The Cable

SitRep: FP Exclusive: Navy May Discipline Officers over Iran; Big Trouble in Fallujah

Gitmo Release; No Data, No Deal; ISIS Drone Shot Down; and Lots More

US Navy patrol boats escort the French Navy aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle as the ship leaves the port of Bahraini capital Manama on February 22, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK BAZ        (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)
US Navy patrol boats escort the French Navy aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle as the ship leaves the port of Bahraini capital Manama on February 22, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK BAZ (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Navy brass under scrutiny over Iran mess. A small group of U.S. Navy officers and sailors are under the microscope for their actions earlier this year when an American patrol boat wandered into Iranian waters and was briefly detained.

FP’s Dan De Luce gets the scoop that naval commanders are considering “potential punishment for nine individuals in connection with the case,” but unlike some other high-profile cases in the military, “six of the nine service members in the crosshairs are officers, not lower-ranking enlisted personnel. One of those under intense scrutiny serves as the commodore overseeing a task force in the Middle East with more than 1,000 personnel, Capt. Kyle Moses.”  Much more here.

Fallujah troubles. At least 85,000 civilians have fled the Iraqi city of Fallujah since government forces kicked off an assault last month to retake the city from the Islamic State. And thousands of those refugees continue to be stranded in the open desert, desperate for food, shelter, and water.

The Baghdad government is struggling to deliver aid to the homeless Sunnis, and the slow response raises questions over how it will handle an even bigger humanitarian flow when the fight to wrest Mosul from the Islamic State eventually begins. The United Nations expects as many as 1.2 million people to be displaced in and around Mosul then the operation kicks off.

So far, the roughly 5,000 U.S. forces in Iraq have stayed focused on training Iraqi forces and have not helped out in the humanitarian response around Fallujah, military officials tell SitRep. American troops are “currently not providing direct support to the humanitarian assistance effort ongoing outside Fallujah,” Baghdad-based spokesman Col. Christopher Garver said. “That effort is being led by the Govt. of Iraq and by the UN and non-governmental organizations.”

There have also been reports that Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen — who have promised to stay outside of the city — are dressing in federal police uniforms and have moved into Fallujah.

American aid. Earlier this week, the State Department pledged $20 million in aid to the Iraqi government to help the estimated 3.3 million internally displaced Iraqis. Washington also announced Wednesday it would co-host a humanitarian aid pledging conference for Iraq in Washington July 20 with Canada, Germany and Japan. “This will be an effort to help the people of Iraq weather the humanitarian crisis and destruction wrought by Daesh in the country,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters, using an alternative name for ISIS.

Guantanamo release. The Defense Department announced Wednesday evening that one of the longest-serving detainees at Guantanamo Bay was being released to Montenegro. Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab, 37, is the latest detainee to be released as the Obama administration tries to move as many prisoners out of the camp by the end of the president’s term in January. As recently as March 2014, a review board determined al Rahabi should remain in US custody. A native of Yemen, al Rahabi was among the first detainees transferred to Guantanamo in early 2002 after being captured fleeing the battle at Tora Bora in Afghanistan, where U.S. forces briefly had Osama bin Laden and his followers surrounded.

No data for you. “If there’s a predictable cycle to U.S. national security politics,” FP’s Elias Groll writes, “it’s that the pendulum between civil liberties and surveillance authorities tends to swing toward the latter in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.” But on Wednesday, the Senate refused to advance just such a measure — despite invocations of the attack on an Orlando nightclub that killed 49 people ten days ago.

The measure would have handed the FBI additional powers to obtain internet data through so-called National Security Letters. The tactic allows the bureau to poke around for information in secret, and the proposed reform would allow the bureau to use the letters to obtain information about what websites a terrorism or espionage suspect visits, whom he emails, and when — all without a warrant.

Good morning again from the Sitrep crew, thanks for clicking on through for the summer 2016 edition of SitRep. As always, if you have any thoughts, announcements, tips, or national  security-related events to share, please pass them along to SitRep HQ. Best way is to send them to: paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley

China

The U.S. is warning China not to do anything it might regret if Beijing doesn’t get its way in an upcoming arbitration panel ruling on territorial claims in the South China Sea. An anonymous senior State Department told the AP that countries in the region should “exercise restraint” once a panel in The Hague hands down its decision in a few weeks. Chinese officials have already said they won’t feel bound by whatever the panel decides, but the State Department is urging Chinese officials to use the case as an opportunity to settle the various territorial disputes in the South China Sea diplomatically.

Europe

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is on the stump for “stay” in Thursday’s referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union (EU). The alliance leader said the matter is up to Brits but that a Britain that’s in the EU “is good for the U.K., but it’s also good for NATO.” Stoltenberg pointed to the twin threats of terrorism and a more aggressive Russia, saying that the political unity that the EU brings makes it easier for European countries to address such problems.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed her country’s commitment to beefing up defenses along NATO’s eastern border with Russia in an apparent rebuke to recent comments from the country’s foreign minister, Reuters reports. Earlier this week Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier denounced NATO’s “loud saber-rattling and shrill war cries” as a means of addressing Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior in Eastern Europe. But Merkel stood firm on Wednesday, saying her government is committed to increasing defense spending and tackling “new threats.”

Ralf Brauksiepe, a Parliamentary State Secretary in Germany’s Ministry of Defense, would like to visit Incirlik air base where around 250 German soldiers and a half dozen Typhoon reconnaissance jets are currently based as part of the fight against the Islamic State. There’s just one problem — Turkey won’t let him. Reuters reports that Turkey is blocking the visit in what many view as Ankara’s political retribution for a number of issues currently straining the two countries’ relationship. Germany’s parliament recently recognized the 1915 Armenian genocide, which Turkey denies, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been battling German media officials in the courts over insulting comments made against him.

Iraq

Iraq’s Ministry of Defense released footage on Wednesday of Iraqi security forces shooting down and capturing an Islamic State drone. The downed aircraft appears to be an X7 Skywalker-type hobby drone available for around $150 online and an increasingly popular model with the jihadist group. It also appears to be popular with the Islamic State’s Shiite enemies next door in Iran. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps uses a very similar-looking drone to the X8 under the name “Chamrosh.”

Afghanistan

Iran’s recruitment of Afghan men to fight in Syria may be hurting the effort against the Taliban, Stars and Stripes reports. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-organized Fatemiyoun militia has enlisted Afghans to join up and has been sending them to Syria, where they’ve served as frontline troops in the war to preserve the Assad regime. Col. Steve Lutsky, deputy commander of NATO’s Train Advise Assist Command-West, says that the recruiting effort is cutting into the market of available personnel in western Afghanistan to join Afghan security forces and fight the Taliban. “Iran pays better than the Afghan army, and you don’t have to potentially fight your family members,” Lutsky said of the Iranian recruitment drive.

Air Force

The Air Force could tell you how much its new stealth bomber program will cost, but then it’d have to kill you. Defense News reports on comments by Randall Walden of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office saying that the service will not disclose the top line cost of the next generation B-21 bomber program. Walden claims that disclosing the bill would reveal classified information about the advanced aircraft’s capabilities. Critics, including Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have pushed back strongly on the assertion, noting that the Air Force has already disclosed the planes per unit cost — $550 million — and the subcontractors who will be involved in making it.

Who’s where when

9:00 a.m. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) International Security Program will host a discussion on the U.S. Army’s priorities with General Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. Livestream here.

Photo Credit: PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

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

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