President Trump talks sovereignty over collective security — at the collective security organization known as the UN, Defense One’s Kevin Baron writes. “I will always put America first, just like you, the leaders of your countries, should put your countries first,” Trump said.
On Iran, he ripped the nuclear deal, saying, “That deal is an embarrassment to the United States and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”
On terrorism, he slowed down and with emphasis, said the magic words: “We will stop radical Islamic extremism.”
But Trump was most forceful on the subject of North Korea, even threatening annihilation: “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
The BLUF: “After this speech, all the world is on alert,” writes Baron. Read on, here.
Will Trump go to war with North Korea? “Nobody in Trump’s Cabinet with a serious appraisal of North Korean war would allow it to happen,” U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman reported Tuesday.
Seoul and Tokyo say they’re now applying “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang. Yonhap News agency: “The talks involved Park Chul-kyun, deputy director general for international policy at the South Korean ministry; Andrew Winternitz, U.S. acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia; and Taro Yamato, director for defense policy at Japan’s defense ministry.”
U.S. officials reportedly mull shooting down future North Korean missiles — even if they don’t pose a threat to the U.S. or its allies, CNN reports.
Japan just moved its PAC-3 missile interceptor system to that island North Korea keeps firing rockets over, the AP reported Tuesday.
From Defense One
In Fiery UN Speech, Trump Delivers The Far-Right Goods // Kevin Baron: The black-helicopter crowd, and the president’s base, should love this Bannon-esque, undiplomatic speech, filled with ‘America First,’ ‘radical Islamic extremism,’ and cries for sovereignty over collective security.
Some Military Planes Will Tell You When They’re Going to Break — For a Fee // Marcus Weisgerber: It may be years before Air Force leaders can scrounge up the funds to turn on diagnostic gear they already own.
Marine National Monuments Are Defense Assets // Craig Hooper: If the Trump administration removes federal protections from these giant swaths of ocean, it will make it easier for enemies to hunt American warships.
Trump Is Trying to Hoodwink Us into War with Iran // Rep. Mark Pocan and Kate Gould: We’ve seen this movie before, complete with trumped-up charges of WMD. Americans must speak out now to head off another disastrous military adventure.
Why ISIS Is So Good at Branding Its Failures as Successes // Charlie Winter and Haroro J. Ingram: The Parsons Green attack shows that governments and media outlets keep falling into the propaganda traps being set for them.
Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD2001: President George W. Bush declares a “war on terror.” Have something you want to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
U.S. Navy, overstretched. In a bid to understand the warship collisions and other incidents, lawmakers summoned to Capitol Hill on Tuesday the Navy secretary and chief of naval operations, along with a GAO investigator who testified earlier this month that “that the Navy has increased deployment lengths, shortened training periods, and reduced or deferred maintenance to meet high operational demands, which has resulted in declining ship conditions and a worsening trend in overall readiness. The Navy has stated that high demand for presence has put pressure on a fleet that is stretched thin across the globe.”
CNO Adm. John Richardson and new Navy Secretary Richard Spencer acknowledged all this Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “But they insisted that they are not ready to say definitively that those factors contributed to four accidents in the western Pacific this year, two of which left a total of 17 sailors dead,” the New York Times reported.
“I own this problem,” the service’s top officer told lawmakers. “We will fix this.” But the CNO “said he had ‘no explanation,’ pending ongoing investigations, to provide the panel on how two fast and agile Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, equipped with the latest radar and guidance systems, were rammed amidships by slower and larger commercial ships.”
To that end, Richardson said, warships will increase their use of the AIS anti-collision system, required of commercial ships but rarely used by cautious U.S. Navy skippers. “We had, I think, a distorted perception of operational security that we kept that system secure – off – on our warships,” Richardson said, according to USNI News. “One of the immediate actions following these incidents – particularly in heavily trafficked areas we’re just going to turn it on.”
“He listed budget constraints and a high operations tempo — also cited by other services as impacting readiness — but put the main emphasis on failures of leadership.” Via Military.com, here.
The Navy has already doled out firings, reprimands, and other punishments to 20 captains, other officers, and enlisted sailors in connection with the incidents, Navy Times reports. (None has been issued yet for the most recent, the August collision of the destroyer McCain.)
Mattis on spate of crashes: “I am not willing to say right now that there’s a direct line between sequestration and what has happened,” the defense secretary said, referring to congressional budget constraints. But “we’re going to take a very close look at that.” Stripes, here.
By the way: for the latest on Navy shipbuilding plans and possibilities, read the Sept. 14 Congressional Research Service report on Navy force structure, here.
The “last ISIS stronghold in Iraq” faces a new offensive from Baghdad’s allied forces. “A force composed of army units, police and tribal fighters from the area launched the attack at dawn near the town of Ana, located on the Euphrates River about 60 miles from the Syrian border,” the Washington Post reports from Irbil, some 400 kms northwest of the operating area.
What lies ahead: “The battle for the remaining Islamic State bastions in Anbar is expected to be complex because of the porous Syrian border and the vast desert terrain, which is difficult to surround and choke off… The Anbar campaign is expected to push westward from Ana along the Euphrates to the town of Rawah and end in the border outpost of Qaim.”
And the read on remaining ISIS fighters in the vicinity: “U.S. intelligence officials believe that 5,000 to 10,000 militants are in the area, moving easily between Anbar and the neighboring Syrian province of Deir al-Zour, which they still largely control.”
Also in Iraq: Lots of countries oppose Kurdistan’s upcoming vote for independence. Not among those countries: Russia, Reuters reports as the country has pledged as much as $4 billion to Kurdish oil and gas companies. Details, here.
Turkey’s reax to Kurdistan’s vote: Threaten sanctions and conduct wargames on its border with Iraq. More here.
In Syria, the Raqqa offensive is nearly finished, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said in a statement this morning — alleging to have retaken 80 percent of the city frequently called ISIS’s de facto HQs. As well, “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that the SDF had taken more than 90 percent of the city, adding that the major remaining hurdle for the forces was a large concentration of mines in the area,” Reuters reports. “The remaining IS militants in the city have nearly run out of food and munitions,” according to the SOHR. More here.
Also in Syria: U.S. special forces are optimistic about where they are in the fight against ISIS, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and Defense One contributor, told WBUR’s Here and Now in a six-minute chat on Tuesday.
Rather read the points discussed? Lemmon explains what she saw firsthand during a recent trip to Syria, here.
The Israelis shot down another “Iranian-made” UAV over the Golan Heights on Tuesday… with another Patriot missile. “As we understand, it was on a reconnaissance mission along the border and the Golan Heights on behalf of Hezbollah,” Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, told reporters. “Our intelligence suggests it was … Iranian-made.”
FWIW: This Patriot-vs-drone method has a history. Read all about it here and here.
MidEast shorty: The Brits and Saudis signed a military cooperation deal worth $4.05 billion over the next decade. Tiny bit more, here.
And ICYMI: “Qatar on Sunday signed an agreement to buy 24 Typhoon fighter jets from Britain, a second major defence deal signed by Doha during its prolonged diplomatic dispute with its neighbours,” The Telegraph, reported. More on that deal from Bloomberg, here.
How does the Middle East get its news? The fifth annual “Media Use in the Middle East” survey, conducted by Northwestern University in Qatar, offers some clues:
- Over three-quarters of nationals get news on their phones, second only to news on TV.
- Two-thirds say they get news from social media every day.
- 40 percent get news from Facebook.
- Smartphone ownership “is extremely high — 84 percent overall, with more than 9 in 10 nationals in Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE owning a smartphone.”
- 67 percent of Arab nationals use WhatsApp, “and 28 percent of the total population gets news from the platform,” the authors write.
- Contrast that with Pew’s findings suggesting “only 11 percent of Americans use WhatsApp, and only 2 percent say they get news that way.” More to dig into — including discrepancies between the young and old and (of course) across the literacy/education spectrum — here.
Stat of the day: There have been “more than 5,669 intercepts, with fighters coming from the D.C. airspace, have happened since 9/11,” Brig. Gen. George Degnon, the U.S. Air Force’s Air National Guard’s acting adjutant general told a event Tuesday hosted by Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber.
Trump’s pick for the new U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan advanced to the full Senate on Tuesday. The good sir: John Bass, who “has been serving as the U.S. ambassador to Turkey,” Stars and Stripes reports.
What he told the Senate on September 12: “If confirmed, I will focus on achieving the results we all seek in Afghanistan. A political settlement and sufficient government capacity to prevent its use a new as a platform from which terrorists can strike the homeland,” Afghanistan’s Tolo News reminds its readers this morning. “We have to make clear to the Taliban that they can’t outlast us on the battlefield and that the only path forward for them is through negotiated political settlement,” said Bass. Read over his State Department bio, here.
Russian military misfires badly during its big Belarusian wargame, Zapad. The folks at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab assessed all the open source information they could on the matter over here.
Reminder to U.S. servicemembers: You don’t have to put all your ideas on social media — especially any stress-relieving ideas that involve other folks’ newborn infants. ABC News has that unfortunate development from a Navy hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., here.
U.S. Navy update from the Virgin Islands, where U.S. Navy ships USS Kearsarge, USS Oak Hill, and USS Wasp have been working for more than a week, The Virgin Islands Daily News reports.
“The USS Kearsarge, stationed off the southeastern corner of St. Thomas, has deployed troops from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit to St. Thomas to assist with rescue and recovery efforts there, and its MH-60 and MH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and the ship’s three Landing Craft Utility — otherwise known as LCUs — moved personnel and supplies to St. John in the relief efforts there.”
The USS Wasp is being used as a “sea base” between St. Thomas and St. Croix, “serving as a mid-point stop for helicopters carrying cargo and personnel between the islands.”
And “C-17 and C-130 cargo planes from the U.S. Air Force have made regular runs to Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix and King Airport on St. Thomas delivering equipment and supplies; while the U.S. Army has supplied helicopters and medical and engineering personnel.” More here.
And finally today: National Guard chief says “the climate is changing, and I do think that it is becoming more severe… storms are becoming bigger, larger, more violent.” More from Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel’s Tuesday chat with reporters in D.C., via the Washington Post, here.