Fdd's overnight brief

December 14, 2018

In The News


As U.S. President Donald Trump re-imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran last month, hackers scrambled to break into personal emails of American officials tasked with enforcing them, The Associated Press has found — another sign of how deeply cyberespionage is embedded into the fabric of U.S.-Iranian relations. – Associated Press

India’s monthly oil imports from Iran plunged to their lowest in a year in November with Tehran dropping two places to become only the sixth biggest supplier after New Delhi cut purchases due to the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to ship tracking data and industry sources. – Reuters

Iran is intervening in the foreign exchange market and threatening speculators to engineer a dramatic recovery of its rial currency, easing pressure on the oil-exporting economy as Tehran defies renewed U.S. sanctions. – Reuters

Officials wondered whether Trump should record a dramatic video message congratulating the Iranian people on their new year. The twist? Trump would appear alongside an Iranian royal who lives quietly in the Washington area: Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the country’s late shah, the U.S.-allied leader toppled during Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. […]And in a sign that he welcomes higher visibility, Pahlavi will give a rare speech at a Washington think tank on Friday. – Politico

Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s mission to Iraq this week may have been undermined by a delegation of Iranian advisers that met with members of the Iraqi leadership just days before his visit. – Washington Examiner

The United States has condemned Tehran for the “unconscionable” death of a hunger-striking Iranian political activist who had been jailed for messages he wrote on social media. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Andrea Stricker writes: This alleged case shows that financial institutions cannot take the word of company or bank representatives about their lack of dealings with Iran or North Korea. […]The long reach of U.S. sanctions enforcement is evidenced by the arrest of Meng. The United States continues to successfully use arrests in third-party countries and extradition to the United States to hold accountable and penalize alleged sanctions violators. It should broaden its use of this tactic where possible. – Institute for Science and International Security


This ruined, fearful city was once the Islamic State’s capital, the showcase of its caliphate and a magnet for foreign fighters from around the globe. Now it lies at the heart of the United States’ newest commitment to a Middle East war. – Washington Post

Two babies have died after an illness in the past week at a camp for internally displaced people on the Syrian border with Jordan, as the United Nations children’s agency reiterates calls for humanitarian access to the camp. – Al Jazeera

Russia and China on Thursday abstained from an annual United Nations Security Council vote to extend approval for cross-border humanitarian aid deliveries in Syria because Moscow said the four-year-old authorization was “divorced from reality.” – Reuters

Up to 15,000 Syrian rebels are ready to join a Turkish military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, but no date has been set for the operation, a spokesman for the main Turkish-backed Syrian rebel group said on Thursday. – Reuters

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces will respond strongly to any Turkish attack but is pressing diplomatic efforts to deter an assault, its commander-in-chief said on Thursday. – Reuters

Russia’s top diplomat says the make-up of a committee meant to draft a new constitution for Syria is nearly complete, with almost all members agreed on. – Associated Press

The U.N. Security Council voted Thursday to authorize delivery of humanitarian aid across borders and conflict lines in Syria for another year, expressing “outrage” at the continuing violence in the country and “grave distress” at the devastating humanitarian situation. – Associated Press


Turkish prosecutors ordered the detention of 219 soldiers with suspected links to the U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Friday. – Reuters

The main Syrian Kurdish-led militia warned on Thursday that threats by Turkey’s president to launch a new military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria will negatively impact their fight against the Islamic State group. – Associated Press

Michael Rubin writes: What is necessary to do is to recognize Turkey’s actions and hold the Turks perpetrating the destruction of Greek, Kurdish, and Christian heritage accountable. […]With regard to Syria, it is long past time to understand that Erdogan is motivated not by counterterrorism, but rather by racism and religious hatred. As such, it is crucial to recognize that Erdogan is far less a partner than a 21st-century Slobodan Milosevic. – Washington Examiner

Elizabeth Teoman, Paul Becker, and Kieran Hatton write: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unlikely to meaningfully challenge Russia’s increasing aggression in the Black Sea despite its harm to the interests of both Turkey and NATO. He is instead remaining effectively neutral in order to preserve a cooperative relationship with the Kremlin that provides him economic benefits and freedom of action in Syria. Erdogan’s effective neutrality in the Black Sea is a boon to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently prepared to launch a renewed ground offensive against Ukraine. – Institute for the Study of War


Violence broke out in the West Bank on Thursday as two Israeli soldiers were shot dead, the Palestinian driver in an alleged car-ramming attempt was killed and two Palestinians suspected of earlier attacks were gunned down by Israeli forces. – Washington Post

Israeli analysts, who attributed all three attacks to Hamas, said the group was trying to prove its relevance and signal that it remained a political force on the West Bank. The attacks created political trouble for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently took on the additional portfolio of defense minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president. – New York Times

As Israeli excavators dug into the rocky hills along the frontier with a Lebanese village, a crowd of young Lebanese men gathered to watch. The mood was light as the crowd observed in real time what Israel says is a military operation — dubbed “Northern Shield” — aimed at destroying attack tunnels built by the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. – Associated Press

A Palestinian man bashed an Israeli soldier in the head with a rock, seriously injuring him, at an army post outside the Beit El settlement in the central West Bank on Friday, the army said. – Times of Israel

As Israel continued its manhunt Friday for the attackers who killed two soldiers in the central West Bank, security forces readied for possible further violence as the Palestinian terror group Hamas called for a “day of rage” to mark the anniversary of its founding. – Times of Israel

Sergeant Yosef Cohen, aged 19 from Beit Shemesh, and 20-year-old Staff Sergeant Yovel Moryosef from Ashkelon were killed when a gunman leapt out of his car and opened fire as the two soldiers stood at a bus stop close to the West Bank outpost of Giv’at Asaf.

The attacker, who also seriously wounded two other people, fled the scene of devastation, sparking a massive manhunt. – Ynet

Bret Stephens writes: Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. – New York Times

Ron Ben-Yishai writes: The IDF, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police will have to invest massive forces and a great intelligence effort in the West Bank to stop the situation from deteriorating further. […]To contain this escalation, security forces will have to immediately take the following steps. – Ynet


Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said on Thursday he hoped a new national unity government would be formed by the end of the year after seven months of wrangling over the allocation of ministerial posts. – Reuters

Saad al-Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister who mysteriously disappeared and resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia last year, said his relationship with the kingdom “couldn’t be better.” – Business Insider

Evelyn Gordon writes: So the international community is spending $500 million a year on a “peacekeeping” force that hasn’t stopped Hezbollah’s military buildup, hasn’t even reported it in an effort to mobilize international action and serves as a deterrent to a measure that really would hurt Hezbollah: being blacklisted by the EU. […] The better solution would be to dissolve UNIFIL, put those $500 million to some better use, and focus instead on getting the EU to blacklist Hezbollah. – Commentary Magazine

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s government has been spending billions of dollars to quietly prop up its stock market and counter selloffs that have followed repeated political crises in recent months. […]According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of trading data and interviews with multiple people with direct knowledge of government intervention efforts, the Saudi government has placed huge buy orders, often in the closing minutes of negative trading days, to boost the market. – Wall Street Journal

The Senate voted on Thursday to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in the strongest show of bipartisan defiance against President Trump’s defense of the kingdom over the killing of a dissident journalist. – New York Times

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday introduced legislation holding Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and insisting on accountability. – Reuters

Editorial: The Senate’s action ought to make clear to Mr. Trump, as well as King Salman, that the U.S.-Saudi relationship cannot continue without change. There must be, as the resolution puts it, “appropriate accountability for all those responsible” for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder. The war in Yemen must be brought to a swift end. And the reckless foreign adventures and crushing internal repression that have been the most prominent features of the crown prince’s rule must end. – Washington Post

Katherine Zoepf writes: In the 18 months since Prince Mohammed became heir apparent, the message to those inside the kingdom has become clear: The prince’s need to control the narrative is so great that he will brutally suppress not only dissidents but also those who agree with him — should they dare to express their views in public. The intended message to outsiders is clear, too: Prince Mohammed is Saudi Arabia’s only hope and savior, a visionary bent on dragging his resistant subjects into the future. – New York Times

Eli Lake writes: […]The Saudis had a chance this week to earn a little good will in Washington. They squandered it — a missed opportunity they may regret when the new Congress, and the new Democratic-controlled House, convenes next month. – Bloomberg


Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels agreed Thursday to a cease-fire in an embattled port city, a breakthrough in the nearly four-year conflict that came as lawmakers in Washington ramped up pressure on a Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels. – Wall Street Journal

For nearly four years, American taxpayers have been footing the bill for a chunk of the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen — the gas for many of the Saudi warplanes flying combat missions and the jets that provide the midair refueling. – New York Times

Longtime observers questioned whether the deal struck in Rimbo, Sweden, marks a true turning point in a four-year-old conflict that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, and brought the country to the brink of famine. Many fear it will be another false start after more than four years of frustrated diplomatic efforts that have already seen two U.N. envoys resign in failure. – Foreign Policy

Ishaan Tharoor writes: There are many reasons to be skeptical of the current diplomatic breakthrough. In the past, Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to various cease-fires, power-sharing agreements, and other truces. […]There is thin hope that the influence of outside powers may now tilt Yemen toward a more stable path. – Washington Post

Dana Stroul writes: To the extent that actors on the ground pay attention to such debates in Washington, U.S. officials should use the Senate’s action as leverage, leaning on the Saudi coalition and Yemeni government to expedite the next round of talks. The uptick in congressional focus on the war also means that Griffiths and the administration have their work cut out for them in keeping all parties focused on implementing the new agreement and locking in the next round of talks in January. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL, also known as ISIS) “deliberate, wanton annihilation” of agricultural land in northern Iraq amounts to a war crime, Amnesty International has said. – Al Jazeera

Jordanian authorities deployed hundreds of riot police in the capital and warned activists to stay within the law on Thursday as hundreds of demonstrators staged more protests against tough austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund. – Reuters

Turkey’s Defense Ministry says the military has conducted airstrikes against Kurdish rebel targets in Iraq’s Sinjar and Mount Karajak regions. – Associated Press

Tore Refslund Hamming writes: A secret letter recently obtained by this author through an inside source sheds light on ISIS’s efforts to persuade an al-Qaeda affiliate to jump ship, abandon its allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, and join al-Baghdadi’s ranks. […]it tells us a lot about their previous exchanges and AQIM’s main criticisms of ISIS, and offers a rare glimpse into the group’s efforts to convince al-Qaeda affiliates to join its new caliphate. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

Speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will soon visit Seoul for the first time has sparked debate in South Korea over how to allow citizens to express often strongly held views while preventing any international incidents. – Reuters

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in told Japanese lawmakers on Friday “cautious, restrained language” is needed when discussing wartime forced labor to avoid “inciting antagonistic emotions” between the people of the two East Asian countries. – Reuters

South Koreans on Thursday fiercely debated a government plan to allow conscientious objectors to work in prisons instead of mandatory military duty in a country still technically at war with North Korea. – Reuters

North and South Korea have agreed to hold a ceremonial groundbreaking for a project to reconnect railways and roads across the divided peninsula, despite concerns of possible sanctions violations. – Al Jazeera

Months after the White House raised hopes for bringing home thousands of U.S. battlefield remains from North Korea, the returns have stalled. Detailed negotiations on future recovery arrangements have not even begun. – Associated Press

Bruce Klingner and Thomas Spoehr write: Exercise cancellations have consequences. It directly affects interoperability. In the short term, you can minimize the impact with computer-based exercises and low-level exercises, but over time interoperability degrades. There should be a limit to how long America cancels exercises without some tangible progress on denuclearization. […]While the allies have risked degrading their deterrence and defense capabilities, Pyongyang has not responded in kind. – Heritage Foundation


The United States and China are embroiled in a tense trade war that seemed headed for escalation after the United States accused a top Chinese technology executive of fraud. […]Canada is in a tricky spot, boxed in the middle between its two largest trading partners, and worried about having to choose sides. – New York Times

China has significantly upped the ante in its diplomatic standoff with Canada, not just detaining two Canadian citizens but accusing them of serious crimes — charges that could result in their imprisonment for months with no outside contact. – Washington Post

Despite President Trump’s statement that he might intervene in a criminal case against the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., such a move would break from longstanding tradition and advisers have warned him that his options are limited, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

The founder of Huawei Technologies, a former engineer in China’s People’s Liberation Army, runs the telecom titan with military discipline. New employees at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen must undergo a two-week boot camp at Huawei University, the company’s training institute, complete with sessions that are literally called “brainwashing,” according to former employees. – Washington Post

A Chinese photographer acclaimed for his stark pictures of poverty and pollution was arrested by the police while visiting Xinjiang, his wife said on Friday, in an update on a disappearance that has drawn additional attention to the far western region where hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been detained. – New York Times

Chinese telecom giant ZTE is tapping a deeply connected Washington insider, former Sen. Joe Lieberman, as it tries to fend off ongoing concerns that it poses a threat to U.S. national security. – Politico

The people of Tibet should not be taken in by the Dalai Lama’s lies and clearly understand the importance of Communist Party rule in the region, the Chinese government said ahead of March’s sensitive 60th anniversary of him fleeing into exile. – Reuters

Tom Rogan writes: The U.S. should sanction Chinese Ministry of State Security officials, to include domestic intelligence bureau chiefs, in response to the nation’s ongoing detention of two Canadians. […]China must know that America will not bow here. We have Beijing off balance — that’s why it’s time to double down right now. – Washington Examiner

Eli Lake writes:  […]Snowden hindered the NSA’s ability to spy on Chinese computer networks, which helps companies such as Anthem and Marriott learn of digital intrusions. At the very least, this kind of quiet surveillance helps with attribution of hacks after the fact, which acts as a deterrence. Is it any wonder that China’s megahacks began a year after Snowden landed in Hong Kong? – Bloomberg

Jonas Parello-Plesner writes: But Trump’s optimism cannot hide the fact that the United States is plunging into a prolonged great power rivalry with China. The arrest in Canada, at U.S. request, of a top executive of the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei is only the latest evidence. […]U.S.-China rivalry is likely to manifest itself in proxy wars over wireless technology and artificial intelligence. That is the new reality that U.S. allies in Europe and Asia must face. – Hudson Institute

Krishnadev Calamur writes: […]The lack of transparency also helps some of the world’s most corrupt governments to siphon off Chinese funds—contrast this with a new U.S. strategy that calls for ensuring that all American aid to the region advances U.S. interests. […]As Bolton said after his remarks: “China thinks over a longer structural timeframe.” It might be time for the U.S. to follow suit. – The Atlantic


A plot to kill the president, links to foreign intelligence, a rogue police officer and a missing sniper: the snippets of news emerging from Sri Lanka in recent weeks seem plucked from the pages of paperback fiction. […]But the allegations have had real enough consequences for the island nation, contributing to upending its politics, undermining its currency and credit rating, and affecting relations with giant neighbor India. – Reuters

Japan’s central government started main reclamation work Friday at a disputed U.S. military base relocation site on the southern island of Okinawa despite fierce local opposition. – Associated Press

The House of Representatives effectively rebuked the Trump administration on Thursday by overwhelmingly passing a resolution declaring that Myanmar’s military has carried out a genocide against Rohingya Muslims — a stance the administration has refused to take. – Politico

Australia on Friday warned citizens to take care while travelling in neighbouring Muslim-majority Indonesia, ahead of an expected but contentious move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. – Agence France-Presse


A Russian woman accused of acting as an agent of Moscow pleaded guilty on Thursday to being part of a conspiracy to influence U.S. politics by becoming involved with the National Rifle Association and conservative activists. – Wall Street Journal

The last time term limits forced Russian leader Vladimir Putin to step down from the presidency, he became prime minister for a few years. […]This time around, a group of pro-Kremlin activists have a different idea: Proclaim him Czar Vladimir. – Wall Street Journal

Ukrainian security service officers raided the Orthodox Christian cathedral in this northwestern town this month, saying it suspected its Russia-aligned clergy of spreading religious hatred. – Reuters

Two Ukrainian navy captains being held in a Russian jail have refused to provide testimony because they consider themselves prisoners of war, their lawyers said on Wednesday. – Reuters

There will be no meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin while Russia still holds Ukrainian ships and sailors seized near Crimea, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said on Thursday. – Reuters

The Russian Orthodox Church has called on the United Nations, the leaders of Germany and France, the pope and other spiritual leaders to protect believers in Ukraine in the face of official pressure on Moscow-appointed clerics. – Associated Press

EU leaders extended economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine for another six months, amid heightened tensions between Kiev and Moscow over their Azov Sea clash. – Al Jazeera

A top Senate Republican on Thursday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to seize key Ukrainian cities that would grant him a “land bridge” to the annexed peninsula of Crimea. – Washington Examiner

A Romanian court on Friday rejected a request by Turkey to extradite a Turkish journalist it accuses of terrorism. – Associated Press

Robert Johnston writes: U.S. leaders should keep a close eye on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cyber sleight of hand. Behind the smokescreen of multi-polar chaos, Putin is ramping up cyber warfare to keep Western powers, including the U.S., from keeping Ukraine from Russian state capture. – The Hill


French police shot dead the man suspected of carrying out the terrorist attack on Strasbourg earlier this week, officials said, ending a two-day manhunt that unsettled the country. – Wall Street Journal

Emmanuel Macron’s government easily survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Thursday over its handling of the “yellow-vest” protests that have swept the country in recent weeks. – Wall Street Journal

British Prime Minister Theresa May traveled Thursday to Brussels to beg fellow E.U. leaders for concessions in her effort to seal a divorce deal splitting her nation from the European Union, but won little to sway opinions among her rebellious supporters.  – Washington Post

Unlike the political chaos that has roiled Britain over Brexit, there has been no such squabbling among the 27 other European Union nations during the impending divorce. – Associated Press

The United States and Germany continue to negotiate behind the scenes over access to a highly classified computer model that Berlin needs so it can build its next-generation anti-missile system, according to sources and documents. – Defense News

Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s largest telecoms company, said on Friday it was reviewing its network vendor strategy in light of a debate on the security of Chinese network equipment that it was taking “very seriously”. – Reuters

Lawmakers in Kosovo will vote on December 14 on whether to create a full-fledged army, a move that has inflamed tensions with its former wartime foe Serbia. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Ruby Mellen writes: Perhaps most concerning to Europe, should the U.K. crash out of the bloc, would be the issue of borders. More than 3 million E.U. citizens live in the United Kingdom, while more than 1 million Britons live in the European Union. With freedom of movement within the European Union, British and E.U. citizens can move in and out of their nation states. A hard Brexit would create major confusion around who can stay and under what circumstances. – Washington Post

Felia Allum writes: Members of the Italian mafia like to travel abroad – not necessarily for pleasure, but to make money. And the harm they are doing to European economies is often underplayed, trivialised or ignored. […]The recent arrests of ‘Ndrangheta members across Europe can be seen as a concrete step forward. But it also highlights how far we are behind in terms of understanding and developing a coordinated European strategy to follow Italian mafia money. – Business Insider


President Trump plans to reshape America’s policy in Africa by challenging the continent’s leaders to make a strategic choice to align themselves with America instead of Russia or China. – Wall Street Journal

Suspected jihadists on motorcycles have killed at least 42 people during a series of attacks on Tuareg nomadic camps in Mali, local leaders said Thursday. – Associated Press

The former No. 2 leader of Somalia’s al-Shabab extremist group, who is now a top candidate in a regional election next week, was arrested on Thursday, prompting violent protests in which four people were killed, officials said. – Associated Press

Russia and China abstained on Thursday in a United Nations vote to extend a peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic (CAR) because the French-drafted resolution did not make direct reference to Russia’s efforts to help the country. – Reuters

United States

Washington lobbying firm Federal Advocates was among the schools and businesses around the country targeted in a wave of bomb threats on Thursday. – Politico

A Brooklyn man was arrested by federal authorities after he threatened to shoot a U.S. senator who spoke ill of President Trump. – Washington Examiner

Erin Dunne writes: From fostering close relations with our neighbors in Canada and Mexico to recognizing the mutual benefits of NATO to full engagement with the U.N., these relationships form the bulwark against Beijing’s growing power. […]The importance of those alliances, not ill-defined talk of China as a menace, should be the priority for lawmakers from the FBI report. – Washington Examiner

Latin America

A man suspected of a 1987 bombing in Honduras is leading a group of migrants demanding entry into the U.S. – Washington Examiner

Bolsonaro, who takes power on 1 January, is famed for his loathing for Venezuela’s leader, Nicolás Maduro, and the “despicable and murderous ideology” he believes Maduro represents. Last year Bolsonaro vowed to “do whatever is possible to see that government deposed” – a pledge that delighted anti-Maduro agitators such as Navarro. – The Guardian

Moises Rendon writes: As Venezuela’s crisis has proven, international inactivity has tremendous consequences for regional stability. While recent events in Nicaragua certainly differ from Venezuela’s experiences of the past four years, there is a clear consensus that the Ortega regime is following a similar path to that of Nicolas Maduro. […]The role of the international community is crucial in helping ensure that Nicaragua does not travel any further down this path; applying the lessons learned from Venezuela will be a good start. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Cyber Security

Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform many industries: Cars that drive themselves, facial recognition that enhances security, or systems that could detect cancer better than a doctor. […]The tech’s deployment in the decade ahead will add $15.7 trillion to global GDP, with China predicted to take $7 trillion and North America $3.7 trillion, according to the multinational company. – CNBC

A massive wave of online bomb threats aimed at extorting bitcoins swept across New York, much of the US and Canada on Thursday, leaving several big cities on edge and investigators hunting for the source, according to officials and reports. – New York Post

Suzanne Spaulding and Mieke Eoyang write: A lack of cybersecurity can have serious consequences[…]. It’s no wonder that people are desperately on the hunt for policy solutions to improve the security of systems on which we rely. And while some ideas are better than others, one truly bad idea is to create a Department of Cybersecurity—a hugely disruptive bureaucratic solution that not only fails to solve problems but adds new ones. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Senator James M. Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, came under fire on Thursday for purchasing tens of thousands of dollars of stock in a leading defense contractor just a week after he successfully lobbied the Trump administration to increase military spending. – New York Times

The question of whether the Space Force will be an entirely new military department or reside under the Department of the Air Force has been settled, the Pentagon’s No. 2 leader said Thursday. – Defense News

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) started integrated operations in the Arabian Sea on Wednesday, supporting operations in Afghanistan. – USNI News

Richard Kuzma, Ian Shaw, Zac Dannelly, and Drew Calcagno write: The Defense Department has a gargantuan human resources mission: ensure that millions of service members and civilian counterparts are technically and tactically proficient enough to fight and win wars while at the same time not fully knowing the character of the next war. Training millions of people is not an easy task, nor is making sure every job is filled with someone capable of performing the duties required.- War on the Rocks

Benjamin H. Friedman writes: The idea that alliances should be permanent—“embedded in the DNA of American foreign policy and not sort of beginning and ending,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it—has replaced George Washington’s fear that permanent alliances meant “infusing” foreign enmities into U.S. politics and needless participation in other states’ wars. The United States now casually collects allies[…] as if they are friendship badges rather than promises to defend states – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Trump Administration

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is setting a curious pattern as he squeezes cooperation and guilty pleas out of suspects in his investigation, one that suggests he may be nearing the end of his work. – Washington Post

Federal prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy, according to people familiar with the inquiry. – New York Times

President Donald Trump on Thursday met with former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and considered him a top contender for the job of White House chief of staff, a position some advisers urged him to give to senior aide Jared Kushner, sources said.A source familiar with Trump’s thinking said the president had a positive meeting with Christie, confirming a report by Axios.com, and considered him a top-tier candidate for the position. – Reuters

Theodore R. Bromund writes: Here, therefore, are 10 steps the U.S. can take — in some cases on its own, more often in cooperation with other democracies — to limit Interpol abuse and shield the victims should abuse occur. […]The point of these proposed reforms, at the national and the international level alike, is not to challenge Interpol’s purpose or its rules. It is to ensure that Interpol upholds those rules.  – Heritage Foundation