Fdd's overnight brief

January 11, 2019

In The News


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used a speech here to rally the Arab world against Iran, casting the Islamic Republic as the Trump administration’s top concern in the region at a pivotal moment in U.S.-Mideast relations. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a scathing rebuke of the Obama administration’s Mideast policies on Thursday, accusing the former president of “misguided” thinking that diminished America’s role in the region while harming its longtime friends and emboldening Iran. – Associated Press

President Hasan Rouhani’s remarks at commemorations in Tehran on January 9 and 10 to mark the second anniversary of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s death has revealed rifts at the top level of Iran’s political system. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran will see its crude exports severely curtailed for a third month in January as it is struggling to find new buyers amid fresh U.S. sanctions even though its traditional customers secured waivers, according to tanker data and industry sources. – Reuters

Iran-EU trade turnover has declined significantly since the United States reimposed stringent sanctions on Iran, including oil exports and banking. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Cyber attackers in Iran could be behind a wave of hacks on government and communications infrastructure that will require a coordinated global response to repel, according to cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc. – Bloomberg

A spokesman for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) asserted on Wednesday that Lebanese and Palestinian “resistance” organizations — i.e. the Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups — were capable of destroying Israel in the event of a future war. – Algemeiner

Eli Lake writes: Yes, Obama too often failed to honor this tradition in American foreign policy. But Trump shows no appreciation for it whatsoever. He sucks up to authoritarians. The president’s defenders might argue that, with Iran on the march, democratic ideals are a luxury U.S. statecraft cannot afford in the Middle East. But dictatorships are never as stable as they appear from the outside. – Bloomberg

Kevjn Lim writes: With the first generation of Iran’s revolutionary clerics fast fading out, Shahroudi’s relatively early death at 70 eliminates what is perhaps the most serious and qualified succession candidate so far floated in Tehran’s corridors of power. Although he may not necessarily have preferred a more conciliatory foreign policy, the late Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi may have represented the least politically divisive and most domestically stabilizing alternative for Iran’s highest office. – Foreign Policy


The U.S. military is moving ahead with its plans to withdraw all troops from Syria, in keeping with a White House directive in December, even though a U.S.-Turkey rift appears likely to delay the pullout, defense officials said. – Wall Street Journal

A powerful extremist group seized control of most of Syria’s last opposition stronghold on Thursday, threatening a fragile cease fire intended to avert a Syrian military offensive and likely humanitarian catastrophe. – Wall Street Journal

A majority of Israelis think U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria harms the Jewish state’s security, even while agreeing that Israel can defend itself, according to a survey published Thursday. – Bloomberg

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee emerged Thursday from a closed-door briefing on the Trump administration’s Syria policy with outstanding questions about the president’s plan for a withdrawal. – The Hill

Bruce Hoffman and Seth G. Jones write: In withdrawing U.S. military forces and intelligence capabilities from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, the U.S. leaves behind conditions amenable to terrorism’s resurgence. […]Since 9/11, U.S. presidents have repeatedly declared victory against terrorists and sought to shift national-security policy toward different priorities. Each time, America’s resilient adversaries exploit the quiet periods to regroup and reorganize to threaten us anew. If it follows through with its planned Middle East withdrawal, the Trump administration may learn this the hard way. – Wall Street Journal

Jeanne Shaheen and Diane Foley write: The president’s unexpected decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, however, has betrayed the trust the SDF put in the United States. Without U.S. support, the SDF will be in a battle for survival, degrading the group’s ability to oversee the detention of these Islamic States fighters or complete the mission to eradicate the terrorist group in the region. This not only puts the lives of Syrian Kurds in jeopardy but also risks a resurgence of Islamic State violence around the globe. – Washington Post

Tamuz Avivi and Arjan Ganji write: With the timeline for withdrawal now unclear and with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton both traveling in the region, these visits are likely to shape future analysis of Trump’s initial announcement. And while the two states’ media responses are relatively in-line with their country’s position on U.S. involvement in the region, the future actions of these respective states in light of a shifting dynamic in Syria remain less clear-cut. – Washington Institute


Turkey ordered the arrest of more than 100 soldiers and former military students over suspected links to the network of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused of orchestrating a 2016 attempted coup, prosecutors and state media said on Friday. – Reuters

The roughly 2,000 U.S. forces in Syria are caught in the middle of mounting diplomatic tension between Turkey and the United States. Turkey said this morning it will launch an offensive against the U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria, the YPG, whether or not the Trump administration delays its promised withdrawal of troops. – CBS News

Selim Sazak writes: There is no doubt that Turkey is responsible for many of the troubles it has brought upon itself […]. None of this, however, excuses analytical sloppiness. Not all that Turkey does is wrong, and not all that is wrong is its doing. Mixing up the facts of Erdogan’s villainy with the fantasies of his critics is not merely an indiscretion. It also gets in the way of the sound and sensible policies the United States and Turkey need to cooperate where their interests converge and manage differences where they diverge. While the U.S.-Turkish alliance is not an easy one, both countries would find life much harder without it. – Foreign Policy

Gonul Tol writes: Turkey is not the only regional power using Islam in a bid for hegemony. Iran and Saudi Arabia also disseminate their respective versions of Islam by funding organizations and mosques. Turkey is attempting to position its brand of Islam as a more tolerant, less extreme Sunni alternative to Saudi Wahhabism—and therefore more fit for regional leadership. […]But the nationalist tinge in Turkey’s religious diplomacy could stand in the way of its success. – Foreign Affairs


Israel will not be able to deliver to Croatia a dozen used F-16 fighter jets which Croatia decided to buy last year to modernize its air force, Croatia’s Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic said on Thursday. “Israel has officially informed us that it cannot get an approval from the United States for delivery of the planes to Croatia,” Krsticevic told reporters after a meeting with an Israeli delegation in Zagreb. – Reuters

It’s been almost three weeks since US President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced that he would be withdrawing American troops from Syria. In Israel, there has been much speculation as to whether the pullout will open the door for Iran to solidify its land bridge to the Mediterranean. […]Tanf would be a strategic crossing point for Iran’s land bridge, should the Americans leave. – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s top general said Lebanese terror group Hezbollah planned to use its array of underground attack tunnels to carry out a surprise invasion of Israel that would “throw Israel off balance and cause an earthquake in Israeli society.” – Times of Israel

Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh’s visit to Moscow next week has been postponed, according to Musa Abu Marzouk, a senior official in the terror group. – Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to visit New York next week as his government takes over leadership of the G-77, a symbolically important bloc of developing nations that his government can use to try to pressure Israel. – Bloomberg

An Arab resident of Jerusalem was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Thursday for planning to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, among other terrorist acts. – Algemeiner

Editorial: A people that feels an election has been stolen, will have difficulty falling behind and supporting controversial government policies. If there is a feeling that the elections were undermined, the next government will have difficulty enacting policies like a peace deal with the Palestinians or legislating a new draft bill to get haredi youth to serve in the IDF[…]. Interfering with elections is a direct blow to the democratic character of any country, but especially one like Israel, which prides itself on being the only true democracy in the Middle East. – Jerusalem Post

Evelyn Gordon: Peace can be made with people who want peace. But it can’t be made with people who think that working with Jews to improve the Palestinian economy is a “betrayal of the homeland,” that helping Israelis with a stalled vehicle could justify being fired, or that selling land to Jews is a sin so heinous the sinner can no longer be considered Muslim. […]As long as this is true, prospects for peace will remain nonexistent, and the peace process will remain at the bottom of Israelis’ order of priorities. There are too many issues where government policy really matters for Israelis to waste their votes on something beyond the government’s power to change. – Commentary Magazine

Arabian Peninsula

On New Year’s Day, a Yemeni jihadist named Jamal al-Badawi was driving by himself east of the Yemeni capital of San’a, unaware that it was the last day of his life. He was killed by an American precision strike, according to U.S. defense officials. If Badawi felt surprise in his final moments, it may have been because he assumed that he had evaded justice—and because so few people now seem to remember the audacious and unanswered attack that he had once helped to plan. – Wall Street Journal

U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths expressed alarm on Thursday over an escalation of violence there and urged all parties to exercise restraint. – Reuters

Amnesty International has renewed a call for an international investigation into the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi — a slaying that has implicated some members of the Saudi crown prince’s entourage. – Associated Press

David Ignatius writes: The Saudi crown prince, far from altering his impulsive behavior or signaling that he has learned lessons from the Khashoggi affair, as the Trump administration had hoped, appears instead to be continuing with his autocratic governing style and a ruthless campaign against dissenters, the U.S. and Saudi sources said this week. […]The American who recently visited MBS said he cautioned him that top U.S. military and intelligence officials were weighing whether the crown prince was a dictator, like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, nominally committed to modernization but unreliable, or a solid ally of the United States. – Washington Post

Adam Taylor writes: In a swipe at President Barack Obama, who delivered his own speech in the Egyptian capital almost 10 years ago, Pompeo praised what he described as the Trump administration’s efforts to contain Iranian influence and beat back extremist forces such as the Islamic State. But a variety of issues and subjects were omitted from Pompeo’s vision for the region. One was glaring: Saudi Arabia. […]In the end, however, that reference appeared to have been cut — and Saudi Arabia was just a passing thought in Pompeo’s vision for the Middle East. – Washington Post

Simon Henderson writes: The location of the shootout is arguably ground zero for Riyadh’s tensions with both Iran and its own Saudi Shia population. The area is home to the kingdom’s main oil fields and oil export infrastructure. It is also close to the island state of Bahrain, which is connected to the Saudi mainland by a causeway and hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet. […]Other than forming a talking point in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s imminent meetings in Riyadh and Manama, the incident’s consequences are hard to predict. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

Despite more than a year of international engagement and promises of economic reform by North Korea’s leaders, the human rights situation in the isolated country remains dire, a top U.N. rights official said on Friday. – Reuters

Remarks by South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the issue of forced wartime labor were “extremely regrettable”, Japan’s top government spokesman said on Friday, describing him as trying to shift Seoul’s responsibility to Japan. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s three-day meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing this week likely focused on a range of issues[…]. But there’s one topic that likely wasn’t officially discussed despite its importance to North Korea’s future: The prospect of Pyongyang joining China’s continent-spanning Belt and Road Initiative, a project aiming to link more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East through overland and maritime routes. – CNBC


After winding up three days of trade talks with China, U.S. negotiators said they pushed Beijing to implement structural reforms that would stop Chinese firms from prying technology away from their American rivals. But this is easier said than done as Chinese manufacturers are skilled at making copycat products—and their efforts to catch up in automobiles, aviation, computer chips and other sectors have the full support of Beijing as it seeks technological parity with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

China and the U.S. are moving ahead with plans to hold a round of higher-level talks to resolve their continuing trade conflict, with President Xi Jinping’s economic-policy captain scheduled to visit Washington in late January. – Wall Street Journal

Huawei Technologies Co. is contending with a new obstacle: getting technology it developed at a U.S. subsidiary back to China. The Chinese telecommunications giant has been unable to send home certain technologies from its Silicon Valley research-and-development unit, Futurewei Technologies Inc., after the Commerce Department signaled it wouldn’t renew a Futurewei export license, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. – Wall Street Journal

Polish authorities detained and charged the sales director of Huawei Technologies Co.’s local office, a Chinese national, for allegedly conducting high-level espionage on behalf of a Chinese spy agency, amid widening global scrutiny by Washington and its allies of the technology giant. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese blockchain platforms will have to censor content, allow authorities access to stored data and check the identity of users under rules set out on Thursday by Beijing. – Reuters

A U.S. supplier of T-shirts and other team apparel to college bookstores has cut ties with a Chinese company that drew workers from an internment camp holding targeted members of ethnic minority groups. – Associated Press

The Chinese government in Tibet said it will boost numbers and cut waiting times for foreign tourists visiting the highly restricted region, amid renewed pressure from the United States for greater access for U.S. officials and journalists. – Reuters

China claims it’s winning the race to bring long-range superguns to its growing fleet, but experts say that even if these weapons work, they won’t make a difference in high-end conflict. – Business Insider

Henry Olsen writes: We do not yet know how the new game will end. Trump may not get the deal we need, or he might blunder and overpay in a quest to sign anything he can call a success. But for now, all the signs look good. More importantly, the signs give people hope that leaders can be responsive to their citizens and that elections can produce change. That hope alone is worth the gamble he has taken. – Washington Post

Namrata Goswami writes: Neither the American people nor the U.S. military seems to perceive the significance of what China is doing strategically in the Earth-moon space. […]At stake isn’t simply prestige here on Earth: It’s whether the future of space exploration, resource development and colonization will be democratic or dominated by the Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army of China. The American people should think hard about whether they want to cede the next century — and the next frontier — to a different government with a very different set of values. – Washington Post

Rep. Steve Chabot writes: As we begin a new Congress, it’s time that the United States accept these basic facts by rethinking support for the One China Policy and by more fully embracing the Six Assurances, positions I have long supported. […]What it comes down to is that Taiwan’s future ought to be determined by its citizens — not by President Xi and his Communist cronies. – Washington Examiner


Saleh’s appointment as interior minister two weeks ago was part of a high-level shake-up ordered by President Ashraf Ghani as his government has floundered on all fronts. It had failed to beat back Taliban attacks, has been excluded from international peace talks with the Taliban and been unable to set a date for national polls in which Ghani hoped to win reelection. Washington Post

Violence in northern Afghanistan has intensified in recent days, with both Afghan security forces and the Taliban suffering heavy casualties, but the heavy fighting has failed to shift the battle lines. – New York Times

Ahmed Charai writes: In fact, most of the fighting and dying on behalf of the Afghan government is done not by American forces, but by the vastly larger number of Afghan troops and police whom they train and equip. Thus a tiny sliver of America’s titanous fighting capacity has achieved an impressive multiplier effect by virtue of its local alliances. […]how to gradually wean Afghanistan off any foreign troop dependency, at the heart of the problem lies the difficulty of fostering a government of equity and transparency in Afghanistan and growing public support to defend the state. The U.S. and its allies face a challenge of collaborative institution building, integrity training and cultural engagement. – The Hill

Ronald E. Neumann and Earl Anthony Wayne write: President Trump’s decision to reduce forces may be mitigated or even, for a time, rescinded. But the writing is on the wall. A successful Afghan election leading to a strong government could be a major factor in international belief that support for Afghanistan can succeed. Even if this does not occur, a strong Afghan government would have a chance of rallying the country to stand against its enemies. – The Hill


U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, under fire from Democratic lawmakers, defended the proposed removal of Russian aluminum behemoth United Co. Rusal from the administration’s blacklist as evidence of a successful sanctions strategy. – Wall Street Journal

Russia is gearing up for an era of renewed competition in space, a top Moscow official said Thursday, following years of cooperation with the United States. – Washington Examiner

A lawyer acting for a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia on espionage charges has filed an appeal with a Moscow court seeking to have his client released on bail, Russian news agencies report. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The European Union has reiterated its call on Moscow to release all Ukrainian citizens “illegally detained” both in Russia and in the occupied Crimea Peninsula. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Former officials and experts see Paul Whelan as a pawn in a larger geopolitical fight that has only intensified with the recent indictments of Russians by the United States. The Kremlin has accused Paul Whelan of spying but has offered few specifics about the circumstances of his arrest, the news of which broke on New Year’s Eve. Since then, a curious picture has emerged in the media of a former Marine and avid traveler who built a network of contacts in Russia through social media and journeyed there several times since 2006. – The Hill


U.K. crime fighters said they received a record number of reports between April 2017 and March 2018 concerning transactions with red flags for money laundering, terrorism financing or other financial crime. – Wall Street Journal

Britain’s ongoing Brexit crisis is turning into Groundhog Day. With just over two months until the U.K. is supposed to leave the European Union, Britain’s raucous parliament has slipped into a pattern: – Wall Street Journal

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday he hoped Britain would avoid crashing out of the European Union without an agreement, as he threw his support behind the government’s contentious Brexit deal days before a vote by MPs. – Agence France-Presse

Political divisions will not undermine Romania’s six-month EU presidency, top officials from Bucharest said on Thursday, as the European Commission expressed concerns over whether the country was ready to lead the bloc until mid-2019. – Reuters

Belarus has lifted a long-standing cap on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in the country, in what U.S. officials see as a significant diplomatic breakthrough with the ex-Soviet nation as its ties with Russia fray. – Foreign Policy

U.S. sanctions against the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline would be the wrong way to solve a dispute over energy supply, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday. – Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Greece amid tight security on Thursday, looking to turn the page on the biting austerity measures that sparked major protests during her last official visit to Athens in 2014. – Al Jazeera

German Chancellor Angela Merkel assailed growing nationalism in Europe ahead of a continent-wide election in May, expanding on a theme that’s dominating the final chapter of her tenure. – Bloomberg

The Republic of Macedonia’s government is struggling to muster support to rename the country in a vote that could either open the path to NATO and European Union membership or touch off a political crisis. – Bloomberg


Russia’s ambassador to Guinea praised President Alpha Conde as “legendary” and said constitutions can be changed, outraging the opposition and fueling speculation that Russia supports plans for Conde to stay in power after his mandate ends next year. “Do you know many countries in Africa that do better? Do you know many presidents in Africa who do better?”  – Bloomberg

China signed a memorandum of understanding with Nigeria Thursday, offering its support to the West African nation’s security forces as they battle an Islamist insurgency in the country’s northeast, the army said. No details on the nature of the assistance were provided in the emailed statement, signed by defense spokesman Tukur Gusau. – Bloomberg

Private investigators working for former oligarch and Russian opposition activist Mikhail Khodorkovsky have urged the United Nations to push for a credible investigation of the July 2018 killings of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.). During a press briefing from London on January 10, the investigators from Khodorkovsky’s Dossier project said their preliminary investigation had uncovered evidence suggesting the involvement of mercenaries tied to Kremlin-connected tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin in the killings — allegedly together with C.A.R. law enforcement officials. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The Americas

President Nicolás Maduro began a new six-year term Thursday even as opponents — at home and abroad — sought new leverage to weaken his rule and attempt to drive him from power. […]Vice President Pence issued a strongly worded tweet with the Spanish hashtag Libertad, or Liberty, that called Maduro’s inauguration a “sham.” – Washington Post

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) came under fire from his fellow Republicans and Jewish groups for defending white supremacists in an interview with the New York Times on Thursday. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” asked King. – Jewish Insider

Canada is working with politicians and businesses in the United States to pressure President Donald Trump to scrap tariffs on its steel and aluminum, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday. – Reuters

The charred remains of 21 people killed in a suspected gang battle have been found in a Mexican border town, just over the river from where U.S. President Donald Trump was seeking to win support on Thursday for his plan to build a border wall. – Reuters

Ishaan Tharoor writes: The prospect of military escalation is not as unlikely as it once was. Venezuela is flanked by Brazil and Colombia, two right-wing governments that are losing their patience with the chaos in Caracas. […]While the United States has moved to pressure Maduro — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo huddled with Bolsonaro and Colombian President Iván Duque last week — President Trump is hardly the figure to arrest a worrying political decline. – Washington Post

Cyber Security

The cyberattack on the 15-person company near Salem, Ore., which works with utilities and government agencies, was an early thrust in the worst known hack by a foreign government into the nation’s electric grid. It set off so many alarms that U.S. officials took the unusual step in early 2018 of publicly blaming the Russian government. – Wall Street Journal

A weapons systems program needed for Department of Defense cyberwarriors is ramping up following the first major contract award in October. – Fifth Domain

Google doesn’t need to guarantee the “right to be forgotten” to users outside of the European Union, an advisor to the EU’s top court said Thursday. The written opinion by an advocate general in the European Court of Justice is an important step in the question of how much tech companies like Google must apply Europe’s strict privacy laws to operations in other parts of the world. – CNBC

The partial government shutdown has furloughed nearly half the staff of a new cybersecurity agency, dealing a major setback to protecting vulnerabilities in federal infrastructure. – The Hill

Nearly 3 in 4 Israelis — 73% — believe their country is ready to deal with a major cyber attack, a study published by the Pew Research Center this week showed. That level of confidence is the highest among the 26 countries where the survey was conducted. – Algemeiner

Leonid Bershidsky writes: The U.S. and other governments should think hard about whether the questionable benefits they get from the public accusations are worth the potential fallout: What if courts and lawyers actually start believing the cyberwar narrative and acting as if any damage caused to Western companies is uninsurable war damage? […]The cyberwar narrative is titillating, but it’s also rather pointless. Perhaps it’s time to tone it down, or at least think twice before using such strong language. – Bloomberg


A group representing FBI agents warned Thursday that the partial government shutdown is threatening national security as thousands of federal law enforcement professionals, working without pay, grow anxious that personal financial hardships may jeopardize their security clearances and as furloughs of their support staffs slow investigations. – Washington Post

After more than a year of delays, the U.S. Air Force took hold of its first KC-46 tanker on Jan. 10, but it will take several years for the service and manufacturer Boeing to reconcile major technical problems, and the company will not be receiving the full amount of money due upon delivery. – Defense News

A task force of Marines and sailors recently deployed to islands in Oceania, assisted by a Navy maritime prepositioning cargo ship that added to the growing list of places where the Marine Corps stretched its global reach in 2018. – USNI News

Two Navy Mark IV Patrol Boats recently completed a 500 nautical mile transit from Guam, showing Navy planners in the region that the boats could reach nearby island groups to conduct maritime security patrols and disaster relief efforts. – USNI News

Erik Lin-Greenberg writes: A key determinant of whether a conflict will escalate is how actors respond to attacks on their military assets. Drones — military assets that can be attacked without hurting enemy personnel — change the calculus of retaliation. […]states can take action using or against drones without risking significant escalation. The results should ease concerns of drone pessimists and offer valuable insights to policymakers about drones’ effects on conflict dynamics.  – War on the Rocks

Susanna V. Blume writes: As we await the February delivery of the 2020 presidential budget request and the months of haggling that will come after, let’s keep in mind what really matters in determining how much defense spending the United States needs and ignore rhetoric designed to support a predetermined outcome of either higher or lower defense budgets. We need to stop arguing about top-line numbers in the abstract and instead carefully and fully consider what leadership in the executive and legislative branches want the military to be able to do, now and in the future. – Foreign Policy

Trump Administration

President Trump on Thursday canceled a trip to the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland, and reasserted his willingness to declare a national emergency to pay for the border wall as the partial government shutdown neared the longest in history. – Wall Street Journal

White House officials are divided over whether President Trump should declare a national emergency to obtain funding to build a border wall and end a partial government shutdown, but were exploring how the president could divert funding if he decides to do so. – Wall Street Journal

The Obama-era fights over executive power foreshadowed in some ways the current standoff over President Trump’s insistence on building a wall on the southern border. Mr. Trump is considering whether to invoke national-emergency powers to bypass Congress to build a wall he says is crucial to U.S. border security. – Wall Street Journal

The World Bank said it would accept nominations from around the world for its next president starting next month[…]. The selection of the bank’s next president could prove to be a test of President Trump’s international clout. The World Bank’s leader has always been an American, but many countries have been clamoring for the opportunity to pick a bank leader from somewhere else. The American lock on the position isn’t guaranteed, and the formal process announced Thursday welcomes nominations from other countries. – Wall Street Journal

He was one of at least a dozen Ukrainian political and business figures who made their way to Washington for the inauguration, several of whom attended the Liberty Ball. […]Evidence of the Ukrainians’ presence eventually prompted interest from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as he investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, and has spawned a number of related inquiries by federal prosecutors. – New York Times

President Donald Trump would gain line-by-line power to raise tariffs on individual products if trading partners charge higher import taxes under legislation being mulled by the White House, a move that threatens to unwind decades of global agreements. – Bloomberg

President Trump on Thursday denied knowing that his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared polling data with a Russian associate linked to Kremlin intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign. – The Hill

Editorial: With Democrats in Congress refusing to appropriate $5.7 billion for a border wall, President Trump now says he may declare a national emergency. He’s probably right that he has the legal authority, but it would set a bad precedent that conservatives who believe in the separation of powers could live to regret. […]An emergency declaration could let Mr. Trump end the shutdown without conceding an inch to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but it would strain the limits of his executive authority. – Wall Street Journal

Michael Rubin writes: Conservatives do not have to love the United Nations nor paper over its problems. Instead, as Trump pursues his campaign promises to prioritize U.S. sovereignty, to extricate U.S. troops from protracted conflicts, and to cut waste, he and the Congress could find bipartisan consensus on an approach which would not only punish the UN financially for inefficiency, abuse, and malfeasance, but also recognize and reward it for its successes. – The National Interest