Today's D Brief: Iran helping attack US forces, WH says; Macron’s big idea; China fires defense minister; Lockheed ends tanker bid; And a bit more.
U.S. officials accuse Iran of enabling militia attacks on American outposts and bases in Iraq and Syria. For six consecutive days, U.S. troops have come under assault from either rocket or one-way drone attacks across the Middle East. That includes a few more claimed by an Iran-backed militia on Monday, which the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War mapped (here) as part of their Monday evening analysis.
“We are concerned about a broader escalation of these attacks in the days ahead, which is why you've seen us move some additional, or announce some additional movements of forces into the region,” spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a briefing Monday at the Pentagon.
But drawing a direct link to Iran isn’t so easy: “We know that these groups are groups that are backed by Iran,” Ryder said. However, he conceded, “We don't necessarily see that Iran has explicitly ordered them to take these kinds of attacks.” That is to say, he continued, “We haven't seen a direct order, for example, from the Supreme Leader saying ‘go out and do this.’”
The view from the White House: “We know that Iran is closely monitoring these events and, in some cases, actively facilitating these attacks and spurring on others who may want to exploit the conflict for their own good or for that of Iran,” John Kirby of the National Security Council told reporters Monday at the White House.
Developing: The Pentagon recently sent Marine Lt. Gen. James Glynn to Israel to help advise ahead of the anticipated urban warfare of an invasion of Hamas-held Gaza, Axios reported Monday, citing U.S. and Israeli officials. “Several other military officers” also traveled to Israel with Glynn, who used to command Marine special operations forces.
“We have asked several officials with relevant experience simply to help Israeli officials think through the difficult questions ahead and explore their options,” a U.S. military spokesman told Axios, and added, “The [Israeli Defense Forces] will, as always, make its own decisions.”
U.S. officials are also bracing for a possibly messy escalation of Israel’s war with Hamas. That includes preparing for a mass evacuation of some 600,000 Americans from the region, the Washington Post reported Monday.
Idea from Paris: Perhaps the ongoing counter-ISIS coalition should expand to target Hamas, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested during a trip to Israel on Tuesday. “What happened will never be forgotten,” Macron said in Jerusalem. “I am here to express our solidarity,” he added.
Standing beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Macron said, “France is ready for the international coalition against Daesh, in which we are taking part [in] operations in Iraq and Syria, to also fight against Hamas.” Israel’s war with Hamas, he continued, “must be without mercy, but not without rules,” cautioned the French president. You can see more of his remarks, subtitled on YouTube by the UK’s Telegraph, here. Al-Jazeera has more on Macron’s message for Israel and Palestine, here.
Beijing’s top Middle East envoy Zhai Jun also visited Egypt on Monday. “China and Egypt share similar positions on the Palestinian question, and China is ready to work with Egypt to jointly promote the international community to form synergy for peace, and bring the Palestinian question back on the track of a political settlement at an early date,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
- “The Four Questions The U.S. Military Should Be Asking About Operation Swords of Iron,” RAND’s Raphael Cohen and Gian Gentile wrote Monday at War on the Rocks;
- “‘I went through hell:’ Released Hamas hostage describes being kidnapped and taken into tunnel system,” CNN reported Tuesday after the release of 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz, who is one of two more hostages released by Hamas on Monday;
- “News outlets backtrack on Gaza blast after relying on Hamas as key source,” NPR’s media reporter David Folkenflik reported Tuesday after the New York Times issued a correction on Monday;
- And “‘Netanyahu Got All the Warnings,’ Says Former Head of Israeli Military Intelligence,” Politico reported Tuesday after speaking with 71-year-old Amos Yadlin.
Welcome to this Tuesday 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 1648, the so-called “Thirty Years War” ended in contemporary northwestern Germany when Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand III signed a treaty with the leaders of France, Sweden, and other German princes. The document, known as the Peace of Westphalia, ended three decades of religious-themed wars that cost the lives of as many as eight million people across Europe, and paved the way for the modern state system of sovereign nations.
China sacks defense minister. Gen. Li Shangfu has become “the second senior official to be ousted in the past three months with no explanation given,” the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday. “Qin Gang was replaced as foreign minister in July by his predecessor Wang Yi, after a similar unexplained withdrawal from public engagements. The reason for Qin’s removal is still not known.”
By the way: “The general’s removal also followed an abrupt shake-up in the leadership of China’s nuclear force, the highest-level upheaval in China’s military in recent years,” the New York Times reports.
Meanwhile, fallout continues over South China Sea collisions. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called his Philippine counterpart Monday to discuss, as the White House readout put it, “support for our Philippine allies following the PRC Coast Guard and maritime militia’s dangerous and unlawful actions on October 22 obstructing a routine Philippine resupply to Second Thomas Shoal.”
US lawmaker: let’s help Manila build out its shoal. Chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party Rep. Mike Gallagher on Monday said in an emailed statement: “On two separate occasions over the weekend, vessels of the Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia forces rammed Philippine ships operating legally in the South China Sea. The Chinese Communist Party’s dangerous, and illegal, attacks against our ally are completely unacceptable. It is time to take additional measures to support our commitments under the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, including by assisting the Philippines in establishing a more secure and permanent foothold on the Second Thomas Shoal.”
Canada: Chinese bots targeted our prime minister. BBC: “Canada says it has detected a disinformation campaign likely tied to China that has targeted dozens of its politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The "spamouflage" campaign used waves of online posts to discredit Canadian MPs, the foreign ministry said...China has previously denied any allegations of interference in Canadian affairs.”
Lastly: Airbus stays in U.S. tanker competition as Lockheed bows out. An Airbus spokesman said his company still plans to vie against Boeing’s KC-46 to replace dozens of the Air Force’s old KC-135 aerial tankers—even after its erstwhile partner, Lockheed Martin, announced that it will not. Lockheed and Airbus had planned to offer the LMXT, a new version of Airbus’ Multi Role Tanker Transport, or MRTT, based on Airbus’ A330 jet.