Want more U.S. troops in the Middle East? CENTCOM’s commander, Gen. Frank McKenzie, is certainly thinking about it. He spoke to the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in the Arabian Sea for a report Sunday about Iran and his combatant command possibly “expanding military capabilities to ensure the U.S. has a long-term, credible deterrence force in the region.”
Writes Lubold: “Such a move would amount to a significant reversal in the U.S. global military posture, which has shifted away from the Middle East under the Trump administration’s national security strategy, which emphasizes risks from competition with Russia and China.”
And that’s precisely the (largely serious) joke made by Paul McCleary of Breaking Defense when word of this possibility first emerged 20 days ago from CNN and the Associated Press: “We’ve entered an age of Great Power Competition with Russia and China....er...I mean we're sending more troops to the Middle East again.”
Reports of these moves three weeks ago centered around some 10,000 additional U.S. troops to CENTCOM’s area of operations. So what’s changed since then? 900 new U.S. service members have been sent, and another 600 already in the area were retasked to stay a bit longer. “We think this is having a very good stabilizing effect,” McKenzie told Lubold.
So is he gonna ask for more? “We are talking about it,” he said, “but it’s going to be based on a running estimate of the situation as we go forward.”
Said McKenzie to sailors and crew on the Lincoln: “I am the reason you are here tonight…My intent by bringing you in here was to stabilize the situation, let Iran know that now is not the time to do something goofy.”
Iran’s reax: “Whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it,” said Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Tehran today during a visit with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas. Maas was in town to “find a way to salvage the nuclear deal,” the Associated Press reports. Zarif used the occasion to lash out against what he called America’s sanctions-based “economic war against Iran,” which has helped reduce the value of Iran's currency, the rial, to nearly 130,000-to-$1 today. AP: “It had been 32,000 to the dollar at the time of the 2015 deal. That has wiped away people’s earnings, as well as driven up prices on nearly every good in the country.”
Arriving in Tehran on Wednesday: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His goal: “position Japan as a neutral intermediary” between the U.S. and Iran at U.S. President Donald Trump’s request, Agence France-Presse reports today in a preview.
On Abe’s docket: A meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. AFP writes this will be “the first time a Japanese prime minister has visited Iran since 1978, a year before the country's revolution.”
Expectations, however, are quite low since “experts say Abe has little leverage with either side and mediation will be an uphill struggle.” More here.
Not to be overlooked: The White House’s state of emergency declaration in May allowed Raytheon to start making “control systems, guidance electronics and circuit cards that are essential to the company’s Paveway smart bombs” inside Saudi Arabia for the first time, the New York Times reported Friday.
Why this matters: “Aside from potentially providing the Saudis with more bombs to use in Yemen airstrikes, the arrangement raised security concerns among lawmakers, who were seeking assurances that the Saudis could prevent the American technology from falling into the wrong hands,” the Times writes.
Worth noting: “The arrangement, which would effectively outsource jobs, appears to be at odds with Mr. Trump’s position that arms sales are important because of the American jobs they create,” the Times adds.
What next? U.S. “Lawmakers are expected to grill a senior State Department official — R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs — about the arms deal and the bomb production plan at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday,” NBC reported this weekend.
Guess who’s visiting the Saudis in four months: Russian President Vladimir Putin, apparently ahead of plans for a joint “methanol plant project in Russia’s east,” Reuters reports today in a quickie.
From Defense One
Pentagon Gives Turkey a Deadline to Cancel S-400 Deal or Lose F-35 // Marcus Weisgerber: By July 31, says the ASecDef, Ankara must choose between the Russian S-400 or the U.S.-led JSF.
NATO’s New Military Commander: 'I Suspect' Turkish-Alliance Mil-to-Mil Ties Will Endure // Patrick Tucker: In his first sitdown interview as SHAPE, Gen. Todd Wolters said Ankara cannot have both the F-35 and S-400.
For Soldiers, Risk of Suicide Linked With Firearm Ownership // Patrick Tucker: Clinicians advise that soldiers at risk for suicide spend less time close to guns.
House Democrats Want To Ban Sending New Prisoners To Gitmo // Katie Bo Williams, Defense One: President Trump has vowed to keep the facility open, promising on the campaign trail to fill it up with “bad dudes.”
How to Navigate the Fog of War on Iran // Mike Giglio, The Atlantic: The question of how to read U.S. intelligence on Iranian threats—and how to respond to them—is at the center of a debate over military escalation.
Nuclear Energy Regulators Need to Bring on More Cyber Experts, Watchdog Says // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: Cyberattacks on nuclear power stations on the rise, and an aging workforce may soon leave the government struggling to defend plants against the latest threats.
How the CIA is Working to Ethically Deploy Artificial Intelligence // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: As the agency uses new technology, insiders are thinking critically about issues around privacy and bias.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. On this day in 1940, Italy declared war on France and Britain, prompting U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to tell Americans that the country should end its isolationism of the 1930s.
Ready for a new aerospace-defense company? “United Technologies Corp. doubled down on the aerospace market with an all-stock deal to merge with defense contractor Raytheon Co.,” the Wall Street Journal reported this weekend.
What this means: “The combined company, valued at more than $100 billion after planned spinoffs, would be the world’s second-largest aerospace-and-defense company by sales behind Boeing Co., with annual revenue of about $74 billion this year,” the Journal writes. “It will make everything from engines and seats for jetliners and F-35 jet fighters, to Patriot missile launchers and space suits for astronauts.”
Tweeted Defense One’s Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber: “Lockheed Martin would still be the world’s largest defense firm by revenue, but a combined Raytheon/UTC would be second-largest and put them well ahead of the pack that makes up third- through sixth-largest military contractors.”
The proposed new name for this titan of industry: Raytheon Technologies Corp.
“The combination would become one of the biggest deals of 2019,” the New York Times writes, and “at a time when the world of mergers has felt some pinch from economic uncertainty and, in the case of some big transactions, greater antitrust scrutiny.
For what it's worth, "Thanks in large part to Rockwell Collins, which became Collins Aerospace, UTC posted good results in the first quarter of 2019," AFP reported this weekend in its coverage of the deal. "Rockwell Collins' sales rose 71 percent to $6.51 billion in the first quarter of 2019."
Contributing factor: “The two-year uptick in Pentagon spending on new aircraft, missiles and other defense equipment is also running out of steam, with analysts projecting muted growth over the next several years,” the Journal writes. “If this all-stock merger goes through,” the Times adds, “it would be the latest example of consolidation within the military and aerospace industries, creating a new colossus built to thrive in boom times and weather leaner ones.”
For the record: “Boeing was valued at $199 billion Friday, Lockheed Martin at $100 billion and Europe's Airbus at 94 billion euros, or $104 billion,” AFP writes. “In 2018, Raytheon had sales of $27 billion and earnings of a little less than $3 billion. For its part, United Technologies posted sales of $66.5 last year, and earnings of $5.3 billion.”
IED damages U.S. tactical vehicle in Niger. AFRICOM: “A U.S. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle (MAT-V) activated an improvised explosive device (IED) while entering a firing range in the vicinity of Ouallam, Niger on June 8, 2019. There are no reported U.S. casualties, however, as a precaution, U.S. service members are being evaluated.”
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers want clarity on the Trump administration’s policy toward Libya, according to the letter (PDF) placing this request.
Recall that a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers similarly called for clarity on the White House’s Syria policy in May — not that anything has developed publicly to address those questions since May 22.
About Syria: Two million new Syrians could be forced to flee to Turkey as the Assad regime’s Russian-backed military is assaulting rebels in northwestern Idlib province “with air attacks and ground battles that have already forced tens of thousands to leave their homes,” Reuters reports today.
ISIS-Khorasan is expanding in Afghanistan, the Associated Press reports today from Jalalabad.
Quick read: “The group has long been based in the eastern Nangarhar province, a rugged region along the border with Pakistan, but has a strong presence in northern Afghanistan and of late has expanded into neighboring Kunar province, where it could prove even harder to dislodge.”
What’s more, “A U.S. intelligence official based in Afghanistan told The Associated Press that a recent wave of attacks in the capital, Kabul, is ‘practice runs’ for even bigger attacks in Europe and the United States.” A bit more, here.
Russia and China say their scientists will join powers “to establish research and technology innovation fund” to the tune of about a billion dollars, according to an announcement from Russia’s state-run TASS late last week.
Related: Putin views the U.S.-China spat over Huawei as “the first technological war of the coming digital age.” (h/t Sam Bendett)
And China is creating a “national technological security management list” as a result of “U.S. moves to restrict sales to Huawei Technologies and other Chinese tech firms on national security grounds,” AP reported Sunday.
Not fishy at all. Europe’s mobile traffic was routed through China for two hours last Thursday, ZDNet reported Friday.
Why? “because of a BGP route leak at Swiss data center colocation company Safe Host, which accidentally leaked over 70,000 routes from its internal routing table to the Chinese ISP” China Telecom, the communist country’s third-largest telecommunications and internet service provider.
If this sounds familiar, “An academic paper published by experts from the US Naval War College and Tel Aviv University in October last year blamed China Telecom for ‘hijacking the vital internet backbone of western countries.’ The report argued that the Chinese government was using local ISPs for intelligence gathering by systematically hijacking BGP routes to reroute western traffic through its country, where it can log it for later analysis.” More here.
ICYMI: The world’s largest rare-earth producer outside of China — Lynas Corp. — said last week it will prioritize the U.S. military’s needs when it starts production at its new Texas plant, Bloomberg reported.
In a move that, by now, will surprise no one: “White House officials barred a State Department intelligence agency from submitting written testimony this week to the House Intelligence Committee warning that human-caused climate change is ‘possibly catastrophic,’” the Washington Post reported this weekend.
In case this sounds familiar, “Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science,” was the NYTs report from two weeks ago. Hear that report’s author, Mark Landler, speak about the matter to WBUR’s “On Point” for about 45 minutes in late May, here.
And finally today: Don’t miss an extraordinary multimedia feature from the NYTs this weekend called “The Making of a YouTube Radical.”
What the story is about: Caleb Cain, "a guy from West Virginia who went looking for self-help videos on YouTube during a personal rough patch, and spent the next 4 years falling down a far-right rabbit hole,” the reporter, Kevin Roose, writes in a useful Twitter thread.
Why it matters: “YouTube is where young people spend all their time,” according to Roose. “It’s also a political battleground, a parallel media universe, and a test lab for some of the most powerful AI ever developed. I’ve been interviewing right-wing extremists for years, and YouTube is (or was, I guess) the center of their universe. It’s where ideas are generated, and debates are won and lost. It’s where many of them got redpilled in the first place.” Dive in, here.
NEXT STORY: How to Navigate the Fog of War on Iran