A record-setting arms deal with Israel; Duterte uninterested in joint SCS patrols; New Missile Defense director on tap; Pentagon’s ‘disjointed’ readiness plans; and a bit more...
Israel’s airstrike in southern Syria. A stray mortar round from Syrian allied troops landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights this morning, prompting the by-now-usual retaliatory airstrike from Israeli jets at about 1 a.m. local time in the countryside of Quneitra province, Reuters reports. A short while later, “the Syrian army said it had shot down an Israeli warplane and a drone.”
Israel denied that, saying: “Overnight two surface-to-air missiles were launched from Syria after the mission to target Syrian artillery positions. At no point was the safety of (Israeli) aircraft compromised.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. is about to sign a “historic” $38 billion arms deal with Tel Aviv, part of a 10-year pact. “The deal will represent the biggest pledge of U.S. military assistance ever made to any country” and includes “a special arrangement that has allowed Israel to spend part of its U.S. aid on its own defense industry instead of on American-made weapons,” officials from both nations tell Reuters.
On the Iron Dome: “The new package for the first time will incorporate money for Israeli missile defense, which until now has been funded ad hoc by Congress. U.S. lawmakers have in recent years given Israel up to $600 million in annual discretionary funds for this purpose. Officials say Israel has agreed not to lobby Congress for additional missile defense funds during the life of the new MOU, a pledge expected to be made in a side letter or annex to the agreement. But the wording is likely to be flexible enough to allow exceptions in case of a war or other major crisis.”
So why sign such a deal now? To circumvent possible “uncertainties” surrounding the next U.S. president “and to give Israel’s defense establishment the ability to plan ahead.”
The deal is expected to be signed “possibly as early as this week.” Catch Reuters’ full report, here.
Worth noting: once the agreement with Israel is finalized, the Obama administration is expected to approve fighter-jet deals worth $7 billion: Boeing-made F/A-18 Super Hornets to Kuwait and F-15E Strike Eagles to Qatar. But as Defense One Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber suggested in the latest Global Business Brief, don’t hold your breath. The sales have supposedly been close to completion for more than a year.
Ceasefire Day Two: Syria is largely calm. AP reports only “sporadic and minor violations” noted by Syrian state news agency SANA, including “rebels fired three shells at the government-held neighborhood of Mallah in Aleppo. It also reported shelling near the Castello road, northwest of the city, and the Ramouseh area in the south — both main arteries leading to Aleppo.” Monitors from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported “violations in central Hama province. Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, reported some shelling in Aleppo and the southern region of Quneitra.”
Day one of the ceasefire was initially very confusing, largely because the text of the ceasefire remains secret. AP: “Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States and Russia could permit President Bashar Assad’s government to launch new airstrikes against al-Qaida-linked militants.” But the State Department “quickly reversed itself,” with spokesman John Kirby saying there “were no provisions under the nationwide truce for U.S.-Russian authorization of bombing missions by Assad's forces. ‘This is not something we could ever envision doing,’ he said.”
And the Pentagon on Monday “confirmed” that its aircraft killed ISIS spox Abu Muhammad al-Adnani in an Aug. 30 strike near al-Bab, Syria. Confirmation is in quotes there because, as the Washington Post noted, the Pentagon “offered no explanation to how the United States confirmed Adnani’s death or why it took so long.”
And in the broader ISIS fight: In Germany, three Syrians believed to have been sent by ISIS were captured this morning.
Only in D Brief: President Obama has nominated Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves to become the next director of the Missile Defense Agency, Defense One has learned. The Pentagon has not yet publicly announced the nomination, but it has been sent to the Senate, according to a source. Greaves is currently the director of the Air Force Space and Missiles Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base. He was previously at MDA as deputy director from 2012 to 2014. If confirmed, he would replace Navy Vice Adm. James Syring who has led the agency since 2012. No word yet on Greaves’ replacement at the Space and Missile Systems Center, which is part of Air Force Space Command. Last week, Obama nominated Gen. John Hyten, the current head of Space Command, to lead U.S. Strategic Command. Lt. John Raymond has been nominated as Hyten’s replacement.
From Defense One
It’s time to register for the 2016 Defense One Summit! Come gather with Army Secretary Eric Fanning, USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, and many other national-security leaders on Thurs., Nov. 17, in Washington, D.C. Register here.
Disjointed: Pentagon Isn’t Coordinating Efforts to Fix Readiness // Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber: Each service has its own plan, except for the Marines, who don't really have a plan, says the GAO.
How Much Really Changed About Terrorism on 9/11? // Martha Crenshaw, Brian Michael Jenkins and Bruce Hoffman: Via The Atlantic: Three founders of modern terrorism studies reflect on what the world has learned about political violence—and what remains unknown.
The True Costs of America’s Credit-Card War on Terror // The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman: The bills will be coming for decades, in the form of debt-service interest, veterans' medical expenses, and forgone opportunities.
Will NSA and CyberCom Split? // From NextGov: This isn’t the first time officials have considered dividing the agencies’ leadership or even putting civilians in charge.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson, Bradley Peniston and Marcus Weisgerber. On this day in 1812, Francis Scott Key watched American defenders fend off a British force at Fort McHenry. (Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The U.S. military just conducted a show-of-force flight 50 miles south of the militarized Korean border, Stars and Stripes reports. Two B-1B Lancers, based in Guam, flew low over Osan Air Base, about 40 miles south of Seoul. The two supersonic bombers “flew with two Japan Air Self Defense Force aircraft before a ‘hand-off’ to South Korean fighters,” Reuters adds.
What reportedly occurred: “A sabotage-and-reconnaissance group crossed the river and attacked our servicemen. The fight lasted for 15 minutes,” Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said in a daily televised briefing. “Two Ukrainian servicemen were killed in this encounter, while one was killed in shelling on the front line in Donetsk region, north-east of the Ukraine-controlled city of Mariupol. Another serviceman is missing in action,” Reuters reports.
Clarification No. 2 from Manila’s Duterte. More than a week after his spat with U.S. President Barack Obama, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is again re-stating a sharp critique of American policy. On Monday, Duterte said he wanted U.S. special forces off of two Philippine islands for fear Abu Sayyaf extremists would capture them and seek ransom payments, if they don’t murder the soldiers outright—as they are known to do with foreigners.
But this morning, “Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay said Duterte's remarks, including that the southern Philippines ‘would never have peace’ while allied with Washington, were not a signal that a pact between them would be abrogated.”
Duterte also came out this morning to announce there will be no joint patrols with allies in the South China Sea, either: “We do not go into a patrol or join any other army from now because I do not want trouble," Duterte said. "I do not want to ride gung-ho style there with China or with America. I just want to patrol our territorial waters." More on that angle, here.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has a snazzy new helicopter-carrying ship, AP reports off Iranian state TV. “The TV showed a catamaran-type ship described as 55 meters (yards) long and 14 meters (yards) wide, carrying a light civilian helicopter, while the official IRNA news agency said its speed capability is 28 knots.”
For what it’s worth, the ship was painted “with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's call for U.S. forces to ‘Go back to the Bay of Pigs.’”
Iran also used the inauguration ceremony to take a swipe at the U.S. Navy’s presence in the region, as Guard navy chief Adm. Ali Fadavi said Washington ‘is a cause of insecurity and lawlessness.’” More here.
Donald Trump and the Guard. Addressing the National Guard Association of the United States convention yesterday, Trump said, “In a Trump administration, the National Guard will always have a direct line to the Oval Office, and I mean direct.” Reports Military Times: “Trump repeated his pledge to increase military spending and make the country more secure, comments that his critics have repeatedly attacked as unspecific and misleading.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign advisors now include James Woolsey, who served as CIA director under President Bill Clinton and yesterday released a statement praising the GOP candidate’s pledge to spend more on the military. In recent years, Woolsey has co-authored “Shariah: The Threat to America,” a report for the conspiracy-minded Center for Security Policy, and has also taken to beating the drum for efforts to secure America’s electrical grid — in particular, against EMP weapons. (Experts on the matter generally believe that there are a lot better things to spend money on. Space Review: “As the likelihood of a geomagnetic storm far exceeds that of an incapacitating multi-megaton EMP strike, it is sensible to give priority to investing in that hardening...”)