Border-agency turmoil; Trump muddies Iran policy; ISIS’ Yemen leader, captured; Indian ASAT debris, still up there; and just a bit more…

Border-agency turmoil. “A week after beginning his reelection campaign with promises of mass deportations, President Trump sent the agencies responsible for immigration enforcement deeper into disarray on Tuesday, replacing his interim border chief with a figure he plucked from cable news punditry last month,” the Washington Post reported. “The shake-up Tuesday comes after weeks of interagency squabbles and political knifings among agency officials who are struggling to cope with a record surge of migrant families and squalid conditions inside U.S. Border Patrol detention cells stuffed beyond capacity.”

Out: John Sanders, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

Moving up: Mark Morgan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since early June.

100 children have been moved to the “now-infamous” facility in Clint, Texas, one day after news reports forced another group to be moved elsewhere (Washington Post).

How did things get this bad? Vox offers a good explainer on how, where, and why migrant children are being held separately from their families. “The problem isn’t the Clint facility. The problem is the hastily-cobbled-together system of facilities Customs and Border Protection (the agency which runs Border Patrol) has thrown together in the last several months, as the unprecedented number of families and children coming into the US without papers has overwhelmed a system designed to swiftly deport single adults,” it reads. “It is apparent that even an administration acting with the best interests of children in mind at every turn would be scrambling right now. But policymakers are split on how much of the current crisis is simply a resource problem — one Congress could help by sending more resources — and how much is deliberate mistreatment or neglect from an administration that doesn’t deserve any more money or trust.”

Meanwhile, Mexico is militarizing its border, deploying troops to keep people from moving toward U.S. territory (San Diego Union-Tribune).


From Defense One

Not Even Trump Has Any Idea What His Iran Policy Is // David A. Graham, The Atlantic: The president canceled a strike because it was “not proportionate,” and then vowed “obliteration.”

We Don’t Need Airstrikes to Restore Deterrence in the Strait of Hormuz // Stimson Center’s James Siebens and Charles Meire: Recent history shows that a restrained, multilateral military response can help restore stability.

What the Iran Crisis Reveals About European Power // Tom McTague, The Atlantic. Without a rival currency, there is none.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston and Katie Bo Williams. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. Send tips here.


Trump further muddies Iran policy. “Four days ago, Trump said he called off the strike on Iran because the deaths wouldn’t be proportionate to shooting down a drone. Today: ‘Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,’” tweeted Politico’s Dave Brown on Tuesday. 

That goes farther than Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s warning last week that Iranian actions that result in the death of an American will be met with military action. Pompeo was speaking to Iraqi officials who were expected to convey the message to Iran, U.S. officials told the Washington Post.

The president is well-known for inconsistency and a disinclination to deep understanding, notes The Atlantic’s David Graham: “But that ignorance and indecision is nowhere so dangerous as when the nation stands on the brink of a shooting war. It’s impossible for Iran to know what the White House’s view is, raising the chances that it will miscalculate, and set off an escalating conflict. While keeping the Iranians off guard might seem advantageous—Richard Nixon’s ‘madman theory’—the abortive strike means they may be confused but also less afraid. Meanwhile, there’s no way for allies to know how to support the U.S. position, which keeps changing. Not even the U.S. military knows what Trump wants.” Read, here.

U.S. cyber-attacked an Iranian proxy group last week, CNN reported Tuesday. The degrading of the communications network of Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-sponsored Shia militia group with forces in Iraq, Syria, and Iran, appears to be a newly revealed part of the U.S. retaliation for Iran’s downing of a drone last week. Read, here.

Saudi officials: We captured the leader of ISIS’ Yemen branch. Washington Post: “Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that it had captured a man it identified as the leader of the Islamic State’s Yemen branch during a raid this month on a house in southern Yemen, according to the official Saudi press agency. U.S. Special Operations forces also took part in the raid, according to American officials who did not disclose the exact nature of U.S. participation.” Read on, here.  

Space junk lingers from Indian ASAT test. In late March, India destroyed a small target satellite with a missile in an unannounced test of the country’s ability to neutralize enemy spacecraft. Surprised experts quickly denounced the test as irresponsible—the resulting debris threatened the International Space Station and other spacecraft—even though Indian officials said they carefully set it up so that all fragments would burn up in the atmosphere within 45 days. 

Three months later, 41 trackable pieces remain in orbit, according to a graph tweeted out by Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who expects the last of them to come down “in a year or so.”

Lots more satellites going up, and therefore more space junk, as rather mind-blowingly illustrated by this nifty 3D animated infographic from WSJ.

ICYMI: The Coming Flood of Space Junk Can’t Be Stopped by Technology Alone by D1’s Patrick Tucker.

What’s going to be new for the Army under a Secretary Ryan McCarthy? Not much, the current acting and under told reporters on Wednesday. “We… put out the word that no policies or priorities are changing,” he said — despite a host of leadership changes. “Big summer for the Army, with the chief, the vice chief and the sergeant major changing over,” he noted. But, “we’re going to continue to march on the same azimuth that we’ve been on.” 

In the near term, he says, he’s focused on sending the POM down the hall and working with congressional appropriations committees.

Oh, and no new tasking on Iran — yet. Asked if he has received a request for any additional troops to be sent to the region, McCarthy said: “There were options that I know they discussed at the CENTCOM-OSD level, but over and above the last one that went, there’s nothing that we’ve moved on lately.”

Warren offers election-security plan. “Enough is enough,” writes Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, laying out a proposal to harden electoral systems against tampering and to protect Americans’ ability to vote. 

Some points: 

  • “Elections get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security. Right now some jurisdictions use dated machines that are easily hackable with no paper trail. Ballot design is all over the place. No more…”
  • “No more registration problems. My plan will mandate automatic voter registration and same-day registration for federal elections…”
  • “No more gerrymandering. Under my plan, states will be required to use independent redistricting commissions to draw federal congressional districts to prevent gerrymandering…” Read on, here.

ICYMI: “Two teams of federal officials assembled to fight foreign election interference are being dramatically downsized,” the Daily Beast reported in February, citing three current and former Department of Homeland Security officials. “And now, those sources say they fear the department won’t prepare adequately for election threats in 2020. ‘The clear assessment from the intelligence community is that 2020 is going to be the perfect storm,’ said a DHS official familiar with the teams.” Read on, here.

ICYMI, part 2: Earlier this month, Trump told ABC News that he’d accept foreign help in his upcoming re-election bid. “Trump is effectively already actively soliciting foreign assistance in 2020. In the 2016 race, he was a long-shot candidate, and Russia took a serious risk by aggressively helping him. That bet paid off with Trump’s win, and the divisions in America that have followed; the repercussions for Russia have been relatively minor, and the president himself refuses to blame the Kremlin,” wrote The Atlantic’s Graham. 

And lastly today, read the brief farewell memo from now-former Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan to troops and DOD employees.

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