Situation Report

FP’s Situation Report: Maliki becomes the new Assad; U.S. promises support for the Kurds; Did spies miss this?; Wendy Anderson joins Commerce; Is that Tara Napier on that BP ad? And a bit more.

FP’s Situation Report: Maliki becomes the new Assad; U.S. promises support for the Kurds; Did spies miss this?; Wendy Anderson joins Commerce; Is that Tara Napier on that BP ad? And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The White House has begun directly providing weapons to Kuridsh forces in northern Iraq. AP’s Lita Baldor, travelling with SecDef Hagel in Australia, and Matthew Lee: "…Previously, the U.S. had insisted on only selling arms to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, but the Kurdish peshmerga fighters had been losing ground to Islamic State militants in recent weeks. The officials wouldn’t say which U.S. agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations." The rest here.

Maliki becomes the new Assad and the Kurds take back some cities.  Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is digging in, refusing to get out of the way, even as the U.S. has not-so-quietly hinted that it is prepared to take its support to help the Iraqis to the next level if the Shiite leader steps aside. But he’s starting to sound a lot like another leader Washington has wanted out, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. And even as the Kurds make inroads against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or, as it’s now called, the Islamic State (IS), Maliki’s recalcitrance creates a major roadblock for the U.S.

Maliki made a fiery speech Sunday, and Iraqi special forces surrounded the government complex in Baghdad’s Green Zone. 

The WaPo’s Loveday Morris: "In actions that had all the markings of a political coup, Maliki gave a definite late-night speech in Baghdad, saying he would lodge a legal case against the country’s president, who has resisted naming him as the candidate for another term as prime minister." The rest here.

On Saturday, before leaving for a family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Obama attempted to manage the expectations of the American public – this is not a short-term endeavor. Lubold: "This is going to be a long-term project," Obama said on the White House North Lawn Saturday morning as he reiterated that American combat troops would not be deployed to conduct ground operations there.  In the meantime, as U.S. forces conduct humanitarian operations and airstrikes to protect American military personnel and citizens in northern Iraq, what’s important, Obama said, is for the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to reach a political settlement to allow all Iraqis to feel a part of the government. That, he said, is a "long-term campaign… We can help, we can advise, but we can’t do it for them, and the U.S. military cannot do it for them," Obama said. 

More of what Obama said, including his defense of removing American forces from Iraq and his reiteration that no ground forces would enter the fight, here.

Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily, to Situation Report yesterday: "The new area of military cooperation has been a significant sign that we both face a common enemy… we are getting significant support from the U.S., however, we still have a major need for better air capability – that still for us is the weakest point, or at least our biggest area we need to improve on."

Faily, on the long-term: "Nobody is thinking this is a quick and easy endeavor moving forward, and nobody should think this is a quick and easy endeavor moving forward."

Former commander of U.S. forces in Mosul Carter Ham to ABC’s Martha Raddatz yesterday on This Week: "I think the initial strikes are already having some effect, a few strikes by the U.S., many more by the Iraqi Air Force.. it appears to have at least given pause to the Islamic extremists as they seek to advance… but much more effort will be required to achieve a positive outcome longer term." And on ground troops: "It will be very difficult without U.S. ground forces or ground forces of others, which they may be willing to participate, but it really centers around: the president is right – there really has to be a responsible government in Baghdad to which a future Iraqi army can be loyal. A first chyron: Ham was identified on This Week as part of SBD Advisors, LLC – as in Sally B. Donnelly Advisors, LLC.

Video of airdrops to Iraqis stuck on Mount Sinjar, here.

Welcome to Monday’s edition of Situation Report, where we’re flying solo today because Nathaniel is deservedly unplugging for a week and technical "challenges" in the cockpit today mean we’re offering an abridged version of SitRep. If you’d like to be one of our subscribers, we’d love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by sending us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we’ll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, you, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

A street thug-turned-America’s newest most wanted: How did we get here? The NYT’s Tim Arango and Eric Schmitt look at the arrest of ISIS’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then known as Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry, when he was arrested by U.S. forces in 2004 and brought to – remember this place? – the Camp Bucca detention facility. Their story: "… Despite his reach for global stature, Mr. Baghdadi, in his early 40s, in many ways has remained more mysterious than any of the major jihadi figures who preceded him." Read the rest of this Page Oner here.

Did U.S. intelligence agencies fail to see the warning signs? Probably not completely, because despite the challenges of collecting intelligence in a place like Iraq where there was up until recently a tiny American footprint, American intel agencies had eyes on the problem. But was it more of an issue of persuasion – sounding the alarm to U.S. policymakers back in Washington – and those inside the White House who would be reluctant to hear such alarms anyway? The debate begins. The WSJ’s Siobhan Gorman and Julian Barnes under the Page One headline "U.S. Spies Missed Urgency of Threat": "…The inability of U.S. spy agencies to provide details about the timing of Islamic State offensives or their likelihood of success has touched off debate among U.S. national-security officials about whether intelligence on the group has been adequate. The struggle to understand the capabilities of the group reflects the difficulty of collecting detailed intelligence on its internal planning. "Collection is tough," one senior U.S. official acknowledged.

"That is the challenge facing intelligence officials and the U.S. military as American warplanes launch waves of airstrikes. The success of the strikes may depend in part on how well the U.S. is able to read the group." Read the rest here.

Chuck Hagel continues his overseas trip today in the Pacific, where he is in Australia.

BAM! A Friday tweet still relevant on Monday and beyond: "@CrowleyTIME: that bugle you hear is playing taps for the Asia pivot.

There’s a "big lie" Americans tell themselves about genocide, even though preventing it has never been a "core interest" of Americans. The White House has relied heavily on the pictures of stranded Iraqis, starving and thirsty, to sell this new American intervention on a war-wary/weary public. It makes it easier to send jet fighters and drones to drop bombs in a country many Americans felt they had washed their hands of years ago. But this is not something the U.S. is good at necessarily, argues Dhruva Jaishankar for FP: "…The current generation seems to believe that preventing genocide around the world is and has always been in the United States’ interest. From calls to intervene in Syria, to activism around ‘Save Darfur,’ to attention paid to anti-Rohingya Muslim violence in Myanmar, there is widespread believe that the United States will intervene in troubled spots around the world. But Washington has always had a dismal record of stopping genocides and ethnic cleansing, and that is unlikely to change." More here.

Hey, isn’t that Tara Napier – now Tara Napier Harrison, the former assistant to Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell – on the new BP ad? Don’t blink, but why yes it is. Harrison, who, with Morrell, joined BP after leaving the Pentagon, appears briefly in a new BP ad touting the company’s role in American jobs that’s been broadcast heavily during Sunday shows.

Starting today, Former Hagel Deputy Chief of Staff Wendy Anderson joins Penny Pritzker at the Department of Commerce. Anderson, who was one of three individuals under consideration by Defense Secretary Hagel to be his chief of staff, left the Pentagon last month, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and tomorrow starts as the new Chief of Staff at the Department of Commerce. That means Hagel will likely pick one of two people to be his right-hand-person: Elissa Slotkin or Rex Ryu – and that decision should be coming shortly. Pritzker, in an email to staff Friday: "Wendy is a seasoned leader who comes to us with great expertise… While at Defense, Wendy was twice awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Department’s highest civilian award, presented by both Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel."

"…Wendy is also a veteran of the Senate, having served as professional staff on the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, managing the international security portfolio for the Subcommittee on International Security, and serving as the intelligence liaison for Senator Barbara Mikulski on the Senate Intelligence Committee… As you know, I am very excited about our team and talent – all of you – that we have within our Department.  I know Wendy is excited to help us execute our mission of delivering real results for America’s businesses, communities and our people."

Israeli negotiators are in Cairo for peace talks as the latest 72-hour cease-fire begins. Reuters this hour: "…A month of war has killed 1,910 Palestinians and 67 Israelis while devastating wide tracts of densely populated Gaza. Gaza hospital officials say the Palestinian death toll has been mainly civilian since the July 8 launch of Israel’s military campaign to quell Gaza rocket fire. Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians, while heavy losses among civilians and the destruction of thousands of homes in Gaza have drawn international condemnation. The Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks had flown home on Friday when the sides failed to reach a deal to prolong a previous three-day truce." More here.

There’s war-weariness in Gaza. The NYT’s Jodi Rudoren: "…After more than a month of war, the people of Gaza are sad, of course, at 1,900 lives lost. They are angry, too: at Israel for destroying some 10,000 homes, at the Arab leaders who seem unmoved, the Western ones who seem unable to move, and even, quietly, at the Palestinian militants who built tunnels under their neighborhoods. But mostly they are spent – from weeks of being stuck inside with scant hours of electricity and waiting in line for potable water, but also from years of feeling stuck in what they universally describe as a prison." More here.

In Gaza, the war is far from over. FP’s David Kenner: "[In Gaza] the horror stories seek you out: The man living in a crowded United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) refugee camp who hasn’t had the money to repair his house since it was damaged in the 2012 war; the 7-year-old girl who interrupts an interview to interject that her father has been killed; the exhausted general manager of Shifa Hospital, who spoke mournfully about how his staff was performing surgeries in waiting rooms because all of the operating rooms were full. These people all said that this war was easily the worst of the three conflicts with Israel since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007. And all of them maintained that Hamas should continue striking Israel until its demands are met." More here.

Ukrainian forces say they are close to taking rebel-held Donetsk. Reuters this morning: " The Ukrainian military said on Monday it was preparing for a ‘final stage’ of taking back the city of Donetsk from pro-Russian separatists after making significant gains that have split rebel forces on the ground. Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Kiev’s troops had now cut Donetsk off from the other main rebel-held city of Luhansk, 150 km (90 miles) away, on the border with Russia.

"’The forces of the anti-terrorist operation are preparing for the final stage of liberating Donetsk,’ Lysenko told Reuters. ‘Our forces have completely cut Donetsk off from Luhansk. We are working to liberate both towns but it’s better to liberate Donetsk first – it is more important.’" More here.

We missed this Friday: FP’s Tom Ricks publishes a letter from an Army major, Maj. Charles V. Slider III , who was "fired" from the Army for a DUI some years ago despite a record of high accomplishment. Slider: "… On August 1, I was notified of my removal from active duty service. Although I accept this fate, this is not justifiable due to the sacrifices that both my family and I have endured." Read his letter here.

The First Vietnamese-American becomes a general.  Read about that here.

So this Marine did a funny. A Marine at Camp Lejeune, N.C. posted an ad to Craigslist for his barracks room. From Marine Corps Times’ BattleRattle blog, which notes that it wasn’t a "terminal lance" doing the prank: "…He described a 225 square-foot barracks room as a lovely space in a gated community with wake-up calls and ‘motivation specialists.’ The staff sergeant said he has since received a lot of fan mail." More here.