The definitive Gitmo deep dive; Nuclear suspense on Iran; ISIS wants Kobane back; NSA declines to link China, OPM; And a bit more.
The Iran nuclear talks are far from a done deal, Secretary of State John Kerry warned after Tehran’s supreme leader tweeted out seven “major red lines” Wednesday, some of which run contrary to a framework agreement reached weeks ago, and all of which appear to suggest—as one observer pointed out—that Iran is playing the “‘You need the deal more than we’ card a week before the deadline.”
“Negotiators ‘are not going to be guided by or conditioned by or affected or deterred by some Tweet that is for public consumption or domestic political consumption,’ Kerry said. ‘What matters to us is what is agreed upon within the four corners of a document, and that is what is yet to be determined.’”
“Any agreement can really be judged only when the text is signed and details are made public,” the New York Times editorial board writes. “Ayatollah Khamenei must decide whether he and his government can live with the economic and political consequences if he sabotages this deal.”
An extended word of caution on any further concessions from the West was delivered to the White House and State Departments yesterday from the pens of former Gens. David Petraeus and James Cartwright, along with Stephen Hadley, Dennis Ross and Gary Samore. NYT’s David Sanger digs into the letter and the intent of its signatories here.
“I think we’re being played,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, tallying up other GOP dissent toward the deal that Sen. Lindsey Graham said has become “a disaster in the making.”
What’s Washington’s Plan B? Same as it’s been for years—an experimental 20-foot-long, 15-ton bomb traveling at supersonic speed that can burrow into a mountain before detonating 6,000 pounds of high explosives, explains Michael Crowley for Politico.
Washington’s high-level talks with Beijing concluded yesterday with few real takeaways short of a vow to cooperate more to “preserve the ocean and combat illegal fishing,” AP reports. But the sides did agree to work on a “complete code of conduct on cyber activities,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
And speaking of cyber activities, the OPM hack continues to hemorrhage ugly revelations. The latest: “Infidelity. Sexual fetishes. Drug abuse. Crushing debt,” writes Shane Harris of The Daily Beast.
Intel bill moves ahead—“The Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved the fiscal 2016 Intelligence Authorization Act on Wednesday, advancing the annual policy bill to the chamber floor,” The Hill reported yesterday. “Among other provisions, the legislation would require the Senate to confirm the position of the national counterintelligence executive…[it] also requires Internet companies such as social media firms to inform the government if they become aware of terrorist activity on their services…[and] would require new reporting on foreign threats and develop a robust strategy for the system of satellites relied on by U.S. spies.”
Meantime, the Senate yesterday sent President Obama the trade promotion bill that, for a short time this month, appeared doomed in Congress, the Washington Post reports. Why the shift? More lawmakers began to see the secretly negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in this light: “A failure on TPP would lend weight to Chinese claims that the United States does not have staying power in Asia and would leave the Obama administration’s bid to shift diplomatic and military attention toward Asia without its economic centerpiece.”
Meantime, Japan may soon join U.S. troops patrolling the South China Sea, WSJ reports. “I view the South China Sea as international water, not territorial water of any country, and so Japan is welcome to conduct operations on the high seas as Japan sees fit,” said PACOM’s chief, Adm. Harry Harris, in Tokyo earlier this month.
Closing Guantanamo is hard—but not as tough as figuring out what comes next. President Obama has begun his last push to close America’s offshore prison, but the Islamic State is forcing him to confront the question the U.S. has long avoided: What will America do with the prisoners of the unending war on terrorism? In a sweeping look at the battle over Guantanamo, Defense One’s politics reporter Molly O’Toole reveals the hidden story of Obama’s quest, his unlikely ally in the campaign—and the dilemma no one wants to face.
From Defense One
Ask the NSA’s chief who hacked OPM, and he won’t say “China.” Despite what unnamed officials have told the media about the hack that exposed 18 million people (and counting?), Adm. Michael Rogers said yesterday at the GEOINT conference that he has reached no conclusion. Why is attribution taking so much longer than it took to finger North Korea in the Sony hack? Tech Editor Patrick Tucker reports.
That was fast: Families who pay ransom to free kidnapped relatives from terror groups need no longer fear prosecution, President Barack Obama announced yesterday, National Journal’s Rebecca Nelson reports. The announcement comes after a policy review — and a blockbuster article in yesterday’s New Yorker.
Check out Defense One’s new e-book: “The New Global Defense Marketplace.” Even though the “big war decade” is over and U.S. arms sales are down, the Pentagon is still buying lots of weapons, and the rest of the world’s militaries are out shopping, too. Released this morning, this e-book explores where the U.S. military is spending its money, and how contractors are shifting their attention to America's allies in global hotspots. Free download with (quick) registration, here.
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The Islamic State group wants the Syrian border town of Kobane back, and yesterday they killed a dozen and wounded another 70 as part of a two-pronged offensive in the region to seize Kobane and the city of Hasakah some 170 miles to the east, Reuters reported.
After ISIS detonated a suicide car bomb in Kobane—an opening tactic used to dramatic effect when the group seized the Iraqi Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi in May—fierce clashes left bodies in the streets, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Another 30 were killed in Hasekah, where control “is divided between government loyalists and Kurdish militia who are mostly present in the city's north and northwest,” AFP reports.
Elsewhere in Syria, near the ancient city of Palmyra, ISIS has blown up the tombs of a Shiite saint and a Sufi scholar. NYT has more on that one here.
And in Iraq, citizens are reportedly fed up with the U.S.-led coalition’s slow pace in rolling back Islamic State gains, WSJ’s Yaroslav Trofimov reports from Baghdad. “‘We don’t have any trust in Americans anymore,’ said Alia Nusseif, a prominent Shiite lawmaker from Baghdad. ‘We now think ISIS is being used as a tool by America to divide and weaken Iraq.’”
NATO gets a surge of troops and a streamlined process for its top commander, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, to deploy its rapid reaction teams, Stars and Stripes’ John Vandiver reports from Brussels. “The alliance also decided to add new elements to its larger response force, which is set to more than double to as many as 40,000 troops. Those measures include new air, sea and special-forces elements. ‘This is a substantial increase compared to the previous level of 13,000 troops,’” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Also in Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said NATO has a lot of work to do in cyber defense before trying to beef up its offense, AP’s Lita Baldor writes while traveling with Carter.
Carter also just signed on to this year’s Reagan National Defense Forum, to be held in California a little more than four months from now. Full details on the event right here.
And the Stimson Center just released a report touching on under-appreciated aspects of how K-12 education has a real impact on the local economies adjacent to U.S. military installations. Read the full report, entitled “The Army Goes to School.”
Tonight, Vice President Joe Biden kicks off the Truman Project’s annual conference, TruCon15, which runs Sunday in Washington. The speaker lineup includes the Pentagon’s Acting Personnel Chief Brad Carson; Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.; and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Full agenda over here.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wants in. With his announcement yesterday, he joins a crowded pack (shown here in fabulously Photoshopped game-show fashion) of “great talkers running for president,” he said in New Orleans. “We’ve had enough of talkers. It is time for a doer.”
How does Jindal set himself apart from the rest? Hard to say, really, as NYT’s Gerry Mullany rolls up where Jindal stands on the key issues, including foreign policy—untie the military’s hands in the war against ISIS, bomb Iran if a deal can’t knock out their nuclear infrastructure, and arm the Ukrainian military—which puts Jindal very close to a 1:1 match with many of his GOP comrades.
For a short history of Jindal’s rise to prominence, WaPo’s Chris Cillizza has this.
Apart from families welcoming the White House’s change in U.S. hostage recovery policy, an imperiled Green Beret is also celebrating, U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman writes. Lt. Col. Jason Amerine is under investigation by the Army for blowing the whistle on the dismal bureaucratic process in trying to recover hostages such as James Foley or Warren Weinstein.
The next world war has its own movie trailer. Although the “movie” is actually a book—“Ghost Fleet” from Peter Singer of New America and the Atlantic Council’s August Cole—you can catch the trailer over at Entertainment Weekly right here.
There are no shortage of online reviews for the book, but if you haven’t already, you can begin with Army Maj. Joe Byerly’s write-up here, Larry Korb’s right here, or the kids from Task & Purpose over here.