A rare Pentagon briefing for Obama; US troops praised for restraint in Kabul; French defense minister in DC today; Iran wants missiles in its nuke deal; And a bit more.
In a rare presidential trip to the Pentagon, Barack Obama will cross the Potomac River today for an update on the fight against the Islamic State, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports. Obama is scheduled to make a statement after the meetings on Monday, but don’t expect to see him taking questions.
Meantime, at least nine civilians were killed and a dozen others wounded when an Iraqi air force jet dropped a bomb over an eastern neighborhood of Baghdad this morning. The bomb reportedly failed to detach from the Sukhoi jet during a mission to bomb Islamic State militants, then fell as the jet returned to base, Reuters reports. And on Sunday, four bombings struck cafes and bus stops in Shiite districts of Baghdad, killing at least 15 and wounding nearly three dozen, AP reported.
In Syria, the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIS pounded militant strongholds, bridges and transit routes in the headquarters city of Raqqa over the weekend. “This was one of the largest deliberate engagements we have conducted to date in Syria,” said coalition spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Gilleran, AP reported. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that one strike targeting a militant near a school also killed six civilians, an allegation a coalition spokesman said could not be verified just yet. CNN has a little bit more on that.
And here’s a quick glimpse at the rapidly escalating deaths of foreign fighters in Syria. Hard to say with certainty if this is more the product of an increase in reporting or an actual trend; nevertheless the rise in nations represented and locations of fighting is certainly notable.
Iran wants UN sanctions on its ballistic missile program lifted before it proceeds with nuclear negotiations, Iranian officials said the day before the extended deadline to reach an agreement, Reuters reports from Vienna. Western officials, however, are reportedly not interested in this latest pitch from Tehran.
And peeking ahead to the future: Should the parties reach an agreement in three days, the 30-day Congressional review process could hinge on these 14 Democrats in the Senate, where the deal’s fate appears most uncertain. If an agreement is reached after July 9, legislation passed this year gives Congress 60 days to dig in and sound off on one of President Obama’s more ambitious goals.
Speaking of sounding off, Iraq war vet and Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton is still perhaps the strongest skeptic of any deal, as he explained in typical harsh language yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.”
And Tehran’s deputy oil minister says his country’s exports could easily double, setting up a possible clash with Saudi Arabia on the heels of any formal agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported. “We are like a pilot on the runway ready to take off. This is how the whole country is right now,” Mansour Moazami told the Journal.
Nigerian authorities have blamed Boko Haram for Sunday night mosque and restaurant bombings that killed 44 in the central city of Jos. The attacks “are the latest in a string blamed on Boko Haram that have killed more than 200 people over the past week in northeast Nigeria,” AP reports.
And over the weekend, to the north, the nation of Tunisia could soon collapse, its president warned after declaring a state of emergency attributed to spillover violence from ISIS militants in neighboring Libya. President Beji Caid Essebsi attributed the situation to a “lack of international resolve in targeting the Islamic State group throughout the region…[adding] Tunisia specifically had been a target of the extremist group because it had a functioning, secular democracy,” AP reported.
From Defense One
If Iran agrees to a nuke deal, ISIS will be a big reason why, Kathy Gilsinan writes in The Atlantic, citing experts who spoke recently at the Aspen Institute and elsewhere. “There is actually support for this deal within the Revolutionary Guards in Iran,” says Vali Nasr, the dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, “because their day job is right now fighting ISIS, and they need the United States, particularly in Iraq, on the right side of that fight.”
“I Played Make-Believe With the Pakistani Military” is Georgetown professor C. Christine Fair’s fascinating account of lies, prevarications, and fanciful stories told to her as she traveled around Pakistan to learn about its armed forces and its wars. Her full report is here.
The UK is stepping up its defense posture to meet a world growing more dangerous, British Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott writes at Defense One. Citing Russia and ISIS as threats, he notes that 4,000 UK troops are currently involved in 21 joint operations in 19 countries, “which is double the number five years ago.”
Jim Webb nailed it with his 2002 op-ed warning that invading Iraq would help Iran and China and unleash sectarian violence across the Mideast — but will it be enough to vault him past Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nod? Quartz’ Daniel DePetris lays it out.
Meanwhile, Clinton accuses China of “hacking into everything that doesn’t move in America,” according to Reuters. Via Jake Flanigan at Quartz, here.
Corruption and lack of regard for human life at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol could undermine its entire mission, reports a Homeland Security panel formed to investigate the agency. GovExec’s Eric Katz has the story.
Congress is poised to erode a key way that U.S. citizens perform national service, says Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser to George W. Bush who now works on the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute. Both the House and Senate considering a 34% cut to the budget of the Corporation for National Service, he notes at Defense One.
On July 16, get “read on” to the DOD Insider Threat Program as our Tech Editor Patrick Tucker sits down with Patricia Larsen, co-director of the National Insider Threat Task Force; and Mark Nehmer, associate deputy director for cybersecurity and counterintelligence at the Defense Security Service. The event gets underway at 8 a.m. EDT, at the CEB Waterview Conference Center in Arlington, Va. Register for your spot here.
Welcome to Monday's edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Brad Peniston. And a big congrats to the U.S. Women’s National Team for their blowout victory in the World Cup against Japan one day after America celebrated its 239th birthday. Want to share The D Brief with a friend? Find our subscribe link here. (And if you want to view today’s edition in your browser, you can do that here.) And please tell us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today in Washington, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian sits down with Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron to talk about the future of U.S.-French cooperation. Hosted by the German Marshall Fund, it starts at 4 p.m. EDT. Full details right here.
After a U.S. convoy was attacked in Kabul nearly a week and a half ago, American soldiers acted with “admirable restraint”—including one soldier who kept his cool after being stabbed in the arm by an Afghan man after a bomb ripped into an MRAP—in maintaining order and keeping violence at a minimum despite a “confusing and violent” scene, the New York Times reported after NATO officials wrapped an investigation into the matter.
Pakistan’s military, meantime, is touting more “major victories” in their months-long clearance operations in and around the Shawal Valley bordering Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda and elements of the Pakistani Taliban are believed to be holed up, WaPo’s Tim Craig reported from Islamabad. “Zahid Hussain, an Islamabad-based military analyst, said the Pakistani army is trying to complete its offensive in the Shawal Valley before snow begins falling there in September. ‘This is going to be the most critical phase of the North Waziristan operation,’ said Hussain, who has made several visits to the area. ‘It’s a very, very treacherous, mountainous area, and thickly forested, so there is a reason why the army has left it for the end.’”
Back stateside, female sailors and Marines can now take 18 weeks for maternity leave after Navy Secretary Ray Mabus updated the policy late last week. “The new 18-week figure was inspired by Google’s maternity leave policy, according to chief of naval personnel spokesman Cmdr. Chris Servello,” Marine Corps Times reported. “When [Google] increased its policy from 12 to 18 weeks in 2007, he said, they found that half as many new moms were leaving the company. The Navy and Marine Corps have a similar problem when it comes to women getting out to focus on their children. The hope is that women will be more likely to stay on active duty if they have more time with their newborns.”
Ahead of House and Senate defense committee’s closed-door talks on the defense authorization bill, The Hill’s Kristina Wong rolls up the key differences in the two chambers’ draft legislation. The topics to know: Guantanamo (Senate offers a path to closure; House extends restrictions), reforming the acquisition process, pay and benefits (one percent pay raise difference between the two currently), and the Pentagon’s use of Russian-made rockets (Senate authorizes nine; the House, 14).
A relatively obscure 1950 U.S. Supreme Court decision prevents troops from suing the military—and this fall SCOTUS will hear another petition to challenge that 75-year-old law, Military Times’ Patricia Kime reports. The past decade has already seen three challenges, all of which concerned allegedly excessive physical duty imposed on pregnant troops, which preceded complications in delivery and the premature deaths of the soldiers’ children.
Marine leadership at Parris Island, S.C., meantime, is under the microscope after relieving a female commander for butting heads with her boss over what she viewed as “lower expectations for female recruits and a lack of male-female competition at boot camp, which she [felt] hurts performance,” The San Diego Union-Tribune reported last week.
Now for a bit of heartwarming veteran news: NYT has this story of U.S. and Vietnam veterans sharing a space in Da Nang, blasting Creedence Clearwater Revival tunes, and generally having the opposite experience to the ones they had 45 years ago. The July 4 visit was the latest in a series of moves to restore relations with Vietnam before Nguyen Phu Trong, the head of Vietnam’s Communist Party, meets with President Obama at the White House for the first time.