US Army prepares for the wars of 2025-40; Turkish forces get Russian air support in Syria; ISIS fighters surrendering en masse — to Kurds; Marvel-Northrop comic bombs; and just a bit more…

The Army goes rolling along into DC. The annual conference for the Association of the U.S. Army, or AUSA, begins today in Washington and runs through Wednesday.

Defense Secretary James Mattis tops the list of VIPs, keynoting the opening ceremony about a half hour ago.

Speaking later today: the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. James C. McConville; Materiel Command’s Gen. Gustave F. Perna; Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, and a lot more. Review the agenda for yourself over here.  

Check out Defense One’s Army coverage since Friday, including:


From Defense One

With Iran Deal in Jeopardy, US Clears Missile Interceptor Sale to Saudi Arabia // Marcus Weisgerber: The timing of THAAD sale is reminiscent of Patriot interceptor sale approved two weeks after Iran deal signed in 2015.

Don’t Think of Syrian Opposition Groups as ‘Moderates’ vs. ‘Extremists’ // Alexander Decina of the Council on Foreign Relations: The United States and its allies ought to think in terms of ‘viable partners,’ ‘irreconcilables,’ and ‘unknowns.’

Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1950: U.S. Army forces in Korea cross the 38th parallel and attack north toward Pyongyang. Email us. And if you don’t already, consider subscribing. It’s free.


Turkey and its Syrian rebel pals announced a new Syrian offensive targeting other rebels in northwestern Idlib governorate, with the Russian air force supporting. Reuters reports the mission’s objective “seems aimed at curbing the Tahrir al-Sham alliance, Syria’s strongest jihadist group apart from Islamic State, and at securing Turkey’s frontier.”
While it began on Saturday, “Turkey deployed tanks and military vehicles on the its Syrian border, building up military presence,” while “residents reported Turkish authorities removing sections of a border wall.”
Some recent background: “Ankara, Moscow and Tehran announced a deal last month to establish and patrol a ‘de-escalation’ zone in the Idlib region, where Erdogan has said Turkey will deploy troops.”
Anyone resisting the offensive will be targeted, too, a rebel commander told Al-Jazeera this morning.
A bit more about the area — and the primary target: “Idlib is largely controlled by the Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham alliance, or Tahrir al-Sham, a Salafist group dominated by a former al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra Front,” AJ reports.
Writes Middle East scholar Charles Lister: “After 4 days of meeting 40+ of Syria’s main armed opposition groups, one clear takeaway: Unanimous hatred of HTS (‘Nusra’).” Read more of Lister’s input on the offensive and influencing factors, here.

Another war of words between Ankara and Washington. This time after “last week’s arrest of a Turkish employee of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul,” Reuters reports. The result: both countries have stopped “all non-immigrant visa services.”
How it went down: “Turkey said the employee had links to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for a failed military coup in July 2016. The U.S. embassy in Ankara condemned those charges as baseless and announced on Sunday night it was halting all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey while it reassessed Turkey’s commitment to the security of its missions and staff.”
The response from Ankara came “within hours,” with Turkish officials announcing they were “taking the same measures against U.S. citizens.”
The fallout has already dealt Ankara a steep financial blow, Reuters writes, hitting airline shares and sending the lira plunging. Read on, here.

The human shields of ISIS are becoming a staple of the group’s last days in Raqqa, Syria. Agence France-Presse reports from the region: “Locals who managed to flee describe being herded into apartments in buildings used by jihadists as makeshift military bases, and serving as human shields for fighters as they collect water.”

Kurdistan’s got a big, complicated ISIS problem. Fighters from the group are surrendering en masse, The New York Times reported Sunday. “The group has suffered a string of humiliating defeats in Iraq and Syria, but the number of its shock troops who turned themselves in at the center in Dibis was unusually large, more than 1,000 since last Sunday, according to Kurdish intelligence officials.”
I just work here, man. “Many of the fighters claimed to have been just cooks or clerks. So many said they had been members of the Islamic State for only a month or two that interrogators suspected they had been coached to say that.”

So what are Kurdistan’s options? “Kurdistan can’t hold them forever. Baghdad doesn’t want them,” writes former CIA-er Aki Peritz. “Turning them over the Iranian-trained Shia militias will result in their torture & execution. So should these ISIS fighters be let go? That’s not an answer either. Baghdad and Erbil now has a long term conundrum on their hands. And what should Kurdish troops do w all the foreign fighters in ISIS? They’re the worst. Killing them while in custody will be a war crime. The Shia groups don’t care about that. Put theses captured ISIS fighters long term in prison, as you’ve further incubated [a] future insurgency. Let them go after a few years in a general amnesty, and expect some zombie ISIS to emerge?”

Saudi Arabia’s coalition is now on the UN’s blacklist for killing almost 700 children in Yemen, CBS reported Friday. “The report includes appendices naming (and shaming) countries involved in the deaths of children in the conflict. In addition to Saudi Arabia, it lists the Houthi-rebel group, which is backed by Iran, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemeni government forces, and pro-government militia, saying that the Houthis and related rebel forces were responsible for over 400 children dead and injured during 2016.”
But that’s not all. “The report also blamed the Saudi-led coalition (which included Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan) for 38 attacks on hospitals and schools. The U.S. has supplied the coalition with money and logistical support, and significant arms sales have been made by the U.S. and several western allies to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”
Will it make a difference? Maybe, but it’s also hardly the first time this has happened. “Several human rights groups heralded the decision to include the Saudi coalition on the list, since it had initially been placed on the list then removed from it in 2016, under the direction of a previous Secretary General.” More here.

Iran says it will target U.S. soldiers if the White House designates its Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. Reuters: “IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said on Sunday ‘if the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world.’”
What’s more, “Jafari also said that additional sanctions would end the chances for future dialogue with the United States and that the Americans would have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km (1,250 mile) range of IRGC’s missiles.” Read on, here.

Russia used social media to engage current and former U.S. troops with propaganda and misinformation. From May 25 to June 25, researchers at Oxford University studied the activities of three websites with ties to the Russian government, and found “an entire ecosystem of junk news about national security issues that is deliberately crafted for U.S. veterans and active military personnel,” said Philip Howard, a professor of internet studies who led the research. Reports McClatchy: the study “adds a new dimension to revelations of a Kremlin cyber campaign aimed at undermining Americans’ trust in democracy during last year’s U.S. elections and helping Donald Trump win the presidency.” Read on, here.

This month in open source intelligence gathering, “Naver Maps, one of South Korea’s default geo services, just placed a fake mountain over the U.S. military headquarters in Seoul,” the LA Times’ Matt Stiles noticed this weekend on Twitter. And in a follow-up tweet, he said “Here‘s what it actually looks like. *big secret*”

Finally: What would Tony Stark say? Comic-book powerhouse Marvel canceled a partnership with Northrop Grumman after fans voiced their opposition. The creator of Stark Industries had planned a splashy event at New York’s Comic-Con on Saturday, complete with a new comic featuring a quartet of blue-hued, Northrop-branded superheroes. Reaction on social media was swift and negative, if not always on point: “Northrop Grumman is a huge defense contractor and after something like the Las Vegas mass shooting, it makes extra sense that people would be pretty upset about such a partnership,” said Kevin Heyel from Rye, New York. Read on, via The Guardian, here.

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