro union subsided when Europe extended its financial bailout. But as a new war of words escalates between Athens and its creditors, talk of a ‘Grexit’ is heating up.”
IRAN: The devil is in the details as a deadline looms.
Reuters’s Parisa Hafezi and John Irish: “American and Iranian nuclear experts homed in on the technical details of a possible framework agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear program in a fresh round of talks.”
TUNISIA: North Africa might be the next front in the Islamic State fight as details about the gunmen emerge.
The Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy and Radhouane Addala: “The rare attack, in central Tunis at one of the country’s most popular tourist sites, cast a pall over one of the Arab Spring’s few success stories.”
The Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham and Daniela Deane: “Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said that one of the two gunmen involved in the attack was known to intelligence services … although not for ‘anything special.’”
ISLAMIC STATE: The U.S. worries about what happens to Sunnis in Tikrit when the battle there ends. The Islamic State fight continues to creep into Afghanistan.
FP’s Kate Brannen: “U.S. officials say they are concerned about potential sectarian violence in Tikrit when Shiite militias eventually dislodge the Islamic State from the Iraqi city, but for now, they are waiting and watching.
AFP: “Afghan forces have killed a militant commander suspected of having links to the Islamic State group in an air strike.”
RUSSIA: Putin celebrates the one-year anniversary of the annexation of Crimea as Moscow cements past victories. Meanwhile, the U.S. plans a show of force.
FP’s Reid Standish interviews the one Russian politician who defied Putin on Crimea.
The New York Times’ David M. Herszenhorn: “As President Vladimir V. Putin led Russia in celebrating the first anniversary of its annexation of Crimea on Wednesday with a rally and concert, Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine warned that a cease-fire there was at risk of collapsing because of a dispute over political autonomy for regions in the war zone.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Olga Razumovskaya: “Russia signed a treaty with the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia on Wednesday that seals almost full integration, raising pressure on an ex-Soviet neighbor that has sought closer ties with the West.”
Defense News’s Joe Gould: “With an eye toward Russia’s ability to mass troops quickly, the U.S. plans to demonstrate its own ability to move manpower and heavy vehicles as soldiers begin a 1,100-mile convoy through six countries en route to their home station in Vilseck, Germany.”
AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN: The U.S. troop withdrawal timeline slows down, and a car bomb targets Helmand officials. Meanwhile, Pakistan claims success in the northwest.
Reuters’s Arshad Mohammed, David Rohde, and Phil Stewart: “The U.S. military bases in Kandahar and Jalalabad are likely to remain open beyond the end of 2015, a senior U.S. official said, as Washington considers slowing its military pull-out from Afghanistan to help the new government fight the Taliban.”
The New York Times’ Azam Ahmed and Taimoor Shah: “A huge car bomb rocked the capital of Helmand Province late Wednesday morning, killing seven people and wounding more than 45 in an attack aimed at a gathering of officials in a secure Afghan government compound.”
Reuters’s Jibran Ahmad: “Pakistani air strikes on Wednesday killed 34 militants in the country’s lawless northwest, near the mountainous border with Afghanistan, security officials said, but residents put the toll at 20.”
AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST: Fighting in Yemen heats up as the U.S. takes out an al-Shabab front man.
The New York Times’ Saeed Al Batati and Kareem Fahim: “In a major escalation of Yemen’s civil conflict, rival factions fought for control of the international airport in the southern city of Aden early Thursday, leaving at least three people dead and forcing the airport to shut down.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes: “Adan Garar, who the U.S. Defense Department had identified as a member of the intelligence and security wing of the Somalia-based al-Shabaab group, was killed by an armed drone on March 12.”
EAST ASIA: New threats emerge against U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy as DoD calls on Southeast Asian allies to create a regional navy.
FP’s Justine Drennan: “East Asia is generally known as a pretty safe place for U.S. diplomats. But it hasn’t seemed that way lately.”
Bloomberg’s Sharon Chen: “The commander of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet called on Southeast Asian nations to form a combined maritime force to patrol areas of the South China Sea where territorial tensions flare with China.”
SECRET SERVICE: Bad news gets worse for the agency.
CNN’s Chris Frates: “Secret Service Director Joe Clancy told lawmakers in a closed-door meeting that the Secret Service may have erased surveillance video of agents driving a car through an active bomb threat investigation at the White House.”
CYBER: Wouldn’t it be ironic if David Petraeus’s plea deal allowed Edward Snowden to come home? It could happen.
FP’s David Francis: “The double standard in the case of former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus may result in a legal boon for other leakers who are seeking lighter penalties for similarly releasing classified information.”
EBOLA: Two reminders the epidemic isn’t snuffed out yet.
The Associated Press: “Sierra Leone is planning another three-day, countrywide shutdown later this month to ferret out Ebola cases.”
Voice of America’s Benno Muchler and Prince Collins: “Liberia has managed to get its outbreak under control. But many residents, especially those in northern Lofa County, which was devastated by Ebola, are concerned the deadly virus might make a comeback through visitors from neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea.”
A new paper by the Center for American Progress outlines key ingredients of a potential nuclear deal with Iran.
Obama announced a number of new hires, including Stephen P. Welby as the assistant secretary of Defense for research and engineering.
AND FINALLY, CNN captures the royal reception Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla received in Washington.
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