Bolton travels to the Middle East to maintain pressure on Iran…just don’t ask him for proof. White House National Security Advisor John Bolton dropped by Abu Dhabi today ahead of what Reuters calls an “emergency summit of Arab leaders” in Saudi Arabia on Thursday. While in the UAE today, Bolton took a few minutes to chat with reporters about the suspected tanker attacks off the Emirati coast on May 12 — acts of sabotage that Bolton claims were carried out using Iranian-made naval mines.
Said Bolton, who 16 years ago helped deliver a disastrous war in Iraq on trumped-up evidence: “I think it is clear these [tanker attacks] were naval mines almost certainly from Iran,” Bolton said to reporters without providing evidence. “There is no doubt in anybody’s mind in Washington who is responsible for this and I think it’s important that the leadership in Iran know that we know.”
Iran’s reax to that: Hogwash. Or, more pointedly, “Raising this ludicrous claim in a meeting of those with a long history of anti-Iran policies is not strange,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, according to Iran's state-run Fars news agency, and relayed via Reuters. “Iran’s strategic patience, vigilance and defensive prowess will defuse mischievous plots made by Bolton and other warmongers.”
For the record, investigators from the U.S., France, Norway and Saudi Arabia are probing the alleged May 12 attacks. So if you have questions about proof, Bolton said, ask those folks. “Who else would you think is doing it?” he asked rhetorically. “Somebody from Nepal?”
Continuing his pitch, Bolton claimed “the tanker attacks were connected to the strike on oil pumping stations on the kingdom’s East-West pipeline and a rocket attack on the Green Zone in the Iraqi capital Baghdad,” Reuters reports. He also “said there had been a fourth unsuccessful attack on Saudi Arabia’s Yanbu port a few days before the tanker operation but that it was unclear if it was linked to the others,” and no Saudi officials could clarify the claim to Reuters.
But perhaps most importantly, “The White House isn’t planning a military offensive response to a U.S. assessment that Iran was behind recent attacks,” the Wall Street Journal wrote off Bolton’s remarks today in the UAE. Bolton: “The point is to make it very clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kinds of action risk a very strong response from the United States.”
Although President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal first, Bolton — once more without proof — accused Iran of withdrawing from the deal for “no reason” other than to pursue atomic weapons, the Associated Press reported. (In 2015, months before the deal halted the country’s nuclear development, Bolton argued that the correct move was preemptive air strikes on Iran.)
About that nuclear deal: AP reminds us that “Iran has set a July 7 deadline for Europe to offer better terms to the unraveling nuclear deal, otherwise it will resume enrichment closer to weapons level.”
Otherwise in the UAE, “Mr. Bolton is expected to meet Wednesday with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the U.A.E., to discuss regional security as tensions continue,” the Journal writes.
Said Trump on Monday in Tokyo: “I think we’ll make a deal” with Iran. “We’re not looking for regime change. I just want to make that clear. We’re looking for no nuclear weapons.”
ICYMI: The leaders of Iran and Japan have historically had a pretty cordial relationship. That would appear to be a contributing factor for why this past weekend President Trump reportedly asked Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to facilitate a summit between the U.S. and Iran “soon,” a Japanese government official told local broadcaster FNN. A bit more for background from Bloomberg, here.
For his part, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says talks with the U.S. are possible — but only if sanctions are lifted, Reuters reports from Tehran. Which would suggest prospects for talks are slim to none, Reuters reported separately this morning.
A word on $aber-rattling. U.S. defense executives see an opportunity in the Trump administration’s saber-rattling against Iran, The Intercept reported Tuesday off a meeting at “Goldman Sachs’ glimmering tower in downtown Manhattan in mid-May” as well as various remarks from execs going back to January.
From Defense One
The Leading Narratives on War-Crimes Pardons Are Wrong // C. Anthony Pfaff, Army War College: Troops are not merely victims of war, nor do pardons destroy justice. But there’s a deeper threat here.
Russia’s Would-Be Windows Replacement Gets a Security Upgrade // Patrick Tucker: A bespoke flavor of Linux may replace the ubiquitous Microsoft OS, a sign of Russia’s growing IT independence.
Doping Soldiers So They Fight Better – Is It Ethical? // Maxwell Mehlman, The Conversation: The U.S. military is constantly using technology to build better ships, warplanes, guns, and armor. Shouldn’t it also use drugs to build better soldiers?
Trump Pushes Army Corps of Engineers to Hire a Favored Firm // The Atlantic’s David A Graham: The president should not be pressing military leaders to award a contract to a company controlled by a political ally that has failed to meet standards.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. On this day in 1917, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Mass. By the time he was three, he’d already contracted whooping cough, measles, chicken pox and scarlet fever, according to the JFK Library.
Watch a large delegation of the Taliban walking around in Moscow on Tuesday via this clip from the Washington Post’s Amie Ferris-Rotman. Voice of America’s headline out of that visit: “Taliban, Russia Demand Foreign Troops Leave Afghanistan.”
About that demand: “We believe all foreign military [forces] should be withdrawn from the country and the society of Afghanistan should unite in finding a solution," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in his opening remarks.
And for the Taliban’s official position on the issue, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the political deputy of the Taliban, said: "The Islamic Emirate [Taliban] is truly committed to peace but the first step is to remove obstacles in the way of peace, meaning the occupation of Afghanistan must come to an end."
Also attending the meeting in Moscow: “Top Afghan candidates challenging President Ashraf Ghani in the upcoming presidential elections, former president, Hamid Karzai, and Afghan diplomats in Moscow, as well as the head of the official Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) tasked with promoting peace.”
Take note: The Taliban singled out “Afghan politicians” it will talk to in Moscow — and specifically (still) ruled out "Kabul government representatives," VOA writes, with the Taliban dismissing them as "stooges" installed by foreign "occupation" forces.
Later today, the Taliban said they’re scheduled to hold “closed-door meetings with senior officials of the Russian Federation,” just in case anyone thought Russia was merely playing venue host to these talks.
For the record, “The bilateral talks would mark the second time Taliban officials have met with Afghan opposition politicians in Russia.” A bit more, here, or read Reuters early report from Moscow (filed Tuesday), here.
From the ongoing war on ISIS: “U.S. forces have quietly sent at least 30 suspected foreign Islamic State fighters captured in Syria last year and in late 2017 to stand trial in Iraq,” Reuters reports this morning from Baghdad and Brussels, despite denials by officials from Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service.
Said CENTCOM to Reuters: “The issue of foreign terrorist fighters in SDF custody in Syria is an extremely complex problem,” spokesman Captain Bill Urban said. The U.S., he continued, is looking to “prosecution, rehabilitation programs, or other measures that sufficiently prevent detainees from re-engaging in terrorism.”
Related: “Iraqi authorities handed over 188 Turkish children of suspected Islamic State members to Turkey on Wednesday at Baghdad airport, where they boarded a plane and prepared to fly home,” Reuters reports separately from Baghdad this morning.
CENTCOM’s former commander joins the think-tank world. On July 1, retired Gen. Joseph Votel will take up a new office at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., the institution announced Tuesday. “Gen. Votel joins an expanding roster of experts at MEI who focus on a range of issues including countering terrorism and extremism, defense and security, conflict resolution and Track II dialogues, cybersecurity, Gulf affairs, Turkish studies, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, and the growing relations between the Middle East and Asia.” Read on, here.
Reminder: If America doesn’t add to its defense budget this year, it will still spend $716 billion. If lawmakers want to “transform” the U.S. military, it’ll need just a bit more money, writes Rick Berger of AEI in the pages of Defense News on Tuesday.
The U.S. military vs. a mighty wind. “A nationwide fight between wind developers and the military highlights the challenge of transitioning to a future of renewable energy,” WIRED reported Tuesday.
The quick read: “A year ago, military leaders at Sheppard [Air Force Base in Texas] joined state officials to beat back a proposed wind farm in nearby Oklahoma. But base officials now worry about more proposed wind farms that keep cropping up. They say they have been forced to close three of 12 low-flying training routes in the past decade because of ‘wind farm encroachment.’” Story, here.
Mighty Wind, part II: On Monday, Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base were hit by regional tornados, damaging “about 150 off-base homes at The Prairies at Wright Field” along with quite a few vehicles, according to Air Force Times.
Huawei: let’s see the proof. Officials from the embattled Chinese tech firm “asked a [U.S.] judge to quickly rule in its favor in its legal challenge to overturn a law that restricts its business in the U.S., saying American officials haven’t provided evidence that it poses a security threat,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Or read AP’s take, which is not behind a paywall, here.
Today in #LongReads: “30 Years After Tiananmen, a Chinese Military Insider Warns: Never Forget,” via the New York Times’ Chris Buckley reporting from Beijing.
The insider? 66-year-old Jiang Lin, who was "was a lieutenant in the People’s Liberation Army" who retains "a firsthand view of both the massacre and a failed attempt by senior commanders to dissuade China’s leaders from using military force to crush the pro-democracy protests."
For your ears only: WNYC’s “On the Media” podcast tackled “Matters of War” in its latest episode — which includes coverage of “the disastrous Julian Assange indictment; Fox News's fight for military pardons; and the American philosophy of war.” Set aside an hour for that one, here.
The U.S. Army’s TRADOC wants your ideas about what will drive change — and how — over the next 15 years. A few suggested “topics of interest” include, but are not limited to:
- Moral/Ethical Dilemmas in Future Warfare
- Mixed Reality
You have until 15 July to submit your ideas, which should come in at about 1,000 words and in 12-point font. You don’t have to wear the uniform to have an idea; but if you do, make sure your essay is “cleared by your public affairs office and operations security managers.” More details and logistics over at TRADOC’s Mad Scientist Laboratory, here.
Last week, the U.S. Army wanted to know: “How Has Serving Impacted You?” So the service asked its followers on Twitter. The responses were, as NPR put it, “agonizing.”