The fight against Islamic State group “is far from over,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told leaders of the anti-ISIS coalition Tuesday. Speaking in Germany to his counterparts from nearly a dozen countries, Carter said the U.S.-led force had killed some 25,000 ISIS fighters while taking back 40 percent of ISIS-held turf since August 2014. Even as he spoke, America’s third combat death in the war put Carter’s point in sharp focus.
The American killed Tuesday was a Navy SEAL who had been an instructor at a California base before he left for Iraq earlier this year. Like his specialized training, his personal background is far from ordinary. His name: Charlie Keating IV, 31, and he was “the grandson of Charles Keating Jr., who served time in prison as a result of the 1980s savings and loan scandals,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “He’s proud of the name, but he had nothing to do with all that,” his grandfather Bill Holmes said, adding it was “‘unfair to a guy who gave his life for this country’ to keep talking about his family’s past.”
“You could tell he was a guy who wanted to be the best and find out what he was made of, and serving as special-operations forces for his country embodied that,” his old track coach at Indiana University said. Read the rest of the Journal’s remembrance, here.
About the attack: Keating “died as a result of a ‘coordinated and complex attack’ by roughly 100 ISIS fighters nearly 30 km (18.6 miles) north of Mosul,” CNN reported. “ISIS used multiple vehicles, suicide car bombs and bulldozers to break through a checkpoint at the front line and drive 3 to 5 km (1.9 to 3.1 miles) to the Peshmerga base where SEALs are temporarily visiting and were located as advisers…The U.S. responded with F-15s and drones that dropped more than 20 bombs.” More here.
As coalition troops advance toward Mosul, ISIS has reportedly begun imposing a news blackout on the city, snatching up satellite receiver boxes from residents, Reuters reports. “Soon after Iraqi forces established a foothold in the Makhmour area in February, about 60 km (40 miles) from the northern city, the jihadists began restricting access to television for its 1 million-strong population, according to residents.”
What they’re after, according to analysts and locals who spoke with Reuters: “This could reduce the chances of a co-ordinated uprising against Islamic State in the city and of people who could be used as ‘human shields’ trying to flee, they said, as well as preventing morale among fighters falling.”
So what TV did Mosul citizens watch? Mostly “Iraqi TV channels focused on Nineveh like al-Mousalia, al-Sharqiya and Nineveh al-Ghad, as well as pan-Arab stations Al Jazeera and Al Hadath.” The group is also trying to scramble external radio broadcasts aimed at the city’s residents. Much more, here.
U.S. State Secretary John Kerry gives Syrian President Bashar al-Assad 90 days — that’s until August 1 — to start a transition away from power before the U.S. begins “a new U.S. approach toward ending the 5-year-old civil war,” AP reported Tuesday, noting that the threat extended to Assad’s BFFs in Moscow and Tehran as well.
The critical caveat: “[G]iven the various, unfulfilled U.S. threats throughout the Arab country's conflict — from declaring Assad's days ‘numbered’ five years ago to promising military action if chemical weapons were used,” AP writes, “it was unclear what effect Kerry's ultimatum might have.”
Aleppo is running out of coffins, says the chief Aleppo coordinator for the Syrian American Medical Society, writing in the op-ed pages of The New York Times. “At some point the shelling will kill everything and there will be no life left in Aleppo. Trapped, people are losing any sense of hope. Our time is running out, and the need for action is urgent.”
What sort of action does he advocate? “The cessation of hostilities was no cure-all, but its revitalization could end this rolling massacre in Aleppo and prevent the siege that we all fear is coming. The United States should pressure the Syrian government and Russia to immediately halt airstrikes on civilian areas and hospitals and remove their aircraft from the area, which strike fear in the hearts of Aleppo’s children every day. Routes into the city must remain open so that food and fuel for ambulances and hospitals can reach us. We cannot endure a siege.”
The UN Security Council says enough with the hospital strikes in Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen. “The five permanent and 10 nonpermanent members of the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution that, in addition to the condemnation, called for more U.N. scrutiny of violations of the Geneva conventions and international humanitarian laws, as well as justice for those that violate these rules,” WSJ reported Tuesday.
Iran threatens to close the Strait of Hormuz “to the United States and its allies if they ‘threaten’ the Islamic Republic,” AP reports off news from Iranian state media this morning. The remarks come from the deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Hossein Salami: “If the Americans and their regional allies want to pass through the Strait of Hormuz and threaten us, we will not allow any entry…Americans cannot make safe any part of the world.”
The U.S. Navy’s reax: American sailors “continue to operate in accordance with professional maritime standards and international law” in the Persian Gulf region, AP reports. “We remain thoughtful, vigilant and responsible mariners as we conduct our operations here…We do, however, reserve the inherent right to self-defense,” said Lt. Rick Chernitzer, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain. More here.
From Defense One
How traffic to this YouTube video predicts ISIS attacks. One company is using metadata from video posts, Wikipedia entries, and other sites to forecast geopolitical unrest. (By the way, YouTube took down the video after we posted about it yesterday; seems it violated terms of service.) Tech Editor Patrick Tucker explains, here.
The US needs to stop pouring rocket money into Putin’s pockets. The Delta IV engine is more expensive than the RD-180, but at least it doesn't enrich cronies of the Russian president. M. Ron Wahid makes the case, here.
Welcome to the Wednesday edition of The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Happy 106th birthday, Royal Canadian Navy! Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russia is putting 3 new divisions of troops on its western and southern flanks to ward off NATO, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said this morning, with little elaboration. But you can check out a map of Russia’s military commands courtesy of state-run RT news, here.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Abe is attempting to cozy up to Putin, inserting “himself in a diplomatic crossfire between Washington and Moscow,” WSJ reports from Tokyo. “The timing of the Putin meeting [slated for Friday] is particularly delicate for the Japanese prime minister because he is playing host to Mr. Obama and other leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations in Ise-Shima on May 26-27. For years, it was a Group of Eight summit including Russia, but Mr. Putin was disinvited two years ago over his annexation of Crimea.”
One issue at play “involves small islands off the northern coast of Japan seized by Soviet forces in the final days of World War II. Mr. Abe wants to invite Mr. Putin to Japan this year to start a multiyear process aimed at reaching a settlement.”
Reminder: “Russia defends its annexation of the islands it calls the Southern Kurils, saying it did so with the blessing of the U.S. under the 1945 Yalta accord. Japan calls the annexation illegal. Russia said last year it would build a military base on the islands and said earlier this year that it would upgrade its missile defense systems there.” More on those dynamics, here.
Hey, Japan: Don’t expect any movement on those Kurils, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this morning. That, here.
Beijing says it will send “advanced warships and submarines” to conduct more military drills in the South China Sea this month, state-run news reported this morning. “Xinhua said the ships, including a new guided missile destroyed, would take part in anti-submarine, anti-missile and other exercises,” Reuters reports, noting that precise (or even approximate) locations for the drills were not made public.
Beijing has also sent “magicians, singers and actors” to the Spratly Islands to whip everyone (can’t be that many people there, right?) into a patriotic frenzy, AP reports. “The performance, entitled ‘The People's Navy Advances,’ included songs, skits and magic tricks, part of a long tradition of the People’s Liberation Army art troops putting on shows to entertain, promote ideological conformity and stir public pride in the military and ruling Communist Party. Among the songs performed: ‘Ode to the South Sea Defenders,’ whose lyrics speak of ‘a troop of stout men with guns in their hands who battle the wind and fight the waves to guard the nation's door.’” More here.
“Just waiting for the order to kill, kill, kill,” is what a new Chinese military recruitment video features alongside images of “aircraft carriers, tanks and special forces troops, all set to a rousing rap-rock soundtrack,” AP reports from Beijing. “[T]he video appears aimed at millennials brought up on violent first-person shooter video games such as ‘Call of Duty.’ While no potential opponents are identified in the clip, it cautions that ‘war can break out at any time,’ and asks “are you ready?’”
Tunisia is buying America’s old scout helicopters. The U.S. Army is retiring its OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, but Tunisia hopes two dozen of the old helicopters could help it battle al Qaeda and Islamic State militants. The State Department approved the $100 million deal yesterday. “The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters along with the parts, systems, and support enumerated in this notification will improve Tunisia’s capability to conduct border security and combat operations against terrorists,” the Pentagon said in a statement. More here.
Lockheed scores $1.27 billion F-35 parts deal. The contract covers parts for the 13 F-35s for the Marine Corps (six), Navy (four) and Air Force (three) that Congress added to the Pentagon budget over the past two years.
Happening today: U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talks about the “harbingers of future war” and their anticipated effects on the Army. That’s happening at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at 11 a.m. EDT. Livestream it here.
And finally: here’s one (busy) chart showing how the Army has waxed and waned over the past half century. War On The Rocks whipped it up to mark the release of a 78-page Army War College study on the state of service, titled, “The Total Army.” Read that, here.