US heats up counter-Iran campaign; Navy proposes show-of-force; Sailor charged in ricin incident; GRU agents ejected from Holland, indicted in US; and just a bit more...

U.S. heats up counter-Iran campaign. Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams: “Trump administration officials escalated their campaign to counter Iran in a slate of diplomatic announcements on Wednesday, punctuating a week of warnings that have ratcheted up bilateral tension and further fueled speculation that the United States is inching closer to an armed conflict with Tehran or its proxies fighters in the Middle East.”

Withdraws from treaty. Among the moves: The United States withdrew from an Eisenhower-era “treaty of amity” with Tehran that has been used by both countries as the basis for resolving claims in the International Court of Justice.

“Iran is the origin of the current threat to Americans in Iraq,” Secretary of State Pompeo told reporters, days after he announced the closure of the U.S. mission in Basra following a rocket attack on the facility. “Our intelligence in this regard is solid. We can see the hand of the ayatollah and his henchmen supporting these attacks on the United States.”

Mission creep in Syria? “For years, the Pentagon has claimed that U.S. troops are in Syria for one purpose: to fight the Islamic State,” Williams writes. “But a series of tough-on-Iran remarks from National Security Advisor John Bolton raised questions about whether the military’s mission in Syria and beyond is expanding to include countering Tehran.” Read on, here.

How times have changed. Buzzfeed: The Pentagon Used To Hide US Troops In Syria. Now It's Posting Videos Of Them On Twitter. “That’s the dirty little secret here — there could be thousands of US troops camped out in northern and eastern Syria for decades,” Nicholas Heras, a Syria expert at the Center for a New American Security, tells Buzzfeed.

From Defense One

Trump Officials Target Iran, Raising Question of US Military’s Role in Mideast // Katie Bo Williams: Some fear the strategy opens the door to strikes on Iranian forces inside Syria — and direct armed conflict with Tehran.

How Contractor Fraud Is Reported Shouldn’t Affect How It Gets Investigated // A. Lee Bentley III and Jason Mehta: There are two main ways that a whistleblower can sound the alarm. Their outcomes can be very different.

The US Just Tore Up a Six-Decade-Old Treaty With Iran // Krishnadev Calamur: Iran used the 1955 Treaty of Amity to take the U.S. to the International Court of Justice over its decision to leave the nuclear deal.

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Navy proposes global show-of-force aimed at China. The secret plan would include several days of frequent freedom-of-navigation operations “as a warning to China and to demonstrate the US is prepared to deter and counter their military actions,” CNN reports, citing “several US defense officials.”

Photos of Sunday’s close encounter. The Chinese warship that harassed the U.S. destroyer in the South China Sea may have come even closer than the 45 yards that U.S. Navy officials said. Check out these photos of the incident. Taken from a Navy aircraft, they were published Tuesday on the maritime site gCaptain.

Former sailor charged with mailing ricin to Pentagon, White House. William Clyde Allen III, 39, was arrested at his Utah home Wednesday. Officials said Allen sent at least three packages: one each to SecDef James Mattis, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, and President Trump. “At least two of the envelopes tested positive for ricin, a highly toxic protein that is derived from pressed seeds of the castor-oil plant,” Newsweek reports. A Defense Department spokeswoman said the substance sent to the Pentagon was castor seeds, and not ricin itself.

Service history: Allen enlisted in 1998, deployed aboard the fast combat support ship Supply, and later served on the fast combat support ship Detroit, the U.S. Navy Office of Information told Newsweek. He left the Navy after four years as a Damage Control Fireman Apprentice, one pay grade above a raw recruit. More, here.

Dutch officials break up attack, eject 4 Russian spies. The Dutch defense minister said Wednesday that the four were agents of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, and were planning an attack on the international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The Guardian reports: “The attack, which was thwarted with the help of British officials, came after the cybercrime unit of the GRU Russian military intelligence directorate had also attempted a remote attack on the Porton Down chemical weapons facility in April and on the UK Foreign Office in March. Both attacks were unsuccessful.”

Caught in the act: “Dutch security services caught four GRU operatives ‘in flagrante’ and immediately deported them to Russia, sources said, while retaining their technical equipment.” Read on, here.

US also indicts GRU agents: On Thursday morning, Justice Department officials announced that the department has charged “seven Russian intelligence officials with hacking doping agencies and other organizations, including a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company,” CNBC reports.