Heaviest fighting yet in Yemen; GPS spoofing; Skunk-y spray for rioters; ISIS war expanding?; And a bit more.
"Women and children have been burnt in their homes, civilians have been shot in the streets or blown up by tank fire," one resident of Aden, Yemen, told Reuters, where the heaviest fighting yet hit the port city this morning. Houthi rebels and local militiamen traded tank and mortar rounds on the fringes of Aden’s airport as Saudi warplanes kept up their bombing campaign from the air.
NATO Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove comes to Washington, where he’ll brief the Senate Armed Services Committee today on the latest developments affecting Ukraine and U.S. European Command’s 65,000 troops. Breedlove then gives a Pentagon press conference shortly before 3 p.m. EDT.
Tensions in eastern Ukraine are rising as U.S. intelligence officials are now confident enough to call the uprising the result of “combined Russian-separatist forces,” AP’s Bradley Klapper and Ken Dilanian report this morning.
The fight against ISIS may have to expand beyond Iraq and Syria if the coalition wants to remain a unified alliance, The New York Times’ Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt report. ISIS affiliates in Libya have Italy and Egypt on high alert while U.S. lawmakers fear the battle could quickly morph into the global war on terror from yesteryear. More on the latest from the ISIS fight in Syria below.
From Defense One
U.S. police departments are stockpiling a highly controversial weapon called Skunk that more than lives up to its name as a way to control civil unrest. Tech editor Patrick Tucker has more.
Swiss and U.S. academics published what’s effectively become a “blueprint for hackers” looking to take down a military drone—and the Iranian downing of a U.S. RQ-170 in late 2011 happened just one month after the research paper on GPS spoofing first appeared. NextGov’s Aliya Sternstein has the story.
The Pentagon is eyeing a “chipset atomic clock” that could very well be a secure workaround when China, Iran, or others work to jam or spoof GPS signals, global business reporter Marcus Weisgerber reports.
This new bill protect military whistleblowers reporting fraud, waste or sexual abuse was filed by California Sen. Barbara Boxer yesterday, and politics reporter Molly O’Toole lays out how it could impact the Defense Department.
In addition to shaking up the line of succession, Saudi Arabia’s King Salmon awarded an extra month’s salary to Riyadh’s entire national security workforce. Quartz’s Steve LeVine has that one.
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NDAA: After more than 15 hours of debate, the House Armed Services Committee passed its $612 billion FY16 defense authorization bill in the early morning hours today. Military Times’ Leo Shane rolls up the need-to-knows from the 60-2 vote here.
Also, check out HASC’s Ranking Democrat Adam Smith laid out flat on his back in pain during the final stretch of the proceedings here from Roll Call’s Matt Fuller. We feel your pain.
Tehran says its seizure of the Maersk Tigris cargo freighter from the Strait of Hormuz Tuesday was the result of a business dispute, and not politics, reports McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay.
Want a quick guide to rules in the Strait of Hormuz? The Washington Examiner’s Tara Copp has one for you right here.
The Pentagon's top lawyer and drone strike defender, Stephen Preston, is leaving his post in June to go take a teaching gig at Yale law school, as WSJ’s Julian Barnes reported. Defense Secretary Ash Carter took partial credit for bringing Preston, formerly the CIA's top lawyer, back to the Pentagon.
Preston has been the top legal counsel for President Obama on some of the highest-stakes national security issues of his presidency—from the war against ISIS to the bin Laden raid, the Afghan campaign to the debate over targeted strikes in the counterterrorism fight. Here's our own Molly O’Toole’s take on what might turn out to have been Preston's last address earlier this month.
The chasm separating the Obama administration’s Syrian strategy from its Middle East allies could be growing. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funneling arms and money to a newly-formed rebel coalition known as the Army of Conquest operating in northwest Syria. The push from these regional partners is seen as a result of impatience with the White House’s reluctance to engage Syrian forces, and what some allies view as a Washington distracted by nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
“The new approach could undermine three years of U.S. Syria policy focused on securing a negotiated settlement to the war by putting enough pressure on Assad that he feels compelled to make compromises, but not enough to score an outright opposition victory that might result in chaos and cause Syria to collapse even further,” The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly report.
Is Assad the least worst option in Syria? Chris Kozak of the Institute for the Study of War says that’s a restricting and “dangerously flawed” way to view the Syrian battle space. The Assad regime, argues Kozak in a report to be released this morning, is no longer primarily trying to win militarily by defeating the opposition—but rather to maintain “an army in all corners” ahead of any future negotiated settlements.
And today, ISW’s Board chairman, retired Gen. Jack Keane, talks Syria and Iraq policy before the House Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee at 11 a.m. RAND’s Seth Jones and Brookings’ Tamara Wittes are testifying there as well. Catch the livestream, here.
Was the Ba’athist influence in the ranks of ISIS overstated by the recent expose from Christoph Reuter’s investigative expose in Der Speigel? Retired Army Lt. Col. Craig Whiteside of the U.S. Naval War College, writing in War on the Rocks, pushes back on Reuter’s analysis to paint a more informed picture of how ISIS seized turf across Syria.
And in Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi just granted amnesty to former Iraqi troops who fled their posts last summer in an urgent effort pad the ranks for a prolonged fight.
Iran is trying to secure illicit nuclear material from two blacklisted firms, Britain told members of the UN last night. The fresh allegations could imperil the ongoing nuclear negotiations, which are supposed to be finalized in June. Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau has more.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said somewhat cryptically yesterday in New York that detained Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, held since July 22, was possibly compromised by a U.S. intelligence operative.
And yesterday, Arkansas Senator and former Army officer Tom Cotton took a jab at Iran’s Zarif, and Zarif hit back on the world’s most public instant message system, Twitter.
The FBI vetted a Pakistani courier for a ransom payment to al-Qaeda from the family of Warren Weinstein, The Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous reported yesterday. The case highlights the precarious position and some glaring contradictions in the Obama administration’s handling of hostage of ransom payments.
Pakistani police just dropped its case against ex-CIA station chief Jonathan Bank and former acting general counsel John A. Rizzo over a 2009 drone strike. That via the AP.