Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Greenwald on how the NSA helps Israel attack its neighbors; Amos cleared of all charges; A VA whistleblower's move to the basement; McRaven's move from the shadows; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Glenn Greenwald reports this morning that the NSA has provided financial assistance, weapons and signals intel to Israel that has enabled attacks on its neighbors - like in Gaza. According to one top-secret NSA document Greenwald reports on in The Intercept blog this morning, the NSA maintains a "far-reaching technical and analytic relationship with the Israeli SIGINT National Unit, sharing information on access, intercepts, targeting, language and analysis reporting." That's probably not hugely surprising, that a powerful arm of the U.S. helps Israel. But at the same time, the U.S. and others are this morning condemning new attacks Israel has mounted on Gaza. 

Greenwald: "...the new Snowden documents illustrate a crucial fact: Israeli aggression would be impossible without the constant, lavish support and protection of the U.S. government, which is anything but a neutral, peace-brokering party in these attacks. And the relationship between the NSA and its partners on the one hand, and the Israeli spying agency on the other, is at the center of that enabling." Read Greenwald's latest, this morning, here.

A missile strike near a U.N. school in Gaza kills 10 and the U.S. calls the attack "disgraceful." The NYT's Steven Erlanger and Fares Akram in Jerusalem: "As Israel began to redeploy significant numbers of its troops away from populated areas of Gaza on Sunday, an Israeli Air Force missile struck near the entrance of a United Nations school sheltering displaced Palestinians in Rafah, killing 10 people and wounding 35 others and drawing a new round of international condemnation. The growing civilian death toll has stirred outrage in Europe and large parts of the Arab world and, combined with Sunday's strike near the Rafah school, prompted Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations to call the attack a 'moral outrage and a criminal act' and to demand that those responsible for the "gross violation of international humanitarian law" be held accountable.

"...The State Department also condemned in harsh terms what it called 'today's disgraceful shelling' outside the school in Rafah." More here.

Meantime, Israel declared a seven-hour truce from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m today. Reuters' Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams: "Israel said it would unilaterally hold fire in most of the Gaza Strip on Monday to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid and allow some of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by an almost four-week-old war to go back to home. The announcement, made first to Palestinian media, met with suspicion from Gaza's dominant Hamas Islamists and followed unusually strong censure from Washington at the apparent Israeli shelling on Sunday of a U.N.-run shelter that killed 10 people." More here.

More on Israel-Gaza below.

Otherwise, the focus in Washington this week is the big Africa Summit, in which about 50 leaders arrive in D.C. for a first-ever conference. The summit will feature a series of events to focus on economic and other issues. Much of downtown Washington will be affected by street closures and security protocols.

The WaPo's Juliet Eilperin did a table-setter this weekend that you can read here.

And, writing in the WaPo this morning, ahead of the U.S.-Africa Leadership Summit, former U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan offers the U.S. six recommendations for a more robust Africa policy. For #2, Annan wrote: "U.S. security assistance must be focused on those who respect democratic norms. The wars on terror and drugs should not be conflated nor used as a justification for providing military assistance to regimes that abuse or neglect their people. Such aid can backfire, as we have seen in Mali." More here.

And FP's Lubold wrote a few weeks ago about how some see the White House, which is hosting the event, as maybe bungling the historic summit. Read that here.

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report, and thanks muchly to Kate Brannen for filling in while we were out of town. We're back at it now. If you'd like to be one of our subscribers, we'd love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by sending us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, you, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

The DOD IG has completely cleared Gen. Amos of wrongdoing in the scout sniper fiasco. Military Times' Andrew deGrandpre and Geoffery Ingersoll: "The Pentagon's investigative agency has cleared the Marine Corps' top general of allegations he and other senior officials manipulated military justice to ensure several troops were punished for a making an inappropriate video three years ago in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Times has learned.

"The Defense Department Inspector General's Office concluded its investigation July 24, a Pentagon official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Friday. What's become known as the scout sniper urination scandal has dogged the service's commandant, Gen. Jim Amos, since last May, when news first surfaced that a Marine attorney accused some of the Marine Corps' most powerful men of interfering with the prosecution of those connected to the video."

"...Investigators focused their inquiry on accusations Amos exerted unlawful command influence, the Pentagon official said. His accuser, Maj. James Weirick, alleged that in February 2012 Amos removed a well-respected subordinate, Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, from his role overseeing disposition of the legal cases tied to the video, which shows four Marine scout snipers urinating on Taliban corpses. The inspector general's finding contradicts Waldhauder's sworn testimony that Amos wanted those connected to the video "crushed" and discharged from the service. In fact, it suggests the cases were handled properly and that Amos' interaction with Waldhauser did not affect their outcome." More here.

The head of the Air Force Academy is conducting an investigation into allegations of sexual assault there. The Gazette's Tom Roeder from Colorado Springs: "U.S. Air Force Academy cadet athletes flouted the sacred honor code by committing sexual assaults, taking drugs, cheating and engaging in other misconduct at wild parties while the service academy focused on winning bowl games and attracting money from alumni and private sources in recent years, a Gazette investigation has found. The findings are egregious enough that academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson told The Gazette that she has called for an Inspector General's investigation of the athletic department." More here.

Bill McRaven: from directing the raid that killed bin Laden to heading the University of Texas. Some retiring senior military officers are seen as "more hat than cattle" - meaning there's a lot of more sizzle around their name but who may not have the heft or the management skills necessary for a new role outside the military. That might not be the case with Special Operations Command Commander Adm. Bill McRaven, who is one of the biggest names among senior military officers and is also seen as having the credibility to back up all the hype. McRaven was in the mix for a bigger job inside the Pentagon, but it now looks as if he'll be going to the University of Texas instead, as was reported last week. The NYT's Richard Perez-Pena has a look this morning at what it all means: "...He is about to move into a field where openness is prized, every issue is publicly argued into the ground, but as for following orders, that is emphatically not its hallmark. The regents of the University of Texas system said last week that Admiral McRaven was their sole finalist for system chancellor, and they expect to appointment him later this month.

"Taking over one of the nation's largest and most prestigious higher education networks will also throw the admiral into the briar patch of Texas politics. Battles have raged for years, pitting allies of Gov. Rick Perry, including the regents, against administrators, alumni and state legislators over the direction of a system with nine university campuses, a network of medical schools and hospitals, more than 200,000 students, and a $14 billion budget." More here.

Meantime, Adm. C.R. Larson, who twice led the U.S. Naval Academy, has died at age 77. The NYT's Paul Vitello, here.

Read this tale about how the VA's Paula Pedene's bold whistleblowing about wrongdoing at the VA led to her being moved to a new, temporary job - in the basement. The WaPo's David Fahrenthold on a "bureaucrat's urban legend," here.

Who's where when - Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work attends the Bloomberg Philanthropies dinner as part of the Africa Leaders Summit...

Der Spiegel reported that Israel spied on Kerry during the most recent round of peace talks. Reuters' Erik Kirschbaum: "German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that Israel and at least one other intelligence agency were listening in on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's unsecured phone calls last year when he was holding nearly daily negotiations for peace with various leaders in the Middle East. The magazine cited ‘several sources from intelligence circles' as saying that although Kerry has a secure phone at his mansion in Georgetown, while he was traveling and needed to make a quick phone call, he sometimes used an ordinary telephone that the intelligence agencies listened in on." More here.

Despite all the gridlock, Congress did pass more funding for Israel's Iron Dome before it left town on Friday. FP's John Hudson: "...On Friday, the Senate passed a funding bill for Israel's Iron Dome defense shield, which has been credited with intercepting Hamas rockets from Gaza aimed at its population centers. Afterwards, the House passed the measure in a 395-8 vote late Friday evening. The successful last-minute push comes as other pressing issues related to immigration, border security, ambassador nominations and assistance for wildfires fall prey to partisan squabbling ahead of Congress' August recess.

"The passage is a victory for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful lobbying organization in Washington that considers U.S. funding for Jerusalem a top priority." More here.

Can Hamas's divided leadership even enforce a ceasefire? The WSJ's Jay Solomon in Washington and Nicholas Casey in Gaza: "Hamas, the faction that rules the Gaza Strip, has separate political and military wings. That divided structure and the group's shifting relationships with other Islamist factions and with its regional patrons such as Iran also raise questions about the likelihood of a truce anytime soon, these officials say. Relations between Hamas and Iran, historically one of its chief benefactors, grew strained in the past few years. But the two sides have moved recently to repair the relationship, particularly in response to the nearly one-month-old Gaza conflict, according to Hamas and Iranian officials." More here.

The International Crisis Group's Nathan Thrall analyzes Hamas' endgame for the London Review of Books, here.

And with Gaza in flames, will the status quo hold in the smoldering West Bank? FP's David Kenner: "...A massive protest last week seemed to momentarily challenge the conventional wisdom that the West Bank was not ready for another uprising. In the largest West Bank demonstration in decades, thousands of Palestinians marched to the Qalandiya checkpoint, where they clashed with Israeli security forces -- at least two Palestinians were killed in the violence, and the shops nearby were gutted by fire." More here.

The Israeli withdrawal will leave Hamas empty-handed. Shlomi Eldar in Al-Monitor: "...After every armed conflict with Israel, Hamas has the habit of painting reality in convenient colors to justify the steep cost of its decisions and the even steeper cost in human lives that the people of Gaza were forced to pay. But after more than 1,500 Palestinian were killed, tens of thousands more injured, enormous destruction to neighborhoods and infrastructures and zero achievements, Hamas will not be able to paint the new reality in its standard green, as it is otherwise prone to do. Red and black are more appropriate colors to describe the current state of Hamas and the state of Gaza under its rule." More here.

The Pentagon may send medical personnel to Africa to address the Ebola outbreak. Military Times' Patricia Kime, here.

Iraqi extremists seize a northern town from the Kurds. The WaPo's Loveday Morris: "The ancient northern Iraqi town of Sinjar emptied Sunday, with thousands of people fleeing on foot as Sunni extremist militants made their first significant punches through the defenses of overstretched Kurdish forces... Until Sunday, Sinjar had been protected by Kurdish fighters known as pesh merga, but officials from the semi-autonomous northern region have been warning for weeks that they are poorly equipped to sustain the defense of the nearly 650-mile border they now share with the militants." More here.

Despite the narrative to the contrary, Wafiq Al-Samarrai, an Iraqi police official and security expert, has confidence in his country's capacity to defeat ISIS. Samarrai, writing for Al-Awsat: "...During my service in the Iraqi armed forces, the country witnessed flurries of successes and failures. Despite all this, I never felt that the fate of the country was under threat. Despite the complex circumstances that followed the fall of Mosul into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), my confidence in Iraq's ability to overcome one of the most serious crises in our history has not been shaken. Those hoping to fragment Iraq into several different states will ultimately have their hopes dashed and their erroneous and backward mentalities exposed. Such hopes have brought nothing but disaster and chaos to the demographic these people claim to be defending." More here.

The Daily Beast's Jacob Siegel on the brewing battle for Baghdad, here.

Disputes continue over the Afghan vote audit. The NYT's Carlotta Gall in Kabul: "...Three weeks after Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a deal to impose an internationally monitored audit of the July 7 vote, the process came close to collapse over the weekend. The audit had been suspended for a week during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, and the campaign teams of Mr. Abdullah and his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, argued through the weekend over the technicalities of how to invalidate fraudulent ballots.

"...Also on Sunday, Mr. Abdullah's campaign manager released an audiotape on which he said Vice President Karim Khalili could be heard directing his followers to support Mr. Ghani in the runoff. An aide to Mr. Khalili has denounced the tape as fake, according to the independent television news channel Tolo TV." More here.

Continued fighting in eastern Ukraine is creeping into urban areas. The WSJ's Anton Troianovski and Philip Shishkin: "Military fire killed several civilians and injured dozens of others in eastern Ukrainian cities over the weekend, as urban residents are increasingly getting caught in the battle to regain control of rebel strongholds in the region.

"...As Ukrainian government forces continue to advance on the separatists, the military gains also come with risks. The warfare that has moved into rebel-controlled cities threatens to harm and alienate residents caught in the fighting. A number of cities are struggling to maintain basic services because of the fighting. Kiev's military successes also raise the prospect that Russian President Vladimir Putin could move more aggressively to assist separatists to prevent them from losing more ground." More here.

Back to the future: to evade two Russian fighter jets, a U.S. reconnaissance plane crossed into Sweden last month in a move reminiscent of the Cold War. The NYT's Michael Gordon, here.
Fighting in Syria continues to spill into Lebanon. The LA Times' Patrick McDonnell and Nabih Bulos: "Clashes raging between Syrian Islamist rebels and Lebanese security forces in a town close to the Syrian border killed 10 soldiers, the Lebanese army said Sunday... Fighting began Saturday in the town of Arsal after Lebanese authorities detained a member of Al Nusra Front, the Al Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria. Rebels were demanding his release.

"...The Arsal area is home to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and has long been a transit point for rebels and arms headed for Syria. Many residents in the largely Sunni Muslim town sympathize with the Sunni-led rebellion against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"But Arsal is also adjacent to areas of Lebanon where the population supports Hezbollah, the Shiite movement that is a major military and political force in Lebanon. Hezbollah has dispatched thousands of militiamen into Syria to fight on behalf of Assad's government. Hezbollah leaders view Al Nusra Front and all Al Qaeda-style Sunni militants as mortal enemies." More here.

Drones are getting more and more popular in New York and their popularity is outpacing the rules. The NYT's James Barron with more, here.

 

 

 

Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: In Israel, ceasefire is over and a soldier may be captured; Iron Dome funding is in limbo; Brennan’s under fire; Afghanistan prepares to resume its vote audit; and a bit more.

By Kate Brannen with Nathaniel Sobel

Breaking overnight -- the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is over. Who broke it? Unclear right now, but both sides resumed heavy fighting by late Friday morning. There was a lull in fighting at 8 a.m. local time when the three-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was supposed to begin, but less than three hours later, the fighting had resumed and dozens of Palestinians are now reported dead.

And Israel fears a soldier may have been captured. The NYT's Isabel Kershner and Fares Akram: "Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said that government forces were moving to destroy a tunnel, as the terms of the cease-fire allowed for, when several militants came out of the ground. Colonel Lerner said the militants included at least one suicide attacker, that there was an exchange of fire on the ground and that initial indications were that a soldier was apparently dragged back into the tunnel. He was unable to offer details about the soldier's condition or whether anyone was killed in the attack." More here.

What happens next? If Hamas has captured an Israeli soldier, the next time it goes to the negotiating table it will have something valuable to trade. In the meantime, the Palestinian families eager to return to their homes will now have to return to U.N. shelters as the death toll starts climbing once again. One sign that this might not go on much longer: Israel has said it is days away from destroying all of Hamas's tunnels.

By allowing Israel to continue destroying Hamas's tunnels was the ceasefire agreement doomed from the start? FP's Colum Lynch: "The agreement -- which was announced jointly by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -- provides a brief timeout from the brutal fighting to allow the resumption of Egyptian-hosted talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials this weekend in Cairo on a more ‘durable cease-fire,' according to the joint statement. In the meantime, Israeli forces will be able to stay put in Gaza, a key demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who activated 16,000 more reserve troops Thursday and used a televised address to tell his people that the offensive wouldn't stop until all of the tunnels Hamas has been using to sneak into Israel have been destroyed." More here.

Destroying Hamas tunnels has become the No. 1 priority for Israel, partly because the underground network is far more extensive than Israel may have realized. FP's Shane Harris: "Israeli military, intelligence, and political officials have known for years that Hamas fighters were burrowing into their country from Gaza through underground tunnels. An Israeli army spokesman said this month that the military had discovered four tunnels just in the past 18 months, well before Israel's current ground offensive began. But in interviews, current and former Israeli officials said the military and intelligence services didn't realize the extent of Hamas's subterranean operations, nor did political leaders act to counter a threat that has become the central focus of Israel's Gaza campaign and stands as potentially the biggest Israeli intelligence failure in years." More here.

Israel wants a demilitarized Gaza strip - but who is going to keep Hamas from rearming? The LA Times's Paul Richter: "Usually reluctant to involve foreign powers in their nation's security, Israeli leaders have concluded that an outside force might be the most effective way to accomplish that goal. Initial international reaction to the idea of an outside force has been positive, with the United Nations, European Union and Obama administration all embracing the idea, in principle." More here.

Tangled up in Senate politics, the $225 million in new funding for Iron Dome remains in limbo. First, the money had been included in the controversial $2.7 billion border aid package. When Senate Republicans blocked that legislation yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to split off the Israel money, along with funding to fight wildfires out West, reports POLITICO's Burgess Everett.

Democrats and Republicans both support the Iron Dome funding, but yesterday they haggled over whether the money required an offset from elsewhere in the budget. In the final days before Congress goes on its August recess, the funding for Israel has become nothing more than a political football.

As Washington awaits the release of the highly classified probe into the CIA's torture program, John Brennan's integrity is being questioned just when the agency needs it most. FP's Shane Harris and Elias Groll: "John Brennan's week has gone from bad to worse. The CIA director was already bracing for the imminent release of a 600-page Senate report that, as the world already knows, accuses the CIA of torturing suspected terrorists and misleading Congress about it. Then Brennan was forced to apologize for CIA employees who spied on the very Senate staff investigating his agency -- an allegation he emphatically denied for months -- following a scathing report by the agency's own inspector general.

"Brennan's credibility is now at a moment of supreme crisis. At stake is his reputation not only with his congressional overseers, but with a public that is about to read, in vivid detail, how the CIA brutally interrogated detainees, failed to gather any useful intelligence that could stop a terrorist attack in doing so, and then tried to cover up its actions." More here.

The EU Arms Embargo against Russia begins today.  Defense News' Julian Hale with the story here.

A break in fighting lets an international team reach the site of the plane crash in Ukraine. The NYT's Andrew Roth and Andrew Kramer: "International monitors finally reached the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, after being blocked for days by fighting in the area between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia separatists.  Ukrainian officials said they had suspended offensive operations against the rebels to allow the monitors to reach the site safely. Commanders at Ukrainian military positions near the site confirmed that they had been ordered to halt their advance." More here.

In Washington, the Senate unanimously approved the nomination of John Tefft to be the next ambassador to Russia. The post's been vacant since February. Reuters' has the story here.

Sen Carl Levin's message to President Obama: Give Ukrainian forces more weapons. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is not satisfied with the non-lethal aid the United States is providing Ukraine. His comments will surely add to the pressure on the White House to do more in response to Russia's actions.

"We should take additional steps to help Ukraine reclaim sovereignty in eastern Ukraine and try to deter Russia from crossing the border," the Michigan Democrat said in a statement yesterday. "As part of this effort we should provide Ukraine with defensive weapons - such as anti-tank weapons - that can help Ukraine reclaim its territory and deter Russian aggression, without being needlessly provocative to the Russians."

And in the House, gruesome photos from Syria also prompt calls for the Obama administration to do more. FP's John Hudson: "In an unusual briefing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday, a disguised Syrian defector shared photos he had taken before fleeing the war-torn country that document what appears to be widespread atrocities carried out by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The gruesome imagery depicting starved corpses and tortured bodies prompted criticisms by lawmakers, including Democrats, that Barack Obama's administration isn't doing enough to end Assad's reign of terror." More here.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to be one of our subscribers, we'd love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by sending us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, you, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @k8brannen, @glubold and @njsobe4.

Who's Where When: Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos hosts the 1st Sea Lord of the British Royal Navy, Sir George Michael Zambellas, at the evening parade at Marine Barracks Washington.

A German officer will serve as U.S. Army Europe's chief of staff. Military Times' Jim Tice: "A German Army brigadier general who recently served with NATO forces in Afghanistan is assuming duties as the chief of staff of U. S. Army Europe, the first time a non-American officer has held that position. Brig. Gen. Markus Laubenthal, most recently the commander of Germany's 12th Panzer Brigade in Amberg, and chief of staff of Regional Command North, International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan, will be stationed at USAREUR headquarters, Wiesbaden, Germany. He could report to duty as early as Monday." More here.

#FF @StanMcChrystal. Retired Gen. Stan McChrystal is on Twitter. See what he's up to here.

What did the president talk to Congress about yesterday? Obama invited a handful of congressional leaders to the White House yesterday to discuss "ongoing U.S. efforts to respond to the conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza, Syria, and other pressing issues," according to the White House. "The President requested this meeting to update and hear from some of Congress' leading foreign policy voices before their departure for the August recess."

Who was in the room? Check out the list here.

Congress can't get the border bill passed in time for recess, but it did pass a VA overhaul bill last night. All it needs now is the president's signature. FP's John Hudson: "In a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation, Congress approved a $16.3 billion plan to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement and neglect, including that it allowed veterans waiting for medical care to die. The Senate approved the bill in a 91-3 vote on Thursday, one day after the House version passed by a vote of 420 to 5.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs: "We are now just one signature away from making government more accountable and providing veterans with real choice in their health care decisions... I am confident the president will do the right thing and sign this bill into law." More here.

The FT's editorial page offers some foreign policy advice to the GOP, and urges the potential presidential candidates to move beyond the ‘shoot-now-ask-questions later' approach: "There is a strong case to be made that Barack Obama's diplomacy lacks the drive - and the Machiavellian mindset - required to cope with such challenges. The field is open for a Republican to seize that ground." More here.

China may have accidentally confirmed the existence of the Dongfeng-41 missile. Reuters: "A Chinese provincial department appeared to have inadvertently confirmed the existence of an intercontinental ballistic missile that may be able to carry several nuclear warheads and travel as far as the United States." More here.

The DoD's IG found that a former senior official was sidestepping the competitive bidding process to hire people he already knew. The WaPo's Dan Lamothe: "Alan S. Rudolph, the former director of the agency's chemical and biological technologies directorate, recruited people he knew to work for him and had several organizations, including George Mason University, hire them as employees to do work for his organization, the Defense Department Inspector General's Office found. The investigation was sparked by complaints that Rudolph was hiring his friends outside regulations." More, including Rudolph's response, here.

U.S. officials hope that Egypt, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia can find common ground in the fight against extremist groups. The WSJ's Jay Solomon and Carol Lee: "The eruptions of Islamist violence in the Gaza Strip, Syria and Iraq have begun shaking the Middle East to its core, increasing the likelihood that a new order will emerge when the dust starts to settle. The region's traditional power centers-Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Israel-are all threatened by the surge of Islamist forces that aim to disrupt the status quo. Even Shiite Iran, which often stokes Islamist movements, is finding that the surge of Sunni extremism is threatening its position in the region."

A senior Arab official: "We're seeing the region dividing up into a moderate camp and an extremist camp. The two camps have opposing and irreconcilable views of the role of radical Islam... That's why it's important to be more publicly supportive of moderate forces. Not doing so will in effect undermine moderates and empower extremists." More here.

Writing for FP, journalist Adam Baron describes his final days in Yemen before getting kicked out. "I never really thought about how my time in Yemen would come to an end. But needless to say, I would never have believed it would end with me being forced to leave within 24 hours, booted out in a matter befitting a criminal ...

"... Critical reporting on the state of the country has apparently become unwelcome in post-Arab Spring Yemen. Such reporting is needed now more than ever: At the moment, there doesn't appear to be a single accredited American journalist based in a country where the United States is waging a covert drone war against what President Barack Obama's administration has dubbed the world's most dangerous al Qaeda franchise." More here.

Planes ordered to fly higher in Iraq now. The Wall Street Journal's Robert Wall: U.S. airlines are prohibited from flying over Iraq below 30,000 feet, the Federal Aviation Administration said late on Thursday. The agency, which had previously restricted airlines from flying below 20,000, issued the new requirement because of ‘the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Iraq.'" More here.

As violence rages in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. must pay attention to the Kurds, asserts a new report from the Center for American Progress. The report looks at the ascending Kurdish political and military actors from the perspective of both Turkish domestic politics and broader regional dynamics, and offers recommendations for a more coherent U.S. policy.

Michael Werz, Senior Fellow at CAP, told Situation Report last night: "With the rise of ISIS and chaos in Syria and Iraq, both the United States and Turkey are in need of new partners with whom to work towards regional stability.  Turkey is already cooperating well with the KRG and could move towards closer cooperation with Syrian Kurds.  Advancing the peace process with Kurdish groups domestically will be important to improving Turkey's stature in the wider region."

Policy Analyst Max Hoffman added: "The U.S. needs to recalibrate its approach to Kurdish groups in Syria, deepen ties with the KRG with less deference to Baghdad's wishes, and adjust its interactions with Kurdish political actors to reflect the influence of these groups and Ankara's more open approach to the idea of Kurdish autonomy along its southern border. These steps could help curb the rise of groups like ISIS and insulate Turkey against the spread of regional turmoil." Read the report here.

If the U.S. military is going to fulfill the QDR's strategic objectives, it's going to need more resources. That's according to the National Defense Panel, which delivered its review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review to Congress yesterday. The congressionally mandated report, "Ensuring a Strong Defense for the Future," concludes there is a growing gap between the strategic objectives the U.S. military is expected to achieve and the resources required to do so. You can read the full report here.

In Afghanistan, the high-stakes vote audit resumes tomorrow. AP's Amir Shah: "The head of the Afghan Independent Election Commission and the chief U.N. envoy to Afghanistan said the sides have agreed on new criteria, allowing the audit to go forward." More here.

How can the US stabilize Afghanistan now that the era of stabilization is over? The presidential election drama isn't the only Afghan upheaval underway: provincial reconstruction teams are closing, meaning foreign civilian and military actors have lost key platforms outside Kabul to project their security and aid assets. A new US Institute of Peace report by Frances Brown, argues that NATO's  governance and development strategy needs to adjust accordingly.

At least eight firms specializing in deep dives are bidding to take part in the next phase of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, likely lost in the Indian Ocean west of Australia, one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history. The WSJ's Daniel Stacey reports, here.