Wednesday's global agenda: Iran talks resume

State news: Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit George H.W. Bush in intensive care GOP chairmen say they have deal with Justice on documents MORE holds a bilateral meeting with the interior minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, at the Department of State this morning. 

Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine delivers remarks on “Public Diplomacy in a Changing Middle East,” at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy at noon. 

And Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson delivers remarks on “The United States-Africa Partnership: The Last Four Years and Beyond” at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at 2 p.m.

Good question! Congressional staffers who want to know if the U.S. has a “grand strategy” in the Middle East can find out starting at 9:30 this morning thanks to the The Middle East Policy Council. View the webcast here.

Debtor nation: Foreign residents in November increased their holdings of U.S. Treasury bills by $4.5 billion, according to the latest figures from the Treasury Department.

Backyard issues: The Organization of American States convenes at 10 a.m. for a regular meeting of its permanent council. Follow it here

Chiefs' council: Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, briefs NATO and partner countries today on the current situation and progress of transition to Afghan security lead at the 168th NATO Chiefs of Defense meeting.

Energized: David Sandalow, secretary for policy and international affairs with the Department of Energy, offers the keynote address at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event today on energy export markets. The event comes as DOE weighs politically controversial applications to greatly expand U.S. natural-gas exports.

In other news:

Islamist militants in Algeria have captured at least six hostages — four Japanese, one French and one British — at a Western-operated gas field. [The Wall Street Journal]

India's prime minister says recent clashes with Pakistan threaten a U.S.-backed thaw. [The New York Times]

ProPublica questions reports that Iran has a 30,000-employee strong intelligence ministry.

Lobbying and regulations:

Patton Boggs is working for the government of Albania regarding "advice and assistance on U.S.-Albania bilateral relations."

Galletto, Giacomo is working for Italy's Democratic Party regarding "Fundraising; Contacting Italian-American voters in U.S."

Tauzin Consultants and Arnall Golden Gregory are lobbying Congress and the administration on behalf of Party of Regions deputy Dmitry Shpenov regarding “economically disadvantageous policies, which detrimentally affected the state of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people as the result of the action of the former Ukrainian government; educating about efforts of the foreign principal and the present Ukrainian government to attain energy independence and to develop modern agriculture in Ukraine; and assisting with the organization of meetings with U.S. government officials and Members of Congress.”

The Commerce Department's Travel and Tourism Advisory Board meets Feb. 4 to hear updates from its four subcommittees, on travel facilitation, business climate, infrastructure and sustainability, and advocacy.

The State Department formally listed Michel Samaha, the former information minister of Lebanon, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

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