Today's D Brief: Biden plans aid speech; China’s military power; Drone attacks in Iraq; Army’s misstored parts; And a bit more.
President Biden to deliver national address on Israel-Ukraine aid package Thursday evening. After flying into Israel on Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden is reportedly planning to ask lawmakers to approve a $100 billion aid package that links four big national-security issues: support for Israel against Hamas terrorists, support for Ukraine against Russian invaders, military aid to Taiwan in the face of Chinese aggression, and additional money for the U.S.-Mexico border.
The primetime address follows action in the Senate on those issues, as Politico reported Tuesday. Granted, action in the upper chamber is much different from getting traction in the House of Representatives, which is still paralyzed as Republicans struggle to name a House Speaker. The GOP, which holds a fragile majority in the lower chamber, has been stymied by the dissent of far-right lawmakers who largely do not want to provide more aid to Ukraine. The New York Times and NPR have a bit more on the president’s planned address, which is expected at 8 p.m. ET.
What Biden got out of his Israel trip: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed to allow no more than 20 humanitarian aid trucks into Gaza, but they’re not likely to be able to cross from Egypt through the Rafah gate and into Gaza until possibly Friday, Biden told reporters traveling back to the states on Air Force One Wednesday evening. There are lots of sections of road to repair, Biden said, and there are around 150 trucks waiting to enter Gaza with aid.
For what it’s worth, the United Nations’ aid chief Martin Griffiths said Wednesday that Gaza needs 100 trucks of aid per day, as 2.3 million people suffer from dwindling food, water, fuel and medical supplies.
Biden: “If, in fact, [the 20 aid trucks] cross the border, the U.N. is going to be on the other side distributing this material—offloading it and then distributing it, which is going to take a little time to set up, probably.”
But if “Hamas confiscates it or doesn’t let it get through or just confiscates it, then it’s going to end,” the president said, “because we’re not going to be sending any humanitarian aid to Hamas if they’re going to be confiscating it. That’s the commitment that I’ve made.”
Convincing Israel to allow aid to Gaza was at least as hard as convincing Egypt’s El-Sisi. For Sisi, “there’s wars going on on every side of his country,” said Biden. But “Israel has been badly victimized” by the surprise attack from Hamas terrorists that began on October 7. But for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netahyahu and his war cabinet, “the truth is that if they have an opportunity to relieve suffering of people who are—have nowhere to go [from Gaza], they’re going to be—it’s what they should do.”
“My point to everyone is: Look, if you have an opportunity to alleviate the pain, you should do it. Period,” Biden told reporters. “And if you don’t, you’re going to lose credibility worldwide. And I think everyone understands that.”
On the Gaza hospital explosion that killed hundreds of Palestinians Tuesday, the president repeated his cautious message from the day before, telling reporters, “Our Defense Department says it’s highly unlikely that it was the Israelis. It would have had a different footprint,” he said, likely referring to the post-strike debris field that we discussed briefly in Wednesday’s D Brief.
“I’m not suggesting that Hamas deliberately did it, either,” said Biden. Going further, he added, “It’s that old thing: You’ve got to learn how to shoot straight. You know, and—and it’s not the first time Hamas has launched something that didn’t function very well.”
For the record: “[T]here’s no intention to put U.S. boots on the ground in combat,” John Kirby of the White House’s National Security Council told reporters after the president took a break.
Developing: Hamas allegedly used North Korean F-7 rocket-propelled grenades in their initial assault on Israel, the Associated Press reported Thursday, citing “South Korean officials, two experts on North Korean arms and an Associated Press analysis of weapons captured on the battlefield by Israel.”
New: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Tel Aviv Thursday. “Above all, I'm here to express my solidarity with the Israeli people,” Sunak told Israeli reporters upon landing. “You have suffered an unspeakable, horrific act of terrorism and I want you to know that the United Kingdom and I stand with you,” he said, according to Reuters.
Sunak: Hamas are “the modern barbarians, the worst monsters on the planet,” he said during his trip Thursday. He’s next expected to travel to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, according to al-Jazeera. Sinak’s top diplomat, James Cleverly, is already in Egypt and plans to visit officials in Turkey and Qatar over the course of the weekend. And Sunak’s military chief, Grant Shapps, dropped by the Pentagon Wednesday for talks with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Developing: A State Department official resigned this week over what he felt was too little attention given to the Palestinian people, according to the New York Times. His name is Josh Paul, and he’s been serving as director of congressional and public affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs for more than a decade. “I fear we are repeating the same mistakes we have made these past decades, and I decline to be a part of it for longer,” he wrote in his resignation letter, which you can read on LinkedIn, here.
- “The next drone war is coming to Gaza,” from D1’s Patrick Tucker, who writes, “The world could soon glimpse how soldiers use drones and personal data to find targets.”
- “Why Egypt and other Arab countries are unwilling to take in Palestinian refugees from Gaza,” via the Associated Press, reporting Wednesday in a sort of historical explainer published Wednesday from Cairo;
- “US vetoes UN Security Council action on Israel, Gaza” because it failed to cite Israel’s right to self defense, Reuters reported Wednesday from New York;
- “The Corrosive Impact of Unconditional US Support for Israel,” via Mother Jones, reporting Wednesday;
- “US Navy ships in Mediterranean bring considerable abilities to help Israel if called upon,” Stars and Stripes reported Thursday from Italy;
- And don’t miss, “Airstrikes, Commandos and a Siege: How the Israeli Military Is Preparing Gaza for an Invasion,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Thursday.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1987, the U.S. Navy attacked two Iranian oil platforms in the Persian Gulf during Operation Nimble Archer, three days after Iran attacked a Kuwaiti oil tanker.
New Chinese military power report: Beijing has not removed its foot from the accelerator of military modernization as it continues ramping up its nuclear warhead inventory, according to the U.S. military’s latest congressionally-mandated annual report on its Chinese counterparts.
One notable difference from last year’s report: The Pentagon believes China will probably have more than 1,000 warheads by 2030. In previous years, the Pentagon estimated the number likely wouldn’t exceed 1,000. So that, as Reuters’ Idrees Ali noted on social media, appears to be a new wrinkle.
China may also be focusing on building a conventionally-armed ICBM to threaten strikes against the U.S., the Pentagon says. But details on such a program are not yet forthcoming.
Meanwhile, many of the same behaviors from previous years continued, the report said. Those included “coercive and risky operational activities targeting foreign aircraft and maritime vessels,” like “lasing, reckless maneuvers; close approaches in the air or at sea; high rates of closure; discharging chaff or flares in close proximity to aircraft; and ballistic missile overflights of Taiwan.”
- “As Putin Leaves China Empty-Handed, Russian Propaganda Hails ‘Triumph Over the West’,” the Moscow Times reported Thursday;
- “From Russia to the Middle East: Why China can’t afford another big conflict,” CNN reported Thursday;
- “How Philippine president Marcos turned against China over sea territory,” the Washington Post reported Thursday;
- “Don’t Rule Out a Financial Crisis in China,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday;
More than a billion dollars’ worth of Army tank and vehicle parts were stored outside and in other risky way, the Pentagon’s inspector general reports. The agency at fault is the Defense Logistics Agency, the report says, which, as of July 2022, had charge of parts and components worth $3.8 billion. “Of these, 67 percent, or $1.3 billion worth of goods, were stored in ways that had ‘critical’ deficiencies, according to storage guidelines under the Care of Supplies in Storage regulations,” writes D1’s Sam Skove, here.
And lastly: The U.S. military in Iraq fought off three different drone attacks this week across at least two locations, officials from the Tampa-based Central Command said Wednesday. “In western Iraq, U.S. forces engaged two drones, destroying one and damaging the second, resulting in minor injuries to Coalition forces,” CENTCOM said. The other attack occurred in northern Iraq, where U.S. forces shot down the drone and fortunately did not suffer any injuries. Tiny bit more to that report, here.