Iraq’s army is ‘finished’; Kurds ascending in Turkey; War in space; Crackdown in Bahrain; And a bit more.
Iraq’s troops are having a crisis of confidence even as they made incremental gains against Islamic State fighters in the northern refinery town of Baiji over the weekend. The defense ministry, which estimated the total value of its arms and gear seized by ISIS at $27 billion, said it lacks the funds to bolster its thin ranks with new recruits. It all points to a very rocky road ahead for the U.S., as The Wall Street Journal’s Nour Malas and Ghassan Adnan reported last night.
Let’s just admit it: the Iraqi army no longer exists, MIT’s Barry Posen writes in Defense One: “Public sources reported some fourteen divisions in the Iraqi Army in 2014. Between three and five were destroyed in Mosul, leaving nine. At most one was defending Ramadi. Where were the rest? Indeed, where are they now?”
“If the Iraqi Army has evaporated, or perhaps more accurately deteriorated into a collection of local militias and palace guards, then the U.S. ‘re-training’ mission in Iraq is vastly more difficult than we have been led to believe,” he says. So what now? Read his recommendation for the most realistic strategy here.
Kurds rising. Voters in Turkey over the weekend dealt a humiliating blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice Development Party, potentially reshaping Ankara’s on-again-off-again relationship with Washington. Turkey’s reluctance to use its military to help Syrian Kurds across the border in Kobani cost the ruling party support in Sunday’s election. “This government just watched as Islamic State kidnapped and enslaved Kurdish girls in Syria; we are honorable people, we won’t stand for this,” one resident told WSJ’s Emre Peker and Joe Parkinson.
The results signaled a “remarkable achievement for a party that was formed less than three years ago and has direct ties to the violent three-decade Kurdish separatist insurgency in Turkey’s southeast,” writes The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor reports from Istanbul.
“This was a major defeat for Erdogan...and the Obama administration will now be in wait-and-see mode to see what kind of government emerges from this confusion,” said Henri Barkey, former Turkey analyst at the U.S. State Department.
In Germany today, the G-7 nations are in the final stretch of their summit meeting, where they are talking about Russian aggression, counter-terrorism in the Middle East, climate change, and other things. Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is there for private consultations with U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders on the fight against ISIS, as AP’s Nedra Pickler reports this hour.
About Russia—Joint Chiefs Chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, on Moscow’s attempts to bribe and deceive European diplomats: Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s ultimate objective is to fracture NATO.” That quote from a report by New York Times’ Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger that listed Russian attempts to influence and pry apart European unity from any fringe angle it can find — left- or right-wing, makes little difference.
If “Russia can peel off even a single member of the European Union, it could in theory prevent the renewal later this month of economic sanctions that are scheduled to expire absent the unanimous agreement of all member states,” Baker and Erlanger write.
Meantime, the U.S. Air Force just sent two B-2 stealth bombers to Europe for exercises, Military Times’ Oriana Pawlyk reported yesterday.
From Defense One
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said a draft of plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility—first reported by Defense One’s Molly O’Toole—are “a very constructive step.” He said it suggests that “if we can find a way forward from this that is widely shared enough, that we can actually get it done.” A first test could come as early as this week as the Senate looks to wrap up consideration of the annual defense authorization bill. O’Toole continues with the latest need-to-knows right here.
A story too good to check? Despite tales (spread by, among others, a GOP congressmen and Hillary Clinton) that the Somali al-Shabaab terror group is funding itself by slaughtering elephants, the truth is more prosaic — and ignoring it puts counter-terror efforts at risk, says the Council on Foreign Relations’ Jessica L. Anderson.
A human rights abuse feedback loop—Just as the White House wants to escalate its role in Nigeria’s war with Boko Haram, the Nigerian army’s own disturbing record is coming to light, Rahimo Gamba writes.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson with Brad Peniston. 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 email@example.com.
Saudi Arabia reportedly shot down a Scud missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen on Saturday. Riyadh used two Patriot missiles to destroy a Scud heading toward to the southwestern Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt, NYT’s Shuaib Almosawa and Kareem Fahim reported from Sana’a: “The sudden appearance of the Scuds undermined repeated claims by the Saudis that they had destroyed the Houthis’ stocks of heavy and ballistic weapons with hundreds of airstrikes targeting military bases and weapons stores. And it raised new questions about the effectiveness of the open-ended Saudi offensive, which has failed to achieve its stated goals over the course of a war that has killed more than 2,000 people.”
Shiite crackdown in Sunni-ruled Bahrain. Bahrain says Iran is running an anti-government Shi’ite Muslim group in the small Middle Eastern nation that is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. “The Bahrain News Agency published the names of 14 alleged members of Saraya al-Ashtar. It said 12 were in custody, while the two leaders, whom it named as Ahmed Yousif Sarhan, known as Abumuntadhir, and Jassim Ahmed Abdullah, known as Thualfaqar, were in Iran,” Reuters reported yesterday.
Elsewhere in Bahrain, a 30-year-old human rights activist and mother of two just had her prison sentence raised from one to five years for ripping up a photo of King Hamed bin Isa al-Khalifa. WaPo’s Karen Sullivan has more on the “delicate and awkward relationship” between Bahrain (dubbed a “human rights nightmare”) and the U.S., which needs staging areas for its anti-ISIS air campaign.
We have a new intelligence forecast for ISIS military maneuvers ahead of Ramadan (June 17 to July 17), historically a busy time for the terrorist group. “Political leaders and military planners should consider temporary reinforcements, changes in rules of engagement, and allocation of additional resources to take advantage of predictable ISIS concentrations and targets of opportunity,” the folks at the Institute for the Study of war tell U.S. policymakers. Read the rest here.
And Damascus is floating the lucrative offer of an extra $35 per month for young soldiers sent to fight on Syria’s front lines.
Speaking of front lines, Damascus allegedly killed 49 in northwestern Syria this morning, including six children. AP has that one from Beirut.
In case you “unplugged” this weekend or just emerged from a cave in Tora Bora, the NYT’s published a long profile of Navy SEAL Team 6 subtitled A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines. It’s a fascinating read that, while confirming a lot of what was previously believed about the group, adds a bit of color to their secretive operations, too—including revealing the existence of a group of female operatives used for “profile softening.” But the piece also raises the question of the long legal leash given to the “unacknowledged” soldiers doing some of America’s dirtiest work. Definitely worth the click if you haven’t already.
“My mind was consumed by war,” said former U.S. soldier Robert Bales after two years in prison revealed to him the terrifying extent of his combat exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bales wrote a letter last year appealing to the Army for a reduced sentence after murdering 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar province, and Adam Ashton of Tacoma’s News Tribune has more on the remorse of a war criminal here.
Meanwhile in California, Democrat and Air Force O-5 reservist Rep. Ted Lieu, wants using marijuana to no longer be a federal crime. He also wants to halve funding to a DEA marijuana eradication program, Air Force Times’ Jeff Schogol reported yesterday.
“No matter where one falls on the issue of the legalization of marijuana, either for medical or recreational use, it is clear that veterans are not well served by the contradictory positions of the federal government on the use of medical marijuana,” retired Marine Corps JAG officer James Weirick argued late last week over at Task and Purpose.
Here’s a more loaded question than you might think: how would a war in space really be fought? CSBA’s Todd Harrison explains in Forbes why the anti-satellite weapons of choice will likely be non-kinetic. Lasers and what you need to know about them, six months before the newest Star Wars film hits the theaters.
For the battles just this side of the final frontier, you could see more a flurry of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIAs after the first successful live-fire test of the anti-ballistic missile being developed by the U.S. and Japan. More on that one from Reuters.
You may think you know the human toll of World War II, but chances are this video—a spectacular visualization of casualty data by country, by theater, by date—will tell you something you didn’t. Among other things, it helps explain why Russians feel the way they do toward Europe, particularly if you remember (and Russians do) that Napoleon caused much the same sort of thing in the 19th century, and Genghis Khan in the 13th.
Tomorrow’s news today: “In the name of the blessed prophet, these [stolen Humvees] are death traps,” an ISIS fighter said of the 2,300 U.S.-provided M1114 Humvees the group has seized so far from the Iraqi military. Or so says the fake news site Duffel Blog, in a thin but effective attempt to inject some humor into a staggering statistic.