9 Americans killed in Mexico; Iraq kills more protesters; Interview with ex-DOD Mideast policy chief; Boosting base security; And a bit more.
Nine Americans have been killed in a possible case of mistaken cartel-on-cartel violence in northern Mexico, the Washington Post reports. “The attack occurred on Monday when two of the women were driving a group of children from Bavispe, in Sonora state, to a Mormon community known as La Mora in neighboring Chihuahua state. One vehicle… had a flat tire, and the second car turned back to get help.” That’s when the attack seems to have begun.
“The assailants attacked the first car, killing the driver and her four children — including two 6-month-old twins,” the Post writes. “They then set the vehicle on fire. When the rest of the group returned to the site in two vehicles, they were also ambushed. Several other children escaped,” including one with an apparently non-critical bullet wound.
Tweeted President Trump in response this morning: “If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!” More from WaPo, here, or AP, here.
From Defense One
The US Might Have Warded Off Turkey’s Syria Invasion, Says DOD’s Outgoing Mideast Policy Chief // Katie Bo Williams, Defense One: U.S. and Turkish officials were shoring up a joint-patrol deal when Trump scuttled it.
Protecting US Bases Increasingly Requires Hardening Civilian Infrastructure // John Conger: Congress needs to fund its Defense Civilian Infrastructure Program, and the military needs to think beyond its gates.
It’s Not All Trump’s Fault: Syria Shows the Danger of War on the Cheap // Megan Karlshoej-Pedersen and Abigail Watson: America’s surprise withdrawal is deeply destabilizing, but so is the proxy war that Western countries have fought for five years.
Yes-Men Are Taking Over the Trump Administration // Thomas Wright, The Atlantic: Trump is making foreign policy on the fly, seeking his personal advantage and undermining American power.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1814, American forces withdrew from a besieged Fort Erie in present-day southern Ontario after blowing up portions of the base with mines. They then reassembled across the Niagara River in Buffalo to brace for winter. The wider War of 1812 would end that Christmas Eve with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.
Turkey’s president says the U.S. is breaking its agreement with Ankara by patrolling with Syrian Kurds “inside the 30-km border strip from which the militia was meant to withdraw,” Reuters reports today from Istanbul. President Recep Erdogan also says Kurds have not departed the cities of Tel Rifaat or Manbij, as they were supposed to. Meantime, the Turks and Russians are still patrolling together, with the latest mission taking them east of Kobani, Syria, and lasting for about two hours. A bit more, here.
Iraqi security forces killed more than a dozen protesters since Monday, “abandoning weeks of comparative restraint to unleash live gunfire in a bid to crush demonstrations against the political parties that control the government,” Reuters reports from the on-again, off-again violence and unrest that’s sweeping across more than just the capital city of Baghdad. Iraq’s embattled prime minister offered a few compromises Monday, including his resignation; but, Reuters writes, “protesters say that is not enough and the entire political class needs to go.”
Bigger picture: “More than 260 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a government they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests, above all Iran,” according to Reuters. “Most of those deaths took place during the first week of the demonstrations, when snipers shot on crowds from Baghdad rooftops. But after the government appeared to have curbed the use of some deadly tactics, the protests swelled rapidly over the past ten days.” More here.
More on that anti-Iran sentiment: “Iranian-linked parties dominate at least five major ministries, including those of the interior, communications and labor and social affairs,” the New York Times writes. “That gives them access to thousands of patronage jobs, contracts and grants, and breeds the corruption that the protesters are condemning.” Read on, here.
Happening today: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper is scheduled to speak at a 3 p.m. EST event rolling out the results of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. That commission released its interim findings on Monday, which you can find (PDF) here. According to WIRED’s read of the report, “The group, which includes executives from Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and Amazon, says the Pentagon and intelligence agencies need a better relationship with Silicon Valley to stay ahead of China.”
A bit more about the commission: It was “Created by Congress last August to offer recommendations on how the US should use AI in national security and defense,” WIRED writes. “In addition to [former Google CEO Eric] Schmidt, the 15-member commission includes Safra Katz, CEO of Oracle, Andy Jassy, the head of Amazon’s cloud business, and top AI executives from Microsoft and Google. Other members are from NASA, academia, the US Army, and the CIA's tech investment fund.”
A bit more about the interim findings: They include recommendations that “the US government should invest more in AI research and training, curtail inappropriate Chinese access to US exports and university research, and mull the ethical implications of AI-enhanced national security apparatus.” But don’t get too far ahead of the commission’s latest PDF since WIRED notes the group’s final recommendations won’t be sent to Congress for another 12 months or so. Read on here, or at C4ISR.net, here.
Catch SecDef Esper’s afternoon remarks livestreaming at DVIDS here.
A professor of law in China is suing over the use of facial recognition, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The gist: "Guo Bing accused a wildlife park and zoo in the eastern technology hub of Hangzhou of violating his consumer rights by requiring members to register their faces as part of a new entrance system." Guo's problem with this approach concerned the park's refusal "to issue full refunds to those who balked at the new requirements," so he's suing on the grounds that “it violated China’s consumer-protection law by requiring the collection of sensitive data without seeking permission from pass-holders beforehand.”
It’s not 100% clear just yet how this case will develop, especially since the Journal writes “Already, facial-recognition cameras are thickly sprinkled throughout China in a multiplying variety of locations, including at traffic intersections, hotels, office buildings and schools.” A bit more, here.
The global economy appears to be rooting for a U.S.-China trade deal, the Associated Press reports today noting “Germany’s DAX edged almost 0.1% higher to 13,139” on positive indications and rumors of a Beijing-Washington breakthrough, “while the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.2% at 5,835. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.3% to 7,388. Markets in New York looked set to extend gains, with futures for the Dow and S&P 500 up 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively.”
There’s a whole raft of seemingly positive short-term indicators, including in “manufacturing, which has been hit particularly hard by President Donald Trump’s trade war, [where] investors were seeing some hope that things may be hitting bottom soon, though that optimism could evaporate if U.S.-China trade talks take yet another turn for the worse.” Read on, here.
The UK’s domestic spy agency is sitting on a report about “alleged Russian interference in Britain’s democratic process,” and the agency’s former director-general wants it released as soon as possible — ideally before the next general election, AP reports from London. Reuters has more on why various concerned parties believe the report is being held up, including allegations that touch current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, here.
For your ears only: Check out NPR’s short history on how the stories we tell — both real and fake — go viral in the latest episode of the Hidden Brain podcast entitled, “The Talk Market: How Stories and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives.” It clocks in at just under 40 minutes, and you can start listening here.
And finally today: The U.S. begins its formal withdrawal from Paris climate deal. On Monday, the first day possible under the nearly-200-nation accord, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced via tweet that the United States had triggered the one-year countdown to withdrawal. “Keeping up the pressure for the kinds of economic change necessary to stave off the worse effects of planetary warming will be much harder without the world’s superpower,” the New York Times writes.
Working up a Plan B. “Around the world, a shift in diplomatic strategy has already begun. Making the accord work without the United States will require other major polluters like China and India to step up. China, now the largest emitter of planet-warming pollutants, has made significant promises but Beijing’s ability to deliver is still in question.” Read on, here.
ICYMI: An Army War College report last week laid out many of the likely national-security impacts of the climate crisis. More, here.