Trump and Iran. The White House national security team has reportedlydrawn up the outlines of a new policy that would allow U.S. military commanders to respond more aggressively to Iran, especially in places like Yemen, and in stopping weapons shipments to Palestinian militants and rebels in Yemen, a team from Reuters reports.
“I would call it a broad strategy for the range of Iranian malign activities: financial materials, support for terror, destabilization in the region, especially Syria and Iraq and Yemen,” said a senior administration official. The plan would also give military commanders plenty of leeway to act as they see fit without direction from the White House.
“The plan also recommends the United States react more aggressively in Bahrain, whose Sunni Muslim monarchy has been suppressing majority Shi‘ites, who are demanding reforms, the sources said. In addition, U.S. naval forces could react more forcefully when harassed by armed speed boats operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s paramilitary and espionage contingent, three of the sources said.”
Yemen. The grinding, 30-month Saudi-led war in Yemen has been something of a win for the Iranians, as it has seen their major regional rival, Saudi Arabia, expend blood and treasure on a conflict that has brought nothing but international condemnation. FP’s Dan De Luce, Paul McLeary and Colum Lynch track how Washington got mixed up in the fight, despite reservations from policymakers at every step of the way.
While the U.S. sells weapons to the Saudis and refuels its warplanes in the air, Washington is actually more invested in the fight against al Qaeda. U.S. commandos on the ground in Yemen are working alongside Emirati forces, doing logistics, analyzing intel, and helping to direct the fight, much like they have been doing in Syria with local forces, one defense official tells FP.
Syria. U.S.-backed militias and the Syrian Army and its Iranian-backed fighters are less than 10 miles apart from each other as they converge on the Islamic State stronghold of Deir Ezzour in eastern Syria, which still holds around 2,500 Islamic State fighters, writes FP’s Rhys Dubin.
Syrian government forces advancing from the west initially broke a years-long siege of the city last week, and also captured significant swathes of neighboring territory. Meanwhile, Russia and Jordan are working on plansfor a cease fire zone in southwest Syria near the Jordanian border.
North Korea. The Trump administration “clawed back a plan to impose a total oil embargo and other harsh sanctions on North Korea in an effort to avoid a major diplomatic rift at the United Nations with China and Russia,” writes FP’s Colum Lynch. “But it succeeded in securing unanimous U.N. support for a resolution that aims to cut North Korean refined oil imports by nearly a third, and bars hundreds of millions of dollars in Pyongyang’s export of textiles.”
Facing the prospect of a double veto, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, scrapped a provision in a draft Security Council resolution that would have banned all North Korean oil imports and permitted American warships to use force to board vessels that have violated existing U.N. sanctions. The United States also jettisoned a plan to impose an asset freeze on the North Korean leader and his government.
Personnel. Some of President Trump’s lawyers wanted him to pressure his son-in-law Jared Kushner to resign from his job as a White House aide, fearing that his presence in the White House after meetings with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign and subsequent omissions on his security clearance paperwork could draw greater scrutiny from the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Back again. Derek Harvey, last seen being forced out of his job as the senior director for the Middle East at the National Security Council by H.R. McMaster, is heading back to Capitol Hill to join the staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Who’s where when. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. to consider two diplomatic nominations. John R. Bass, to be Ambassador to Afghanistan, and Justin Hicks Siberell to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain. Livestream here.