Today's D Brief: Explosion at Iran nuke site; $715B DoD budget request; NG called to Minneapolis; Pentagon’s extremism review; And a bit more.
Iran says it was a victim of “nuclear terrorism” during a power outage at its Natanz uranium plant as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Israel this weekend. The damage occurred as the Biden administration and Iranian officials danced around talks about returning to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal that had slowed Tehran’s progress toward nuclear weapons.
The Sunday blackout followed an explosion at the site “that completely destroyed the independent — and heavily protected — internal power system that supplies the underground centrifuges that enrich uranium,” the New York Times reports.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said the explosion was an act of “nuclear terrorism” and called upon the international community to act.
“We will take revenge on the Zionists,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told parliament today. “Military and political officials of the Zionist regime have explicitly said they will not allow progress in removal of the unfair sanctions and now they think they reach their goal,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
FWIW: Russian officials say they hope whatever happened won’t “undermine” progress on nuclear talks, Agence France-Presse reports.
About Austin’s travels: He “was expected to discuss the blackout in meetings in Israel on Monday with his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz, and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. It was unclear whether the Israeli government had given the United States advance warning of any operation,” the Times reported.
From Defense One
Biden’s $715B Defense Ask: Higher Than Expected, Lower than Trump’s Plan // Marcus Weisgerber: “Skinny budget” announcement hints at cuts to troop levels and existing weapons.
Pentagon Launches Post-Insurrection Extremism Review // Ben Watson: Secretary Austin directs new steps, studies to keep extremists out of the ranks and better protect outgoing troops from being recruited into extremist groups.
Fewer Troops Are Declining the COVID Vaccine. We May Never Know Why // Elizabeth Howe: Defense leaders say education efforts and seeing peers get vaccinated are reducing the reluctance.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: Defense giants gird for tax battle; $715B skinny budget; Mixed readiness picture; and more...
The Intelligence Community’s Deadly Bias Toward Classified Sources // Cortney Weinbaum: Its willful blindness to publicly available information is hurting national security.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On April 12, 1955, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was declared safe; subsequent vaccination campaigns helped wipe out the “most notorious disease of the 20th century.”
National Guard troops have been called to Minneapolis after police killed another Black man in the city, with the latest happening Sunday afternoon during a traffic stop, according to the local StarTribune. The shooting “spark[ed] protests, looting and clashes with police” that lasted through the evening and spread to the north and south of the city, the Wall Street Journal adds.
"Police used tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets” on the crowd of nearly 500 protesters, who “climbed atop the police headquarters’ sign” before scattering, the StarTribune reports.
The Guard troops “arrived just before midnight as looters targeted the Brooklyn Center Walmart and nearby shopping mall,” leaving a Foot Locker, T Mobile, and a New York men's clothing store “completely destroyed.”
Local mayor Mike Elliott released a video message this morning, vowing “to make sure that everything is done in our power to ensure that justice is done.” See that here. Read more at the StarTribune, here.
Virginia police lied in their report after removing a Black and Latino Army lieutenant from his SUV this past December and pepper-spraying him before pushing him down to the ground. The incident happened after police believed the soldier’s brand-new Chevy Tahoe was missing a license plate, the Virginian-Pilot reported late last week after the soldier’s attorney obtained police body camera footage of the incident.
The soldier is now suing the police in federal court, alleging the police “violated his rights guaranteed under the First and Fourth Amendments,” CNN reports.
Maryland lawmakers passed a bill to limit police use of force, overriding a veto from the Republican governor on Saturday. Among the changes: “One section creates a new statewide use-of-force policy and says that officers who violate those standards, causing serious injury or death, can be convicted and sent to prison for up to 10 years,” the New York Times reports. In addition, “law enforcement agencies statewide must establish a system to identify police officers who are considered likely to use excessive force and to retrain, counsel or, if needed, reassign them.”
Maryland police will also now be required to wear body cameras by 2025, and they’re also required to allow people to film them working so long as the one filming is “acting lawfully and safely.”
ICYMI: Four “Boogaloo” militiamen destroyed evidence in the middle of a desperate scramble with police after one of their members — an Air Force staff sergeant — allegedly shot and killed a federal officer May 29, 2020, in California. The Justice Department unsealed the new charges Friday, which add additional dimensions to the late spring arrest of that 32-year-old staff sergeant named Steven Carrillo.
Four of Carillo’s fellow militiamen were named in the new charges, which allege that as police closed in on Carillo on the afternoon of June 6, “the four defendants each deleted records of the WhatsApp group communications from their phones, including the prior discussions regarding violence against law enforcement.”
The costs for destroying evidence could be as many as “20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each of the conspiracy, obstruction, and destruction charges,” the Justice Department said. Read over the full charges, here.
The Taliban say they’re not ready to talk about peace Friday in Istanbul, the group’s spokesman told the BBC today. Afghan Tolo News confirmed the development Monday, citing unspecified details yet to be worked out ahead of the group’s travel to Turkey. The Kabul government, meanwhile, has reportedly begun naming members of its negotiating team … whenever it is that they get to talk to the Taliban again.
How the Taliban wants to shape the near-term future: Tolo reports the group is requesting some 7,000 prisoners be released in exchange for the U.S. military remaining past its May 1 withdrawal deadline, which was a deadline reached 13 months ago in a deal with the Trump administration.
- How the Taliban is shaping the near-term future: By continuing its bloody war with Afghan troops. The latest known violent attack involved a car bomb detonating at an outpost in western Herat province today, triggering a gunbattle in Shindand district. At least 17 Taliban were allegedly killed in fighting around Shindand since Sunday. More from Tolo, here.
The White House’s top Afghan diplomat just finished a four-day trip to Kabul where Zalmay Khalilzad reportedly urged participants to hurry this whole peace process up, Voice of America’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports. According to a statement from Khalilzad’s office, he said it was “essential” to include the “full and meaningful participation of women and minorities in the peace talks.” More from Tolo, here.
America’s top diplomat tempered expectations that the U.S. would support a future Afghan government that includes the Taliban. Here’s State Secretary Antony Blinken speaking to Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press” on Sunday: “Look, ultimately, any peace that is going to be lasting and that is going to be just has to be Afghan-led, and what we’re doing now is really energizing our diplomacy to try to bring the parties together — the Taliban, the Government of Afghanistan, other key players, but also countries in the region that have interests and influence in Afghanistan — to try and move in that direction. I don’t think anyone in Afghanistan, whether it’s the Taliban, whether it’s the government, and certainly not the people, have an interest in that country falling back into civil war. They’ve been in conflict for 40 years. If the Taliban, for example, wants recognition, if they want international support, if they are part of some kind of new government going forward in Afghanistan, that can’t happen; that support won’t be there.”
One more thing from that Blinken interview: China striking Taiwan “would be a serious mistake.” Elaborating somewhat, Blinken said “we have a commitment to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, a bipartisan commitment that’s existed for many, many years, to make sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself and to make sure that we’re sustaining peace and security in the Western Pacific. We stand behind those commitments. And all I can tell you is it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force.” Read over the full Blinken-Todd interview, here.
And lastly: New WH intel and cyber postings coming today: The Biden administration is expected to nominate former National Security Agency deputy director Chris Inglis to a new top White House cyber position and former NSA official Jen Easterly to be in charge of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Washington Post reports today.
Worth noting: “As national cyber director, Inglis will coordinate the defense of civilian agencies and review agencies’ cyber budgets,” the Post’s Ellen Nakashima writes. “But because the position is outside the National Security Council, he will not oversee offensive cyber policy conducted by military and intelligence agencies.”
Neither Inglis nor Easterly is expected to face tough objections during the approval process, which could take two months or so. More here.