The Cable

Situation Report: Ash wants a new cyber strategy; Iraq wants a pipeline; and Gen. Dempsey wants Ramadi — some day

By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson War Games. Speaking with reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday afternoon, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter mentioned almost in passing that he’s headed out west next week to Silicon Valley, saying simply that he plans  to “meet with some technology executives” before delivering a speech at Stanford University. But ...

By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson

War Games. Speaking with reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday afternoon, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter mentioned almost in passing that he’s headed out west next week to Silicon Valley, saying simply that he plans  to “meet with some technology executives” before delivering a speech at Stanford University.

But the trip — for those who are plugged into the Defense Department’s real hunger to tap into the commercial tech market — may just be more important than he’s letting on. Carter’s speech next Thursday at Stanford is titled “Rewiring the Pentagon: Charting a New Path on Innovation and Cybersecurity,” and it comes just as the Department of Defense is releasing a new cyber strategy paper. The new document, as Eric Rosenbach, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security told a Senate panel on earlier this week, is meant to “guide the way forward for the next several years in cyber.”

For years, the rigid Pentagon bureaucracy has scared away the fast movers of the commercial tech world — just look at Google’s almost gleeful snub of the Defense Department’s interest in its robotics program as proof — but no one can deny the military’s real interest in getting better at this stuff.

So, can Ash turn the corner? Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber and Patrick Tucker recently asked an anonymous Facebook employee if he’d ever consider working with the Defense Department. “I wouldn’t do it personally because the Snowden incident dented my trust and I don’t think I’d be a good fit there” he responded.

Moving Targets. “Baiji is a more strategic target,” than the embattled Iraqi city of Ramadi, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday. “That’s why the focus right now is in fact on Baiji.” Islamic State fighters have stepped up their attacks on the massive oil refinery about 130 miles north of Baghdad in recent days, FP’s Paul McLeary and Sean Naylor report.  releasing a video on April 16 showing the effects of a suicide bombing, small arms clashes, and even children being pressed into service to attack Iraqi government forces, which continue to hold most of the complex.

Morning all. Welcome to the Situation Report. Have anything to say? News to break? An event to tip us off to? Drop a note at paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com, or on Twitter at @paulmcleary. Enjoy the weekend, we’ll be back at it early Monday morning.

Big dreams, a bigger pipe. On April 16, vice president Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi co-chaired a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee that “focused on energy and economic cooperation” according to a White House readout. Given Iraq’s ballooning budget deficits, the group also discussed the possibility of an export pipeline through Jordan to the Red Sea. The proposed $18 billion, 1,700 km project is still struggling to get off (or under) the ground.

Cyber

The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris writes up a new report on Iran’s cyber capabilities which finds that Iran is emerging as a significant cyber threat. “The size and sophistication of the nation’s hacking capabilities have grown markedly over the last few years, and Iran has already penetrated well-defended networks in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.”

FP’s Elias Groll writes that internal Sony emails released by Wikileaks show that in the aftermath of last year’s hack by North Korea, Sony execs were grappling with how to address the leak, and “Sony attempted to receive assurances from the U.S. government and North Korea experts about what actions they ought to anticipate from Pyongyang but received little clarity.”

China

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has agreed to buy Russian S-400 air defense missiles. The deal almost didn’t go through because Russian officials are concerned about the Chinese government buying a few missiles and then reverse engineering them, but the two countries recently signed relatively stringent intellectual property rules, according to The Diplomat.

Russia

Russia’s top general issued a dire warning to European countries planning to host a U.S.-led missile defense shield that Russian forces would be forced to target them, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Sonne. “Non-nuclear powers where missile-defense installations are being installed have become the objects of priority response,” Gen. Valery Gerasimov said.

“Russia’s budget cuts are a good guide to Mr. Putin’s priorities” we read in The Economist. “The upkeep of the Kremlin and spending on the army and security services take 40% of the entire budget. But spending on health care and infrastructure has been reduced twice as much as spending on defence.”

Africa

FP’s Colum Lynch drops another blockbuster, reporting that newly declassified White House documents place Richard Clarke and Susan Rice at the forefront of U.S. efforts to limit a robust U.N. peacekeeping operation before and during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Middle East

Islamic State is using drones for surveillance in its fight to take the massive oil refinery at Baiji. In a newly released video of the fighting there, “several scenes depict the jihadist group using unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance and battlefield coordination” says the Long War Journal’s Caleb Weiss. The drones also “act as spotters for artillery pieces.”

The exiled mayor of Mosul — who has fled to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil — recently spoke with Turkish outlet Anadolu Agency, saying that “volunteer forces are being trained today by Turkish officers; and Turkey is providing help and logistical support in preparation for the military camp for the Sunni forces” preparing to take the city back. Whenever that may be.


As Saeed Al-Batati and Karem Fahim write in the New York Times, Pentagon officials are worried that the Houthi advance in Yemen is giving al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula room to maneuver. The group seized “a major airport and an oil export terminal” in the south on Thursday, just two weeks after it grabbed a nearby port, and emptied its prison.

Defense News’ John Bennett gives us the rundown of the squabbling — and laughs — taking place on Capitol Hill over the Obama administration’s Iran nuke deal.

Asia

Korea plays nice at trilateral meeting with Japan and the U.S. reports FP’s John Hudson. Despite attempts to get the two long time adversaries and now cautious allies to clash at a Washington press conference, the diplomats held fast.

The Pacific trade pact at the center of President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia got a boost Thursday when key Senate leaders reached a deal to start the process of passing legislation to “fast track” the trade agreement, report’s FPs Jamila Trindle. Ash Carter said earlier this month the deal is worth as much to the U.S. as a new aircraft carrier.

Another take: The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman writes that “In what is sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama’s last 19 months in office, the “fast track” bill allowing the White House to pursue its planned Pacific trade deal also heralds a divisive fight within the Democratic Party, one that could spill into the 2016 presidential campaign.”

According to Mario J. Mallari of The Daily Tribune, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is “99.9% sure” that Islamic separatist leader Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato died from cardiac arrest this week. This is the third time the he’s been reported dead.

Ukraine

Tom Waldwyn, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies provides an update on Ukraine’s vastly depleted Navy, much of which fell into Russian hands last year and has been absorbed into Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet. In an April 2015 speech, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko insisted that the country wants to bring its fleet up to NATO standards.

Something else:

The American WWII aircraft carrier USS Independence found ‘amazingly intact’ after 60 years on Pacific ocean floor, says Australia’s ABC News.

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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