Will Trump try to exit the Iran deal, as he’s promised for months? The Washington Post thinks so, saying that he will soon declare it “not in the national interest.” (The Post report cites “people briefed on the White House strategy.”)
Such a development would be unsurprising; but it would cast SecDef Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford’s testimony earlier this week in sharp contrast with the president. Both told lawmakers this week that, from their perspective, Iran is complying with the agreement.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, asked Mattis specifically if he thought it was in the U.S. national security interest to stay in the Iran deal. Mattis replied, “Yes, senator, I do.”
And CJCS Dunford, on the same day, told lawmakers, “The briefings I have received indicate that Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations… It makes sense to me that our holding up agreements that we have signed, unless there’s a material breach, would have an impact on others’ willingness to sign agreements.”
Taken together, exiting the deal would then make the U.S. the noncompliant party in the agreement, says former NSA attorney Susan Hennessey.
One scenario that may play out if the U.S. exits: “waves of cyberattacks” could be unleashed, Foreign Policy says.
Another: “a chain of events that would sharply divide the United States from its closest traditional allies in the world,” the WaPo reports. “‘After the Paris climate decision,’ in which Trump withdrew the United States from a widely supported, painfully negotiated accord, ‘this could push multilateralism to the breaking point,’ said a senior official from one of the three European signatories to the Iran deal.”
For your reference: Defense One’s Iran-deal archives, featuring “Two Years on, the Iran Deal is Working: It is true that Tehran’s behavior in the region has not improved, but the agreement has kept the regime from going nuclear.”
From Defense One
In Ukraine, the US Trains an Army in the West to Fight in the East // Ben Watson: For more than two years, some 300 American soldiers have been quietly helping train an enormous partner military in western Ukraine.
Get Lasers Into the Field Faster, Lawmakers Tell the Pentagon // Caroline Houck: The Senate’s version of the annual defense bill provides $200 million for rapid prototyping of directed energy weapons.
Pentagon: We’ll Keep Buying Software That Russian Spies have Looked Through // Patrick Tucker: The U.S. military will still buy consumer-off-the-shelf products from several tech companies that allowed Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, an intelligence outfit, to intimately probe.
Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Boeing to buy drone-maker Aurora Flight Sciences; Some clues about the 2019 budget; Contracts, exports, and more…
The FBI’s Cyber Strategy: Shame The Hackers // Mohana Ravindranath: The agency is trying to take a more preventive, and not a reactive, security strategy.
North Korea Is Testing Not Just Bombs, But the Entire Global Nuclear Monitoring System // Trevor Findlay: It is a miracle of statecraft and science that this collaborative international infrastructure has actually come into being.
The White House’s Cyber Tool Wish List // Mohana Ravindranath: Acting Federal Chief Information Security Officer Grant Schneider pushed for tools that are easy to use but can share threat data in real time.
Welcome to Friday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1977: First flight of the MiG-29. Have something you want to share? Email us. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
Russian hackers stole NSA cyber tools via that pesky Kaspersky anti-virus software, The Wall Street Journal first reported (paywall alert) Thursday. The NSA employee “had taken classified material home to work on it on his computer, and his use of Kaspersky Lab antivirus software enabled Russian hackers to see his files,” the Washington Post adds. “The case, which dates to 2015 and has not been made public, remains under investigation by federal prosecutors.”
Known-knowns: “The employee involved was a U.S. citizen born in Vietnam and had worked at Tailored Access Operations, the elite hacking division of the NSA that develops tools to penetrate computers overseas to gather foreign intelligence…He was removed from the job in 2015, but was not thought to have taken the materials for malicious purposes such as handing them to a foreign spy agency,” officials told the Post.
And by the way, “The breach predates last year’s arrest of former NSA contractor Harold T. Martin III, who was accused by officials of carrying out what is said to be the largest theft of classified information in U.S. history. Martin pleaded not guilty this year to violating the Espionage Act and is awaiting trial.” More here.
Can you hear me now? Latvian officials are “are examining a partial disruption of the nation’s cellular network and emergency-services hotline that may have been a fresh example of Russia’s electronic-warfare capabilities,” the Washington Post reported Thursday. Reuters adds “A communications jammer aimed towards Sweden from Russia’s Baltic outpost Kaliningrad may have been used.”
The break in service lasted 16 hours on Sept. 13, and knocked out Latvia’s equivalent to the U.S. 911 emergency contact system. It also happened during Russia’s big recent Zapad war game across Belarus and Kaliningrad.
“If confirmed as attacks, the electronic breakdowns would show another capability in the Kremlin’s arsenal…the capacity to disrupt civilian communications remotely,” the Post reports. “Such a tool could severely hamper Western authorities’ ability to organize a quick civilian response in case of war. NATO officials already are concerned that Russia’s potent antiaircraft missile technology gives the Kremlin effective control of most of Baltic airspace if there were a conflict.”
John Kelly’s personal cell phone may have been compromised for a while now, Politico reported Thursday. President Trump’s chief of staff turned his phone into White House tech support earlier this summer after telling staffers the phone “wasn’t working or updating software properly” for months. “Staffers reviewed the cellphone for several days and tried to decipher what had happened to it, the officials said. Many functions on the phone were not working. The IT department concluded the phone had been compromised and should not be used further,” according to a White House memo obtained by Politico. Read on, here.
Defense Secretary Mattis warns his department against leaks. So, of course, the memo carrying his warning was leaked Thursday to Military Times. “In an internal memo dated Oct. 3 and obtained by the Military Times, Mattis reminded DoD personnel that ‘it is a violation of our oath to divulge, in any fashion, non-public DoD information, classified or unclassified, to anyone without the required security clearance as well as a specific need to know in the performance of their duties.’ Mattis also reinforced the obligation to report leaks.” Read the rest, here.
The Saudis have agreed to buy Russia’s S-400 anti-missile system, Riyadh’s state-owned al-Arabiya television reported Thursday. The state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industries firm said their deal with Russian state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport also involves contracts for a Kornet-EM anti-armor weapon system, the TOS-1A “heavy flame-thrower system,” the AGS-30 grenade launchers, and a possible production factory the Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifle.
This week in kings of the world, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman visited Moscow on Thursday, but had a bit of trouble getting off his plane. His method of departure: a golden escalator — and it got stuck, forcing him to walk down the remaining half-dozen or so steps to the runway. Video, here.
#LongRead for your weekend: The children who have lived through ISIS in Iraq are facing serious, long-term trauma following the Mosul offensive, The Telegraph’s Josie Ensor reported Thursday. The focus of her story: a girl named Amina, who has gone mute ever since seeing her father killed by a mortar.
Ensor: “While children in rebel-held Syria demonstrated anger, fear etc, children who had lived under ISIS showed no emotion at all… It was not just the extreme violence they had witnessed in Mosul battle, but psychological terror ISIS had inflicted in years before… 90% of children in one camp had experienced death of very close family member. It will take quite some time for these kids to recover.” Full story, here.
And finally this week: Floridians stumbled on a mysterious Soviet buoy that washed up on the banks of Dania Beach, the Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday. The 12-foot-long, 1,200-pound object surfaced just days after Hurricane Maria made landfall.
The best guess as to where it originated: Cuba, “given Cuba’s historically close ties with the Soviet Union.” Writes the Sentinel, “The buoy was too heavy to budge, so [Bill Moore, a mechanic at Florida’s Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park] tied a rope around it and with a skid-steer loader dragged it up the embankment and then brought it to the office’s parking lot.” Lots more to learn from that episode, which you can find here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!