US adds Marines to Mideast embassies amid deadly protests in Gaza; Afghan security slips; Wave of bombings in Indonesia; and just a bit more...
U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem requires more U.S. Marines at Mideast embassies. "Dozens of Marines have been added to the security details in Israel, Jordan and Turkey and may be added to U.S. embassies in seven other countries," NBC News reported Monday.
Size and duration: "The increase at each location is modest — not dozens at any single embassy but not single digits,” U.S. defense officials told NBC. “There is no timeline for how long the additional security forces will be in the region but one U.S. defense official said they will be there 'until security conditions on the ground improve.'"
Where these Leathernecks are coming from: “the Marine Security Guard Security Augmentation Unit (MSAU), headquartered at Quantico, Va., and created in response to the deadly attacks on U.S. diplomatic and intelligence facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012,” the Washington Post adds.
For your eyes only: A remarkable photo from the Gaza protests showing a man returning a tear gas grenade volley by sending it back via ping pong paddle.
In news graphics: Five maps that help explain the ongoing unrest in Jerusalem, via the Washington Post.
The Wall Street Journal’s framing of events: simply “Chaos As U.S. Embassy Opens.”
Said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of the U.S. Embassy opening on Monday: “This is a great day for Israel, it’s a great day for America. I also believe it’s a great day for peace.”
Regarding U.S.-Iran relations today: "It's a period of uncertainty that we are entering into," Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said Monday aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, somewhere off the coast of Virginia for joint training with the French.
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Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. On this day in 2004, the U.S. military fought militiamen from radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's al-Mahdi army in Karbala. Impossible to know 14 years later Sadr would emerge as the frontrunner in Iraq's elections, held Saturday.
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Happening now: The U.S. Army’s secretary and top officer — Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, respectively — are testifying about the FY19 budget request before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. It just got started, so tune in here.
Spotted in Syria: CENTCOM’s Gen. Joseph Votel, Lt. Gen. Paul Funk and Maj. Gen. James Jarrard met with commanders of their partnered Syrian Democratic Forces for an update of the ongoing “Jazeera Storm” anti-ISIS clearing operation near Deir ez-Zor.
The Sadr effect in Iraq. On Saturday, the country held its first elections since the rise of ISIS. The result has now empowered “a ferocious critic of American policies in the Middle East,” Moqtada al-Sadr, the Washington Post reports from Baghdad.
The gist: “Sadr’s ticket won the most seats in Iraq’s parliamentary election, according to results from all 18 provinces released Monday, placing him in the best position to select the country’s next prime minister and set the course for how the nation emerges from a costly war against the Islamic State.”
But the Sadr of today doesn’t appear to be the Sadr of old (see #OTD above), the Post writes, as the cleric has now "grown increasingly pragmatic over the years and formed a cross-sectarian electoral alliance emphasizing Iraqi nationalism over loyalty to Iranian clerics and American military and political backing."
Which means that from here, "Like the United States, Iran will now also have to recalibrate how to advance its interests in Iraq, where Sadr’s independence has made him attractive to some of Iran’s rivals in the Arab world." More here.
Turning briefly now to that pesky war on the other side of Iran, here’s one way to gauge how the Afghan war is going: Look at the rising price of U.S. troops flying from Bagram to Kabul, Bloomberg reported Monday. The State Department wants to raise the cost of that ride “to about $2,250 next year, up from $1,350 currently.”
The short answer why: “As the country’s security situation continues to deteriorate, it’s too dangerous for Americans to drive to the airport, so helicopters are needed.” Read on, here.
Out of Pakistan. A U.S. diplomat in hot water (more precisely, “Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall, a military attaché at the United States Embassy in Islamabad”) finally left Pakistan after previously being blocked from entering a U.S. military plane out of Islamabad, the New York Times reported Monday.
Hall stands “accused of having run a red light and fatally hitting a 22-year-old man on April 7…The authorities did not arrest Colonel Hall because he had diplomatic immunity. But as a furor here grew over the accident, he was barred from leaving the country, and Pakistani officials said he faced criminal charges.” That appears to no longer be the case. And there would appear to be no change to the $1.3 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan that President Trump suspended back in January. Read on, here.
Wave of bombings hit Indonesia, presenting an apparently new method of attack, the Wall Street Journal reported from the port city of Surabaya.
The quick read: “[A] family of suicide bombers wounded 10 people in an attack on a police headquarters in the country’s second-largest city a day after another family killed seven in an attack on churches.”
Possible aggravating factor: “The attacks come as Indonesian authorities have cracked down on top radical leaders. The country’s de facto leader of Islamic State supporters, Aman Abdurrahman, is on trial for inciting followers to commit acts of terror, while his heir apparent, Zainal Anshori, was sentenced in February to seven years in prison for smuggling guns.” More from the Journal, (paywall alert) here.
DPRK destroying nuclear site? 38North says it looks that way: “After initial reporting of plans to allow experts and media personnel to observe the closing of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, now scheduled for next week, commercial satellite imagery from May 7 provided the first definitive evidence that dismantlement of the test site was already well underway.” Read on, here.
But: Ankit Panda notes that “US intel agencies are closely watching North Korea’s dismantlement of Punggye-ri” and cautions that “work so far could be reversed in a matter of ‘weeks to months.’”
ICYMI: Priciest ship gets pricier. Last week, the U.S. Navy informed Congress that the cost of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford will exceed its $12.9 billion cap by $120 million. The new money is needed to replace faulty propulsion components and fix the elevators that lift munitions from the ship’s armories. Bloomberg has more, here.
The more you know: “The U.S. Merchant Marine has declined from 1,288 international trading vessels in 1951 to 81 today,” McClatchy news wrote Monday in a loooong report on the “once mighty” fleet “that carries cargo during peacetime and becomes an auxiliary of the Defense Department during wartime to deliver troops and supplies to conflict zones.”
More trivia: “Some 50,000 oceangoing trading vessels ply the seas today. The United States is not even among the top 20 maritime nations of the world in terms of gross tonnage.” Worth the click, here.
ICYMI: Want to hear it from the chief? Here’s Mark H. Buzby, administrator of the United States Maritime Administration, speaking at last month’s Navy League conference.
This week in precise and questionable tech: ZDNet tracked an employee’s phone (with his consent) “using cell-site data to within a city block of his actual location.” If you need a bit more to raise your eyebrows, they add, “Cops normally need a warrant to access this data. Instead, they can just buy it from a trusted partner.”
The U.S. Marines are adding a bit of PsyOps to its force, Military.com reported Monday on word the service plans “to announce the creation of a new primary MOS, 0521, for Military Information Support Operations.”
Expectations: “Under the new plan, a company-sized MISO element will be set up under each of the three recently established Marine Information Groups on the East Coast and West Coast in the Pacific. A separate element will remain at MCIOC, focusing primarily on supporting special operations.”
Timeline: “While the first additional MISO Marines will start arriving this summer, the plan is to have the elements established at each MIG by 2022.” Continue reading, here.
And finally today, U.S. Airmen: Prepare to be invisible to the enemy. Ok, so not really. But you are getting new uniforms, "ditch[ing] the Airman Battle Uniform, known as the ABU, for the [the Army's Operational Camouflage Pattern] over the next three years, with the expectation that all airmen will be wearing the OCP by April 2021," Military.com reported Monday.
What are your favorite military uniforms? They don’t have to be only American; feel free to go back to the Spartans, or even earlier. Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.