Possible coup in Zimbabwe; House-passed NDAA busts budget caps; Riyadh’s eye-popping anti-missile claim; Coalition slaps back at Russian misinfo; and just a bit more...

Did a bloodless coup in Zimbabwe just end 37 years of one-man rule? It appears that way, especially after President Robert Mugabe and his wife were put under house arrest and the state TV broadcast was interrupted by a soldier telling viewers what they’re seeing on their screens is totally not a coup.

Initial indicators: Tanks rolling toward the capitol on Tuesday, as Quartz highlighted at the time.

The situation overnight: “Zimbabwe’s military seized power early on Wednesday saying it was targeting ‘criminals’ around President Robert Mugabe,” who has ruled the country since it gained independence in 1980, Reuters reports from the capital of Harare.

Adds the New York Times: “The military did not say whether Mr. Mugabe had been removed as president, leaving the possibility that he may be kept on during a period of transition. But whatever happens to Mr. Mugabe, it appeared increasingly clear on Wednesday that an era was coming to a close in Africa.”

What’s behind all this? “Mugabe’s firing of his deputy, which had appeared to position the first lady, Grace Mugabe, to replace Emmerson Mnangagwa as one of the country’s two vice presidents at a party conference next month,” the Associated Press reports. “But the first lady has proved unpopular among some Zimbabweans, and Mnangagwa had significant support from the military.” But again, we’re told: Not a coup.

What lies ahead? Too early to say, Reuters writes. However, “the events could signal a once-in-a-generation change for the southern African nation, once one of the continent’s most prosperous, reduced to poverty by an economic crisis Mugabe’s opponents have long blamed on him.” More to this developing story, here.

From Defense One

We're Losing Our Chance to Regulate Killer Robots // Paul Scharre: After four years of nearly fruitless debate, nations are gathering once more to talk AI and autonomous weapons.

Congress May Be Making the Pentagon Amazon's Next Big Customer // Frank Konkel: Though lawmakers revised the so-called "Amazon amendment," only a small number of companies could provide the government with an e-commerce site.

The Most Dangerous Man in the World // Tom Z. Collina: It is dawning on Congress that no one can stop President Trump from ordering a nuclear attack.

Can Russia Help the US as Much as Trump Says It Can? // Uri Friedman: What the U.S. president may have in mind when he tweets about teaming up with Putin "to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism."

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free. OTD1864: Gen. William T. Sherman begins his March to the Sea.

The U.S. military had a comeback ready for the misinformation Moscow spread on Tuesday. Military Times: “Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, responded to Russia’s allegations, calling them ‘about as accurate as their air campaign.’” That, here. Other people had jokes, too.

On a serious note: Here’s a little bit more about the context around that alleged ceasefire deal negotiated between the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Raqqa and ISIS, first reported by the BBC.
The U.S. military's response: The deal "Was never a 'secret.' The Coalition issued press releases 10 and 14 Oct, spoke with several outlets, to include BBC Radio on 14 Oct. This was a local solution to local issue. Coalition did not fully agree, but respected our partners decision."
One question lingering from the BBC’s report: Did President Trump’s military let ISIS leaders walk free in Raqqa? ICYMI, read the full report, here.

China’s Xi Jinping is sending an envoy to North Korea on Friday, but curb your expectations, Reuters reports. "In a brief dispatch, the official Xinhua news agency said Song Tao, who heads the ruling Communist Party’s external affairs department, would leave for North Korea on Friday." However, Beijing "did not say he was planning to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic programs." That, here.

U.S. hires Putin-linked company to guard Moscow embassy. New York Times: “To make up for the loss of security guards axed in the Russian-mandated staff cuts, Washington has hired a private Russian company that grew out of a security business co-founded by Mr. Putin’s former K.G.B. boss, an 82-year-old veteran spy who spent 25 years planting agents in Western security services and hunting down their operatives.” Read on, here.

The U.S. government is testing efforts to stop ISIS recruitment in Central Asia using radio, TV broadcasts and new pilot program for migrant workers, The Wall Street Journal’s Jessica Donati and Nathan Hodge reported Tuesday (paywall alert), here.

The Saudis have shot down more than 100 “tactical ballistic missiles launched from Yemen” with Patriot missile systems, the system’s prime contractor, Raytheon, says — according to Defense News, speaking to company executives at this year’s Dubai Air Show.
For what it’s worth, DN notes, “That number, which appears on the Raytheon website, could not be independently confirmed and is much larger than publicly available data from think tanks, the Saudi government or the other eight Mideast and African nations fighting in the Saudi-led coalition against Iranian-backed militias loyal to former Yemeni President Al Abdullah Saleh.” More here.

Compromise NDAA passes with 356-70 vote in the House, The Hill reports. The version that passed Tuesday would “authorize $626.4 billion for the base defense budget and $65.7 billion” for Overseas Contingency Operations funds. It also takes into account “a 2.4 percent pay raise for troops, an increase of 20,000 active duty and reserve troops across the services, bulked up missile defense, increased operations in Afghanistan, and more ships, planes and other equipment.”
Big caveat: “The bill is moving forward without an agreement in Congress to raise budget caps, which NDAA funding levels burst through. That means some of the money authorized could end up not coming to fruition.” More here.

Finally today: Climate change and water woes helped ISIS recruit in Iraq. National Geographic’s Peter Schwartzstein, reporting after three years from Samarra’s fertilizer market: “With every flood or bout of extreme heat or cold, the jihadists would reappear, often supplementing their sales pitches with gifts. When a particularly vicious drought struck in 2010, the fifth in seven years, they doled out food baskets.” Read on, here.