SitRep: Brexit and EU Defense Planning; CIA Loses Weapons in Jordan
Where Will London Park its Subs?; Russia and Brexit; Fallujah; And Lots More
The EU goes it alone. The European Union is about to unveil a new plan calling for increased defense coordination among its members — including new spending on drones and surveillance operations — that would be the most significant revamp of the organization’s security strategy in years.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, is expected to unveil the new strategy Tuesday, less than a week after the U.K. shocked the world by voting to pull out of the alliance.s A copy of the draft proposal, obtained by the Wall Street Journal, uses harder language then we’ve seen form the alliance in the past, declaring “in this fragile world, soft power is not enough: We must enhance our credibility in security and defense.” The doc also calls for the EU to be able to act autonomously outside of NATO, “while also contributing to and undertaking actions in cooperation with NATO.”
Just the beginning. While the EU is pushing forward, the full consequences of the impending loss of the U.K. is still only vaguely understood — on both sides of the Atlantic. “Brexit is a huge blow to the transatlantic relationship because Britain is by far the leading advocate of the transatlantic security relationship” between Washington and the EU, the Atlantic Council’s Jorge Benitez told SitRep.
So, what does Vladimir think? Brexit isn’t about Russia. But isn’t everything that happens in Europe really about Russia these days? “The Kremlin has spent years trying to create fissures within the NATO alliance and the European Union, but with little success. Now Britain’s vote to leave the EU fulfills Putin’s wish for a more divided Europe, one potentially preoccupied with its own disagreements while London’s influence recedes,” FP’s Dan De Luce and Paul McLeary write.
U.K. Subs. One of the big known unknowns is what might now happen to the U.K.’s nuclear-missile submarine fleet. For decades, the Royal Navy has parked its four Vanguard nuclear-armed submarines at Faslane in Scotland, but with the Scots now clamoring to stay in the EU, London must be a bit nervous about where it would put those subs. There’s no other facility in the United Kingdom capable of housing the vessels, so Scottish independence would force a stark choice: Lose the capability altogether, or spend at least a decade building new port facilities.
Nukes. But Vice Adm. Terry Benedict — who runs the U.S. Navy’s nuclear weapons program for its ballistic missile submarines — said he’s not worried about the U.S./U.K. relationship. “I have no concern,” he said late last week. Brexit “was a decision based on its relationship with Europe, not with us.” But questions remain. The U.S. Naval Institute points out that the two sea services share production of their Trident II D5 missiles, and have been working to develop common missile compartments that will fit into the replacements for both the American Ohio-class ballistic missile and British Vanguard subs.
Guns up. Corrupt Jordanian spies ripped off the CIA’s program to arm Syrian rebels, according to the New York Times, diverting weapons to local Jordanian tribes, smugglers, and Islamist militants after selling them on the black market. The weapons, primarily small arms, were later used in an attack by a Jordanian police captain which killed two Americans and three Jordanians. The scheme was carried out by logistics officers from Jordan’s powerful General Intelligence Department and preyed on truckloads of weapons bought by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia from arms dealers in Eastern Europe to provide millions of dollars in profits. Jordan fired the spies involved in the illicit plan but allowed the men to keep their money and their pensions.
Fallujah’s forever war. Iraqi military and political leaders have again declared victory in Fallujah, though they admit there are still some clearing operations underway. “Inside Fallujah, it’s clear the clashes are continuing,” writes FP contributor Jane Arraf, who is in the city. “Black smoke rose from airstrikes in the north of the city over the weekend, and the rattle of heavy machine gun fire and the thud of mortars echoed from adjoining neighborhoods.” The Iraqi general in charge of the operation, Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saidi, told state TV Sunday that at least 1,800 Islamic State fighters have been killed in the operation.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley
Islamist rebel group Jaish al-Islam claims to have shot down a Syrian helicopter near Damascus using a Russian-made 9K33 Osa surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The group published video of its fighters purportedly carrying out the attack on social media. It also claims to have used the system in a separate incident in Qalamoun in which it purports to have shot down a MiG 29. The group captured a 9K33 Osa from the Assad regime in 2012 but the provenance of the SAM seen in the helicopter downing video remains unclear.
The Islamic State
The Amaq news agency, a jihadist propaganda outlet, has published a claim of responsibility from the Islamic State for a suicide bombing which killed seven Jordanian troops last week. Agence France Press reports that the attack took place at a Jordanian military base near the border with Syria. Amaq claims that the bomber launched the attack from a Syrian refugee camp just across the border from Jordan close to the Rukban crossing.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are burying the hatchet on a nearly six year-long feud between the two countries over an Israeli special operations raid on a Gaza-bound ship which killed nine Turkish citizens. The AP reports that the two leaders have agreed to a reconciliation deal which would restore full diplomatic ties between the two countries and see Israel provide $20 million in compensation to the families of those killed in the raid, in exchange for Turkey’s withdrawal of legal claims against Israeli troops. Netanyahu credited U.S. Vice President Joe Biden for acting as a peace broker between Israel and Turkey.
Nigeria’s army says it has rescued 5,000 people from the Islamic State-linked Boko Haram terrorist group, according to Al Jazeera. The rescue came as Nigerian troops cleared four villages held by the group in Nigeria’s Borno state, which were held for half a dozen years. Nigeria’s military, bolstered by U.S. security aid, have placed the terrorist group under increased pressure, recapturing greater swaths of territory it had previously controlled.
Social media companies are planning to drop the hammer on terrorist propaganda videos according to a Reuters scoop. YouTube and Facebook are reportedly planning to use the same software that removes copyrighted materials from their platforms to auto-block attempts to upload media that has already been identified as inappropriate content. The system uses hash values — unique, software-generated digital identifiers — to spot re-uploaded material. The plan only applies to media already flagged as illicit by the companies. The Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit organization, has lobbied the big social media firms to use its own software to block extremist content but Silicon Valley firms are reportedly cool to the idea of outsourcing the work to a third party group.
The Pentagon is getting ready to repeal its ban on transgender Americans serving in the military. Changes to the policy have been in the works for at least a year. Last year, Defense Secretary Ash Carter created a working group to study the issue and removed the ability of lower-ranking commanders to discharge transgender troops. The ban is expected to be lifted sometime in July.
Photo Credit: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images
Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary