Democratic Senate support nudges Iran deal beyond critical threshold. U.S. President Barack Obama can now advance a signature foreign policy achievement without having to use a veto to block congressional objections.
The latest Yes votes: Oregon’s Ron Wyden, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, Washington’s Maria Cantwell and Michigan’s Gary Peters all lined up behind the deal on Tuesday. “The declarations from the last four Democrats who had yet to weigh in means all but four of the 46 senators in the party’s caucus support the deal, exceeding White House expectations just a month ago when Mr. Obama cast the Iran deal as a choice between diplomacy and war,” The Wall Street Journal noted.
Saving face. “Of the four Senate Democrats who rejected the Iran nuclear deal, two—Ben Cardin of Maryland and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—waited until after Mr. Obama had lined up enough Democratic support to sustain a veto should the president need to use it,” WSJ added.
But don’t think U.S. hardliners aren’t still clamoring over different sanctions to patch alleged “shortfalls” in the agreement, citing Iran’s “record on human rights and its backing of groups the U.S. designates as terrorist organizations.” But such a move could give Tehran cause to ditch the deal, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani told NPR’s Steve Inskeep.
Speaking of hardliners, the oft-quoted statistic—“500 American soldiers were murdered by Iranian IEDs”—appears to be more hyperbole than truth, according to recently declassified data from U.S. Central Command provided exclusively to Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber.
“Explosively formed penetrators—a particularly deadly form of roadside bomb—killed 196 American soldiers in Iraq over a five-and-a-half-year period, according to recently declassified Pentagon documents. That’s about half as many deaths as lawmakers have attributed to the bombs, which U.S. officials say were largely supplied by Iran’s elite Quds Force,” Weisgerber writes.
The “500” stat enjoyed a run in the headlines this summer as opponents of the nuclear deal cited Tehran’s behind-the-scenes actions against U.S. troops during the Iraq War as a reason to scuttle the agreement, roping in Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to the cause after Gen. Joseph Dunford, the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed the 500 number at his July 9 confirmation hearing. (It’s still unclear where it first came from.) Nearly three weeks later, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the outgoing Joint Chiefs chairman, said the more accurate figure was closer to “several hundred” American forces killed by EFPs.
Not that Cruz’s office is done with the matter yet, as Weisgerber explains. Read his report in full, here.
And while we’re on Cruz, his 2016 GOP rival, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, says when it comes to effective Republican governance in the House and Senate, “Ted Cruz is the problem.” That in a U.S. News one-on-one with Graham, a former Air Force JAG officer who’s currently polling in 12th place at 1 percent in the New Hampshire primaries. Graham indicates his willingness to wage total war with Iran save a ground invasion force, and that he would be willing to have follow-on wars in Iraq indefinitely. Check that one out right here.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie…. like France, Australian jets will take to the skies over Syria to bomb Islamic State fighters. That’s the latest from Canberra where Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters his nation will begin striking ISIS targets inside Syria “within days.” Can’t you hear that thunder? The land down under will take in another 12,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees, and it’s dolling out another $31 million to help the refugee situation in camps across Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, AP reports. It’s a lot, just don’t call it overkill.
More tit-for-tat deaths in Turkey. Kurdish militants killed 15 Turkish police officers in two separate bombings in the east on Tuesday, and Ankara responded by dispatching more than three-dozen jets to slam Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, bases in northern Iraq, The Washington Post reported.
ICYMI: Canada advocates a marathon Western troop presence in the Middle East, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday. “Mr. Harper said that pulling Canadian and other foreign troops out of the region, as some of his political opponents have called for, would be a ‘catastrophe’ that would pose national security risks for Canada and elsewhere in the Western world and exacerbate the refugee crisis,” WSJ reported. “We have to be in for the long haul,” Harper said. That bit, here.
For what it’s worth, Canada expanded their airstrike mission over Syria back in March. Not that they’ve dropped many munitions there in the time since, Canadian media reports.
Trump gets bold—no, scratch that: Trump equivocates wrongly when it comes to military service. In a forthcoming biography, GOP Frontrunner Donald Trump “said his experience at the New York Military Academy, an expensive prep school where his parents had sent him to correct poor behavior, gave him ‘more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military,’” The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro reported Tuesday.
Viewed by troops as a perennially petulant silver-spoon boy, Trump avoided service in Vietnam on account of heel spurs and “a very high draft number,” he told biographer Michael D’Antonio, adding, “I felt that I was in the military in the true sense because I dealt with those people.”
But the mildly depressing question is whether—as with his insult of McCain’s POW time—these remarks that are tone-deaf to military folks will matter to them or civilians when they step into voting booths.
It happens to matter a whole helluva lot today, at least, in the responses shared by veterans and others that former Marine infantryman Thomas Gibbons-Neff rolls up in the pages of WaPo.
And speaking of attention, the Cruz-Trump rally against the Iran deal gets under way today in Washington at 1 p.m. local. AP previews that one, with a supporting cast of various naysaying B-listers—including Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck—right here.
From Defense One
On closing Gitmo: Can’t go on. Must go on. That’s the latest rock-and-a-hard-place message from the White House as it tries, tries, tries to move ahead with Obama’s plan to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that administration officials once called “imminent,” Defense One’s Molly O’Toole reports. Six weeks ago, the administration said it was in the “final stages” of drafting the plan. Now, a White House official says, “We don’t have a timeline on when the plan will be delivered to Congress.”
Where are the sites under review—and the seemingly intractable political obstacles in the way? O’Toole explains in full, here.
Two weeks from today, on September 23, join DOD acquisition head Frank Kendall as he keynotes Defense One LIVE’s “The State of Defense Acquisition” in Crystal City, Va. Catch the full agenda and register for your spot right here.
Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Kevin Baron. Want to share The D Brief with a friend? Here’s our subscribe link. And please tell us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at email@example.com.
Happening Now: Hillary Clinton’s big Iran deal speech underway at Brookings in Washington today at 9 a.m. (livestream here). This roughly 12 hours after Clinton told ABC News her use of that external email server was a “mistake,” a move that, in PR terms, became a virtual must after weeks of sinking poll numbers.
Also today: The 2015 Intelligence & National Security Summit from INSA and AFCEA is underway this morning with opening remarks from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at 8:30 a.m. A full agenda for the two-day event can be found over here.
NextGov Prime: Good luck to our sister publication’s annual conference on data and cybersecurity in government with speakers like the Pentagon’s David DeVries, principal deputy chief information officer. Here’s the full lineup of CIOs and speakers.
Lockheed contests U.S. Army’s enormous JLTV contract. The world’s largest defense contractor is upset Oshkosh won the Army’s $30 billion contract to replace Humvees and has appealed to the Government Accountability Office to review the decision. The company has “concerns regarding the evaluation” of its offer in the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle contest, Defense News and Bloomberg report. “[W]e firmly believe we offered the most capable and affordable solution for the program.”
Meantime Humvee-maker AM General is out. The other losing bidder said it would not protest the deal. After all there are more than 230,000 Humvees in military inventories globally. It’s worth noting that the Pentagon awarded AM General a $428 million contract for 654 Humvee ambulances for the National Guard.
Is a budget crunch putting the U.S. Army on the verge of an identity crisis? A commission to determine the best course of action for the future of the Army “could lead to a radical redesign” of both the Army and the National Guard, The Gazette’s Tom Roeder reports from Colorado Springs. There, members of the National Commission of the Future of the Army continued a fact-finding tour last week while the Guard and Army wrangle over an aviation restructuring proposal amid a sequester-threatening $50 billion loss in funding.
While we’re on the business—and messaging—of Pentagon acquisitions, here’s what you get when you fix a couple GoPro cameras to a couple A-10 Warthogs showcasing their capabilities. It’s really just an extended commercial; but darn it, it’s oh-so fancy, too.
Want some polished footage of the A-10 in actual combat? Here’s video that retired Air Force officer Tony Carr suspects very probably originated from the Air Force’s combat cameramen—and which USAF officials may have gone to decent lengths to suppress, as Carr explains here.
Digging in: Pentagon Deploys Spokesman to Baghdad. A year ago, when the U.S. returned to fight Iraq War III, Pentagon reporters quickly asked how they can get in line for an embed. It’s Iraq, after all and visions of combat patrols danced in their heads. But with no units on patrol to embed with—and U.S. reporters increasingly being taken hostage and executed—the American way of covering war has been a bit disjointed and incomplete. Enter Col. Steve Warren.
“Don’t read too much into me going — it’s been in the works for a while,” Warren told Defense One Tuesday. Warren has won plaudits from the Pentagon press corps as one of the better recent directors of the Pentagon’s media ops front office and mouthpieces for the military. Instead of retiring, he was asked from on high to go to Baghdad, set up shop, and start getting more American reporters into Iraq to cover the ongoing conflict. He tells us he’ll work toward three objectives: 1) talk about Iraq from Iraq (instead of via CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa or the Pentagon); 2) train “Iraqi communicators” to better spin their part of the fight; and—here’s the one to really watch— 3) “Facilitate Western access.” “It is important to keep in mind here that the infrastructure is not anything like what it was in, say, 2008,” Warren cautions. (How about that? We’re pining for Iraq’s infrastructure in 2008.) Warren’s flight out was scheduled for 10am EDT departure. Good luck, colonel. We’ll be watching.
No wake zone for the LCS? Dude…not cool. On Saturday, dozens of Lake Michigan boaters were pissssssssed off at the Navy for driving way too fast and close, wrecking their boats and and their Labor Day weekend buzz. The LCS “Milwaukee” was performing sea trials in Lake Michigan’s Green Bay when boaters tied up and moored off Chambers Island suddenly were hit with what they describe as 6 to 8 foot waves from the littoral combat ship. “We saw the navy boat go by and you can see that it was throwing a pretty good wake,” said one boater. The Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, which basically rules Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, immediately came out to investigate and check on the boaters, more than 40 of which filed reports. From WBAY: “‘Of course, our first and foremost priority is the safety and wellbeing of the boaters and bystanders and we are fully cooperating with authorities investigating the incident,’ said Bethany Skorik of Marinette Marine.” Check out these videos and pictures here and here and here.