Russia’s new Iran airbase; Trump’s copy-&-paste ISIS plan; Obama lets 15 from Gitmo; US Army in China; And a bit more.

Russia is now bombing Syria from Iran, giving it two strategic air bases in the Middle East. “In a move underscoring Moscow’s increasingly close ties with Tehran, long-range Russian Tupolev-22M3 bombers and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers used Iran’s Hamadan air base [in northwest Iran] to strike a range of targets in Syria,” Reuters reports. The move is also “thought to be the first time that Iran has allowed a foreign power to use its territory for military operations since the 1979 Islamic revolution.”

The decision also embroils Iraq a bit more in the conflict since planes will most likely have to use some of its airspace — meaning they’re flying over ISIS to bomb anti-Assad forces.

Coming soon: More Russian cruise missiles in Syria. That news follows a report from Russia’s Interfax news agency Monday announcing Moscow’s defense ministry “last week sent requests to Iraq and Iran to use the airspace of these countries for the passage of cruise missiles.”

Get caught up: Who else has launched cruise missiles during Syria’s war? The U.S., France and Britain—but the latter two only fired into Iraq. More on all that, here.

Remember that Monday story from Russia’s defense minister saying Moscow and Washington were close to a cooperation deal on Syria? U.S. officials said that was baloney, AP reports this morning.

Before we leave Russian matters, their troops have linked up with separatists “in [Moldova’s] breakaway republic of Trans-Dniester for joint military exercises for the second time this month,” AP reports this morning. Background: “Pro-Russian Trans-Dniester broke away from Moldova in 1990 fearing it would reunite with neighboring Romania. Separatists fought Moldovans in a war in 1992 leaving 1,500 dead. There are some 1,000 Russian peacekeepers stationed in Trans-Dniester.” More here.

Trump’s new old war on terror. GOP 2016 contender Donald Trump laid out his pitch for fighting terrorism at home and abroad and, well, there was not much there there. By and large, Trump’s plan to fight the Islamic State consisted of a package of measures already being implemented by President Barack Obama’s administration. The Washington Post fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, had a field day with Trump’s foreign policy speech—it’s not pretty, but here.

See The Daily Beast: “Trump Cribs His War Plan From the ‘Founder’ of ISIS,” Nancy Youssef reported, writing, “Trump did not offer many specifics about how to defeat ISIS but where he did, he largely repeated what already is happening.”

What’s new? Trump talked more about U.S. immigration than ISIS in the Middle East, promising “extreme vetting” and suggesting he “would ban not only terrorist sympathizers but those who believe in Shariah law, don’t believe in the U.S. Constitution or ‘support bigotry and hatred,’” The Wall Street Journal writes.

What’s also new: Trump struck a more moderate note when talking about NATO, the alliance he once called “outdated.”

Youssef also noted Trump’s penchant for a regional authoritarian: “Another major difference between Trump and Obama is that Trump called for working more closely with Egypt’s authoritarian president, Abdel Fatah el Sissi, to defeat ISIS, which has expanded its grip in the Sinai and along the Egyptian-Libyan border.”

The problem with that: Sissi “has systematically imprisoned thousands of opponents, limited freedom of speech and been unable to stop the expansion of ISIS in his country.”

Other media outlets were at least as scrutinizing of Trump’s ideas and of his retelling of recent Middle Eastern history. To that end, see NYT’s editorial board’s take here.

Meanwhile in the actual fight against ISIS, Baghdad’s troops are advancing village by village closer to Mosul, AP reports this morning. And as they inch closer to Iraq’s second-largest city, ISIS is lashing out with drive-by assassinations and bombings (around the capital) and harassing artillery fire at every opportunity (in the north, near Peshmerga troops).  

Unprecedented 15-detainee transfer out of Gitmo. Obama may not be able to close Guantanamo but he’s trying like hell to empty it before a new president takes office—releasing 15 former inmates (12 Yemenis and 3 Afghan citizens) to the UAE alone on Monday. Amnesty International had the jump on the story, teasing the release an hour or two before the Pentagon announced it.

For what it’s worth: 684 inmates were imprisoned at the base at its most packed (779 have been cycled through the facilities overall); today 61 remain. BBC has more here.

So where have all the captives gone? The Miami Herald has a very good map looking at the 30 nations that have taken in detainees in this one-stop-shop link with all you want to know about Guantanamo, here.

What’s it like to visit Gitmo? Listen to NPR’s Arun Rath explain his recent visit to the facility in this conversation with Rachel Martin on Weekend Edition Sunday.

And take a look at this small ship Arun snapped a photo of that one detainee made from cardboard and scraps over just two weeks.


From Defense One

Here are four ways Obama can make humanity safer from nukes before anyone else gets the launch codes. It comes via Joe Cirincione of Ploughshares Fund, who writes “It’s not just a crazy president; it’s our crazy nuclear policy that puts us at risk.” But those “fears of a nuclear-armed Trump have opened up a major policy opportunity for President Obama.” What opportunity? Read on the find out, here.

Djibouti isn’t turning Chinese, though it may seem crowded—with French, U.S., British, Italian, Japanese, and soon Chinese troops based there. Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, foreign minister of the East African state that hosts the key U.S. counterterrorism hub Camp Lemonnier, pushes back on assertions China is elbowing Americans out. “Some people have questioned whether China’s decision to establish a presence in Djibouti means that our nation’s ties with the United States are weakening. The answer is simple – no.” That, here.

For U.S. Politicians, Overcoming the Fear of Terrorism is Easier Done Than Said, writes Uri Friedman of The Atlantic in this piece that digs into how politicians can sell “resilience” in the age of terror.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Kevin Baron. On this day in 1914, 25-year-old painter Adolf Hitler volunteered to fight with the German army in WW1. (Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley is in China today as part of a continued effort to convince Beijing that the Pentagon’s THAAD anti-missile system (that it’s deploying to South Korea) is not a threat to the Chinese mainland, Reuters reports this morning.  

Why Milley? “Milley said the U.S. wants to maintain open channels of communications with China’s military to ‘reduce the risk of crisis or miscalculation and candidly address differences,’” the U.S. Army said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

China pledges to cut its maritime militia—but not because they see them as a destabilizing presence in the region. Rather, it’s because they’ve fished pretty much all they can in the coastal East China Sea.

Fun fact: China consumes more than a third of the world’s seafood supply. More on all that from the South China Morning Post, here.

And China just sent the world’s first quantum satellite into orbit. Why? For secure communications. Read more about the implications of quantum technology via Defense One Tech Editor Patrick Tucker’s two takes on the topic here and here.

And before we leave the Asia-Pacific, “Japan has decided to develop and deploy a land-to-sea missile system designed to enhance defense in the East China Sea at the same time it is embroiled in a tense standoff with China over the disputed Senkaku island chain,” Stars and Stripes reported Monday. “Vehicle-mounted, GPS-guided missiles with a range of about 186 miles will be deployed to major southern islands such as Miyako in Okinawa Prefecture.” More here.

Another Doctors without Borders hospital was bombed and 11 more died from a Saudi-led coalition strike, the group said Monday.  

The U.S. Air Force last week approved its first round of KC-46 tankers. “The Air Force said in a news release it is working to award $2.8 billion in contracts for the first two production lots – totaling 19 tankers and spare parts – in the next 30 days. The approval comes after the tanker successfully completed refueling tests of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, a C-17 Globemaster III and an A-10 Thunderbolt II using its boom as well as an AV-8 Harrier II and an F/A-18 Hornet using both hose and drogue systems.” More from the Wichita Eagle, here. Or trace some of the recent history of the project via Defense One Global Business Reporter Marcus Weisgerber, here.

Lastly today: How to derail a corporate meeting, OSS-style. This 1944 agency “Sabotage Field Manual” reads like script of “The Office.” Some of our favorites: “Insist on doing everything through ‘channels.’ Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.”

And “Make ‘speeches.’ Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.”

Death by committee: “When possible, refer all matters to committees, for ‘further study and consideration.’ Attempt to make the committee as large as possible — never less than five.”

And the kicker: “Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.” Lots more in this classic link from 2015, right here.

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