The cease-fire in Syria is done, and now talk of war crimes follow the Monday bombing of 18 out of 31 trucks in an aid convoy intended for Aleppo, killing the director of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and some 20 other civilians, CNN and Reuters report this morning. Meanwhile, the UN announced today that it has suspended all of its aid convoys to Syria.
“Let me be clear: if this callous attack is found to be a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, it would amount to a war crime,” Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator said in a statement, adding, “A SARC [Syrian Arab Red Crescent] warehouse was also hit and a SARC health clinic was also reportedly severely damaged.”
What happened: “Aid officials said it was hit from the air while unloading food at a warehouse in opposition controlled Urem al-Kubra,” The Guardian writes after initial concerns an IED might have been behind the explosion were ruled out. “Notification of the convoy … had been provided to all parties to the conflict and the convoy was clearly marked as humanitarian,” O’Brien’s statement added.
The State Department repeated that last line from O’Brien, and went a bit further: “The destination of this convoy was known to the Syrian regime and the Russian federation and yet these aid workers were killed in their attempt to provide relief to the Syrian people. The United States will raise this issue directly with Russia. Given the egregious violation of the cessation of hostilities we will reassess the future prospects for cooperation with Russia,” spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
The Kremlin’s reax: We’ll look into media reports and get back to you later today. That, via Reuters, here.
The U.S. says Russia is responsible. An unnamed White House official said Monday in a conference call with reporters that the U.S. is holding Russia accountable for the strike: “We don’t know at this point whether it was the Russians or the regime. In either case, the Russians have the responsibility certainly to restrain – refrain from taking such action themselves, but they also have the responsibility to keep the regime from doing it.”
Just minutes after Syria declared a unilateral end to the cease-fire, airstrikes and barrel bombs began falling once again on Syria: “The air strikes appeared particularly heavy in insurgent-held areas west of Aleppo, near the rebel stronghold of Idlib province,” Reuters reports. And “a rebel commander said the most intense bombardments had taken place in areas west of Aleppo, the same area where the aid convoy was hit. ‘The regime and Russians are taking revenge on all the areas,’ he said.”
In short order, Aleppo’s “few remaining hospitals were back to overflowing, and rescuers struggled to find people in the dark, with the electricity out,” The New York Times reported, adding, “By midnight, 34 people were reported killed.”
And by the way: so many bombs have fallen on Damascus that playground engineers have fashioned the remains into a swing set for children. Catch video of the kids making the best of a horrible situation, here.
In Iraq, Baghdad’s troops have met little resistance so far as they’ve begun a new offensive to retake ISIS-held villages south of Mosul, including the city of Shirqat, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on state TV (from a message he recorded while at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York). Here’s Reuters with some context: “Shirqat, which lies on the Tigris River 100 km (60 miles) south of Mosul, has been surrounded by Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militias allied to the government.” The city is believed to be home to “tens of thousands of civilians,” Reuters adds. More here.
For your radar: In two days, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford will go before the Senate Armed Services committee to discuss big picture “National Security Challenges and Ongoing Military Operations.”
A “wealth of clues” led to the quick arrest of the man believed to be behind nearly a dozen bombs law enforcement officials found across New York City and Elizabeth, New Jersey, AP reports. By the time he was in handcuffs, just 50 hours had passed from the moment of the first bomb’s detonation in Manhattan on Saturday. Upon his arrest, Rahami tried to shoot police officers, but fortunately only managed to wound two before being taken into custody after being shot (at least once) in the leg. “On Monday night he was charged with five counts of attempting to murder police officers during his dramatic arrest,” The Telegraph reports.
The clues that helped in his arrest included fingerprints and DNA found at the Manhattan crime scene; electronic toll records; and his uncovered face captured by security cameras.
How many cameras? More than 8,000, NBC News reported.
Here’s the bar owner who pinpointed the suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, explaining to CNN’s Anderson Cooper how he made the decision to call in Rahami after first spotting him sleeping on the floor of his establishment on Monday. He said it was CNN’s footage of Rahami’s face that helped him make the call.
The launch occurred at the same location as North Korea’s ICBM test in April at the Sohae Space Centre located on the western coast, analyst Joseph Dempsey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said.
Implications: “This test is another important development pointing to the first launch of a bigger, better space vehicle to place satellites in higher orbits, which could happen in the not too distant future,” said Joel Wit, founder of the 38 North website, to Reuters.
So what would a boosted rocket allow? An ICBM to hit the U.S., as Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reported way back in October 2014.
Here are some purported photos of Monday’s launch, complete with North Korean officers cheering dutifully.
Washington and Beijing say they’re going to work together to come up with a response to the North’s provocations, as “U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang agreed on Monday to step up cooperation in the United Nations Security Council and in law-enforcement channels after North Korea’s fifth nuclear test, the White House said.” Much more on that angle, here.
From Defense One
After Mosul Falls, How Much Rebuilding Help Should the US Give? // Retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer Jeff Goodson: Restoring stable governance means creating a government that can supply basic services — and there are several ways the United State can provide assistance.
What to Do About Zero-Day Hacks? Try A Middle Road // The Council on Foreign Relations’ Adam Segal: A system of government incentives will keep us safer than trying to buy up all newly discovered vulnerabilities, or outlawing their sale.
The Indian Army Just Suffered Its Biggest Attack in a Decade as Tensions Rise with Pakistan // New Delhi-based journalist Shivam Vij, writing for Quartz: Sunday’s terrorist attack that killed 17 New Delhi troops occurred alongside a new Kashmir crackdown that has killed 85 so far.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson, Marcus Weisgerber and Bradley Peniston. On this day 15 years ago, President Bush proposed a new Office of Homeland Security and asked Congress to declare a War on Terror in response to the 9/11 attacks. (Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: email@example.com.)
Secret Air Force stealth bomber gets a name: the B-21 Raider. Richard Cole, a retired lieutenant colonel who was Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot, announced on day one of the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference that the new bomber would be named after the iconic World War II flying squadron, the Doolittle Raiders. Military.com has a video interview here with the 101-year-old Cole.
Speaking of the bomber, it was a hot topic on day one of the annual conference. The was some talk about the plane’s estimated price tag, $511 million per copy, which was predicted nearly a year ago, when the contract was announced, but not much else as the Air Force remains tight-lipped about specifics of the classified project. Northrop Grumman, the plane’s maker, is handing out B-21 pins and coffee mugs. The pins are so shiny, cameras have a tough time focusing on them. One might say, they’re stealthy. Check that out here.
Tomorrow’s Laser-Armed Helicopter Drones. It might be an Air Force conference, but Technology Editor Patrick Tucker has the latest on a new laser-armed drone for the Marine Corps. “A decade or so from now, Marines could be using a laser-armed version of this bizarre copter-plane to take out enemies over the horizon. It’s the LightningStrike from Aurora Flight Sciences, which is currently the prime contractor on the VTOL X-Plane project by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.” More here.
Sikorsky’s new secret weapon. That would be access to new parent Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. “One of the areas that we’ve seen some significant opportunities is working with Skunk Works and some of the technologies that they’ve invested heavily on and matching them up with some of the technologies that we’ve invested heavily in,” Sam Mehta, president of Sikorsky’s defense systems and services division, told Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber on Monday. More on how Sikorsky is working with Skunk Works here.
Day two of the conference begins this morning with Gen. David Goldfein, the new Air Force chief of staff, scheduled to speak at 10:30 a.m. Expect to hear more about the latest F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ground as well when Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, speaks at 1:15 p.m. There’s a live stream here.
ICYMI: NATO’s Baltic deterrent force won’t be in place until May 2017, The Wall Street Journal’s Julian Barnes reported on Sunday on the force expected to number some 4,000 troops. “Czech Army Gen. Petr Pavel, who leads the NATO military committee, said the battle groups will be arriving at different times in the first half of 2017. The U.S. force, of about 1,000 soldiers, will come from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment based in Vilseck, Germany, and is due to arrive in Poland by April.” More here.
The Kremlin is planning to essentially resurrect the KGB, forming “a new ‘State Security Ministry’ [that] will emerge on the foundations of the Federal Security Service (FSB),” The Moscow Times reported off a Russian release in the Kommersant newspaper.
ICYMI: American spies are shifting resources to Russia “on a scale not seen since the Cold War,” the Washington Post reported last week. “The mobilization involves clandestine CIA operatives, National Security Agency cyberespionage capabilities, satellite systems and other intelligence assets, officials said, describing a shift in resources across spy services that had previously diverted attention from Russia to focus on terrorist threats and U.S. war zones.”
For a little perspective: “At the height of that decades-long conflict, former officials said, U.S. spy agencies often devoted 40 percent or more of their personnel and resources to tracking the Soviet Union and its Communist satellites. U.S. officials said that CIA and other agencies now devote at most 10 percent of their budgets to Russia-related espionage, a percentage that has risen over the past two years.” Read the rest, here.
Finally today: The U.S. Army’s first new hand grenade in 40 years could save space and weight on soldiers’ kits. It’s a weapon known as the Enhanced Tactical Multi-Purpose (ET-MP) hand grenade, and it combines fragmentation grenades with concussion grenades—with the user flipping a switch prior to pulling the pin and lobbing the sucker at a target. “Another feature is that the grenades are designed for ambidextrous use, meaning that they can be thrown with either hand. Current grenades require a different arming procedure for left-handed users,” the Army said in its release. More here.