Today's D Brief: Rocket attack in Iraq; 2,000 domestic-terror investigations; Understanding Jan. 6; Big boost for vaccine production; And a bit more.

Someone launched at least 10 rockets this morning at an Iraqi military base that hosts forces from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, the coalition’s spokesman announced today on Twitter. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, and no injuries have yet been reported. However, “A U.S. civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and sadly passed away shortly after,” the Defense Department said in a statement this morning. 

Location: Ain al-Asad airbase, in western Anbar province — where Iran launched ballistic missiles last year, causing multiple concussion injuries for the U.S.-led coalition. “[A]bout 13 rockets were launched from a location about 8 km (5 miles)” outside of al-Asad, according to Reuters. The Pentagon says this morning the rockets were fired from a point just east of the base. A “burned out truck” was discovered at what’s believed to have been the origin point, the Associated Press reports, citing a statement from the Iraqi military.

The rockets fell at about 7:20 a.m. local time, according to U.S. Army Col. Wayne Marotto. Iraqi security forces are “leading the response & investigation,” Marotto tweeted.  

For what it’s worth, “Al Asad’s Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) missile defensive systems engaged in defense of our forces,” the U.S. military said in its statement. 

“These are the 84th such attacks on the US presence in Iraq in just under two years,” and they are “the fourth instance of indirect fire under the Biden administration’s watch,” Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies says. “This is more proof that [the Biden] administration cannot afford to dispense with the counter-Iran lens as it crafts a larger regional policy. But it’s also why an Iraq policy beyond ISIS is needed.”

BTW: Over the last several months, ISIS in Iraq “has gone almost completely dormant,” regional security analyst Alex Almeida tweeted Tuesday with supporting data.

Bigger picture: “The attack is embarrassing for the Iraqi government which is hosting the Pope in a few days,” Mosul-born analyst Rasha Al Aqeedi tweeted.


From Defense One

Militias in Iraq Provide Security, Wield Political Power, and May Be Tearing the Country Apart // Katie Bo Williams: The top U.S. commander there said Iraq may be headed for another civil war if the government can’t firm up control.

Key Elements Expected This Year for Pentagon’s Link-Everything Effort // Patrick Tucker: A second NORTHCOM experiment aims to prove out various concepts for JADC2.

AI-Powered Drones Emerge as R&D Priority for Boeing // Marcus Weisgerber: As the company cuts costs in other areas, a new drone flew for the first time last week.

US Unprepared for AI Competition with China, Commission Finds // Mila Jasper, Nextgov: Retaining the current dwindling edge will take White House leadership and a substantial investment, according to the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. 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 1938, oil was first discovered in Saudi Arabia. 


Understanding January 6, continued. DC’s National Guard commander is testifying this morning — along with Homeland Security and FBI officials — in front of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Rules and Administration Committee. That started at 10 a.m. ET, and you can catch the livestream here. AP previews here.
Trend of the year: “The January 6 insurrection was the culmination of months of online mis- and disinformation directed toward eroding American faith in the 2020 election,” reports the Election Integrity Project, which on Tuesday released its findings from months of tracking the emergence and spread of this misleading information. “The Long Fuse: Misinformation and the 2020 Election” is the result of months of work by about 120 people in four organizations.
Among the findings: “The primary repeat spreaders of false and misleading narratives were verified, blue-check accounts belonging to partisan media outlets, social media influencers, and political figures, including President Trump and his family.” Read the executive summary, or download the whole thing here.
When it comes to right-wing information and news sources,
researchers at New York University found that “far-right and frequent spreaders of misinformation are far more likely to generate likes, shares and other forms of engagement on their respective Facebook pages than right-wing sources of reliable information,” CNN reports this morning.

ICYMI: Domestic terrorism is “metastasizing across the country,” FBI Director Chris Wray told senators Tuesday. He said the FBI is currently working about 2,000 domestic terrorism investigations. And “the number of white supremacists arrested in 2020 had almost tripled from when he started running the F.B.I. three years earlier,” the New York Times reports.
The Jan. 6 Capitol riot has been “an inspiration to a number of terrorist extremists,” foreign and domestic, Wray said. He said “the bureau is still eyeing whether any foreign actors might seek to infiltrate domestic groups to exploit vulnerabilities,” Politico reported.

Vaccines for all U.S. adults by the end of May. That’s what President Biden said Tuesday, announcing that he had deployed the Defense Production Act to urge Johnson & Johnson to allow Merck to produce its one-shot vaccine. This moves the timetable up about two months, the Washington Post reports.
Four states have already relaxed mask requirements and other pandemic public health measures. On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott rescinded a year-old executive order, allowing all businesses to return to 100% capacity on March 10. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves did much the same. That followed last month’s similar moves in Iowa and Montana.
Former FDA commissioner: “We need to view public health threats as a matter of national security. That includes intelligence agencies and public-health officials working together in more collaborative ways to guard against future pandemic risks like Covid,” Scott Gottlieb wrote in a Wall Street Journal oped

The Pentagon’s base-renaming commission met for the first time on Tuesday. U.S. Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said the meeting was virtual (because of course), and the participants “discussed the commission's organization and important duties.” Not much else to know about this video chat other than they will be briefing Congress on their work in early October. 

And finally today: For the first time ever, U.S. officials have met with delegates from the Iran-backed Houthis, based in Yemen. “The discussions, which have not been officially made public by either side, took place in the Omani capital Muscat on Feb. 26 between U.S. Yemen envoy Timothy Lenderking and the Houthis’ chief negotiator Mohammed Abdusalam,” Reuters reports today from Dubai. “[S]ources said Lenderking had pressed the Houthis to halt the Marib offensive and encouraged the movement to engage actively with Riyadh in virtual talks on a ceasefire.”
Said the State Department: “We will not be commenting on all [Lenderking’s] engagements,” a spokesman told Reuters. More here.

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