Escalation situation in Iraq; Moscow $anctions to continue; Snagging Silicon Valley’s nerds; The demise of Colt; CIA surprise; And a bit more.
“Putting U.S. forces on the ground as a substitute for local forces will not produce enduring results” in Iraq, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the House Armed Services Committee. There you have it. Critics have slammed Baghdad’s snail-paced effort against ISIS and the Pentagon’s slow pace to help—for example, U.S. troops have so far trained just 7K of a targeted 24K Iraqi troops—but Carter counseled caution and patience at a packed Wednesday hearing on Capitol Hill, the Wall Street Journal reports.
It’s just not that simple. If the U.S. wants quicker results in Iraq—and some lawmakers and former administration officials think a less restrictive air campaign and embedding U.S. troops as “advisors” directly with Baghdad units in an assault would help—Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey laid out some sobering logistics involved, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber writes. “Augmenting an Iraqi unit with a U.S. specialist—say, a joint terminal attack controller [or JTAC], skilled in guiding air strikes—would require a lot of hidden support.”
“This is not just about putting three JTACs forward,” Dempsey said. “It’s about putting a medevac capability, and a combat search-and-rescue, a personnel recovery capability and a [quick reaction force]. So 15 people might require 150…If we expand this, we’ll have to address” the necessarily complex business of ordinary battlefield support. Read the rest here.
For what it’s worth—ISIS claimed this morning to have shot down an Iraqi Air Force Russian-made Su-25 fighter jet north of Ramadi, Reuters reports.
Meantime, members of Congress actually debated war powers. In a rare floor moment that produced unsurprising remarks in the House yesterday, a measure failed (on a 193 to 298 vote) to earn enough votes to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. It was a procedural move intended to force debate on “America's 10 months of unauthorized military operations against Islamic militants in the region,” Military Times’ reports.
What, me worry? Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the rise of terrorism in Iraq a temporary phenomenon,” in Tehran yesterday, the WSJ reported. The ayatollah met Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, where “Mr. Khamenei accused Western countries of attempting to undermine [Iraq]’s national unity and security...Such anti-U.S. rhetoric is common from the Iranian leader. But it comes as his country and six world powers, including the U.S., approach a June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal that would represent a historic détente if it goes through.”
On Iran’s nuclear past and future... “We already know what Iran did. And Iran knows that we know.” Tehran is certainly stonewalling on questions about nearly two decades of alleged nuclear weapons development (begun after Iraq invaded in 1980), but that ought not be a deal-killer, argues Joe Cirincione of Ploughshares Fund, writing in Defense One.
Playing catch-up? Here’s everything you want to know about sanctions on Iran, from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Zachary Laub.
Speaking of $anctions, the European Union is set to extend its post-Crimean economic sanctions against Russia, the New York Times reports: “A decision to prolong the sanctions, which expire at the end of July, was made by European ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday and is expected to be ratified at a meeting of foreign ministers early next week in Luxembourg.”
Vice News’ Simon Ostrovsky followed the Atlantic Council’s lead and traced the digital footprints of one Russian soldier from eastern Ukraine to Siberia to make the case that Moscow’s troops are indeed fighting in Ukraine.
There’s a pretty superb “fake” memo from the “Russian Strategic Planning Cell” to Vladimir Putin (penned by retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former NATO supreme allied commander) that’s worth a click. In customary Stavridis fashion, it spans just about all the topics pregnant in Moscow’s aggressive moves in Europe.
From Defense One
Good luck in Silicon Valley, Pentagon old dudes. Recruiting technology’s best brains shouldn’t be as difficult as putting lightning in a bottle. But with the military’s rapidly rising emphasis on computer code for cutting-edge systems, Tech Editor Patrick Tucker works through the obstacles to forge a way ahead for a U.S. defense community that wants to snag the tech world’s top nerds in the name of national security.
Democrats’ two-faced defense budget messaging on the “bloated” Overseas Contingency Operation fund—namely, that the slush fund is ok for a defense policy bill but not in a spending bill—is complicating an already complex process that could ultimately be vetoed by the White House anyway, National Journal’s Fawn Johnson reports.
Putin the (yawn) punching bag. In the GOP’s 2016 race for the White House, one of the surest paths to consensus on national security runs through Russian President Vladimir Putin. Republican hopefuls have lined up to lampoon Moscow’s assertive leader; but so far, few have said exactly how they would respond to a revanchist Russia, National Journal’s Marina Koren writes.
Welcome to Thursday’s edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Defense One. Why not pass it on to a friend? You’ll find our subscribe link here. (Want to read it in your browser? Click here.) And feel free to send us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ISIS claimed responsibility for a quadruple car bombing at Shiite mosques in Yemen’s capital of Sana’a yesterday that killed at least two and wounded another 60, Reuters reports, adding that the death toll in the fighting has now risen to more than 2,600.
Luck of the Langley? The CIA didn’t know in advance that a recent targeted strike in Yemen would take out al-Qaeda’s No. 2, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, WaPo’s Greg Miller reported yesterday. The lack of anything like a crystal-clear picture on who is being targeted in Yemen strikes marks a stark contrast to the administration’s guidelines on strikes in Pakistan—in a further clouding of U.S. policy on its so-called “signature strike” program. “U.S. officials insisted that there was never a comprehensive ban on the use of signature strikes in [Yemen] and stressed that other aspects of the White House guidelines—including a requirement of ‘near certainty’ that no civilians will be harmed—remain in tact.”
The U.S. strategy in Syria remains very much in “wait and see” status—mostly waiting to see if President Bashir al-Assad will go sooner than later as more of the country descends into “ungoverned status,” Carter and Dempsey explained yesterday. “Losses in the north, east and south have put Assad under more military strain than at any point in the four-year-old war… Dempsey noted that the training, which officials have said is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, had just started and that it was still too soon ‘to give up on it.’”
Mixed messages on Syria’s chemical weapons use. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons “said Wednesday that almost all effluent from the neutralized weapons had been eliminated…" even as critics note the Assad regime’s "increasingly brazen use of chlorine in makeshift poison gas bombs dumped on civilians and suspected rebels in the civil war,” the NYTs reports.
For a quick glance at the global reach of fighters and foreigners claiming to work under the banner of ISIS, the NYT’s graphics team whipped up this scary interactive.
Speaking of global reach, the U.S. just signed an agreement with Spain that gives American Marines “permanent” use of the base at Moron (no, it’s not pronounced like that), where currently 850 troops are based for crisis response, primarily in Africa, Reuters reported.
In the Philippines, however, that joint defense agreement “that would help counter China's growing naval power in the disputed South China Sea has yet to be implemented more than a year after it was signed, and could now face a fresh political hurdle in Manila…[as] 13 senators in the 24-member Philippine Senate have signed a draft resolution insisting the upper house scrutinize the deal before it takes effect,” Reuters reports.
Stateside, fears over fallout from the OPM hack—which seized thousands of detailed forms on the private lives of countless U.S troops and intelligence agents—is getting much worse, Military Times reports. “They got everyone's SF-86,” one Pentagon official said.
RIP Colt. One of America’s most historic and iconic brand names, the weapons manufacturer that gave the U.S. Army its M-16s and M4 carbine rifles just declared bankruptcy nearly two years after losing its contract with the military, The Daily Beast reports: “A source familiar with Colt’s financial situation characterized the 2013 loss of the contract to provide the military with M4s as ‘tough to quantify’ but called it ‘definitely the main contributing factor to the business being where it is.’”
And apropos of nothing, here’s a quick reminder to not get too crafty when soused on your craft brew (or Schlitz, we’re not prudes at Defense One). This Marine at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa earned himself a well-deserved police arrest after filling a hanger with fire-suppressing foam at 1:45 a.m. in late May. “Designed to be easily activated in the incident of a fire, high-expansion foam can fill a hangar to the ceiling with a soap-like substance in minutes,” Marine Corps Times reports, adding that one incident in early January 2014 led to the death of a 31-year-old contractor who died after being submerged in the foam retardant.