Attackers killed at least 30 members of Egypt’s security forces during a complex attack on at least six Egyptian military checkpoints in Northern Sinai, AP reports this morning: “There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's attack, but it bore all the hallmarks of the [Islamic State] affiliate,” including a suicide car bombing followed by rocket, mortar and rifle attacks. “The militants also took soldiers captive and seized weapons and several armored vehicles,” AP added. An Egyptian military spokesman said his forces have killed 22 of the attackers, which he estimated numbered close to 70 in total, in fighting that remains ongoing.
The attacks come one day after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi promised to bolster his nation’s anti-terror laws in the wake of the Monday car bomb assassination of Egypt’s top prosecutor, the Wall Street Journal reports. On Sunday, the Islamic State threatened violence on Egypt’s judiciary for its steady crackdown on Islamist militants that now appears poised to only get worse for Sisi's antagonists.
Hamas is in the Islamic State’s crosshairs around Gaza following four bombings in May, the New York Times reported yesterday. “While the extremists are unlikely to challenge Hamas’s firm grip on the Gaza Strip in the foreseeable future, they complicate matters by occasionally shooting rockets into Israel that could touch off a wider conflagration, if the rockets kill or maim Israeli citizens.”
Mark July 7 on your calendar: That’s the new deadline for the U.S. and Iran to reach a deal that would limit Tehran’s nuclear program. Negotiations yesterday extended their timetable an extra week in hopes of striking a deal as the June 30 deadline has come and gone. Washington Post’s Carol Morello from Vienna: “U.S. and European officials have said no more than a few days are contemplated before they will know whether they have a deal that would place restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting some sanctions. The negotiators are believed to be discussing the timetable for removing sanctions and how to manage access to sensitive sites in Iran for international inspectors so they can monitor compliance.”
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano will be in Tehran on Thursday to meet Iranian government officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, Reuters reports this morning.
President Obama said Tuesday that the U.S. would “walk away from the negotiations if in fact it’s a bad deal.” More via the WSJ here.
Obama should walk away until Iran gets serious, presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said yesterday. The Hill has that one here.
Russia stopped supplying natural gas to Ukraine today following an apparent pricing dispute. Ukraine wants deeper discounts than that offered by Gazprom, a Russian energy firm, AP reports. “Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers on Tuesday failed to reach an agreement on future supplies. Russia offered Ukraine a price of $247 per cubic meter, a $40 discount. Ukraine wanted a $100 discount.” Ukrainian Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn said Kiev would get cheaper gas from other European nations.
And drone video collected over a two-week period appears to show the buildup of Russian military equipment in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. “Over that time, the camp grew from a small collection of tents and engineering vehicles into a fully-fledged forward operating base (FOB), complete with tanks, communications equipment, personnel quarters and even new roads,” The Daily Beast reports. The drone was flown by Dnipro-1, a pro-Kiev volunteer group.
From Defense One
Here’s a backgrounder on America’s (fictional) future war with China featuring Peter Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America, as well as co-author of the novel “Ghost Fleet.” Singer sat down with our Tech Editor Patrick Tucker to talk cyberwarfare, hypersonics and how many U.S. military systems are like the dreadful Pontiac Aztek.
With the world, as GOP 2016 hopeful Lindsey Graham said, “blowing up around us,” national security looks to dominate in the next presidential election. Heather Hurlburt of New America offers this handy explainer on how to leverage the issue to any candidate’s benefit—including take a foreign trip, hug a soldier and three other things to watch for in the weeks ahead.
Going “unconventional and light” against ISIS is an admittedly more risky option for the U.S. military. But it’s also the best one for the task, argues Navy SEAL Capt. Robert Newson of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Tunisia, once one of the few heralded success stories to come out of the Arab Spring, is finding its own counterterrorism campaign is causing serious complications in its drive to maintain its new status as a democracy, reports Jordan-based journalist Alice Su.
The State Department just brought in a White House legal veteran with deep Democratic ties as part of its latest push to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His name is Lee Wolosky, and he’s no stranger to White House politics, as Defense One’s Ben Watson reports here.
Following years of complaints about the federal government’s handling of cases involving Americans held hostage abroad, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes offers his candid explanation why the administration suddenly changed its position on the issue just last week.
Welcome to Wednesday's edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Marcus Weisgerber. 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.
Historic day in U.S.-Cuba relations. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are both expected to speak today on a new deal to reopen embassies and reestablish ties for the first in nearly 55 years, the Washington Post reports.
Despite the diplomatic win for the White House, significant issues remain, AP reports: “Among them: talks on human rights; demands for compensation for confiscated American properties in Havana and damages to Cuba from the embargo; and possible cooperation on law enforcement, including the touchy topic of U.S. fugitives sheltering in Havana. Obama also wants Congress to repeal the economic embargo on Cuba, though he faces resistance from Republicans and some Democrats. Those opposed to normalizing relations with Cuba say Obama is prematurely rewarding a regime that engages in serious human rights abuses.”
The suspect in Friday’s beheading and attack on a gas factory near Lyon, France, acted after receiving a call from a contact within ISIS, French prosecutors said Tuesday. The attacker then sent photos of his decapitated victim to a French national living in Syria who has also been under French surveillance since at least November.
Syrian airstrikes from the regime’s air force killed at least 43 people, including several children, across three locations on Tuesday, Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported. Activists in Aleppo also reported two barrel bombs killed at least 15 on Monday night.
“It’s time to find an exit from this madness,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon yesterday, adding the death toll from the conflict has eclipsed 220,000.
For the bean counters—the U.S. war against ISIS is about to hit the $3 billion mark, The Hill reported yesterday.
More questions than answers remain after the U.S. Air Force removed an acknowledgement in a Friday press release stating one of its MQ-1 Predators was shot down over Latakia, Syria, on March 17. “The June 26 release was the first time the military had said that the aircraft was shot down,” Air Force Times’ Brian Everstine writes. “Previously, officials had maintained throughout the operation that Syria's air defenses had remained ‘passive,’ letting U.S. aircraft conduct anti-Islamic State sorties freely…
“The area that the Predator was operating in is unique, because it was not an area where the U.S. had been conducting airstrikes and not one that was held by Islamic State group fighters. Latakia is an Alawite stronghold and near the ancestral home of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The Predator belonged to U.S. European Command, “which oversees operations in Eastern Europe and in Turkey,” and blamed the aircraft’s downing on “errors in the approval of the mission” rather than explicitly stating Syrian air defenses were the culprit.
Al-Qaeda suspects are among the roughly 1,200 prisoners who broke out of a Yemeni jail in the central city of Taiz yesterday, Reuters reported. The episode marks the second exodus of Yemeni criminals in three months when “another group of Al-Qaeda militants escaped from a prison in the eastern city of Mukalla in April after army forces suddenly quit the city.”
The NSA is back to collecting Americans’ phone metadata—which involve call times, dates and durations—at least until it can transfer the record-keeping system over to phone companies in accordance with the recently-passed Freedom Act, National Journal’s Dustin Volz reported yesterday.
For what it’s worth, “The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday said it planned to ask the appeals court to block the temporary collection,” WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima reported last night.
Read a joint statement on the program’s temporary renewal from the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence over here.
China just passed its own “sweeping national security law” this morning, Reuters reports. The intent of the law is to make all of its network and IT systems “secure and controllable,” which is making foreign investors incredibly worried about what lies ahead in the realms of intellectual property and economic espionage.
The new changes constitute “the most expansive articulation yet of President Xi Jinping’s vision of national security, and the widest interpretation of threats to the Communist Party and the state since the Mao era,” wrote NYT’s Edward Wong from Beijing on Monday.
And we have new imagery from Beijing’s apparent military expansion on what it said Tuesday were just “some islands” in the South China Sea. WaPo has that here.
So it turns out there aren’t a lot of U.S. Army females that want to enter the new combat arms fields open to them, Gen. David Perkins, commander of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, said yesterday, according to USA Today. “An extensive U.S. Army study is underway to determine the physical requirements for the combat arms fields, which includes infantry, armor and other ground combat jobs that have been closed to women….A low interest level among women could complicate the process of gender integration once the process begins. Women will be needed to act as instructors and mentors in the newly opened fields.”
Meantime, the VA’s Acting Inspector General announced yesterday he will be stepping down this week after a group of whistleblowers knocked him for not doing enough to hold leadership accountable. Military Times’ Leo Shane III has the story of Richard Griffin’s departure after more than 43 years of federal service.
And a VA facility in Georgia is under fire this week after one of its employees was filmed telling an Iraq war veteran that the clinic was no longer accepting new patients. Military Times’ Patricia Kime has that cringe-worthy PR debacle here.
And lastly today: Remember the CNN report earlier this week of a man with an “ISIS” flag at London’s Pride parade? The man behind the mock flag, which featured depictions of multiple sex toys in place of Arabic writing, says he made it to start a dialog, not get a laugh. Here’s Paul Coombs first-person account in The Guardian on why he made the satirical flag and the reception it received.