Welcome back for another global digest. If you give me 6 minutes (1,587 words), I'll give you the World.
Richard Grenell in Berlin. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
By picking Ambassador Richard Grenell to be acting director of national intelligence, President Trump has slotted a pro-Trump warrior into the ultimate apolitical role.
The big picture: Grenell is beloved by Trump and his supporters for his willingness to go on the attack in support of the president, seeming to revel in the backlash on Twitter and from his hosts in Germany.
His critics argue that placing a partisan bomb-thrower atop America's 17 intelligence agencies is a mistake, particularly as Grenell lacks an intelligence background.
Driving the news: The termination of Joseph Maguire as acting DNI came just days after Trump raged at him for allowing a briefing to Congress on Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, the NYT and Washington Post report.
Zoom out: Maguire, who faced turmoil early in his tenure over his handling of the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, is one of several ousted officials touched by the Ukraine scandal.
Pentagon policy chief John Rood, who was pushed out this week, was among the officials who certified that Ukraine met the criteria to receive $250 million in security aid. Trump withheld the aid, later claiming that it was due to corruption concerns.
The bottom line: The vacancies continue to pile up, and Trump will likely prioritize loyalty over experience in filling them.
1. China is attempting to restart an economy that has been effectively shuttered over the last three weeks without exacerbating the coronavirus outbreak.
2. Turkish-backed forces attacked Syrian troops today in Idlib, per DW.
3. The Trump administration this week sanctioned a subsidiary of Rosneft, the Russian oil giant, for helping to keep Venezuela's Maduro regime afloat by facilitating oil exports.
4. The official White House justification for the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani does not cite an "imminent threat," despite previous claims by officials including President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Lagos. Apparently this guy is playing Pokemon Go. Photo: Stefan Heunis/AFP via Getty Images
A new survey of 18-24-year-olds across 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa finds that while just 37% are happy with their current standard of living, 82% believe it will improve in the next two years.
Key findings from across the 14 countries:
Politics and identity:
The big picture:
The poll was conducted by PSB Research for the Ichikowitz Family Foundation. The countries surveyed were Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. See full results.
China's Xi Jinping with Ethiopia's Abiy Ahmed. Photo: Parker Song/Kyodo News — Pool/Getty Images
Young Africans tend to believe China and the U.S. wield significant influence in their countries — and they welcome both.
By the numbers: 79% believe China has at least some influence in their country, compared to 74% for the U.S. and just 37% for Russia.
Most say foreign influence in Africa is a negative thing, and a form of colonialism. But when asked about specific countries (other than France, a former colonial power), big majorities view it positively.
Zoom in: The gap between China's perceived influence and America's is dramatic in the Republic of Congo, Gabon and Zimbabwe.
Zoom out: Asked if they'd prefer to live in a democracy or a stable one-party system, respondents across the 14 countries were evenly split.
Electoral posters and a banner featuring Qasem Soleimani in Tehran. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images
Iran's parliamentary elections on Friday will be dominated by hardline candidates, Behnam Ben Taleblu writes for Axios.
Driving the news: An estimated one-third of sitting parliamentarians were disqualified from participating, reformists were barred en masse, and boycotts are expected from portions of the increasingly disenfranchised population.
Why it matters:
The bottom line: Faced with increasing domestic unrest and Washington’s ongoing maximum pressure campaign, Iranian authorities are looking to use the election to signal strength abroad by alleging popularity at home. If turnout is as low as expected, that will send the opposite message.
America's post-Cold War pursuit of unassailable military superiority has made the world more dangerous because it stokes tensions with adversaries and saps resources that would be better spent combating climate change and inequality.
That argument, made by Stephen Wertheim in the new edition of Foreign Affairs, runs counter to Washington's longstanding foreign policy consensus. But it's becoming increasingly prevalent.
Wertheim is deputy director of research and policy for the Quincy Institute, a new think tank funded by strange billionaire bedfellows George Soros and Charles Koch to oppose U.S. military intervention overseas.
Wertheim has some provocative suggestions:
My thought bubble: That gets complicated when Russia topples a "hostile government" in Ukraine or China uses military force in the South China Sea.
Flooding in Worcester, U.K., due to Storm Dennis. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
"The @WSJ cannot use freedom of speech as a pretext to publish a discriminatory & insulting article with a racist headline. They cannot refuse to apologize for its mistake under the pretext of freedom of speech, either."— China's Foreign Ministry, showing a fairly limited understanding of freedom of speech