“What Would an AMLO Presidency Mean for Mexico?” Amanda Mattingly, Latin America Advisor, February 2018

In a recent Latin America Advisor Q&A, TAG Senior Director Amanda Mattingly commented on the possibility of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) being elected as the next president of Mexico. Mattingly said, “If successful in July, AMLO’s election as president would likely spook financial markets in the short term, resulting in a period of capital flight from Mexico, a cooling of foreign investment and a further slump in growth. To some extent, this is already happening, given that AMLO has been leading in the polls for several months and NAFTA negotiations have been hanging in the balance for over a year.” Mattingly’s comments on AMLO were also picked up in the El Heraldo de México on February 23, 2018.

What Would an AMLO Presidency Mean for Mexico?

AMLO: ¿discurso económico moderado? Sí, pero…

“CIA Veteran of 32 Years Jack Devine Discusses Intervention and Afghanistan,” SOFREP Radio, February 2018.

Jack Devine recently talked with Ian Scotto on SOFREP Radio about the CIA, Afghanistan, and the Russians. According to Jack, the problem with the “bloody nose” school of thought today, is that “you have to have a full game plan when you go into these things.” Using the Afghan program of the 1980s as an example, Jack explained that US intervention works well when it is targeted and temporary and when we have good and willing partners already on the ground.

Episode 326: CIA veteran of 32 years Jack Devine discusses intervention and Afghanistan

“Jack Devine Talks About the FBI and CIA,” Jack Devine on Bloomberg Radio, February 2018.

TAG President Jack Devine talked with Bloomberg Radio on February 9, 2018 about a host of issues, including Jack joining the Agency, the realities of the Afghan Task Force in the 1980s, the founding of The Arkin Group after his 32-year career at the CIA, and the relationship between politics and intelligence as it relates to the FBI and CIA. Jack said he is a proponent of keeping politics out of the FBI and CIA. He also noted that the distinguishing work of TAG is collecting information internationally and helping clients to navigate business abroad. As Bloomberg View columnist Barry Ritholtz said, “If you’re at all interested in spy craft, relationships with Russians and other foreign agencies, counternarcotics intelligence, and the role of intelligence agencies on the global stage, this is the conversation for you.”

Jack Devine Talks About the FBI and CIA

“Jack Devine on his Winter Intelligence Report,” Jack Devine on Bloomberg Markets AM, January 2018.

TAG President Jack Devine talked on Bloomberg Markets AM with Pimm Fox and Lisa Abramowicz on January 25, 2018 about his Winter Intelligence Report. Jack said, “I don’t see a military resolution to the situation with North Korea,” but he said we need to slow down the nuclear program and negotiate a temporary agreement. Asked if he thinks the United States is in a more dangerous position because of his relationship with our allies, Jack said that he does not think any of the alliances are at risk, but they have to figure out how to deal with Trump.

Jack Devine on his Winter Intelligence Report

Jack Devine’s Winter 2018 Intelligence Report

TAG President Jack Devine gives his Winter 2018 Intelligence Report covering Trump one year later, the economic outlook, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, and Latin America.

Jack Devine’s Winter 2018 Intelligence Report

Trump One Year Later

January 20th marked President Donald Trump’s highly controversial first year in office. No matter one’s political persuasion, it has been a remarkable year in which Trump received an unprecedented amount of media attention, here and abroad, largely on the negative side of the scale. While it’s hard to calculate, with any degree of precision, just how much Trump’s domestic political support has shifted, it seems clear that he has sparked a high level of grass-roots activism among the opposition. Whether it’s sustainable through the mid-term congressional elections this November is an open question. The other wildcard will be the political impact on the voters of the recent wide-ranging congressional tax cuts. In this environment, the mid-term elections will be hotly contested, and the outcome a squeaker, even if the electorate “vote its pocketbook.”

Politics aside, as the cement hardens around the foundation of the Trump administration, it is becoming more formidable at home and in exerting its specific interests abroad. From North Korea and Pakistan to Israel and Saudi Arabia, whether one agrees with him or not, Trump is making his mark. It is a mistake to underestimate how much Trump’s power has grown in the past year as well as how much more control he has over the instruments of government, including congress and the major national security agencies. The Trump government is now in place. 2018 will almost certainly produce a major crisis abroad which will test the President’s mettle and domestic and international standing. How Trump performs will define more clearly how he will be viewed at home and abroad going forward. The flash points are many, including North Korea, Iran, Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey, Pakistan and, of course, Russia and China. Trump’s maneuverability is certainly limited by Special Counsel Mueller’s prolonged investigation which will tie Trump’s hands for months ahead. The sooner the investigation is concluded the better for all.

Economic Outlook

The U.S. economic outlook for 2018 is positive, with the stock market reaching new heights, unemployment low, and the recent congressional tax cuts for corporations and some individuals likely to give a short-term boost to overall economic growth. The biggest litmus test will be whether large sums of corporate capital held abroad will be repatriated and reinvested into the American economy, which could be quite beneficial. Still, the long-term impact of the congressional tax cuts on the economic forecast and the U.S. federal deficit remains uncertain. By lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, America is now more competitive with other markets. Trade tensions are already high but could increase further as well. Still, the global economic outlook for 2018 is currently positive and predicted to be up by approximately 3 percent after a stronger 2017 than expected. China and India have projected GDP growth rates of approximately 6 and 7 percent, respectively, in 2018. However, by some estimates, if bad debt is taken into account, China’s real GDP should be roughly half the official estimate, which could be a bell-weather for the future.

North Korea

In North Korea we face the most severe existential threat since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Because there is no realistic military solution, and no viable scenario in which Kim Jong-un will dismantle his nuclear program, the key is to slow him down. The good news is that in response to Trump’s hard line, Kim has blinked. His New Year’s Day overture to South Korean president Moon Jae-in provides a path to the negotiating table. We should get behind it.


The Iranian government seems to have gained the upper hand for now over the predominately economically driven protests that erupted in numerous smaller cities earlier this month. However, the government will need to make internal economic changes to maintain stability, including addressing the issue of high youth unemployment. If Washington plays its cards right in this delicate period, the Trump administration might find that Iran now is more vulnerable and less resistant to Trump’s demands. The result may be an opportunity for Trump to achieve a “better deal.” Iran, in turn, would keep the nuclear deal and much needed economic flows intact.

Saudi Arabia

The battle for dominance between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran will continue to shape politics across the Middle East. The battle at hand is existential in the minds of both regional super-powers. In Saudi Arabia, the new crown prince, 32 year old Mohammad bin Salman, has prosecuted a bare-knuckled power grab in the guise of an anti-corruption and social reform movement. In the process, he has taken on a wide array of formidable political and religious figures in the Kingdom. While he can count on the crucial support of his father, the King, and Washington, the crown prince is in danger of over-extending himself. Washington must remain alert for destabilizing blow-back.


On the Russian front, increasing friction is inevitable, despite Trump’s inclination to move toward closer relations. Geopolitical realities now put us at odds with Russia in the Middle East, Europe and over the use of cyber campaigns. Putin has shown great cunning in protecting and projecting historic Mother Russia’s influence on the world stage despite his weak economic position at home. He has regained control over Crimea and eastern Ukraine and established a foothold in the Middle East through Syria and Iran. However, his meddling in U.S. and European elections was foolish. Putin’s actions served to strengthen economic sanctions against him, when his ultimate goal was the reverse. Russia is now more marginalized in the West than at any time since the end of the Cold War. No matter what the outcome of the Mueller investigation, we will need to chart a new course with Russia on how best to deal with its meddling in the political process in the US and among our allies. Russian influence will remain strong in border areas, Syria and to a lesser degree Iran. On the home front, Putin could face increasing political difficulty without significant economic improvement or political reforms, which are highly unlikely especially ahead of the upcoming Presidential election in Russia.


China’s 19th Communist Party Congress further solidified the formidable position of President Xi Jinping. Yet it is inevitable that by rapidly consolidating power through his anti-corruption campaign, Xi has threatened other entrenched interests. We should be alert for internal repercussions. On North Korea, Xi will ultimately disappoint Trump, choosing stability on his borders over forcing Kim Jong-un’s hand through meaningful sanctions. On the world stage, and in Asia in particular, China will attempt to step in where the U.S. is perceived to have pulled back. Whether it will succeed is an open question.

Latin America

Corruption will continue to be a major concern and electoral issue in Latin America which has several presidential contests in 2018, including in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil. The Odebrecht corruption scandal involving the construction giant was the greatest example of corporate bribery in 2017, touching politicians throughout the region, from Brazil to Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Look for other major corruption scandals to emerge in 2018, particularly as elections get closer.

In Mexico, corruption allegations against President Enrique Peña Nieto could seal the deal for the left-leaning, nationalist Andrés Manuel López Obrador. With anti-American sentiment running high in Mexico voters may well look to López Obrador as an alternative. But the possible election of López Obrador should concern markets as much as US government officials, who might see an economic crisis on the southern border if NAFTA talks fail or if the next Mexican president backs away from market-friendly, macroeconomic policies. Already, the political pressures are great, and we should expect volatility to increase as we get closer to the July 2018 election date.

Looking Forward

2018 is likely to be as turbulent as 2017, if not more so. The economy will continue to strengthen, but the political arena will be fraught with unending problems and polarization. Count on a major defining crisis abroad and several surprises, but remain optimistic about the future.

If you or your firm would like an individualized consultation or information, please contact Jack Devine at The Arkin Group.

“Episode #1 Boardrooms’ Best,” Jack Devine in discussion with Nancy May, January 1, 2018

“Boardrooms’ Best” featured TAG President Jack Devine as their guest on the very first episode of the podcast hosted by Nancy May, CEO of The BoardBench Companies, LLC. Drawing upon his experience serving on a number of boards as well as his work in the private business intelligence industry, Jack discussed the importance of companies and their boards doing their due diligence ahead of a deal – whether it’s due diligence on a potential business partner, an acquisition target, an industry, or a country. According to Jack, companies and their boards need on-the-ground information to mitigate potential risks. Jack argues that ultimately, tough questions need to be asked to protect the company, and it’s best when boards develop a culture that accepts this as part of doing business.

Episode #1 Boardrooms’ Best Interview with Jack Devine

“Episode 309: Jack Devine on his three decade career in the CIA,” interview with Ian Scotto on SOFREP Radio, December 14, 2017

TAG President Jack Devine went on SOFREP Radio in December 2017 to talk about his long career in the CIA. SOFREP Radio focuses on special operations military and intelligence news, hosted by Army Ranger/Green Beret Jack Murphy and New York Festivals award winning radio producer Ian Scotto. In his conversation with Ian Scotto, Jack talked about his work for the Agency, debunked some of the myths of the CIA, and discussed his current work in the private business intelligence industry and his recent book Good Hunting: An American Spymaster’s Story.

Episode 309: Jack Devine on his three decade career in the CIA

“CIA Vet Devine: Korea Still Number One Existential Threat to US,” Jack Devine on Bloomberg Markets AM, October 2017

Speaking on Bloomberg Markets AM with Pimm Fox and Lisa Abramowicz on October 25, 2017, TAG President Jack Devine noted that North Korea remains “the number one existential threat to all of us” as Kim Jong-Un gets closer and closer every day to being able to deliver a nuclear weapon to the United States. He also noted, however, that North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is trying to figure out how far he can press his agenda and is stumped by President Trump. Asked if President Trump might decide on his own that Kim Jong-un has crossed a line and take action, Mr. Devine commented that, “there are checks and balances on the President and the President’s ability to take a unilateral decision.”

CIA Vet Devine: Korea Still Number One Existential Threat to US

Jack’s Fall 2017 Intelligence Report

TAG President Jack Devine provides his Fall 2017 Intelligence Report covering Trump, the Russia probe, the Iran Nuclear Deal, the threat of North Korea, and more.

Jack’s Fall 2017 Intelligence Report

Trump Normalcy

Despite President Trump’s lackluster congressional record to date, his administration is getting stronger. The White House staff, cabinet members and the government career professionals are slowly but surely settling into running the government. Likewise, foreign leaders, while still concerned, are starting to size up Trump, and are learning how to deal better with him. No matter how one judges Trump’s performance, the unending flow of national and international issues has provided, and will continue to provide, opportunities for Trump to play the powerful role of President. On this stage, he has cut a deal with the Democrats on the debt, arm wrestled with North Korean leader Kim Jung-un over nuclear weapons, and grappled with hurricane disasters and the shooting in Las Vegas. Moreover, the American public at large is getting used to a tweeting President who makes regular outspoken sharp-edged remarks about friend and foe alike. The prospect for a truncated first term is growing dim even among his biggest critics. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to sound decision-making and progress on the issues Trump cares about is this tendency to publicly criticize senior officials and Congress. This may result in a cabinet that is either afraid to speak up on critical issues or unwilling to stay, as well as create recalcitrant partners in Congress. This is worth keeping an eye on since it could become Trump’s Achilles heel.

Russia Probe

The Russia investigation is throwing up ample evidence of Russian Intelligence involvement in the 2016 election. Their use of social media platforms is now sparking the necessary soul-searching among the major social media companies. But, as stated in the previous forecast, the Mueller investigation is not likely to tie Trump to the charge of collusion, though some of Trump’s former colleagues could well get nicked for other transgressions.

Steep Climb for the Dems

With the Trump Administration gaining strength, the Democrats have their work cut out for them to recapture the Senate in 2018 and the Presidency in 2020. In the aftermath of the Hillary defeat, the party appears to be moving leftward, coalescing around single payer healthcare and immigrant rights. However, it still lacks a coherent message and compelling messengers, making electoral gains at the state and national level a steeper climb than many are prepared to accept just yet.

Economic Upswing Continues

The U.S. economy continues to grow, with the stock market making strong gains and manufacturing output hitting a 13-year high. There are conflicting views on what Trump’s tax plan would do to economic growth in the long term and whether a cut in corporate taxes would result in a significant upswing. I’m siding with the optimists on this issue. However, given the doomed GOP health care effort, it’s not at all certain that tax reform legislation will go through. But, the Trump Administration will muster all the muscle it can to get it done. Trump needs this victory for a whole host of reasons, including maintaining the influence of the Presidency. Still, the U.S. economy appears on solid footing, particularly as compared to other global markets.


Given President Trump’s campaign remarks and long-standing beliefs about the Obama Nuclear Deal, it is no surprise that he didn’t certify that Iran is adhering to all of the requirements of the deal. That said, he now has been exposed to extensive and deep intelligence reports and think pieces that highlight the considerable downside impact of abrogating the deal. This and the fact that virtually all key advisors and allies are against scuttling it, likely has tempered his decision to walk away altogether and instead hand it off to Congress. Congress now has 60 days to decide whether to impose stronger sanctions which it is unlikely to do. There are enough combined Democratic and Republican Party votes to stop this from happening. Iran will respond with negative rhetoric about the non-certification, but will not take any action that will imperil foreign investment and renewed economic activity. If Congress somehow pulls together enough votes to impose new sanctions, Iran will have no choice but to walk, and we will be off to the races with two rogue nuclear powers-Iran and North Korea-and no good military options.

North Korea

With military postures heightening on both sides, there is ever-diminishing space for error in the conflict between Washington and Pyongyang. The chances for misinterpretation are high with potentially devastating consequences. Despite Trump’s chiding of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, it is time to negotiate since there is no realistic military solution for stopping Kim Jong-un from expanding his nuclear arsenal and ability to deliver it. China seemingly is exasperated and has taken a harder line with North Korea than ever before. With some prompting from the U.S., China may now be open to bringing Kim to the negotiating table for revived “Six Party” talks. We should not be overly optimistic that the talks will lead to a meaningful deal or to North Korea dismantling its nuclear program. At a minimum, however, these talks could yield a more cohesive alliance among the five parties in dealing with North Korea, and stall the testing of bombs and missiles while the alliance tries to organize a more muscular response to Kim Jong-un.


The fall of Raqqa to the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) has put a stake through the heart of the ISIS Caliphate, ending its naive idea of creating its own Islamic state as well as ending its use of traditional armed forces. Like al-Qaeda before it, ISIS is now a terrorist organization in decline, although still a dangerous force to be reckoned with. It has lost the base from which it launched operations against the West, and will move to a post-territorial strategy. Some fighters will attempt to regroup, while others will join other global terrorist groups or return quietly to the West. For sure, ISIS will try to maintain its relevance and influence by attempting to stage bold attacks against Western targets as well as encouraging its global sympathizers to conduct attacks of opportunity. It will have its successes, and Western intelligence organizations must remain vigilant.


Despite Presidents Trump and Erdogan’s warm statements after their September meeting in New York, U.S.-Turkish relations have continued their precipitous descent. Both countries recently suspended visa services in the wake of an arrest of a U.S. consulate (Turkish) staffer on trumped up espionage charges. A symptom of President Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism, the arrests are also widely regarded as an attempt to leverage the extradition of Pennsylvania-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan holds responsible for the 2016 failed coup attempt. Erdogan’s relations with Germany are similarly frayed as Chancellor Angela Merkel recently called for scrapping Turkey’s EU accession bid.

While Ankara and Washington still share common security goals, they are decidedly at odds in the war against ISIS as Washington leans heavily on local militias, particularly the Kurdish YPG, whom Erdogan views as linked to Turkey’s domestic Kurdish separatist force. Now that YPG and allied forces have retaken the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Kurdish influence in Raqqa will no doubt remain a bone of contention. The Kurdish loss of oil rich Kirkuk to Iraqi forces in northern Iraq will be a relief to Ankara, but a headache to Washington because we have relied so heavily on Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS. Washington will need to work to prevent a protracted battle over the issue between Kurdistan and Iraq. In Turkey as well, Washington continues to have an enormous stake in keeping relations on track, if for no other reason than to protect its Turkey-based Incirlik Airforce base. The Trump Administration will likely take this moment to look for incentives to bring Erdogan back on the reservation.


Voters across Europe are continuing to challenge or upend traditional parties and governing coalitions in response to ongoing economic and social dislocations and immigration fears. Austria’s centrist coalition was the most recent to fall at the hands of an anti-immigrant 31-year old political wunderkind, Sebastian Kurz, who may govern in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party. In Germany, Merkel’s center is still holding, but the recent election saw the unthinkable, an ultra-right party pass the vote threshold to make it into Parliament.

In Catalonia, fed up voters have turned Spanish politics on their head when they voted for independence under the leadership of firebrand Carles Puigdemont. Prime Minister Rajoy’s arrest of Catalan politicians and violent crackdown on voters and protesters only serves to fan the flames in Catalonia. But Rajoy is likely to prevail as Puigdemont’s independence bid has gotten the cold shoulder from the EU and foreign governments. Puigdemont is calling for dialogue, but Rajoy is so far having none of it and has been given him until tomorrow to back down or risk a take-over of the regional government. Puigdemont will likely be forced to accept a compromise that keeps Catalonia in Spain, but provides some meaningful, if limited, concessions toward increased autonomy – and Rajoy would be wise to accommodate some of the most reasonable ones. Both must seem to have “won,” even though many of their constituents will feel otherwise.


Unfortunately, but as predicted, months of protests in Venezuela did nothing to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power or alleviate the economic and humanitarian crisis. Surviving the wave of protests, Maduro consolidated power by jailing opposition figures and calling a sham election for a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution. The recent regional elections, which may have been substantially rigged, were a further blow to the opposition. Maduro’s actions have been met with U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and government officials. Even so, the opposition is on for a protracted and uncertain struggle for the foreseeable future. In addition, the Venezuelan people continue to suffer, living without basic goods and services, and seeking to escape to the U.S. or Colombia. A default on debt payments coming due soon could worsen the crisis and create chaos for the only industry bringing in any money to Venezuela – oil.

If you or your firm would like individualized consultation or information, please contact Jack Devine at The Arkin Group.

“Former CIA Acting Director Devine: ‘Very Concerned’ About Korea” Jack Devine on Bloomberg Markets AM, August 2017

In an interview with Bloomberg Markets AM with Pimm Fox and Lisa Abramowicz on August 14, 2017, TAG President Jack Devine talks about why it’s time for negotiation – not military action – with North Korea. Devine said, “It’s been a long, long time since I thought we were in a situation where it’s conceivable that we could have a military confrontation that could end up in some sort of nuclear incident.” Given the serious threat, Devine argues that “one way or the other, we have to get back to the table.”

Former CIA Acting Director Devine: ‘Very Concerned’ About Korea