Today's D Brief: ISIS leader killed in Iraq; Overture to Iran; Italy halts UAE arms deal; JAIC’s next steps; And a bit more.

ISIS just lost its senior-most Iraqi leader in an airstrike, the U.S. military announced this morning. It happened on Wednesday about two hours north of Baghdad. 

His name: Abu Yasir, and he was killed south of Tikrit in a joint operation with coalition forces that also killed 10 suspected ISIS fighters, coalition spox U.S. Army Col. Wayne Marotto tweeted. “The Coalition will continue to remove key leaders from the battlefield and degrade the terrorist organization,” said Marotta in a follow-up tweet. “Terrorists-you will never live in peace- you will be pursued to the ends of the earth.”

Context: The area around Tikrit “has been an ISIS fallback zone and leadership sanctuary since 2018,” tweeted regional security analyst Alex Mello. In fact, he added, Iraq special operations forces “killed the [ISIS] deputy wali of Iraq in an air assault in this same area in Dec[ember],” and that mission likely drove the operation to kill Yasir. 

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is celebrating on Twitter, writing, “We promised and fulfilled. I gave my word to pursue Daesh terrorists, we gave them a thundering response. Our heroic armed forces have eliminated Daesh commander Abu Yaser Al-Issawi as part of an intelligence-led operation. Long live Iraq and its patriotic armed forces.”

From Defense One

Northrop Grumman Says It Will Walk Away From Cluster Bomb Contract // Marcus Weisgerber: The company's CEO says the decision is part of a move to "be thoughtful about potential human rights implications" of its products.

New Biden Directive Shields Federal Scientists From Political Interference // Eric Katz, Government Executive: President also calls on agencies to overhaul their vehicle fleet.

The Next Steps For the Pentagon's AI Hub // Chris Bassler and Bryan Durkee: Six ways the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center can accelerate the military’s use of AI.

The Pentagon’s Chance to Get Serious About Climate Change // Sharon Burke: Biden’s executive order is a welcome first step — but there's only so much the military can do.

Beijing’s Warning Shot to Biden // Ashley Feng and Edward Fishman: U.S. policymakers must begin treating sanctions by other countries as a serious national security threat.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1964, the classic Cold War-era film, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” was first released in theaters. 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is speaking this morning with NBC News Correspondent Carol Lee. It’s part of the Aspen Security Forum’s Global Leaders Series of events, and it began at 9:45 a.m. ET. 
Also this morning: POTUS46’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is sitting down with POTUS45’s NSA Robert O’Brien in a conversation moderated by POTUS43’s NSA Condoleezza Rice. It’s an event called “Passing the Baton 2021: Securing America’s Future Together,” and it’s hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace. That one starts at 11 a.m. ET. Details and more here

The White House has a new Iran envoy, and it’s Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group. “Malley was a key member of former President Barack Obama’s team that negotiated the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran,” Reuters reported Thursday.
As envoy, Malley won’t require Senate confirmation, the New York Times reports amid criticism from aggressive conservatives like Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
Here’s a window into current White House thinking when it comes to Iran and a possible attempt to revive a nuclear deal: “[I]f Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Wednesday. 

President Biden is planning a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this afternoon for about two hours “to visit with wounded service members,” according to the White House’s public schedule today. 

Italy just blocked the $485 million sale of some 20,000 missiles to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Reuters reports today from Rome. 
What’s going on? The deal was reached “in 2016 under a centre-left government led by Matteo Renzi,” but Renzi “triggered a government collapse in Rome this week by pulling his Italia Viva party from the coalition.”
“This is an act that we considered necessary, a clear message of peace coming from our country,” Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said. “For us, the respect of human rights is an unbreakable commitment.” A bit more here

Are America’s special operators (and their bosses) doing enough to follow the laws of war? The Defense Department’s Inspector General is going to look into the matter now, the New York Times reported Thursday after news of the policy and tactics review first surfaced earlier this week. 

Hey CIA peeps: Better not try and work for a foreign government after your time at Langley is up. That was the gist of an unusual email Monday from Sheetal Patel, the C.I.A.’s assistant director for counterintelligence, according to the NYTs reporting Wednesday.
Also in that email: Retired officers really need “to carefully weigh their comments on television, social media, and podcasts.”
Context: “What’s changed is with the digital revolution, the internet and social media, everybody’s got a platform,” Nicholas Dujmovic, former agency historian and current professor at the Catholic University of America, told the Times. “It is impossible for the agency to even be aware of, much less actively monitor, every time a former says something,” he said. More here

Lastly this week: The Pentagon slammed its brakes on advisory boards, which “effectively prevents a number of Trump allies, including Corey Lewandoski and David Bossie, from actually serving” on at least five different boards or advisory panels, Politico reported Thursday.
Worth noting: The new directive from SecDef Austin reportedly only “applied to Trump nominees who were still in the process of seeking security clearances and being seated,” the Wall Street Journal added. “Other nominees already had completed the onboarding process and had joined their advisory panels.”

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!