Cyber strikes on Iran; Wider ban on Chinese 5G?; Faking federal alerts; Migrant families still being separated; and just a bit more…

The U.S. launched cyber strikes on Iran on Thursday night. Although President Trump reversed his plans to bomb Iranian targets in retaliation for a downed drone, he did approve a U.S. Cyber Command operation to disable rocket- and missile-launcher control systems operated by the Iranian Revolutionary National Guard, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing “people familiar with the matter.”

The cyber strikes “were in the works for weeks if not months, according to two of these people, who said the Pentagon proposed launching them after Iran’s alleged attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this month.” A bit more, here.

Iran’s own cyber attacks are ramping up, DHS warns. U.S. companies are seeing a rise in attacks using “malicious software designed to wipe the contents of their computer networks rather than to simply steal their data, Chris Krebs, director of the Homeland Security Department’s cybersecurity division, warned in a Saturday email,” the Washington Post reported.

Cyber security companies — “which were already clocking a dramatic increase in Iranian hacking during the past few weeks — began warning this weekend that the nation could increase its attacks and make them far more destructive.”

Quote: “They’re going to go for the soft underbelly,” said John Hultquist, director of intelligence and analysis at the cybersecurity firm FireEye. “In the past, that’s been our financial sector. They’ve also demonstrated interest in everything from energy to transportation to several other sectors.” Read on, here.

Many questions remain about Trump’s Iran-strike. The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times all tried to unravel just how a president approves a strike, gets within “10 minutes” of it, changes his mind, and then complains about his close advisors. “These people want to push us into a war, and it’s so disgusting,” Mr. Trump told “a confidante,” according to the WSJ. “We don’t need any more wars.”

And the big one: Did the confusion and mixed messaging help or hurt U.S. efforts vis-à-vis Iran? And the rest of the world? Writes Kori Schake, a top natsec official in the W. Bush administration, “Trump has now shown himself just as willing as President Obama to make empty threats that damage American credibility.”

Reminder: deterrence requires clarity: If U.S. officials are going to deter Iran, they must be far cleared about the behavior they want — and the punishment they are prepared to deliver, Army War College prof Chris Bolan argued at Defense One last week.

New sanctions on…something. Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump is threatening Iran with additional sanctions on Monday, but there’s not much left for the U.S. to target because most of the Islamic Republic’s economy has been crippled by earlier penalties.” Read (paywall), here.

Would kinetic strikes even have been legal? Michael Schmitt, writing at Just Security: “To be clear, retaliation, that is, a tit-for-tat use of force, is unlawful in international law. What is not clear is whether the President and others are using the term loosely to describe a U.S. response or actually believe that retaliation is a lawful basis for the use of force against another State…Obviously, Iran did not consent to U.S. strikes and the U.N. has not authorized military action in response to the oil tanker attacks or the downing of the U.S. drone. Accordingly, the only possible basis for a U.S. use of force against Iran is self-defense.” Read on, here.


From Defense One

On Iran, It’s Trump Vs. Trump // Katie Bo Williams: The president’s 2020 reelection campaign looms large over the decision whether to retaliate for a downed drone.

Is There Still a Deal to Be Done With Iran? // Uri Friedman and Kathy Gilsinan, The Atlantic: Below the surface, there are faint signs of how both parties can exit the crisis.

Worse Than Obama’s Red-Line Moment // Kori Schake, The Atlantic: Trump has now shown himself just as willing as President Obama to make empty threats that damage American credibility.

Researchers Show How to Send Fake Presidential Alerts To Your Phone // Patrick Tucker: Your phone’s thirst for a better signal leaves it open to bogus messages, new research shows.

A Closer Look at the Arguments against the Low-Yield SLBM // Vincent Manzo: Why should the U.S. forgo a modest technical adjustment that improves forces supporting its strategy for deterring limited nuclear war?

US Arms Sales to the Gulf Have Failed // Andrew Exum, The Atlantic: Despite spending billions of dollars on hardware, our regional partners don’t have the capabilities we need.

White House Updates National Artificial Intelligence Strategy // Aaron Boyd, Nextgov: The updated National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan adds an additional priority to the seven outlined in the plan from the Obama administration.

Border Patrol Wants Robots that Can Go Underground and Report Back // Aaron Boyd, Nextgov: Homeland Security is looking for innovative robots that can navigate underground tunnels and communicate with headquarters.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. Send tips here. OTD1943: The Battle of Bamber Bridge, a deadly fight between black U.S. soldiers and white U.S. military police — one of dozens of interracial clashes in Britain during the war.


U.S. may bar all made-in-China 5G gear. Last month’s executive order restricting the import of next-gen telecom products from Huawei and other Chinese firms over security concerns has triggered a larger inquiry by the U.S. government, which is now asking non-Chinese tech companies whether they can find non-Chinese suppliers for tech components, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Timeline: “The conversations are in early and informal stages,” WSJ continues, citing “people familiar with the matter.” “The executive order calls for a list of proposed rules and regulations by the 150-day deadline, in October; so, any proposals may take months or years to adopt.” Read on, here.

Retaliation in store? Earlier this month, Lawfare notes, “The Chinese government called in representatives from major international tech companies including Samsung, Microsoft and Dell to announce that there could be ‘dire consequences’ for complying with the terms of the Entity List and not supplying certain technology and components to Huawei or other companies.”

Big picture: “More signs of a great U.S.-China tech decoupling ahead,” tweeted Kate O’Keeffe, who covers China issues for the Journal.

The news is certain to color the upcoming G20 meeting (June 28-29 in Osaka), where Trump and China’s Xi may or may not meet as trade disputes rage on.

Dig deeper into 5G, particularly the national-security implications, at Defense One, here.

Children still being separated from families at the U.S.-Mexican border, the Houston Chronicle reported Saturday: “A year has passed since President Donald Trump signed an executive order ostensibly ending his controversial policy of broadly separating immigrant families at the southern border and a federal judge ordered the government to reunify more than 2,800 children it had removed from their parents.” The judge allowed the government to continue removing children from parents who posed a danger to the child, had a serious criminal record, or was affiliated with a gang.

But no guidelines for these conditions were issued, and as a result, the Chronicle reports, “hundreds continue to be removed from their parents” — more than 700 in the year that ended on May 30 — “often, advocates say, for unclear reasons or with little apparent justification.” Read on, here.

If at first you don’t succeed: In March, Turkey voided the results of Istanbul’s mayoral election after the handpicked candidate of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, won in less-than-convincing fashion. So Erdoğan tried again, and on Sunday, voters in Turkey’s largest city rejected Binali Yildirim even more soundly. The repeat defeat shows that the ever-more-autocratic Turkish leader still remains at least somewhat accountable to voters, the NYT said.

And lastly today, a former admiral throws his hat in the ring. Joe Sestak, Navy admiral-turned-Congressman-turned-private citizen, declared Sunday that he will be the 25th person seeking to be the Democratic Party’s nominee to go up against Trump in 2020.

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