VP Pence really wants the Europeans to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. “Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative in following the U.S. lead on Iran,” Vice President Mike Pence said today during a conference on the Middle East organized by the United States in Warsaw. (France and Germany declined to send senior diplomats to the event.) Continued Pence: “In fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions.”
Background: President Trump withdrew from the Obama-era deal in 2017 and has worked to increase sanctions on Tehran. Iran and the other parties have remained in the deal; U.S. intelligence community chiefs said last month is holding to its commitment not to develop nuclear weapons. Reuters has more, here.
Meanwhile in Germany, The Wall Street Journal reports that “For the first time since the 1980s, a rift has emerged in Germany over whether it should continue to host U.S. nuclear weapons.”
What’s going on: Some members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition are re-evaluating the Cold War agreement that allows the U.S. military to store the nukes that were shipped to Europe to defend it against the Soviet Union. Read on (behind the paywall), here.
Acting SecDef Shanahan met with NATO SecGen Stoltenberg Wednesday in Brussels, the Pentagon announced in the afternoon. Highlights from those two officials’ public remarks:
- Stoltenberg: “Russia continues to violate the [Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces] treaty, and we need to plan for a world without the treaty and with more Russian missiles… All allies agree that we need to improve burden-sharing the alliance. And we are inspired by what we see. European allies and Canada are investing more, adding 100 billion extra U.S. dollars for defense from 2016 to 2020.”
- Shanahan: “I think the preparation and what you outlined in terms of the INF and burden-sharing is important. But also the heavy lifting that we plan to do around readiness… And I think that the timing of these discussions and the June ministerial will give us a chance to advance some of those plans and to build our team.”
BTW: Shanahan had to reassure America’s NATO allies that the U.S. wasn’t going to ditch the Afghan war effort in an uncoordinated fashion, Reuters reports today from NATO HQs.
Related: America’s traveling Afghan peace talks show will come to Pakistan on Feb. 18, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Wednesday — but the U.S. State Department could not confirm that meeting. Talks in Qatar scheduled for Feb. 25, however, are still reportedly on track. A bit more from that front via Reuters in Kabul, here.
One more Afghan thing, this one from SOCOM’s Gen. Raymond Thomas speaking to lawmakers today on Capitol Hill: “The way we look at the current context [in Afghanistan] is very similar to 2011. al-Qaeda in Iraq was badly down but not out and we pulled out and in less than 2 years, they were ISIS. How we finish that threat or at least contain it going forward is a critical concern.” Follow Defense One‘s Katie Bo Williams on Twitter this morning for more from that hearing.
From Defense One
There’s a Big Obstacle to the Pentagon’s New Strategy to Speed AI to Troops // Patrick Tucker: Defense officials want to accelerate the delivery of artificial-intelligence tools from the lab to the field. But it’s hard to obtain the massive data streams that make AI work.
Cyber Deterrence Done Right: The Coordinated Actions Against Huawei // Annie Fixler: By marshalling the collective power of its allies, the U.S. may have finally found a model for imposing costs on cyber adversaries.
Former Air Force Intelligence Officer Charged with Spying for Iran // Patrick Tucker: DOJ indictment: Monica Witt moved to Iran, revealed secret missions and information about her former colleagues.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1942, “This Is War,” a 13-week anti-fascist radio series featuring the voices of Jimmy Stewart, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and many others, debuted in the middle of World War II. You can listen to the broadcast that first aired on this day 77 years ago, here.
Happening today: U.S. Strategic Command’s Gen. John Hyten is scheduled to speak on U.S. missile defense at 12:30 p.m. EDT on Capitol Hill for the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
Update: Hyten appears to have dropped out. In his place? “A Representative from US Strategic Command.” Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports the replacement will be STRATCOM’s J-3, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Stephen Davis. Details and more, here.
Happening right now: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hear from the commanders of United States Special Operations Command and United States Cyber Command — that is, SOCOM’s Gen. Raymond Thomas and CYBERCOM’s Gen. Paul Nakasone — as well as Owen West, assistant defense secretary for SOF and low-intensity conflict. That started at 9:30 a.m. EDT, and is livestreaming here.
The Trump administration missed a key Yemen-report deadline. Last year’s defense authorization bill requires the administration to “certify to Congress that the Saudi-led force fighting in Yemen is attempting to reduce civilian deaths in the conflict.” The deadline was Feb. 9; the administration hasn’t yet responded to it, Al-Monitor reports.
The “memory hole” is open for business in Russia. How is Vladimir Putin shoring up domestic support for his regime as the economy stalls and the population shrinks? By declaring the Soviet Union’s disastrous 1980 invasion of Afghanistan a rousing success. Steps include inducing the Russian legislature to denounce the 1989 withdrawal and launching a band of Afghan-war vets who sing lyrics like “Do you, comrade, remember Afghanistan? Glows of fires, Muslim cries?” Stripes has more, here.
Something else worth remembering. “If you think Russia and the U.S. have an arms control compliance problem — think again,” writes Andrey Baklitskiy of the Moscow-based PIR Center. How so? “In 1985, the State Department accused the Soviet Union of violating the Helsinki Final Act, the Geneva Protocol, the Biological Weapons Convention, , SALT II (5 different violations), the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Limited Test Ban Treaty.”
Cuba says U.S. special forces have moved “closer to Venezuela as part of a plan to intervene in the South American country using the pretext of a humanitarian crisis,” Reuters reports this morning from Havana. The dates of suspected travel of these unspecified special forces span last Wednesday through Sunday.
How much closer? To “the Rafael Miranda Airport of Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base, in the Dominican Republic and to other strategically located Caribbean islands, probably without knowledge of the governments of those nations,” reads Cuba’s announcement, which Reuters reports Havana calls a “Declaration of the Revolutionary Government.”
Related reading from Bloomberg: “With Cocaine Flowing, the Push to Pry Generals From Maduro Hits a Snag”
The quick read: “In a country with more than 2,000 generals and admirals, only one top officer — who commands no troops — has pledged allegiance to Guaido.”
Why the hell is “cocaine” in that headline? “The Drug Enforcement Administration recently estimated that 15 to 20 tons of cocaine still move from Venezuela to the U.S. each month, according to a person who works with the agency and asked not to be identified. Much of the illicit traffic is controlled by Venezuelan military officers and government officials, according to U.S. officials, meaning their countrymen may suffer but many of them won’t.” Read on, here.
Inside the for-profit holding facility for unaccompanied migrant children. NPR: An “emergency intake shelter” in South Florida “has come under intense scrutiny because it’s the only child shelter for immigrants that’s run by a for-profit corporation and the only one that isn’t overseen by state regulators.” One of the lawyers granted access to the children, Leecia Welch, senior director of legal advocacy and child welfare at the National Center for Youth Law, told NPR, “We see extremely traumatized children, some of whom sit across from us and can’t stop crying over what they’re experiencing.” Read on, here.
And finally on this Valentine’s Day: A love letter to 1990s web design, in the form of the promo website for the upcoming superhero movie Captain Marvel. Set in the 20th century’s final decade, the movie follows U.S. Air Force Col. Carol Danvers from the cockpit of a F-16 to outer space and back. (And yes, the real Air Force was happy to help out, setting actor Brie Larson up with a Viper ride at Nellis.) Get your <blink> tag on, here.