Turkey tosses a monkey wrench into the Mosul offensive. Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan says Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is “insulting” him for demanding that his unwelcome 2,000 or so troops depart their northern Iraqi training base at Bashiqa.
Erdogan told a crowd in Istanbul this morning, “Iraq had certain requests from us regarding Bashiqa, and now they are telling us to leave, but the Turkish army has not lost so much standing as to take orders from you…The Iraqi prime minister is insulting me, first know your limits.”
Why this is a big deal: “The Turkish presence is massively destabilizing. Reports Turkey has stepped up its training of [former parliament speaker Osama] Nujayfi’s militia has set off alarm bells,” writes Middle East analyst Kirk Sowell of Utica Risk Services. “This matters for two reasons. One, these aren’t just random local Ninawa residents. They are the private army of Osama al-Nujayfi. Nujayfi has long ties to Turkey; in 2010, he flipped from Arab nationalist to working with [Masoud] Barzani’s [Kurdistan Democratic Party] because of the policy change in Ankara. Two, this could increase the chance of direct conflict between Baghdad forces and Turkey-backed Sunni forces, or even Turkish forces directly. If Turkey were simply concerned about fighting ISIS, this would be less of a problem. But this is an effort to set of a zone of influence…This also hugely undermines U.S. policy in Iraq, which depends on strengthening Iraqi govt institutions versus Shia militias.” More on his take, here.
If it sounds like Ankara has some new pep in its step, note this new Turkey-Russia undersea gas pipeline deal, announced along with other cooperative efforts between the two countries on the conflict in Syria.
Elsewhere around Mosul, U.S. special operators and Iraqi troops are conducting more raids closer and closer to the key northern Iraq city, and new Apaches are up around Erbil. AP has more here.
This just in: the Mosul offensive will have its own “war media center,” run by a Peshmerga officer, Kurdish Rudaw News reported this weekend.
Your Tuesday #LongRead: The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins looks into “Turkey’s Thirty-Year Coup,” digging into the story of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamic preacher exiled in Pennsylvania whom Turkey’s Erdogan insists is responsible for July’s failed coup.
In case you were curious: Russians don’t seem to care about Putin’s war in Syria. Why not? A comprehensive propaganda effort and plenty of issues to protest at home. Read on, via Newsweek, here.
Russia should be investigated for war crimes in Syria, U.S. State Secretary John Kerry said late last week. French President Francois Hollande agrees, and just saying so caused Vladimir Putin to cancel an upcoming trip with him. That, here.
Now the U.S. is looking at putting 300 Marines in Norway, Oslo’s defense ministry announced Monday. They’d head to “the Værnes military base near Trondheim, about 1,000 kilometres from the Russian-Norwegian frontier. Several defence sources told the newspaper that the plans to put US troops at the military base have been underway for some time.” More here.
Food for thought: Is America’s list of self-assigned moral duties simply too long for a sustainable projection of U.S. power? The New York Times’ Max Fisher investigates in this head-scratcher that’s well worth the click.
Yemen aflame. A deadly airstrike on a funeral Saturday, along with a thwarted attack on a U.S. Navy vessel Sunday, suggests the war in Yemen is going poorly and the U.S. knows it.
Case in point: U.S. lawyers are somewhat in a knot over whether their involvement with the Saudi-led war in Yemen makes them a “co-belligerent,” and thus vulnerable to implications in war crimes by the Saudi coalition. That all comes from partly declassified documents obtained by Reuters via FOIA request “from mid-May 2015 to February 2016, a period during which State Department officials reviewed and approved the sale of precision munitions to Saudi Arabia to replenish bombs dropped in Yemen.”
Yemen’s ex-president had already begun pushing for an open offensive on Saudi Arabia even before an airstrike on a funeral in Sana’a killed almost 150 people on Saturday and Houthi fighters sent rockets fired deep into Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported this morning.
For what it’s worth: Here’s a Yemen turf map.
Attack on U.S. troops in Kuwait: “An Egyptian driving a garbage truck loaded with explosives and Islamic State papers rammed into a truck carrying five U.S. soldiers in Kuwait on Saturday, injuring only himself in the attack,” AP reported this weekend. “The attempted attack is the first by the Islamic State group to target American troops in the tiny, oil-rich emirate that’s a stalwart U.S. ally.” That, here.
From Defense One
‘What President Trump Meant to Say’ // Former CIA and DoD spokesman George Little writes that “I would have been fired on the spot if I spoke like Donald Trump.”
It’s Still Not Easy to Stop the Next Snowden // Tech Editor Patrick Tucker: The case of the NSA contractor arrested this week shows that the intelligence community has much further to go in stopping insider threats.
Pakistan to Obama: Kashmir Will Hurt Our Ability to Help Fight the Taliban // Tucker, again: Pakistan wants President Obama’s help in the Kashmir conflict with India, Pakistan’s senate defense chairman will tell the National Security Council on Friday.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1986, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in Iceland to discuss reducing medium-range missile deployments in Europe. (Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A joint China-Russia response to the U.S. missile shield system, THAAD, could be coming soon, AP reports this morning in a short hit from Moscow.
Also: Chinese troops are facing allegations they abandoned their post during a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. The Center For Civilians in Conflict issued a report saying “the Chinese peacekeepers abandoned their posts in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on July 11, a day after a rocket-propelled grenade had exploded near a Chinese armored personnel carrier, killing two Chinese soldiers,” Reuters reports. The Chinese defense ministry’s reax: The story is nothing but “malicious speculation.” More here and here.
How angry is the U.S. intelligence community at Donald Trump? Mad enough to talk to the press, if anonymously, about the GOP candidate’s statement during Sunday’s debate that Russia might not be hacking the U.S. election. “To profess not to know at this point is willful misrepresentation,” a senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News. “The intelligence community has walked a very thin line in not taking sides, but both candidates have all the information they need to be crystal clear.” The official was referring to the intelligence briefings that Trump, Hillary Clinton, and top campaign staffers have received in recent months.
More from the debate: “Donald Trump made a series of assertions about the five-year-old humanitarian catastrophe in Syria that no one with access to Google, much less classified intelligence, ever ought to make,” writes The Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss in a piece headlined, modestly, “Everything Donald Trump Says About Syria Is Crazy, Wrong, or Both.” Details here.
Much of it contradicted positions put forth by Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Mother Jones has the rundown, here.
Meanwhile, Moscow has Trump’s back at the UN. AP, on Friday: “Russia lodged a formal complaint last month with the United Nations over a top U.N. official’s condemnations of Donald Trump and some European politicians, an intervention that underscores the unusual links between the Republican presidential nominee and the Kremlin.” Read on, here.
And just say you wanted to, you know, have a substantive debate: a list of 18 foreign-policy questions that Foreign Policy columnists want the candidates to answer, here.
While much of the U.S. military’s well-known work abroad is done in desert climates like Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army is thinking about conflict in the jungle. And it wants a better boot for the climate, Army Times reported Monday. “The boots undergoing testing aim to be puncture resistant, yet also comfortable, supportive and quick drying. The Army sent out a directed requirement so “we can get two [brigade combat teams] in Hawaii equipped with jungle combat boots by the end of calendar year ,” Col. Dean Hoffman IV, project manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment at PEO Soldier, said. More here.