“Get ready Russia, because [missiles] will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’” President Trump tweeted this morning while the world awaits what would seem to be an imminent U.S.-involved strike on Syria regime positions. Trump’s warning-by-tweet then turned to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
No other U.S. officials have let slip any clues about imminent military action in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack on Douma, Syria, on Saturday, Reuters reports. “White House officials did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for more detail about Trump’s remarks. The U.S. Defense Department said it ‘does not comment on potential future military actions.’” (That’s the approach that Trump once espoused — e.g., this 2013 tweet slamming his predecessor for mooting a strike on Syria: “In war, the elememt [sic] of surprise is sooooo important.What the hell is Obama doing.”)
Worth noting: “Mr. Trump, at the urging of his national security team, canceled plans to travel Friday to Latin America for a regional summit so that he can oversee the U.S. response,” The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday evening. “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also rearranged his travel schedule, putting off a planned trip to the West Coast.”
The goal: “the U.S. and its allies are looking at ways to cripple Mr. Assad’s ability to carry out more chemical attacks.” The Journal has a bit more about how Trump officials are trying to get France, the UK and Saudi Arabia on the same page for a unified military response, (paywalled) here.
Reminder: The president posed for an official White House photo with the generals (nearly 20 of them, one female) who spoke to him about Syria Monday evening. If you missed that one, you can see it, here.
Tracked over the eastern Med: a sub-hunting U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon, combing the waters off Russia’s naval base in Tartus and its airbase in Latakia, Syria. (h/t Haaretz’s Avi Scharf)
Attention passenger aircraft: Missiles from the Mediterranean are possible within 72 hours, Eurocontrol (the air traffic control agency that oversees Europe) alerted its networks Tuesday evening. Details via CNBC, here.
Rising risk factor: A Russian official promises the military will shoot down U.S. missiles fired on Syrian troops, USA Today reports. The quote: “If there is a strike by the Americans, then … the missiles will be downed and the source of the missiles targeted.” That line came from Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, speaking to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV station this morning.
Syrian regime reax: “We are not surprised by such a thoughtless escalation by a regime like the United States regime, which sponsored terrorism in Syria and still does,” Reuters reports off the state news agency SANA.
Another view, purportedly from Syria: “Let the weapons be awake,” a regime soldier supposedly put on social media while on watch at an air defense station Tuesday.
ICYMI: Moscow told the UN (again), Nyet. Russia vetoed the a UN Security Council resolution to send independent international investigators to the site of the alleged Syria chemical weapons attack.
For the record: “It was the 12th time Russia has vetoed a resolution concerning Syria and sixth veto related to chemical weapons,” Fox News reported.
In favor: 12 nations (US, UK, France, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Peru, and Poland).
Against: Just Russia and Bolivia.
More tensions: Iran says the alleged Israeli airstrikes on Syrian bases in Syria “will not go unanswered,” Fox reports. “Seven Iranians were among the estimated 14 people killed in the missile strike” early Monday.
From Defense One
If Trump Won’t Lead in Syria, Someone Else Will // Kevin Baron: Unless the president can articulate and lead a plan, Syria’s future will be determined by Russia, Iran, and Turkey.
Going BRAC-less: What to Do with the US Military’s Excess Property // BENS’ Norton A. Schwartz and Kenneth Fisher: The Pentagon is offering an alternative to closing bases, and Congress should support it.
Assad Defies Another American President // Frederic C. Hof, via The Atlantic: The Syrian strongman saw the red line on sarin as a green light to do everything else.
LIVE: Day Three of the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition 2018 // Defense One Staff: Join us as we livestream the third and final day of main stage events and speakers at this year’s Sea-Air-Space Expo in Washington.
Coast Guard to Adopt Defense Department’s Electronic Health Records // Nextgov’s Aaron Boyd: The U.S. Coast Guard will go with the Defense Department’s MHS Genesis health records program, the same option currently being considered at Veterans Affairs.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. On this day in 2003, just 24 days into the Iraq invasion, the city of Mosul fell to U.S. and Kurdish forces after some 15,000 Iraqi troops abandoned their posts.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt sailed through the South China Sea on Tuesday, AP reported from aboard the vessel. While there, “The U.S. Navy flew a small group of Philippine generals, officials and journalists to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, where fighter jets landed and took off by catapult with thunderous blasts. The nuclear-powered carrier, and its 65 supersonic F18 jets, spy planes and helicopters, was en route to Manila.” A tiny bit more about that jaunt, here.
Chinese tech watch: “Is This China’s DF-21D Air Launched Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Toting Bomber?” asks The Drive after spotting what appeared to be “a new derivative of the People’s Liberation Air Force’s Xian H-6 bomber.”
What it all means: “Regardless of if the aircraft photographed does indeed end up toting around an air-launched version of the DF-21D or not, the concept is in development, and it definitely represents an unprecedented conventional anti-ship threat, especially to American carrier and amphibious strike groups. If an anti-ship variant of the DF-26 can reach out at least 2,000 miles, and the air-launched DF-21D can reach out roughly another 1,000 miles farther from that threat horizon, in total the two systems combined could provide a continuous anti-ship ballistic missile umbrella reaching out over 3,000 miles from Chinese shores.” Worth the click, here.
Dystopia watch, China edition. There’s so much personal data available on the black market that one man has turned some of it into a disturbing art installation. The folks at Technode pick up the story: “Artist Deng Yufeng bought the personal data of 346,000 Wuhan residents and displayed them at a Wuhan Art Gallery in an attempt to make people realize the extent of data leakage. He text messaged over 300,000 of the people to invite them to the gallery to see their data.”
The gist: “The exhibition was divided into sections including big data, behavior and ‘data people,’ where Deng displayed the personal data bought on the black market. Names, ages, heights, telephone numbers, addresses, email addresses, bank details, salaries, car license plates, online shopping history, hobbies, train ticket purchases, and other data were printed on cards and treated with a solution that made the data invisible in daylight but visible in low light. The data was highly detailed. For online shopping there was a breakdown of what had been bought and when.”
The twist: “The exhibition was reportedly closed after its first two days and Deng is still under investigation.”
How do Chinese citizens reportedly feel about AI? Technode: “A recent survey (from March) by Tencent Research and CCTV found that almost 80% of Chinese people are concerned about the threat of AI to their privacy. Security company Qihoo 360 recently shut down the online streaming platform connected to its wireless security cameras in public places after pressure from the public.” More here.
New faces to PACOM and NORTHCOM. Defense Secretary Mattis has selected the head of U.S. Fleet Forces Command — Adm. Phil Davidson — to replace Adm. Harry Harris at U.S. Pacific Command, the Pentagon announced Tuesday evening. Harris is poised to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Australia, U.S. Naval Institute News writes.
And new to NORTHCOM: head of the Air Force in the Pacific, Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, got the nom for the NORTHCOM gig. A bit more about each man, here.
And lastly today: Whack-a-mole, Russian troll edition, continues. Reddit found 944 user accounts it believes were linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the company announced Tuesday, adding — “few of which had a visible impact on the site.” The total posts the group published through their work on Reddit came to about 14,000 posts.
Said Reddit CEO Steve Huffman: “We still have a lot of room to improve, and we intend to remain vigilant.” Read the full statement — with links identifying the 944 accounts — here.