Today’s a big day for Iraq in Washington: the prime minister and the defense minister are paying visits today – and they come hat in hand. Reuters’ Jeff Mason: Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and President Barack Obama will discuss the fight against Islamic State on Tuesday at a White House meeting likely to be dominated by Iraqi requests for U.S. arms and tension over Iran's role on the battlefield.
“In his first U.S. trip since becoming prime minister, Abadi is expected to seek billions of dollars in drones and other U.S. weapons to combat Islamic State, which seized much of northern and central Iraq last year.
“Obama's administration, which welcomed Abadi's ascension after a tricky relationship with former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, may not agree to all of the requests. Nonetheless, the high-profile meeting in the Oval Office is meant to convey a U.S. stamp of approval for a leader who has sought to be more inclusive than his predecessor in governing Iraq.” More here.
And from the NYT’s Michael Gordon: “…a major priority is laying the groundwork for financial support to help the Iraqi government as it struggles to take back territory from the Islamic State. The prime minister plans to meet on Thursday with Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and with Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank. He also plans to meet with senior executives from oil companies and international banks, including Citibank and Deutsche Bank. Iraq is facing a budget deficit this year of $22 billion, a sizable gap in a total budget of $105 billion. Oil revenue, which accounts for a vast majority of government income, has declined at the same time that the Iraqi government is facing the challenge of restoring essential services and rebuilding towns and cities damaged in the fighting against the Islamic State.” More here.
Who else is doing what today – including the Iraqi Defense Minister’s visit to the Pentagon, at the bottom of today’s D Brief.
Also, from yesterday afternoon: Obama’s request for fighting the Islamic State won’t pass the House, a top Republican said. That, also from Reuters, here.
The Pentagon released its own updated map of ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria showing a roughly 25 percent reduction since August. Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman, here.
Vets return to the Middle East to fight their demons. AP, here.
In Iraq, common interests among sects. The WSJ’s Matt Bradley, here.
ICYMI: “The Iraqi Rambo:” So there is an Iraqi who goes by the name of Abu Azrael, a Shiite militia fighter who is known for his effectiveness against the Islamic State – as well as his Hollywood-style media crew. There’s reason to believe that his reputation for killing as many as 500 IS fighters and walking around battlefields with an axe is somewhat embellished. Still, he’s a character. Here are a couple links, both about a month old, but ICYMI there is the Daily Mail, here and the BBC, here.
The head of Boeing’s Growler program says a new datalink mounted on the underbelly of the EA-18Gs could triangulate the location of insurgents hiding behind cover. Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber, from the Sea-Air-Space conference in Washington: “The Growler, a modified version of the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, uses electronic warfare pods that can intercept transmissions in a wide range of frequencies… When the measurements from the three aircraft are fused together, it creates ‘a very, very small area’ where the person is located, said John Thompson, director of electronic attack business and advanced systems development for Northrop.
“But before the Growler, which is flying missions over Iraq and Syria today, can get these weapons-quality accuracy, they need new, faster datalinks… [which] are scheduled to arrive by decade’s end, industry officials said.” More here.
Meantime, the ex-Blackwater guys are unrepentant even as they are sentenced to long prison terms for their role in the deadly Nisour Square shooting in Baghdad in 2007. The NYT’s Matt Apuzzo: “One by one, four former Blackwater security contractors wearing blue jumpsuits and leg irons stood before a federal judge on Monday and spoke publicly for the first time since a deadly 2007 shooting in Iraq.
“The men had been among several private American security guards who fired into Baghdad’s crowded Nisour Square on Sept. 16, 2007, and last October they were convicted of killing 14 unarmed Iraqis in what prosecutors called a wartime atrocity. Yet on Monday, as they awaited sentences that they knew would send them to prison for most if not all of their lives, they defiantly asserted their innocence.
Ex-Blackwater contractor Paul Slough: “I know for a fact that I will be exonerated, in this life and the next.”
Ex-Blackwater contractor Dustin Heard: “I am very sorry for the loss of life…But I cannot say in all honesty to the court that I believe I did anything wrong.” Read it all here.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief, by Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson.
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DARPA is working on enhanced ground sensors that could provide the military “persistent surveillance” for years at a time. Defense One tech editor Patrick Tucker with more: “… DARPA today announced a program called Near Zero Power RF and Sensor Operations, or N-ZERO, which will build a network of sensors that can determine what to pay attention to and when. They will have an innate ability to detect specific frequency signatures ‘such as the presence of a particular vehicle type or radio communications protocol,’ according to DARPA.
“Persistent ground sensing could radically reduce the costs of gathering intelligence. Sensors that last for years on end would enable far greater capability for the Internet of Things. It could also turn the entire world into a vast, surveillable frontier.” More here.
Tuesday’s #LongRead: Sen. Tom Cotton sat down with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg to talk about the failures of post-invasion Iraq and the merits of bombing Iran, should it fail to abide by the nuclear framework. Kudos to the freshman senator from Arkansas for going the distance in the interview, which you can read in full, here.
Kerry wants more time on the Iran deal. Reuters, here.
This is why one officer is leaving the Navy she loves: “it has been an honor to serve, but I want this incredible organization to be better.” Anna Granville in Task and Purpose, here.
Meantime, Rear Adm. Craig Faller’s acceptance of a luxury hotel room in – you guessed it, Asia – raised the eyebrows of the IG. Navy Times’ David Larter: “The Navy's top officer on Capitol Hill improperly took a luxury suite in a Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hotel when he was the Stennis Carrier Strike Group boss four years ago, according to a recently released investigation obtained by Navy Times.
“[Faller], the two-star chief of legislative affairs, accepted a free room upgrade for his two-night stay at the luxury hotel during a September 2011 port visit to the Malaysian capital, largesse the Inspector General equated to a gift valued between $2,000 and $10,000. However, the Navy concluded the departure from ethics rules was mitigated because Faller accepted the suite for his shipmates. The IG report found that the gift came from a ‘prohibited source" and that Faller was "clearly offered the upgrade … because of his position.’
“…Details of the case raise questions anew about the propriety of the Navy's long-time dealings in Asia, where admirals and ship captains routinely accepted gifts and other largesse from their hosts despite ethics rules designed to protect the Navy from espionage and fraud.” Read the rest here.
Recently, the Islamic State published a list of U.S. military personnel, their names and addresses, and suggested that they should be harmed. Some of the people named were military personnel who have appeared in the press – public affairs officers and others. It was a particularly dark turn to the Islamic State’s ruthless information operations campaign. But the Air Force’s Lt. Col. Chris Karns, chief of media operations for Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, wrote in Air Force Times that the Air Force must not be deterred in staying out there. Karns wrote: “…I believe the need to tell the Air Force story remains. The risk of not doing so presents unacceptable consequences and is not a feasible course of action. If we relinquish our responsibility to tell our story, especially to the news media, we create a communications void that empowers groups like ISIS that seek to instill and incite fear.” Read it all here.
Carter Ham has a new gig as the newest member of Jefferson Waterman International’s Africa Advisory Board. Ham, the former Army four-star commander of U.S. Africa Command, has joined the board of the D.C.-based political and business consulting firm “with an exclusively and distinctly international practice.” From the press release: “… The Board brings recognized expertise and resources to issues faced by countries in the region. General Ham’s experience will inform and support JWI’s international political and business consulting activities, particularly those involving West Africa.” More here from JWI.
Kudos for General ‘O’: This is why general officers need advisers who are independent – civilian - and willing to speak their mind to their bosses. Max Boot’s review of Emma Sky’s “The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq” in today’s WSJ: “…There was no more unlikely duo than the hulking, 6-foot-5 former football player with the shaved head and his petite English adviser. To add to the incongruity, Ms. Sky needled Gen. Odierno relentlessly in a way that no one else would have dared—and he returned the favor.
“On a helicopter ride after ‘General O’ comments that Saddam Hussein was a mass murderer, [Emma Sky] replies: ‘We still don’t know who killed more Iraqis: you or Saddam, sir.’ This was greeted by total silence among the general’s aides, but he jocularly shouted, ‘Open the door, pilots. Throw her out!’”
“It is part of Gen. Odierno’s greatness as a commander that he realized he needed the independent viewpoint that Ms. Sky could provide to avoid the groupthink that so often characterizes military command. He made her his indispensable aide…” Read the rest here.
Russia is shipping advanced anti-air defense system to Iran in a move that could significantly alter the security dynamics in the region. WaPo’s Karoun Demirjian from Moscow: “In military terms, the S-300 systems offer a potentially major security boost to Iran — the missiles, with a range of up to 125 miles, would give it an effective defense against an aerial attack. Russia originally signed the missile contract with Iran, worth $800 million, in 2007...
“[Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov suggested that the preliminary agreement with Iran has changed Moscow’s calculations. Russia blocked the transfer of the missiles in 2010, under pressure from the West and in the wake of a U.N. decision on Iranian sanctions... [Lavrov] insisted that the sale does not fall within the purview of existing U.N. sanctions, and U.S. officials have acknowledged as much.” More here.
Meantime just beyond Russia’s western flank, a Ukrainian soldier was killed and six others wounded yesterday in another instance of the ceasefire’s tenuous hold on violence. Reuters from Kiev, here.
Hillary Clinton’s former Syria advisor, Frederic Hof, is one of three voices who propose putting the U.S. train-and-equip mission “on steroids.” The Atlantic Council has more: “Frederic C. Hof of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Bassma Kodmani of the Arab Reform Initiative, and Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute, present a new way forward—a sort of train-and-equip on steroids—the Syrian National Stabilization Force (SNSF).
“The proposed SNSF would be a three-division force of 50,000 or more Syrians, able to defeat any enemies standing in the way of a legitimate, inclusive Syria. The force would be truly Syrian at its basis, made up of patriotic officers and soldiers seeking an alternative to the rule of Bashar al-Assad, and under the control of a Syrian national command authority.” Read the introduction, here. Or check out the full report, here.
A nearly $2 billion state-of-the-art Veterans Affairs hospital in Colorado is the latest in a series of examples that the department’s “extravagant planning [is] divorced from financial reality,” WaPo’s Emily Wax-Thibodeaux writes: “Efforts to build the Aurora hospital have dragged on since the late 1990s. It is to be a state-of-the-art medical campus with 10 buildings, three parking garages, a research and treatment center fpr spinal-cord injury, and a 30-bed nursing home and rehabilitation center. It would provide care for one of the country’s largest concentrations of veterans — nearly half a million in Colorado alone.“But the price tag has soared more than $1 billion over budget…" More here.
After a VA doctor named Christian Head testified to Congress last July about the consequences to whistleblowers, he was marginalized and sidelined and had his office moved to a converted closet. Military Times’ Leo Shane: “On Monday, Head was part of a list of whistleblowers before the House Veterans Affairs Committee testifying that despite public promises of protections for employees who speak out, intimidation and punishment are still common throughout the department. Stories included at least 11 employees in Delaware's Wilmington VA Medical Center who have been sidelined for months after clashes with local management and an associate director at the Central Alabama VA Health Care system who was physically removed from a hospital after complaining about fraudulent patient records.
“VA Secretary Bob McDonald, has repeatedly vowed to punish officials who retaliated against employees reporting wrongdoing. But lawmakers questioned that promise, saying they still see too many problems for whistleblowers in the department.” More here.
Who’s doing what today? The Sea-Air-Space conference continues with the Pentagon’s Frank Kendall keynoting the morning’s Congressional Breakfast at 7:45 a.m. … NSA/CYBERCOM Chief Adm. Mike Rogers and Fleet Cyber Command’s Vice Adm. Jan Tighe are both on a 9 a.m. panel discussion on "Cyber, Electromagnetic War and Information Dominance" … and the Joint Chief’s Vice Chairman Adm. Sandy Winnefeld keynoting the Navy League’s black tie reception at 6 p.m.
Also today: President Obama meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the White House at 10:25 a.m. … Defense Secretary Ash Carter hosts Abadi’s Minister of Defense Khaled al-Obaidi at the Pentagon at 3:30 p.m. … and Army chief Gen. Ray Odierno will recognize the achievements of 5 civilians (including comedian Stephen Colbert) at 5 p.m. at Fort Myer’s Whipple Field.
On the Hill: Service reps (full lineup here) hit up the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee to talk cyber programs at 2:30 p.m. … SASC’s Airland subcommittee hears about the Army’s modernization plans at 2:30 p.m. (lineup here) … and the House Armed Services Committee hears from F-35 program director Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan (and others) at 3:30 p.m.