The Cable

Situation Report: Poland buys security, Saudi buys time, the U.S. Navy wants to buy more ships; and more of everything else

By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson Grounded. The Saudi Arabian-led coalition has halted its month-long bombing campaign against the Yemeni Houthi rebels, coincidentally just as the USS Theodore Roosevelt pulls into the Gulf of Aden bristling with its own contingent of strike aircraft and precision weapons. Is it time for peace? FP’s Yochi Dreazen and ...

By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson

Grounded. The Saudi Arabian-led coalition has halted its month-long bombing campaign against the Yemeni Houthi rebels, coincidentally just as the USS Theodore Roosevelt pulls into the Gulf of Aden bristling with its own contingent of strike aircraft and precision weapons. Is it time for peace? FP’s Yochi Dreazen and Lara Jakes write that a new phase of the fight may actually just be getting started.

The new Operation Hope Restore “is virtually certain to include a concerted push to use limited numbers of special operations forces from an array of Persian Gulf countries to enlist Yemeni tribes in the fight against the Houthis.” These troops would likely funnel weapons and cash to the Yemeni fighters while helping them carry out ground combat ops.

And just before we pushed Situation Report this morning, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan released a statement warning that the U.S. will “take action as necessary to disrupt continuing, imminent threats to the United States and our citizens” from the Yemeni-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Pushing for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, Washington will “welcome the United Nations continuing to play a vital role in facilitating the political talks and look forward to the United Nations announcing a location for the talks in the very near future.”

For its part, Iran is saying that it is urging humanitarian assistance after the cessation of coalition air strikes. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted on the evening of April 21, “Positive developments in #Yemen should be followed by urgent humanitarian assistance, intra-Yemeni dialogue & broad-based govt. Ready to help.”

Remember the “rebalance” to Asia? The U.S. Navy sure does, and it has been running war games that have left leadership less than thrilled. The U.S. Naval Institute’s Sam LaGrone delivers a gripping report on some of the findings, which (surprise!) calls for more money and more ships. The Navy’s fleet of 88 guided missile destroyers and cruisers “needs to grow to more than a hundred into the 2020s just to keep to today’s current level of risk,” he writes. But the chances of that happening are pretty slim given the “short-term budget decisions made by the Navy to trim spending over the next five years which will leave a significant portion of its destroyer fleet less capable than initially planned.”

Winners and Losers.The Situation Report earlier flagged a big Polish air defense deal that the American defense industry has been drooling over. Well, the deal is done and Raytheon is taking home the $5 billion prize, having convinced Warsaw that its Patriot missile system was the way to go. The decision could have some wide-ranging effects on how Eastern and Central Europe deters an increasingly aggressive Russia. Defense industry analyst Byron Callan writes in an investor note that the deal “may help Germany decide to upgrade its Patriot units and thereby kill prospects” for the long-suffering MEADS missile defense program, made by the international consortium of MBDA Italia, MBDA Deutschland, and Lockheed Martin. “While it is far from clear where they would get the funds,” Callan said, “Poland’s decision might also affect Baltic state views on a medium-range air defense system.”

Throw Down Your Bulldog Front: The Army didn’t want it, the Army says it doesn’t need it, but the Army’s gonna get it. The congressionally mandated National Commission on the Future of the U.S. Army on April 21 named retired Army Gen. Carter Ham as its chairman, giving him a nine-month deadline to deliver a report on how Big Army should play with the Guard and Reserve. Army leadership has argued that the commission will force it to push back plans to absorb the Guard’s Apache helicopters, costing the service billions in extra maintenance costs.

It’s a nice, sunny spring day, so we figure we’ll spend it in a windowless room at the Pentagon! Welcome to the Situation Report, where your emails, tips, event announcements, and scooplets will brighten up our workday. As ever, try paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary.

Who’s Where When

10:00 am:  Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, Australian Ambassador to the U.S. Kim Beazley, and New Zealand Head of Defence Staff Commodore Fred Keating mark the 100th anniversary of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps landings at Gallipoli during World War I. 2:30 pm: The officials in charge of research and acquisition for the Army, Navy and Air Force testify Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support on reform of the defense acquisition.

Capitol Hill

Guantánamo Bay, the drone strikes, and terrorism cases. What could go wrong? These are all things that Loretta Lynch, president Obama’s nominee to be the next Attorney General, will have to face when — and if — she’s confirmed writes FP’s Justine Drennan. The Senate is expected to confirm her as early as today.

Mexico

The United States has “dramatically increased arms transfers to Mexico in support of the Mexican government’s” war on the drug cartels, writes William Hartung of the America’s Program. “The Pentagon has approved over $1 billion in arms sales to Mexico in the past year alone, including over 20 Black Hawk helicopters” and 3,335 Humvees.

Islamic State

The Islamic State  “takes body blows in Iraq while affiliates grow elsewhere” writes Oren Dorell in USA Today, but the Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef says not so fast. That Islamic State bombing in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on Saturday, for example, which killed 35 innocent people? Turns out the Islamic State had nothing to do with it, an Islamic State spokesman tells her.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition forces keep pounding Syria and Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. The Defense Department reported a list of ISIL assets destroyed by air strikes on 20 and 21 April. In Syria, six airstrikes struck multiple ISIL tactical units and vehicles. In Iraq, 22 strikes — along with simultaneous operations by Iraqi and Kurdish forces — destroyed nine tactical units and multiple buildings (including a bomb factory), fighting positions, and other materiel.

More are joining the fight: 12 A-10s and around 350 airmen from Selfridge Air National Guard Base have been deployed for a six-month tour in Southwest Asia, Todd Spangler and Christina Hall report for the Detroit Free Press.  It’s expected that more airmen and some KC135s will also be deployed later this year, bringing the total number of personnel to over 500.

Saudi-led campaign in Yemen

BBC’s Kim Ghattis: “The majority of people feel that King Salman has taken the right decision, primarily because it is sending a message to Iran: ‘We are not weak, we are not reluctant and our national security will exceed our border, south and north if needed,'”  said Abdel Aziz el Sager, chairman of the Jeddah-based Gulf Research Center.

“Hey Iran! millions of dollars in weapons can’t buy a stable Yemen” writes medium.com’s  Joseph Trevithick. As proof, just look at the $500 million in American weapons that you managed to capture.

Europe

An emergency meeting of European Union ministers this week in response to the deaths of an estimated 1,300 African migrants in the Mediterranean over the past two weeks, the alliance will “launch military operations against the networks of smugglers in Libya deemed culpable of sending thousands of people to their deaths” The Guardian reports. Another summit in Brussels on April 23 will hammer out the details.

Russia is considering developing a special tracked version of a serious-looking self-propelled anti-aircraft gun and missile system for use in the Arctic, according to Nikolai Novichkov of Jane’s.

The Polish deal for the Patriot system isn’t such great news for U.S. helo manufacturer Sikorsky, who just had to push back the first flight of its new CH-53K until July (at the earliest) due to a “gear box issue,” according to Financial MinesAlexander Soule. And, as Ted Mann and Angela Chen report for the Wall Street Journal, both Sikorsky and its parent company, United Technologies Corp., have reported notable losses this quarter.

Africa

Egypt’s ex-President Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday, for the killing of protesters in December 2011. As the Jerusalem Post reports, the decision can be appealed.

Violence in Mogadishu continues: A car bomb exploded outside of a popular restaurant in today, killing 11 people. The restaurant is located near the Central Hotel, where politicians are known to stay, some of whom were killed in an attack on the hotel earlier this year. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb that killed at least four Unicef staff members, and seriously injured four others, according to Isma’il Kushkush for the New York Times. Last week, a regional lawmaker was killed by a gunman and 19 people were killed in an attack outside the Ministry of Higher Education building.

 

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

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