Today's D Brief: Iranian warship sinks; NATO defense chiefs’ agenda; Ransomware hits meat industry; No new Air Force Two; And just a bit more.

Iran’s largest navy ship caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Oman, Tehran’s state-run media reported Wednesday. 

Involved: a vessel called the Kharg, which Iran’s Tasnim news agency referred to as a “training and logistical ship.” The New York Times calls it “a naval replenishment ship” that is also “Iran’s largest vessel by tonnage weight.” 

It had been in service for more than four decades, but went under Wednesday after “Twenty hours of efforts by military and civilian organizations to extinguish the fire were futile as the fire spread to different parts of the naval ship, which finally sank,” according to the Iranian navy. 

The fire began around 2:30 a.m. local, and forced the 400-member crew to flee, 20 of whom were injured in the process, Iranian Fars news agency reported. 

Bigger picture: This latest sinking follows “a series of mysterious explosions that began in 2019 targeting commercial ships in the Gulf of Oman,” the Associated Press reports. “The U.S. Navy later accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines, timed explosives typically attached by divers to a vessel’s hull.” 

But more recently, in April, e.g., “an Iranian ship called the MV Saviz believed to be a Guard base and anchored for years in the Red Sea off Yemen was targeted in an attack suspected to have been carried out by Israel.”

In other Iran news, America’s European allies are holding a key meeting in Vienna today as part of the renewed trans-Atlantic efforts to get Tehran and Washington back at the negotiating table, the European Union announced today. The meeting will be known officially at the “Joint Commission” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is the formal name for the nuclear monitoring agreement struck under POTUS44 and abandoned by POTUS45. Reuters has a bit more.

By the way: Israel needs $1 billion from the U.S. for “emergency military aid” to rebuild its stock of Iron Dome interceptors exhausted after Tel Aviv’s 11-day spat with Hamas last month, Axios reported Tuesday.

And Hamas? It’s benefiting from a “spike” in Bitcoin donations since U.S. and European sanctions forced the group to seek covert sources of funding, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing an unnamed senior Hamas official.

Said one former Israeli intelligence official: “These [cryptocurrency] money transfers can be untraceable. The sky’s the limit.”

From Defense One

Pentagon Shelves Plans for New Air Force Two // Marcus Weisgerber: In the meantime, the Air Force is in the early stages of developing supersonic and hypersonic passenger aircraft.

Three Fixes to Prevent Another Battle of Lafayette Square // Elizabeth Goitein and Angelo Pis Dudot: A year after federal forces violently cleared the park near the White House, the legal loopholes that militarized D.C. remain wide open.

Biden Brings More Class Warfare to Foreign Policy // Kori Schake, The Atlantic: The president’s version of “America First” echoes Trump’s misunderstanding of how the modern economy works.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1919, eight U.S. cities were hit with targeted mail-bomb attacks sent by anarchists inspired by 58-year-old Italian provocateur Luigi Galleani, who wanted to ignite a class war. Only two people were killed in the eight attacks, and neither was the intended target. Galleani was deported to Italy three weeks later. 

NATO military chiefs video-chatted on Tuesday ahead of this year’s alliance defense ministerial in Brussels, which is scheduled to happen in just under two weeks on June 14.
For the U.S. part, “deterrence and defense remain NATO’s job number one,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his counterparts in Tuesday’s VTC, according to the Pentagon. A few things that were also on Austin’s mind include: 

  • NATO’s 2030 planning initiative;
  • “[S]ystemic challenges from Russia and the People's Republic of China”;
  • “[T]he need for NATO unity in the face of destabilizing and malicious cyber activity”; Austin even “endorsed a new cyber policy,” though exactly what that means is unclear;
  • And Austin promised to support “transitions to a civilian-led engagement” in Afghanistan, as well as the U.S.’s “firm commitment” to “defeating ISIS and supporting the Government of Iraq.”

Here are a few other pressing issues that were also on the minds of NATO members: 

  • Instability and autocracy in Belarus;
  • Establishing a security-focused technology hub (NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called it a “defence innovation accelerator” in his remarks Tuesday);
  • Preserving the rules-based international order that's being “challenged by authoritarian regimes, like Russia and China”;
  • And “strengthening existing partnerships and building new ones, including in the Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Latin America,” according to NATO’s 2030 ambitions.

What are your questions and concerns when it comes to America’s relationship with its European allies? We’ll be investigating a series of related questions in an upcoming Defense One Radio podcast, and we’d love to hear your thoughts in advance. Let us know by emailing us here.

BTW: From the disruptive revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden comes a new report published last week by Denmark’s public broadcaster that alleges the U.S. used Copenhagen’s intelligence agency to spy on nearly three-dozen key European officials like German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The report revealed last week was based on an internal Danish intelligence investigation completed back in 2015, but whose results are being revealed publicly only now, Gizmodo reported Tuesday. CNN has a bit more on the revelations, which are now nearly a decade old, here. And Reuters has more on the mood in Copenhagen, which seems very ready to move on.

America’s second-largest beef producer is bringing the “vast majority” of its facilities back online Wednesday after hackers hit the company with a ransomware attack believed to have originated in Russia. The victim is Brazil-based JBS, which is the world’s biggest meat company by sales, the Wall Street Journal reports.
It’s not just affecting the U.S., where nine plants have been shut down, according to the New York Times. The disruption is also shaking up supply lines in Australia and Canada. AP has more here.

The African Union just suspended Mali after a military coup forced the president and prime minister to resign last week. If that sounds familiar, the same thing happened last August, but then the AU “reinstated the country a few weeks later after the heads of the new civilian-led transitional government were announced,” Reuters reports.

For your eyes only: Read U.S. Army Secretary Wormuth’s first message to the force (PDF), released publicly Wednesday morning. 

Lastly today: What’s the future of U.S. hypersonic missiles and missile defense? That’s the focus of a three-hour event this afternoon hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and featuring the Pentagon’s top hypersonics official, Mike White. It all gets started at 1:30 p.m. ET. Details and livestream here.