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SitRep: ISIS Intel Score; U.S. Considers North Korea Sanctions

  By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001 that left 2,900 dead in those two cities, and aboard a commercial airliner that crashed in a Pennsylvania field. The Pentagon will broadcast a memorial ceremony live beginning at 9:11 a.m., ...

Members of Iraq's elite Rapid Response Division hold upside-down the black flag of the Islamic State (IS) group as they patrol in the Shifa neighbourhood, on the west bank of Mosul, on July 1, 2017, where they are battling some of the last members of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in the city. / AFP PHOTO / Fadel SENNA        (Photo credit should read FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of Iraq's elite Rapid Response Division hold upside-down the black flag of the Islamic State (IS) group as they patrol in the Shifa neighbourhood, on the west bank of Mosul, on July 1, 2017, where they are battling some of the last members of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in the city. / AFP PHOTO / Fadel SENNA (Photo credit should read FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)

 

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001 that left 2,900 dead in those two cities, and aboard a commercial airliner that crashed in a Pennsylvania field. The Pentagon will broadcast a memorial ceremony live beginning at 9:11 a.m., and there will also be a commemoration at the site of the Twin Towers in New York City beginning at 8:40 a.m. broadcast here.

ISIS data dump. The U.S. has turned the Islamic State’s territorial losses into intelligence gains, scooping up vast amounts of new data on the group from information left behind in Mosul, Tal Afar, and Raqqa, according to the Los Angeles Times’ W.J. Hennigan. The haul includes 30 terabytes of data that has been sent back to the National Media Exploitation Center in Bethesda, Md. in recent weeks. More:

“The biggest windfall came from what officials said were meticulous Islamic State records about the foreign fighters who arrived since convoys of black-flagged militants first stormed out of northern Syria and into Iraq in 2014, capturing large parts of both countries and the world’s attention.

The records include their names, aliases, home countries and other personal information.

The data has been shared with a 19-nation task force in Jordan, code-named Operation Gallant Phoenix, that tries to track foreign fighters in an effort to disrupt terrorist cells and networks. The task force is led by the U.S. military’s clandestine Joint Special Operations Command.”

U.N. blinks in North Korea standoff. North Korea warned on Monday the United States would pay a “due price” and experience “pain and suffering” for leading the charge on a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing the harshest sanctions yet on Pyongyang. The U.N. is set to vote on Monday on a somewhat watered down version of the package, in response to Russian and Chinese objections, according to a draft of the motion seen by Reuters.

Originally, the council was to consider an oil embargo and halting exports of textiles while subjecting leader Kim Jong Un to financial and travel ban, causing North Korean propaganda outlets to claim the United States was “going frantic” to manipulate the Security Council over Pyongyang’s recent test of a hydrogen bomb, which it said was part of “legitimate self-defensive measures.”

But the new measure drops the Kim blacklist, and relaxes sanctions earlier proposed on oil and gas. It still proposes a ban on textile exports.

No Kill No Beep Beep. Despite comments from the White House and Sen. John McCain on Sunday suggesting Washington was interested in deploying U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea, officials in Seoul said Monday that isn’t an option under consideration. “There is no change in the government’s policy principle of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and we have never reviewed a re-adoption of the tactical nukes,” one South Korean official said.

Senate shuts down Tillerson. “In a stark repudiation of the Trump administration, lawmakers on Thursday passed a spending bill that overturned the president’s steep proposed cuts to foreign aid and diplomacy. Folded into the bill are management amendments that straitjacket some of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s efforts to redesign the State Department,” FP’s Robbie Gramer reports.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $51 billion for the State Department, foreign operations, and related programs in its 2018 appropriations bill — almost $11 billion above President Trump’s request. “The move signals a growing congressional backlash against the Trump administration’s aims to slash funding for diplomacy, foreign aid, and the United Nations.”

Welcome to SitRep. As always, please send any tips, thoughts or national security events to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or via Twitter: @paulmcleary.

Interrogation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to polygraph the entire National Security Council staff in order to find the source of any leaks to the press, sources tell Axios. The idea so far is still just that — an idea — but sources say Sessions is eager to find the source who leaked transcripts of President Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders.

Party time. North Korea celebrated its 69th anniversary as a country with a concert and banquet for engineers and scientists attended by Kim Jong-un. But no missile tests.

Software wars. Bix box retailer Best Buy is pulling Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab’s software off its shelves, citing “too many unanswered questions” about the firm as the war of words between the U.S. government and the company heats up. Members of Congress and anonymous government officials have raised questions about company founder Eugene Kaspersky’s relationship with Russian intelligence although critics have yet to provide conclusive evidence of malicious behavior in Kaspersky software.

Missing. The FBI is investigating at least the case of a 20 year old Minnesota man believed to have fled from his family during a trip to Morocco in order to join the Islamic State in Syria. The Minnesota Star Tribune reports that the case of Abdelhamid Al-Madioum is just one of a half dozen cases the FBI has opened since 2015 to investigate Minnesota residents supporting the terrorist group.

Left behind. Among the many things the Islamic State has left in its wake in Iraq are over 1,300 family members of foreign fighters from 14 different countries. The family members surrendered to Iraqi forces after the liberation of Tal Afar and are now being held at a camp awaiting repatriation to their home countries.

Signaling. Israeli military aircraft buzzed the Lebanese city of Sidon, rattling windows by breaking the sound barrier overhead. The flights, part of a large military exercise taking place in Israel, come amid growing tensions between Israel and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

Gulf drama. The U.S. Navy says that Iranian news media reports claiming that a U.S. ship was chased off by Iranian naval forces are wrong. The Navy’s account of the incident is that the USS Tempest and an Iranian vessel both responded to a distress call by a fishing boat but never came into contact.

Business of defense. The State Department approved a $3.8 billion arms sale to Bahrain, waving aside human rights concerns brought up during consideration of the sale under the Obama administration. The bulk of the sale will go towards 19 F-16V jets purchased by the kingdom.

Mini nukes. The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review is examining the idea of building smaller yield tactical nuclear weapons that proponents believe the U.S. military could use to deter adversaries. But critics say miniature nuclear warheads could make usage more likely. The proposal, however, is likely to face stiff opposition in Congress, with questions about whether a new warhead would require the first U.S. nuclear test since 1992.  

Rohingya crisis. Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali is calling the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar “a genocide,” telling a press conference that “The international community is saying it is a genocide. We also say it is a genocide.”  

Crash. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Schultz died in a crash at the Nevada Test and Training Range last week. Little is known about the incident as Air Force officials say “information about the type of aircraft involved is classified and not releasable” according to Military.com. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein did say, however, that the crash did not involve the stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as some had speculated.

 

 

 Photo Credit: FADEL SENNA/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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