Mattis in Israel; US pitches Saudis a plan to reduce CIVCAS in Yemen; How Syria’s war has been good North Korea; China’s AF on high alert; ISIS’s ‘last fortress’; And a bit more.

Fresh off visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Defense Secretary James Mattis met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv today. Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron, who is traveling with Mattis, was there. What did the Israeli leader have to say about U.S. President Donald Trump? “I think this is a welcome change, a strategic change of American leadership and policy,” Netanyahu said. Here’s a video from Baron of Mattis and Netanyahu shaking hands.

Earlier in the day, during a press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Mattis said the Syrian air force has dispersed it planes following the U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile strike on one of its bases earlier this month. Per Reuters: “They have dispersed their aircraft, no doubt. They have dispersed their aircraft in recent days,” Mattis said. CNN reports that Syria moved its warplanes to a base near a Russian installation for protection.  Mattis also said the U.S. believes Syria still has chemical weapons. “The bottom line is, I can say authoritatively they have retained some (chemical weapons). It’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically.” More here.

On North Korea’s recent nuclear threats: “As far as North Korea’s latest words (are concerned), I think we’ve all come to hear their words repeatedly, their word has not proven honest,” he said, per Reuters.

On Iran, Mattis said “Iran continues to threaten Israel and its neighbors” with missiles, maritime, cyber, [and] through proxies. Meanwhile, the U.S. is expanding intelligence-sharing with the Israelis.

And this: Iran lived up to the nuclear deal, but “that in no way … excuses” Iran’s other activity—the war in Yemen “grinds on thanks to their support.”

Speaking of Yemen: “The United States wants new commitments from Saudi Arabia to improve its targeting procedures to minimize civilian casualties in its part in the Yemen civil war as it weighs resuming sales of precision-guided munitions to Riyadh, U.S. officials told Reuters.” A $390 million deal for Raytheon-made bomb guidance systems has been on on hold.

“Nearly 4,800 civilians have been killed in Yemen since the latest round of conflict began in March 2015, most of them by the Saudi-led coalition seeking to restore ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the United Nations human rights office said in March.” More here.


From Defense One

Hawaii’s Renewed Jitters About Nukes // Adrienne LaFrance, via The Atlantic: The state is asking the Department of Defense to help it prepare for a nuclear attack, amid escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Syria’s War Has Been a ‘Goldmine’ for North Korea—and Don’t Expect It to Change Anytime Soon // Steve Mollman, via Quartz: Weapons from North Korea have ended up in Syria, ultimately enriching the Kim regime and prolonging Bashar al-Assad’s grip on power.

Global Business Brief: April 20 // Marcus Weisgerber: Russia’s arms export boom stalls; Wisconsin shipbuilding and Trump; Mattis meets industry leaders; and a lot more.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Marcus Weisgerber. On this day 50 years ago, Josef Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, defected to the U.S. Wanna subscribe to The D Brief? Email us at the-d-brief@defenseone.com and we’ll take care of you.


In record time, the Islamic State group claimed an attack in Paris where a man “opened fire on a police vehicle parked on the Champs Elysees in Paris late on Thursday, killing one officer and injuring two others before being shot dead,” Reuters reports. “The gunman, identified as Karim Cheurfi…[was] a French national who lived in the eastern Paris suburb of Chelles, [who] had been convicted for previous armed assaults on law enforcement officers going back 16 years.” His violent criminal past included robbery, car theft and three attempted murders. More from Reuters, here.

Eyes on the Korean peninsula. China has put some of its air force’s land-attack, cruise-missile-capable bombers on “high alert,” U.S. officials told CNN Thursday. “The official said the U.S. has also seen an extraordinary number of Chinese military aircraft being brought up to full readiness through intensified maintenance.”

The Chinese reax: “Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said Friday he was ‘aware of the relevant reports’ of a heightened alert in the Chinese Air Force, but said he has ‘no information to give,’” CNN reports.

And in Russia, “a Kremlin spokesman declined to comment on media reports that Russia was moving military hardware and troops toward the border with North Korea,” Reuters reports this morning. Video of some of those alleged movements, here.

On Thursday, President Trump referenced “some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours,” but Reuters writes “Trump gave no indication of what the moves might be.” More here.

A bit north of North Korea, “a teenage gunman has killed two people at [the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB’s] regional headquarters in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports this morning. “It said the attacker fatally shot an FSB officer and a visitor and also wounded another visitor before being killed by FSB personnel. The two visitors were from a former Soviet republic other than Russia, the FSB said. The FSB said the attacker was a local who was born in 1999 and might have had links to neo-Nazi activities.” A tiny bit more, here.

Is North Korea just having fun now? “On the weekend the world held its breath in anticipation of a sixth North Korean nuclear test, staff at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site were apparently playing volleyball,” the Washington Post graphics team reports after getting their eyes on some satellite imagery of that test site from this weekend. More in WaPo’s video, which clocks in at just under two minutes, here.

What’s the U.S. military’s future in Libya? Defeating ISIS, and that’s it, President Trump said Thursday during a presser with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni at the White House. “I do not see a role in Libya. I think the United States has right now enough roles. We’re in a role everywhere. So I do not see that … I do see a role in getting rid of ISIS, we’re very effective in that regard … I see that as a primary role and that’s what we’re going to do, whether it’s in Iraq, or Libya or anywhere else,” Trump said.

The Islamic State group’s “last fortress.” It’s located right between Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria. And the Associated Press has a report from an alleged ISIS defector who helps shed some light on what will likely be the focus of the counter-ISIS war after (Inshallah) the fall of Mosul and Raqqa.

AP: “Some 2,500 IS fighters are estimated to be in the provincial capital alone. Hundreds more, many of them fleeing losses in Iraq, have flowed into rural parts of the province in recent months, digging in as the U.S.-backed forces concentrate on their assault on the group’s de facto capital, Raqqa, in northern Syria. Stretching along the Euphrates River through Syria’s eastern desert to the border with Iraq, Deir el-Zour is richer and more important strategically than Raqqa, because it is the center of Syria’s oil industry and because of its links to Iraq. Heavily reliant on tribal politics, its population is closely connected to that of Iraq’s Sunni Anbar province — Deiris, as they’re called, joke they are the Iraqis of Syria or the Syrians of Iraq.” Worth the click, here.

The future of USSOF, according to one think tank. How many ways can we describe conflict that doesn’t rise to the level of a war? “Ambiguous warfare,” the “Gray Zone,” “Phase 0” and “competition short of armed conflict” are a few. U.S. special operations forces frequently deploy to these spaces. Now the folks at CNA have charted a way ahead for Washington’s use of those American special operators for the current climate of “global competition,” as CNA puts it. Check out more than three-dozen pages of analysis, here.

Break, break—time for a great photo. Take a look at four Italian frogmen as they exit the Salvatore Todaro, A Type 212 SSK submarine. “This has to be one of the coolest submarine shots of all time!” said Tyler Rogoway, editor of The War Zone, who brought it to our attention thanks to his share of the pic on Twitter.

Pursuing Assange.U.S. authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange,” CNN reported Thursday. The U.S. had reportedly prepared charges against Assange for the help he provided former Army intelligence soldier Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. But, CNN reports, “The U.S. view of WikiLeaks and Assange began to change after investigators found what they believe was proof that WikiLeaks played an active role in helping Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, disclose a massive cache of classified documents.” More here.

How audio sensors accelerated a quick arrest during the rampage in Fresno, Calif. “Acoustic sensors mounted on lampposts and telephone poles picked up the crack of gunfire and rapidly enabled police to zero in on where it was coming from,” the Associated Press reported Thursday. “First developed two decades ago, ShotSpotter technology has been used widely since 2011 in U.S. cities. The Fresno rampage is one of the more serious crimes in which it played a vital role.”

The culprit in this case: “Kori Ali Muhammad, a 39-year-old black man who authorities say killed three people Tuesday in a bid to wipe out as many whites as possible.”

How the system works: via “numerous sensitive microphones,” AP writes. “Computers and technicians at a California-based center distinguish the sound of gunfire from other noises and triangulate the shots, in much the same way that cell towers are used to zero in on the location of a cellphone. The system can tell police the location and time the shots were fired, how many there were, and sometimes the type of weapon, the number of shooters and whether they changed location as they fired. The information can be sent to officers on the street via their smartphones and their squad-car computer screens, as was the case in Fresno.”

Worth noting for Fresno: “Police said officers were alerted to the gunfire by ShotSpotter even before they received any word from the dispatchers who take 911 calls, and the system pinpointed the shooter’s location to within a matter of feet.”

Remarkable timing: “He was in custody within 4 minutes and 13 seconds,” Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Wednesday at a news conference where he played audio clips of the sensors’ findings. “Kori Muhammad would be outstanding today if it wasn’t for shots-fired detection.” Full story, here.

In other tech news, Northrop Grumman’s “war-planning” AOC 10.2 network has been halted “after Congress refused to approve more money for a project that’s doubled in cost and fallen more than three years behind on a key deadline,” Bloomberg reported Thursday. “The stop-work order, effective Wednesday, pauses development of the cyber-hardened network ‘until further notice,’ Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement. The action was forced after the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to approve a request to shift, or reprogram, $66 million from other accounts to cover part of an overrun.”

Background: “The development phase of the AOC 10.2 network is now estimated to cost $745 million, up from the original $374 million, according to a ‘Critical Change Report’ submitted to Congress in November and obtained then by Bloomberg News. Including procurement and support, the system—for use in air operations centers to orchestrate combat, counterterrorism and humanitarian missions—has a projected price tag of $2.98 billion.” Read the rest, here.

And wrapping up the week: SecDef Mattis makes Time magazine’s list of the top 100 most influential people, Military Times relays. “Mattis, who retired from the Marines after 41 years of service was profiled by Robert Gates, former defense secretary and director of the CIA. Gates compared Mattis to George C. Marshall, who served as Chief of Staff of the United States Army under presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman, and served as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense under Truman.” Read Gates’ remarks, here. Or check the full list, which includes Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner—as well as one of your D Brief-ers’ favorites, Riz Ahmed of the 2010 jihadi-themed comedy film, “Four Lions”—here.

Have a good weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you back again on Monday.

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