Today's D Brief: Russia pleads for drones; ISIS leader killed, US says; Biden heads to Mideast; Jan. 6 hearings continue; And a bit more.
Russia is allegedly asking Iran to rush “hundreds” of drones so Vladimir Putin can continue his Ukraine invasion, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday at the White House.
“Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs, on an expedited timeline,” Sullivan said as an almost throwaway line at the top of his remarks Monday afternoon. “Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs with initial training sessions slated to begin as soon as early July,” he said.
Caveat: “It’s unclear whether Iran has delivered any of these UAVs to Russia already,” Sullivan cautions. “But this is just one example of how Russia is looking to countries like Iran for capabilities that are also being used…to attack Saudi Arabia.”
If the claims are true, “The irony of this is that Russia would be outsourcing its drone production to another heavily sanctioned country that is fairly reliant on smuggling to power its drone fleet,” said Iran-watcher Adam Rawnsley of Rolling Stone. “Although they seem to be better at this than Russia if only because they’ve been at it longer,” he tweeted Monday after Sullivan’s announcement.
New: Ukraine’s military struck a Russian ammo depot in the southern city of Kherson on Monday, sending an enormous ball of fire into the air, followed by countless secondary blasts—as witnessed in these videos posted to social media and compiled in a Twitter thread by war scholar and Russia-watcher Rob Lee. Otherwise, it was a fairly slow news day in terms of territorial advances by Putin’s invaders, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin rang his Ukrainian counterpart on Monday. In that call, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov brought Austin up to speed on the battlefield situation, and the two discussed the latest batch of U.S. weaponry headed to Ukraine, as well as what the two expect from the next Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, which will be virtual, and is scheduled for July 20.
- “Germany, Czech Republic pledge solidarity as Russian gas flows stop,” via Reuters, reporting Monday from Berlin;
- “Janet Yellen Begins Asia Trip to Win Support for Cap on Russian Oil Price,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Monday from Tokyo;
- French carmaker “Renault Says Sales Fell 30% Following Withdrawal From Russia Market,” also via the Journal, reporting Tuesday from Paris;
- “Shorten the war. Send 60 HIMARS to Ukraine,” via Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations, writing in the Washington Post on Monday;
- And “The Hate I Feel,” via Kyiv-based journalist Veronika Melkozerova, writing in The Atlantic on Tuesday about coping with her feelings of anger over the idea that “Russia might get away with what it has done to Ukraine.”
From Defense One
US Drone Strike Kills Leader of ISIS In Syria // Jacqueline Feldscher: The strike comes just ahead of Biden’s first trip to the Middle East as president.
Space Runs on Open Source Software. The US Air Force Is Fine With That // Patrick Tucker: Commercial space players don’t have the same security concerns as the Pentagon, but that doesn’t mean they can’t share code.
Five Space Lessons Russia’s Invasion Taught Ukraine // Tara Copp: Kyiv now wants its own imagery and comms satellites—and a stealthy way to launch them, a former space agency head says.
Will Republicans Cut Off Ukraine? // Jacqueline Feldscher: If control of Congress flips, a small but growing number of America-first lawmakers could derail American support for the war against Russia.
Army’s New Plan to ‘Transform’ Soldier Health Care with Technology // Lauren C. Williams: Service leaders will boost research into synthetic blood, quantum computing, and more.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 1973, a 22-hour fire began sweeping through the entire sixth floor of the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, destroying at least 16 million U.S. military personnel records—including about 80% of soldiers discharged between November 1912 and January 1960; nearly 75% of Air Force personnel records spanning late September 1947 to January 1964 were also destroyed in the fire. According to the National Archives, “Due to the extensive damages, investigators were never able to determine the source of the fire.”
Developing: The U.S. military says it killed the newest leader of ISIS in a drone strike over northwestern Syria on Tuesday. The aircraft attacked the alleged fighters while they were moving around Jindayris, Syria, according to a statement from the Tampa-based U.S. Central Command.
Targeted: “Maher al-Agal, one of the top five ISIS leaders and the leader of ISIS in Syria,” whom CENTCOM says perished in the attack. He was believed to have been “responsible for aggressively pursuing the development of ISIS networks outside of Iraq and Syria,” according to CENTCOM. A different “senior ISIS official closely associated with Maher” was also seriously injured, but not killed. Our colleague Jacqueline Feldscher has a bit more, here.
President Biden leaves for the Middle East late this evening in a trip that will bring him to Israel, the West Bank—and later to a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia, where the leaders of Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan are also expected. Unlike POTUS45’s first official Middle East trip, no one expects POTUS46 to grope a mysterious glowing orb in the presence of ailing Saudi King Salman and Egypt’s general-turned-coup leader, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
NSA Sullivan’s big-picture preview: “Despite ongoing challenges, the Middle East President Biden will be visiting is more stable than the one we inherited 18 months ago,” he told reporters Monday at the White House. “We inherited a war in Yemen that was causing widespread death and suffering. We now have had more than three months of a ceasefire in Yemen — the longest peace in seven years.”
In Iraq, “we kept up pressure on ISIS, significantly degrading their capabilities, including by taking out its emir, allowing us to end the U.S. combat mission and transition our military presence in Iraq to focus on training Iraqis,” he said, and emphasized that “the frequency of Iranian-sponsored attacks against our forces in Iraq and Syria has dropped dramatically.”
“Our diplomacy with Saudi Arabia is now delivering results,” Sullivan said, “including a truce in Yemen, a more integrated GCC, progress on energy security, and security cooperation against threats from Iran.” And when it comes to Jerusalem, “Our partnership with Israel is strong across the board,” said Sullivan, pointing to the passage of a $4 billion support package for Israel, which he called the largest such package “in American history.”
Biden is also planning to receive a briefing about Israel’s Iron Dome and new Iron Beam missile defense systems, according to Sullivan. “And he will hold a four-way virtual summit with the leaders of Israel, the UAE, and India, with a focus on food security.” More from the White House, here.
About 12 hours before departing for the Mideast, Biden will meet with his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The two men are slated to discuss “food security, continued cooperation on migration, and joint development efforts,” according to the White House.
Today on Capitol Hill: The January 6 Committee is slated to hold its seventh public hearing on the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol building. The focus is expected to center on the Trump administration’s alleged ties to extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys—both of whom reportedly sent elements to the Capitol that day. That one gets started around 12:45 p.m. ET. Catch the livestream via C-Span, here; or via the Select Committee’s website, here.
- “Proud Boys Led Major Breaches of Capitol on Jan. 6, Video Investigation Finds,” via the New York Times, reporting June 17 and updated just yesterday;
- “Oath Keeper brought explosives to D.C. ahead of Jan. 6 attack, prosecutor says,” Reuters reported Monday; the Washington Post has more on that angle, here;
- And “Former Oath Keepers spokesman, Capitol rioter to testify at January 6 hearing,” CBS News reported Monday evening, previewing today’s hearing.
Elsewhere on the Hill this morning, the Pentagon’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Chidi Blyden joins lawmakers with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a hearing on “Instability and the State of Democracy in the Sahel.” That began at 10:30 a.m. ET; livestream here.
Lastly: The U.S. Navy lost a Super Hornet when winds blew it off a carrier on Friday in the Mediterranean Sea. The Navy announced the mishap Sunday citing “unexpected heavy weather.”
How common is that? Extremely uncommon, former Navy meteorologist David Titley told Jason Samenow of the Washington Post’s “Capital Weather Gang” on Monday. Samenow explains in greater detail exactly how weather conditions led to this unusual outcome, here.
NEXT STORY: US Drone Strike Kills Leader of ISIS In Syria