The Cable

SitRep: Trump Jerusalem Decision Sparks Day of Rage Across Middle East

Temporary government funding bill pushed through, fighting ebbs in Yemen

Palestinian Hamas militants  in the Gaza Strip, on December 7. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, on December 7. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

 

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Happy temporary government funding day! The United States Congress, doing the minimum required to claim it is doing its job, passed a stopgap spending bill Thursday to keep the government open through December 22. The Republican-controlled House and Senate squeaked the short-time Continuing Resolution through 24 hours before the lights were about to go out.

And the Pentagon, while relieved, isn’t happy.

Defense Department Comptroller David Norquist told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that the Pentagon is trying to rebuild depleted stockpiles of bombs and “what the CR says is ‘stop, wait, don’t award that contract yet,’ which delays when you begin to increase the quantity and the production … none of this is fixed until you get a proper appropriation bill.”

Day of rage. Palestinians are taking to the streets Friday in a “day of rage” across the occupied West Bank, Gaza and in East Jerusalem to protest President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

“Across the Arab and Muslim worlds, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Friday, the Muslim holy day, expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and outrage at the U.S. move.

As Friday prayers ended at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, worshippers made their way toward the walled Old City gates, chanting ‘We don’t need empty words, we need stones and Kalashnikovs.’”

NYT: “All but two of 11 former United States ambassadors to Israel contacted by The New York Times after President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital thought the plan was wrongheaded, dangerous or deeply flawed.”

Fighting in Yemen ebbs. The United Nations says that six days of intense fighting in Yemen’s capital that left over 200 dead has ended, for the moment. But after President Trump issued a rare and blunt statement demanding that Saudi Arabia end its blockade of humanitarian goods in Yemen, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that “there are actions that are taking place for a port to open” at the moment.

Farewell. Gen. Ben Hodges, head of U.S. Army Europe, is stepping down in the coming weeks. He took command in 2014 just after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and ever since has pushed to bring U.S. troops, tanks, and helicopters back to the continent after years of decline. The Wall Street Journal’s Julian Barnes, who has spent the past several years following Hodges’ moves around the continent, delivers a good overview of where things stand

Defense acquisition accountability. The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer told Congress Thursday that it is at least theoretically possible that program managers working on major weapons systems could be fired if they fail to perform. But color Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), skeptical. A frequent critic of major acquisitions failures, he asked Lord if anyone has been fired for failures in acquisition, receiving a blunt “no” from Lord, who quickly added that senators “should expect to see some movements” on that front soon.

Welcome to SitRep. As always, please send any tips, thoughts or national security events to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or via Twitter: @paulmcleary.

North Korea’s Flying Dutchman. At least seven North Korean fishing boats have washed up on the shores of Japan in the past two weeks, raising nervous questions in Japan about why so many boats have arrived in such a short period. Scores of North Korean fishing boats, many with dead fishermen inside, have drifted onto Japanese beaches after their crews suffered mechanical failures or bad weather.

Moscow cultivating ‘likes’. An executive at Russia’s homegrown Facebook clone reached out to Donald Trump Jr and then-candidate Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino, looking to help promote the Trump campaign on the social media platform, pledging that “It will be the top news in Russia.” Scavino reportedly expressed interest in the email from VKontakte partnerships chief Konstantin Sidorkov but it’s unclear how much further the proposal went in the campaign.

Read the plan to outsource Afghanistan. The proposal to privatize the war in Afghanistan, made by former Blackwater private security CEO Erik Prince, appears to have died on the vine in the Trump administration but Buzzfeed managed to get a copy of Prince’s pitch. The proposal circulated at the top levels of the Trump administration but opposition from the Pentagon and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster ultimately tanked the idea.

Knock it off. An anonymous French diplomat involved in the International Lebanon Support Group says that a forthcoming declaration from the group will signal to Saudi Arabia that it needs to quit meddling in Lebanese politics. The coalition, which includes all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, will aim to “de-escalate” political tensions in Lebanon with the hopes of keeping it from getting sucked into regional conflicts.

Kill ’em all. Britain’s Defense Minister Gavin Williamson says that his country should kill the remaining 270 British citizens who are still in Syria after joining the Islamic State, saying that “Quite simply my view is a dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain.”

Argentina seeks arrest of former president. The quest for justice in the suspected Iranian-backed 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina has taken a new turn with a warrant issued for the arrest of former president Cristina Kirchner. Judge Claudio Bonadio alleges that Kirchner committed treason and obstructed justice by helping Iran cover up its role in the bombing in exchange for a trade deal

 

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