The Cable

Situation Report: Hillary’s in, Ash touts his big bombs, Nigerian artillery gets loose; Ukrainian cop fashion; lots more

By Paul McLeary and Sabine Muscat Just get used to it. The slate of thorny foreign policy issues that will both propel and dog the campaigns of 2016 presidential hopefuls is long and likely to grow, but none will have to thread the needle like Hillary Clinton, who announced her White House run on Sunday. ...

By Paul McLeary and Sabine Muscat

Just get used to it. The slate of thorny foreign policy issues that will both propel and dog the campaigns of 2016 presidential hopefuls is long and likely to grow, but none will have to thread the needle like Hillary Clinton, who announced her White House run on Sunday.

It’s was all Hillary’s idea. FP’s Elias Groll broke it down a bit on Sunday, but in order to become the first Secretary of State to move on over to the White House since good old James Buchanan, she’ll have to find ways to create some space between herself and the Obama administration. She has already been busy portraying herself — in one key instance — as an advocate for more decisive action in Syria. And on Cuba, she’s positioned herself as being ahead of Obama, writing that she “recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our [Cuba] embargo.”

Doing it his own way. One unique take on Hillary’s foreign policy chops came on Sunday from Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul, he of the eternally buttoned collar, who is also running for president on the Republican ticket.

“The war that Hillary prominently promoted in Libya, many of the hawks in my party were right there with her,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Their only difference was in degrees. They wanted to go into Libya, as well, they just always want boots on the ground.” And then he just goes for it: “Some of the hawks in my party, you can’t find a place on the globe they don’t want boots on the ground.”

Lawfare. The Department of Defense’s top lawyer argued Friday evening that the Islamic State’s split from al Qaeda is legally insignificant, since “the name may have changed, but the group we call ISIL today has been an enemy of the United States within the scope of the 2001 AUMF [Authorization for the Use of Military Force] continuously since at least 2004,” according to prepared text of Stephen Preston’s remarks to the American Society of International Law.

Lots of people up on the Hill probably won’t be happy with that formulation, but it’s not new. President Obama sent a draft authorization for the current fight against ISIL to Congress earlier this year which refuses to do away with the original 2001 law that guiding the war against al Qaeda. But “the president has made clear that he stands ready to work with Congress to refine the 2001 AUMF after enactment of an ISIL-specific AUMF,” Preston insisted.

Ash brings the big boom. Tough words from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on CNN Friday evening, when he said that the U.S. could at least temporarily demolish a good portion of Iran’s nuclear weapons capability by dropping the infamous 20-ft. long, 30,000-lb. Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) on a few key sites.  “We could do it, and it would set back the Iranian nuclear program for some period of time” he told Erin Burnett.

Oh and by the way? Carter has yet to hold a press conference at the Pentagon since assuming office on February 17.

Bomb. Repeat. Bomb. Vice News brings it again, sending a correspondent to embed with the Nigerian military in its fight with Boko Haram. The result is a gripping three part video series that shows some of the tactics used by the Nigerian army. One favorite are the nightly “reconnaissance by fire” missions, where gunners shoot 122mm shells into the countryside where they think Boko Haram fighters may be.

Fashion News.The State Department has put out a contract to buy 6,000 “tactical jersey polo” shirts, 6,000 long sleeved shirts, 3,000 baseball hats, 3,000 fleece-lined crew neck sweaters, and 6,000 “twill PDU pants” for the Ukrainian police force that the U.S. and its NATO allies are going to begin training. Will they look good? Who’s to say? But we know they’ll at least have the “contractor chic” look down.

Hey there! Welcome to the Situation report, where we’re always happy to receive tips, hear about events, and (almost) anything else. Reach out to or on Twitter: @paulmcleary.

Who’s Where When

9:00 a.m. The American Enterprise Institute hosts a panel on “Iraq Under Abadi.” 11:00 a.m. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff speaks on “Border Security, Metrics and Immigration Enforcement” at the Bipartisan Policy Center. 12:00 p.m. The Atlantic Council hosts a panel on “Setting the Stage for Peace in Syria.” 1:30 p.m. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall speaks on acquisition reform at the Brooking Institution.


The Wall Street Journal’s Kristina Peterson and Michael R. Crittenden: “Lawmakers determined to claim a larger role in foreign policy will challenge President Barack Obama over his nuclear talks with Iran, taking up legislation this week that would give them the power to review—and potentially reject—a final deal.”

Reuters’s Susan Cornwell: “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defended on Sunday his presentation of a framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program after a different interpretation was offered by Iran’s supreme leader, and a prominent U.S. senator said Kerry was ‘delusional.’”

Defense News’s John Bennett: “On holding a vote on Iran’s nuclear program, there’s bipartisan support. But will both chambers actually ever vote? There are reasons to harbor doubts.”

Politico’s Burgess Everett: “That’s why Corker, whose committee is slated to consider the measure on Tuesday, may make a deal with new Democratic ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland to attract more Democratic support.”

Islamic State

CNN’s Arwa Damon and Hamdi Alkhshali: “ISIS claimed it controlled part of Iraq’s largest oil refinery Sunday, posting images online that purported to show the storming of the facility, fierce clashes and plumes of smoke rising above the contested site.”

Pakistan/ India

The BBC: “India has formally protested to Pakistan over its decision to release on bail the suspected mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.”

Pakistan Today: “A spokesman for al-Qaeda’s new Indian branch says U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed two of its leaders.”


Al Arabiya News: “Saudi Arabia is not at war with Iran, the kingdom’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal said on Sunday, adding that he hoped the Islamic Republic ends its support of Houthi militias in Yemen.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Saeed Shah: “Pakistan’s decision to stay out of Yemen is causing a cleavage with its traditional allies in the Gulf, as the Yemen crisis begins to remake alliances across the Muslim world.”


The Wall Street Journal’s Newley Purnell: “State-sponsored hackers in China are likely behind a sophisticated, decadelong cyber espionage campaign targeting governments, companies and journalists in Southeast Asia, India and other countries, a U.S. cybersecurity company said in a report released Monday.”

Reuters’s Matt Spetalnick and Ben Blanchard: “U.S. President Barack Obama said Washington is concerned China is using its ‘sheer size and muscle’ to push around smaller nations in the South China Sea, drawing a swift rebuke from Beijing which accused the United States of being the bully.”

The Diplomat’s P K Ghosh: “The deployment of a Chinese nuclear submarine – presumably a Type 093 Shang-class – as part of the anti-piracy patrol of two ships and a supply vessel operating off the Gulf of Aden has set alarm bells ringing loudly in the Indian Navy.”

AFP: “The head of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang party said on Sunday he planned to meet President Xi Jinping next month, in what will be the first visit to the mainland by a KMT chief since 2008.”


Defense News’ Paul Kallender-Umezu:  In January, Japan’s Office of National Space Policy cemented a new 10-year space strategy that for the first time folds space policy into national security strategy, both to enhance the US-Japan alliance and to contain China.

Russia/ Nato

The Telegraph: Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves tells the Telegraph the time has come for Nato to deter Russia by permanently stationing combat units in the Baltic states.

Der Spiegel’s Christian Neef: “On May 9, Russia is holding an enormous military parade to commemorate the end of World War II 70 years ago. With tensions between Russia and the West high, most European Union leaders are staying away from the event.”


The Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff: “As Boko Haram is forced out of its strongholds in a multinational military operation, the scale of its brutality is being revealed.”

The Financial Times’ William Wallis: “Nigeria’s opposition on Sunday looked set to consolidate its unprecedented victory in presidential‎ elections by sweeping a majority of states in gubernatorial polls.”

The Associated Press’ Tom Odula: “The Kenyan government says the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya has become a recruitment center for the extremist group al-Shabab whose gunmen last week killed 148 people at the country’s Garissa College University.”

Middle East

The BBC: “Two people have been killed and another wounded in a shooting outside the South Korean embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli, security officials say.”

Long Read

John Lukacs in the New York Review of Books: “In the vast literature about Stalin and Hitler during World War II, little is said about their being allies for twenty-two months. That is more than an odd chapter in the history of that war, and its meaning deserves more attention than it has received.”

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