Trump’s national security strategy expected at 2 p.m.; Tillerson retreats on NK talks; Putin thanks Trump for CIA’s help; Obama admin scuttled counter-Hezbollah project; And a bit more.
President Trump’s new National Security Strategy comes out today at 2 p.m. EDT. In it, Reuters writes, the president will “lay out his foreign policy priorities, and will emphasize his commitment to ‘America First’ policies such as building up the U.S. military, confronting Islamist militants and realigning trade relationships to make the United States more competitive.”
And that includes singling out China as a “competitor,” U.S. officials told reporters in a background briefing Sunday.
North Korean “missile broker” arrested Down Under. Australian officials arrested an almost 60-year-old man from Sydney who they claim was “selling missile components and coal on the black market for North Korea” for the past 12 months, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. The man, Chan Han Choi, "a naturalized Australian citizen of Korean heritage," was trying to sell — among other things — "software for the guidance of ballistic missiles" and "attempted to transfer coal from North Korea to entities in Indonesia and Vietnam."
Said an Australian investigator: “This case is like nothing we have ever seen on Australian soil. This man was a loyal agent of North Korea, who believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose.” There’s not a heckuva lot more known at this stage, but you can read on (paywall alert), here.
Pyongyang threat update: North Korea isn’t capable of striking the U.S., Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon Friday. "We are still examining the forensics, we're still doing the forensics analysis [on North Korea’s November ICBM launch], it takes a while," Mattis said.
Adds CNN: “His assessment Friday was in line with technical analysts who say that North Korea's November launch didn't actually demonstrate an ability to hit the US or that it is making advances on the technical challenges required for a successful, operational ICBM.” More here.
BTW: SecState Tillerson retreated on his offer last Tuesday of unconditional talks with North Korea, the Associated Press reported Friday. Speaking to foreign ministers at the UN Security Council, Tillerson said "North Korea must earn its way back to the table. The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved. We will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open."
Tillerson also referenced a “largely secret North Korean contingency plan…to race inside North Korea to seize its nuclear weapons if it ever saw evidence that Kim Jong-un’s government was collapsing,” The New York Times reports this morning — following up on something he said in his Tuesday speech at the Atlantic Council.
The gist: Tillerson reportedly surprised “colleagues in the White House and the Pentagon when…he revealed that the Trump administration had already provided assurances to China’s leadership that if American forces landed in North Korea to search for and deactivate nuclear weapons, the troops would do their work and then retreat.”
What this means, according to the Times: “the United States would essentially cede North Korean territory to the Chinese military, or let China and South Korea figure out who would control 46,500 square miles of territory and take care of its 25 million occupants, many of whom already do not have enough to eat.”
One big problem: “The North is presumed to have undertaken an elaborate effort to hide the weapons. The result, one senior military official said recently, is that even if dozens of weapons were seized and deactivated, there would be no way to determine whether many more were still hidden away, perhaps under the control of surviving members of Mr. Kim’s military.” Read the rest, here.
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Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free. OTD1958: DARPA launches the world’s first communications satellite.
Putin called Trump to thank the CIA for helping thwart a terrorist attack in St. Petersberg over the weekend. According to the White House’s account of the call, the Russian president said that “the information provided by the CIA allowed Russian law enforcement agencies to track down and detain a group of suspects who were planning to bomb the centrally located Kazan Cathedral and other crowded parts of Russia’s second-largest city.” That’s via the Washington Post, which continues: “The unusual call — countries share intelligence all the time, but presidents rarely publicly thank one another for it — was confirmed by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.” Read on, here.
Qatar has a new air defense system, acquired from China, and they showed the SY-400 system off this weekend in their National Day Parade. Catch footage of that, here.
ISIS suicide bombers attacked a Christian Methodist church in southwest Pakistan, killing 9 and wounding almost three-dozen others, NYTs reported Sunday. The attack would have been worse had one of the attackers been able to detonate his vest of explosives. But police shot him dead “after an intense firefight.” Story, here.
Don’t stop us if you’ve heard this before: A new Pentagon report on the Af-Pak region accuses Pakistan of allowing safe havens for the Taliban and Haqqani network, Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported this weekend.
There was another suspected U.S. drone strike in southern Somalia on Friday night, local Garowe Online news reported this weekend. The attack occurred “about 60Km west of the coastal city of Kismayo. A suspected U.S. drone fired several missiles at the militant convoy and destroyed a number of vehicles in ‘high-value target’ according to the official who spoke to GO on condition of anonymity.” For what it’s worth, there’s been no word yet from AFRICOM on the alleged strike.
ICYMI: The U.S. says it will suspend “aid for much of Somalia’s armed forces over corruption concerns,” Voice of America reported Friday. “The suspension reflects the Somali military's repeated inability to account for aid items such as food, fuel and weapons.” Read on, here.
Away from combat, many soldiers like to talk about how if they had to perish in war, they would go down in a pile of brass (that is, shooting until they’re out of ammo). It would appear that U.S. Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson died in this way after he and his fellow soldiers came under attack in Niger on October 4, the Associated Press reported Sunday from the latest Pentagon investigation into the incident.
Former JSOC commander, retired Adm. Bill McRaven, has stepped down as the University of Texas chancellor, citing health issues, UT announced Friday. Here’s to a fast recovery.
A review of the evidence fails to support Nikki Haley’s Iran presentation on Thursday, The New York Times reported this weekend. Times reporter John Ismay, a former EOD man for the U.S. Navy, noted that no U.S. officials in Haley's narrative claimed to have traveled to Yemen where the parts were allegedly recovered. But there are quite a few other holes Ismay zeroed in on — such as when exactly the weapons were transferred to the Houthis in Yemen — and you can see and hear his take, here.
BTW: Saudi Arabia and Iran are in a cartoon war with each other, with Riyadh as the latest to publish an animation showing their forces attacking and occupying Iran. Check out Tehran’s opening salvo in the animation wars — where they simulated a rocket attack on Riyadh — here (for the Saudis) and here (for Iran).
The Obama administration was reportedly so eager to seal its Iran nuclear deal that it began delaying a broad investigation into Hezbollah’s money-gathering activities across the globe, Politico reported Sunday evening.
In that story: A clear map illustrating what U.S. officials believe is Hezbollah’s network of car sales, cocaine dealing, and money laundering across the Atlantic Ocean. Dive in, here.
And lastly today: A few stories that are really “out there” have become fashionable, illustrating how in some ways Cold War legacies are at least temporarily back in vogue.
The first is the story of the “Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, whose existence was not classified but operated with the knowledge of an extremely limited number of officials,” Politico reported Saturday. “The origins of the program, the existence of which the Pentagon confirmed on Friday, are being revealed publicly for the first time.”
The program ended in 2012, “but it has recently attracted attention because of the resignation in early October of Luis Elizondo, the career intelligence officer who ran the initiative,” Politico writes.
We’d tell you more about what the Times writes, but it’s paywalled for us this morning. The brief companion video report, however, is open. And you can watch that, here.
The second “out there” story is a pensive, quietly disturbing documentary on Netflix about the Army scientist, Frank Olson, who “fell or jumped” to his death in 1953 during his involvement with a secret program that aimed to create an LSD-based “truth serum” in the wake of biological warfare accusations by the communists against the U.S. in the Korean war.
The six-episode series is called “Wormwood,” was released Friday, and it follows the epic quest for truth by the son of that Army scientist. It comes to us from the documentarian, Errol Morris, who brought us that Oscar-winning film, “The Fog of War,” in 2003. “Wormwood” is a different beast almost entirely, and shines a light on the American political climate in the early 1950s — which is to say, a hostile and at times quite paranoid take on Communist sympathizers across the U.S., but especially in secretive programs like Olson was involved in at Fort Detrick, Md. Catch the trailer for that one, here.
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