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SitRep: Syria Ceasefire Drowns in Flames, Scores Dead; Obama Speaks at U.N.

SitRep: Syria Ceasefire Drowns in Flames, Scores Dead; Obama Speaks at U.N.

 

Things fall apart. Exactly one week after the ceasefire brokered between the U.S. and Russia took hold, and the bombs are again falling on civilians in Aleppo. Just hours before the deal hit its one week mark — which would signal to Washington and Moscow that their military planners could begin working together to draw up lists of Islamic State and Nusra Front targets — the Syrian military called an end to the ceasefire, and unleashed a barrage of barrel bombs on rebel-held areas of Aleppo, killing over 30 people.

Following that, Syrian — and possibly Russian — warplanes attacked a United Nations humanitarian convoy, killing what monitors say were 12 aid workers and destroying 18 of 31 trucks filled with critically needed humanitarian aid. The U.N. followed by suspending all aid convoys in Syria, and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, described the attack as a “flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.” U.N. officials say that the convoy had all of the proper permits from Damascus, and Russian and Syrian officials knew what the trucks were, and where they were going to be.

Doubt. Bassma Kodmani, a senior member of the Syrian opposition’s negotiating team, told FP’s Colum Lynch and John Hudson that the cease-fire had “no value.” Kodmani added, “Assad never complied with it. The humanitarian aid never reached any of the areas. This week was supposed to bring some humanitarian aid, but what happened instead was the displacement of populations.”

Deal teetering. An Obama administration official told reporters at the U.N. that the strikes “fundamentally call into question the viability of what we’re trying to achieve [with the ceasefire] given the severity and the outrageousness of what took place.” Few in the Pentagon, White House, and even the State Department ever gave the deal much of a chance of success, with folks in the Pentagon actively criticizing the attempt to partner with Moscow. The State Department is playing it cool, however. Spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the U.S. “will raise this issue directly with Russia. Given the egregious violation of the Cessation of Hostilities we will reassess the future prospects for cooperation with Russia.”

Talking it through. The International Syria Support Group will meet in the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly Meeting in New York on Tuesday, where the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, and others will try and salvage the ceasefire, or at least argue about who did what to whom.

Iraq, speeches, and last shots. President Barack Obama is set to address the United Nations Tuesday for the eighth and final time as president. On Monday, Obama confronted one of the problems that has bedeviled his presidency, meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss the upcoming assault on the ISIS-held city of Mosul. Abadi announced the start of an offensive to retake the town of Shirqat, an ISIS stronghold 60 miles south of Mosul. Obama said he hoped to see real progress in taking Mosul by the end of the year.

Good morning and 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

New York and New Jersey

Police in New Jersey captured the man that authorities say is responsible for a string of bombings over the weekend in New York and New Jersey. Ahmad Khan Rahami was arrested in Linden, NJ after a shootout with police, who found him sleeping in a doorway. Investigators found Rahami’s fingerprint on one of two bombs placed in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Officials say that Rahami, a naturalized citizen who moved to the United States from Afghanistan as a young boy, is also responsible for placing a bomb at a Marine Corps charity race in Seaside Park, NJ and five explosives devices at a train station in Elizabeth, NJ.

Little is known about Rahami so far or whether or not he has ties to international terrorist groups. But Fox News spoke to the mother of Rahami’s daughter, who accused him of being a deadbeat father. The woman, who asked not to be named, said that Rahami resented America and Western culture and made bigoted remarks about gays and lesbians.

North Korea

North Korea showed off a new rocket engine on Monday, which it says will be used in future satellite launches. Kim Jong Un himself made an appearance for the apparently successful test at the Sohae Space Center and told the engineers that they should prep for a rocket launch “as soon as possible.” Experts, however, say Pyongyang’s space program is likely a cover for the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could carry nuclear warheads from the North’s growing arsenal.

NATO

The Netherlands’ top air force official is growing increasingly worried about Russia’s deployment of advanced surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in Europe and the Mediterranean, Military.com reports. Lt. Gen. Dennis Luyt told an audience at the Air Force Association that the proliferation of Russian systems like the S-300 and S-400 in Ukraine and Syria should worry other members of the Atlantic alliance, as well. U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander Gen. Tod Wolters, who spoke alongside Luyt, said NATO could mitigate the threat of Russian SAMs with proper training.

Syria

American warplanes may have accidentally killed prisoners and not regular Syrian troops in an airstrike that went awry in Deir Ezzor, Syria on Saturday. Anonymous defense officials tell the Daily Beast that coalition aircraft hit the targets they were aiming for but that those targets may have been prisoners forced into conscription by the Assad regime and not Islamic State fighters. Central Command announced on Monday that it had begun an investigation in order to get to the bottom of the bungled strike.

Saudi Arabia

It looks like Saudi Arabia is using American-supplied white phosphorous munitions in the war against the Houthi movement in Yemen. The Washington Post found imagery on social media showing Saudi-led coalition forces using the white phosphorous munitions from artillery systems in Najran province and near the capital, Sanaa. White phosphorous munitions are controversial in because they can be used both to provide smoke and illumination but also as incendiary weapons against enemy personnel. The U.S. military prohibits the latter use but it’s unclear how, precisely, Saudi-led forces are using them.

Air Force
The Air Force’s next generation bomber now has an official name. The service announced on Monday that the forthcoming bomber will henceforth be known as the “B-21 Raider” after the Doolittle Raiders, the World War II-era Army Air Corps unit which led a surprise bombing raid on Tokyo. The Air Force brought Lt. Col. Richard Cole, the last living participant in the raid, to participate in the name unveiling ceremony.

The multi-billion dollar B-21 Raider will, in all likelihood, be flown by human meatbags instead of software that would allow it to operate autonomously. Some have pushed for the bomber to be built with optionally-manned capability, but Global Strike Command chief Gen. Robin Rand poured cold water on the notion at the Air Force Association conference on Monday, said that “there might be benefit to keeping a human pilot intrinsic to the system.” Randall Walden, director of the Air Force’s rapid capabilities office, hinted that the unmanned option could be viable for the B-21 later on.

Photo Credit: OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images