The battle for Mosul will be no cakewalk — and neither will its political aftermath, the Peshmerga’s top officer tells Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron, reporting on the ground from Erbil, Iraq, where U.S., Iraqi, and coalition forces are massing for the long-awaited assault on Iraqi’s second-largest city. ISIS “will fight to the death,” said Gen. Jamal Mohammad Omer, the chief of staff of the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Baron: “Just when that fight will begin, however, seems out of his hands. Peshmerga commanders said they are awaiting political negotiations with Iraqi leaders they do not trust for a future they cannot predict. But the future is on everyone’s mind. With the battle for Mosul looming, Peshmerga leaders sense they are now on a path that leads beyond the defeat of ISIS, if not yet to the ultimate destination of Kurdish independence.” Sipping strong coffee, Omer says he hopes for a political pathway to the latter, but: “In my personal opinion, I do not believe there will be peace.” Read the whole thing, here.
Syria has just launched a major offensive in the northern city of Aleppo while the U.S. and Russia departed another meeting on Syria in New York last night with nothing to show for it save a promise to talk again later today.
Revealed! The text of that secretive cease-fire reached between the U.S. and Russia, via the Associated Press. But Russia’s foreign ministry says the AP only got their hands on one of five leaked documents from the agreement, which—true or not—helps Moscow’s well-known tendency to sow discord and division among its adversaries.
One particularly interesting (if also potentially damning) tidbit from the agreement: its annex reads the U.S. and Russia already began sharing intelligence on al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and opposition areas 10 days ago, as the Middle East Institute’s Charles Lister flagged Thursday evening.
That seemingly flies in the face of Thursday’s testimony by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford—wherein Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, “I do not believe it would be a good idea to share intelligence with the Russians.” Catch their full exchange on the topic, here.
The State Department also released a fact sheet on the agreement Thursday, along with 16 pages of “text of the arrangement and supporting documents,” here. The bit about intelligence sharing is at the top of the final page.
Back to Syria’s new offensive: fierce airstrikes (with reports this morning ranging from as few as 30 to as many as 90) slammed rebel-held eastern Aleppo overnight, killing and wounding more than 100. Strikes also targeted water sources and hit two headquarters of the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets.
Syria says a ground offensive is imminent, with a military official going on state TV to say, according to AP, that “airstrikes and shelling in Aleppo might continue for an extended period and the operation will expand into a ground invasion of rebel-held districts.”
So what about the cease-fire, which U.S. State Secretary John Kerry insisted this week is not dead yet? “After a contentious two-and-a-half hour meeting with colleagues in New York, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said they would meet again Friday in a bid to find a way forward.”
And that process does not sit well with Sen. McCain, who asked CJCS Dunford Thursday, “What’s plan B? Is there a plan B here or do we just keep going back to the five-star hotels in Geneva and have meetings with our count—with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] and come out with various declarations? What do we do if this one fails?”
After some dodging, Dunford said, “Our military strategy is focused on the counter-ISIL campaign. In my judgment, we are succeeding in that campaign.”
Turkey says the U.S. has already begun directly arming the Syrian Kurds, with President Tayyip Erdogan “saying Washington had delivered two plane loads of arms to what Ankara considers a terrorist group,” Reuters reports from Istanbul.
Erdogan: “Three days ago America dropped two plane loads of weapons in Kobani for these terror groups,” he said, adding he had raised the issue on Wednesday with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden who he said had no knowledge of this. More from Reuters, here.
Obama cited Churchill and Eisenhower as he explained to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin how the Syrian war “haunts” him during an interview published Thursday at Vanity Fair. “I do ask myself, ‘Was there something that we hadn’t thought of? Was there some move that is beyond what was being presented to me that maybe a Churchill could have seen, or an Eisenhower might have figured out?’”
Obama’s tepid approach to Syria’s uprising and brutal crackdown since 2011, especially in these last months of his tenure as president, is increasingly drawing sharp rebukes in Washington, The New York Times’ Mark Landler reported Thursday. No big surprises there, but it does contain a fairly decent roll-up of a president who vowed to end America’s wars in the Middle East coming to terms with the apparent futility of that goal.
From Defense One
Lisa Monaco is speaking at the 2016 Defense One Summit; you should come. The White House’s homeland security advisor will share the agenda with Army Secretary Eric Fanning, USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, and many other national-security leaders on Thurs., Nov. 17, in Washington, D.C. Register here.
The Global Business Brief by Marcus Weisgerber. In this week’s edition: Futurism roars back to AFA; Meet Sikorsky’s defense chief; High-tech computers eyed for new spy planes; and more.
Welcome to Friday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1338, the first naval battle using cannons was joined off the Netherlands. (Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: email@example.com.)
One of the “biggest defence deals in decades” was just signed by India and France, sending 36 French Rafale fighter jets to New Delhi at a cost of about $8.8 billion, AFP reports this morning. “The first planes will be delivered in 2019 and the 36 jets will form two new squadrons of the Indian airforce, which is trying to renew its dwindling fleet of Russian MiG-21s — dubbed ‘Flying Coffins’ because of their poor safety record.”
Here’s a nifty graphic breaking down the capabilities of those “multi-role fighters.”
“When is an aircraft carrier not an aircraft carrier? When it’s Japan’s,” writes Kyle Mizokami in The National Interest. He traces the slow, patient progress of Japanese naval…oops, Maritime Self-Defense Force planners, who have built progressively larger flight-decked warships over the course of decades. Japan now sits at a crossroads, he says, able at last to build a full-sized fleet carrier, should the strategic need arise. Read on, here.
Survey: what are the three most effective naval weapons ever? The U.S. Naval Institute asked, and readers responded with two obvious picks and a third more interesting one. Find out what that is, here.
How China is still searching for MH370—as a cover to spy on Australia’s military. The Australian reports “the Chinese search and rescue vessel Dong Hai Jiu 101 has hardly performed any actual search operations in the seven months since it first came to Fremantle… The federal government’s Joint Agency Co-ordinating Centre, which guides the strategy for the MH370 search, this week again refused to say how many days the Dong Hai Jiu 101 had conducted search operations. But an analysis by The Australian of weekly operational bulletins on the search put out by the JACC has determined that the vessel’s sonar imaging ‘towfish’ has in fact been in the water looking for the downed aircraft between only 17 to 30 days.” More here—but fair warning about the paywall in effect. See you again on Monday. Have a great weekend, everyone!