More Iran sanctions; New Acting SecDef takes reins; Cellphone records stolen; Migrant kids moved after news reports; and just a bit more…

Trump tries more sanctions on Iran. Having approved then scuttled plans for airstrikes in retaliation for the downing of a drone last week, President Trump has decided to try more sanctions — this time, on “the office of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other individuals close to him, denying their access to “key financial resources and support,’” The Atlantic’s Kathy Gilsinan reports.

But about 80 percent of the country’s economy is already under various sanctions levied since Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018. “The results have been twofold: First, Iran’s economy has withered. Second, Iran has lashed out,” Gilsinan writes.

FWIW, Trump announced the sanctions on Ayatollah “Khomeini,” who died in 1989. Watch the video. (ht @heerJeet)

Meanwhile, Iran’s naval commander threatened to shoot down more drones. On Monday, AP reports, Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi issued a reminder to Washington that Tehran can destroy U.S. drones in Iranian airspace. (The U.S. maintains that the RQ-4A Global Hawk downed last week was in international airspace.)

Trump: I don’t need Congressional approval to bomb Iran. That’s what he told The Hill in an interview yesterday, rebuffing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Friday statement that “hostilities must not be initiated without the approval of Congress.”

ICYMI: “To be clear, retaliation, that is, a tit-for-tat use of force, is unlawful in international law,” Michael Schmitt wrote at Just Security.

Pompeo swings through Saudi, heads for UAE. AP: The Secretary of State “wrote on Twitter that he had a ‘productive meeting’ with King Salman and discussed ‘heightened tensions in the region and the need to promote maritime security.’” Next up: a meeting in UAE. A bit more, here.


From Defense One

Trump Goes After Iran’s Supreme Leader // Kathy Gilsinan, The Atlantic: Having pulled back from a strike on Iran, the White House is trying sanctions on Ali Khamenei.

A Water-Stressed World Turns to Desalination // Jim Robbins, CityLab: More cities rely on desalination, which remains expensive and creates its own environmental problems.

Women are Critical to Ending Wars—and the Trump Administration Agrees // Jamille Bigio: A new law should kickstart long-overdue efforts to include more women in peace and security leadership roles.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston and Marcus Weisgerber. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. Send tips here.


Esper off to Europe. It’s acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s second day on the job and he’s off to Brussels for a NATO ministerial. Here’s a scene setter, per AP’s Lolita Baldor and Robert Burns: “The two-day NATO meeting of defense ministers will include talks on many of the most worrisome international security topics: possible war with Iran; the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan; the continued fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq; and tensions with Russia. Esper, who until Sunday evening had been serving as the civilian leader of the U.S. Army, may be familiar with many of the issues but to European defense ministers he is a relative unknown.” Read more here

Just in: NATO spending rises for 5th consecutive year. The first release of 2019 spending data indicates a real increase of 3.9% in the defense budgets of alliance members (minus the United States). “The trend is good,” tweeted Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“21 countries not yet spending the recommended 2% of GDP on defense, though almost all are spending more,” tweeted VOA’s Jeff Seldin.

First day on the job. Esper, stepped out of a black SUV at the Pentagon’s River entrance at 7:20 a.m. on Monday. A few hours later he sent a memo to all DOD employees, saying the National Defense Strategy would still guide Pentagon decisions. “The National Defense Strategy remains our guiding document and everything we do should support its stated objectives. The Department’s priorities remain unchanged.” 

Just in case you’ve forgotten, those three priorities are: Build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and attract new partners, and reforming the department for greater performance and affordability. Read Esper’s memo here.

Cellphone records stolen in years-long hack. Over the past seven years, hackers have penetrated more than 10 cell networks around the world and stolen “obtain massive amounts of call records — including times and dates of calls, and their cell-based locations — on at least 20 individuals,” TechCrunch reported Monday, quoting researchers at Boston-based Cybereason who discovered the operation.

These call detail records “are the crown jewels of any intelligence agency’s collection efforts,” Techcrunch wrote: “highly detailed metadata logs generated by a phone provider to connect calls and messages from one person to another.” 

The hackers could “track the physical location of any customer of the hacked telcos — including spies and politicians — using the call records,” Cybereason told the news outlet. Read on, here.

Migrant children moved from unsanitary facility after news reports. “The U.S. government has removed most of the children from a remote Border Patrol station in Texas following reports that more than 300 children were detained there, caring for each other with inadequate food, water and sanitation,” the AP reported Monday. The service broke the news last week.

The reports drew bipartisan outcries from U.S. lawmakers. “How is it possible that you both were unaware of the inhumane conditions for children, especially tender-age children at the Clint Station?” asked Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, in a letter sent Friday to U.S. Customs and Border Protection acting commissioner John Sanders and U.S. Border Patrol chief Carla Provost.

CBP statement to AP: “Our short-term holding facilities were not designed to hold vulnerable populations and we urgently need additional humanitarian funding to manage this crisis.”

Where now? “Although it’s unclear where all the children held at Clint have been moved, Escobar said some were sent to another facility on the north side of El Paso called Border Patrol Station 1. Escobar said it’s a temporary site with roll-out mattresses, showers, medical facilities and air conditioning. But Clara Long, an attorney who interviewed children at Border Patrol Station 1 last week, said conditions were not necessarily better there.” Read on, here.

BTW, Trump again lied that the family-separation policy began with his predecessor, this time in an interview aired June 21 on Telemundo. (See also, for example, this NYT fact-check in April.)

British F-35s fly combat missions over Iraq, Syria. It’s the first operational missions for the Royal Air Force F-35 jets. Pilots have flown “armed reconnaissance missions” missions in the campaign against the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, according to the BBC. The planes have not conducted any strikes. The Royal Air Force jets, which are currently based in Cyprus become the latest Joint Strike Fighters to fly missions in the Middle East joining Israel and the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps.

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