The D Brief: Syria strikes, China fusion, Ethiopian rebel progress, no starcruisers, and a bit more...

Strikes and counterstrikes in Syria. Rockets landed on Monday at an oil field site that U.S. officials call “Green Village,” leading U.S. troops to fire defenses against the incoming munitions. Green Village is “part of a larger security zone where some 900 U.S. troops operate to protect support local Syrian fighters against ISIS,” CNN reports. No injuries were immediately reported

The attack followed Sunday’s U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias, which were retaliation for militia-launched UAV attacks on bases inside Iraq.

About those UAVs: The 12- to 15-foot drones carry up to 30 kg of explosives, making them “a clear escalation by Iran — and a worrying signal to intelligence officials that the US no longer enjoys autonomy in the skies over Iraq,” reports CNN’s Katie Bo Williams. “Rather than being guided by a pilot from a remote location, some of these small, fixed-wing drones use GPS navigation, making them far less visible to US surveillance systems and impervious to jamming.”

Actions renew concern over war-powers authorization. Some Democrats say the Biden administration should be consulting Congress, but the White House says the strikes are within the president’s Article II authority. CNN: “The airstrikes come after the House passed legislation earlier this month repealing the 2002 authorization for use of military force in Iraq. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to take up similar legislation next month, and the Biden administration has said it supports the repeal, arguing that the 2002 authorization is no longer used for any military operations.” 

A short timeline: 

  • Feb. 15: Rockets kill one U.S. contractor, injure one servicemember at Erbil International Airport in Iraq.
  • Feb. 26: U.S. forces hit a site in Syria used by two Iranian-backed militia groups.
  • April: A CIA hangar in Erbil is damaged by a UAV launched by Iran-backed militia forces.
  • June: Another drone attack damaged a dining facility at Baghdad’s main airport. 
  • June 27: U.S. forces hit two sites they say were used to launch the drone attacks, one in Syria and one in Iraq.
  • June 28: Rockets hit a U.S. military base in Syria.

From Defense One

China’s Fusion Research Is Heating Up  // Peter W. Singer and Thomas Corbett: The EAST reactor in Hefei broke records last month as it edges toward the sustained stellar temperatures needed to generate fusion energy.

World War II’s Lesson for After the Pandemic // Derek Thompson, The Atlantic: The U.S. needs another innovation dream team.

The Air & Space Brief // Tara Copp: F-15s, F-16s hit Syria, UFO taskers, Microsoft’s space play; and more...

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here

In Ethiopia, rebels regain control of a regional capital. Officials with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front said Mekele was under the group’s “complete control.” A government official confirmed that all members of the Addis Ababa-appointed interim government had fled the city. The Washington Post, has more here.

The rapid spread of COVID’s delta variant is causing new lockdowns around the world. Washington Post: “The new curbs on travel and daily life stretched from Australia and Bangladesh to South Africa and Germany, where authorities over the weekend set new limits on travelers from ‘virus-variant zones’ such as Portugal and Russia.” More, here.

Lastly today: Physics throws cold water on predictions of Space Force “starcruisers.” Responding in War on the Rocks to a previous article there, Rebecca Reesman and James Wilson write: “Jeff Becker claims that the era of ‘starcruisers’ — spacecraft whose maneuvering is not principally dictated by orbital mechanics — is closer than people think. While Becker examines some meaningful technological developments, his analysis — like other work on the topic — does not recognize the challenges and physics that would be involved in fighting a conflict in space.” Read on, here.