Today's D Brief: Iran's new missile; WH looks to Army logistics in Ukraine; Senators warn against new nuclear deal; And a bit more.
Iran’s military just unveiled a new missile with a 900-mile range, state-run media IRNA reported in English on Wednesday.
Tehran calls it the “Kheibar Shekan,” or Kheibar buster, which “refers to an ancient Jewish oasis called Kheibar in the Arabian Peninsula's Hijaz region that was overrun by Muslim warriors in the 7th century,” according to Reuters.
And just in case there was any question, Iran’s military chief announced Wednesday at the unveiling of the new rocket, “We will continue on the path of growth, development, and excellence for our missile power, both in terms of quantity and quality.”
Bigger picture: American and Iranian negotiators met in Vienna on Tuesday in what seems to be among the more substantive attempts to revive something like the 2015 nuclear agreement struck by POTUS44’s administration, and later abandoned by POTUS45. However, on the other hand, “the advances Iran has made since the Trump administration exited the deal in 2018 have eroded gains for Western negotiators, who have been striving to ensure Iran never gets close to developing a nuclear weapon,” the Wall Street Journal reports this morning from Berlin and Washington.
Back stateside, 32 Republican senators sternly warned POTUS46 against reaching any deal with Iran that doesn’t get senate approval first. Should the Biden administration proceed anyway, then it’s Groundhog Day all over again, the senators said in their letter to the president on Monday. “Any agreement related to Iran’s nuclear program which is not a treaty ratified by the Senate is subject to being reversed, and indeed will likely be torn up, in the opening days of the next Presidential administration, as early as January 2025.” Read the rest of that letter over via Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, here. The Hill has a bit more, here.
ICYMI: “Iran is the No. 1 destabilizing factor in the Middle East right now with their malign behavior,” said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla, the commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the nominee to lead America’s military missions in the Middle East at U.S. Central Command. He sat through his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Defense One’s Jacqueline Feldscher has more from that one, here.
Today on the Hill: Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee are receiving a closed-door briefing on Iran and those Vienna talks, and apparently at the TS-SCI level, according to the committee’s website.
Some SFRC members will also discuss Afghanistan and the humanitarian response this afternoon, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Details here.
Also on the Hill: “The Legal and Human Costs of 20 Years of U.S. Drone Strikes.” That’s the focus of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which began reviewing that very American way of war at 10 a.m. ET. That one’s not classified, and you can catch it live here.
From Defense One
Iran Is ‘No. 1 Destabilizing’ Threat In Middle East, CENTCOM Nominee Says // Jacqueline Feldscher: The U.S. must use advanced technology and work with regional partners to counter Tehran, Army three-star tells lawmakers.
The $76 Billion Cost of a Yearlong Continuing Resolution // Arnold Punaro: Inflation is making 2022 a terrible year to lack a budget. Congress must act.
Autonomous Black Hawk Tests Will Pave the Way For Future Unmanned Missions // Patrick Tucker: Software once designed to be a digital co-pilot is taking the wheel.
US Navy Updating Contact List of Sailors, Employees, Families, in Eastern Europe // Caitlin M. Kenney: As tension grows over Russia’s threats to Ukraine, the roster could help mount an evacuation.
DOD Wants More Software Factories // Lauren C. Williams: Defense officials outlined plans to make the Air Force's Kessel Run a model across the department.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson, with Elizabeth Howe and Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1991, Lithuanians voted to leave the Soviet Union.
The White House just approved a plan to help Americans depart Ukraine, should they choose to leave the country because of conflict with Russia, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Some 30,000 Americans are believed to be in Ukraine presently, according to U.S. officials, who are no doubt looking to learn from the recent tragedy of Kabul’s rapid collapse this past August.
Several receiving facilities are planned in Poland, just across Ukraine’s border; and the current plan is for them to be staffed by those U.S. paratroopers who recently flew to Europe as part of a 3,000-troop alliance assistance package. Read more at the Journal, here.
Meanwhile, Russia sent three more warships to the Black Sea as its second phase of exercises in Belarus are set to begin on Thursday. According to U.S. Naval Institute News, “The 4,080-ton amphibs are each capable of landing 10 main battle tanks and about 350 troops ashore.” More, here.
And Europe’s central bank is warning Russia-sponsored cyberattacks could be coming, Reuters reports from Frankfurt and London.
The Washington-Brussels hotline is open: White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan rang up NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to chat about Ukraine on Tuesday. Diplomacy, de-escalation, and contingency planning for NATO’s eastern flank were also discussed, according to the White House’s readout.
Next: NATO’s Stoltenberg welcomes British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to alliance headquarters in Brussels. And that’s the same day Germany is set to host four-way Ukraine talks in Berlin, featuring officials from Paris, Kyiv, and Moscow.
The U.S. Air Force approved its first religious waivers for the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. After disapproving 3,222 of the controversial waivers, nine have been approved, according to new data made public on Tuesday.
More than 2,500 requests are still being processed, Defense One’s Elizabeth Howe reports. These latest approvals make the Air Force the second branch to have done so; the Marine Corps granted its first religious exemptions last month. The Army and Navy have yet to approve one, and both branches have begun the process of separating service members who have refused.
The State Department just cleared a possible $70 million sale of missiles to Jordan, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Wednesday, signaling Congress could now approve or reject the sale—though no one expects that.
Involved: 114 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System rockets; and 114 “practice rockets” produced largely at Lockheed Martin’s missile unit, based in Dallas. Read more, here.
ICYMI: Taiwan could soon get $100 million in Patriot air defense systems, DSCA announced on Monday. The pending package “will help to sustain [Taiwan]’s missile density and ensure readiness for air operations…as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen homeland defense,” DSCA said in its release. Raytheon and Lockheed would handle that one in facilities at Massachusetts and Arkansas, respectively. More here.
And lastly today: Don’t look now, but al-Qaeda’s leader is advocating harmony, tolerance, and forgiveness in his latest video message to followers, entitled, “Together to Allah, part 3.” In this latest video, 70-year-old Ayman al-Zawahiri admitted his last two messages “may have been a bit dry,” AQ-watcher Elizabeth Kendall noted on Twitter on Tuesday after taking it in. “They were,” she tweeted. And added, “So is [part three], apart from a bizarre anecdote of a bedouin who urinated in a mosque (he was forgiven).”
Another wonk’s POV: “The best de-radicalization trick is to allow these senile videos to keep coming,” Middle East scholar Hassan Hassan responded on Twitter.