The Cable

SitRep: Iran Deal Hard to Kill, North Korea War Talk Reaches New Level

  By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Keep Iran deal, Euros say. A week after President Trump went to the United Nations to call the nuclear agreement with Iran an “embarrassment to the United States,” European allies are pushing back. Diplomats from France, Germany, the U.K. and the E.U. shared a stage in Washington on ...

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 21, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un watching apples while visiting Kwail-?p County, South Hwanghae Province. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIS KNS AND AFP PHOTO / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT   ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 21, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un watching apples while visiting Kwail-?p County, South Hwanghae Province. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIS KNS AND AFP PHOTO / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

 

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Keep Iran deal, Euros say. A week after President Trump went to the United Nations to call the nuclear agreement with Iran an “embarrassment to the United States,” European allies are pushing back. Diplomats from France, Germany, the U.K. and the E.U. shared a stage in Washington on Monday to offer their support for the deal, and warn against American efforts to scuttle it.

“‘No way. There won’t be any reopening of the agreement. The agreement is working as it is,” said Gérard Araud, the French ambassador.

Reports have surfaced that Trump will refuse to certify to Congress next month that Iran is in compliance with the deal.

“What kind of signal would this send to countries like North Korea?” German Ambassador Peter Wittig said. “It would send a signal that diplomacy is not reliable, that you can’t trust diplomatic agreements, and that would affect, I believe, our credibility in the West when we’re not honoring an agreement that Iran has not violated.”

No control. Without that European support — and lacking the backing of China and Russia — the Trump administration will have to go it alone in re-introducing sanctions on Iranian oil, and “will be forced to use unilateral measures that would probably prove ineffective at choking Tehran’s economy, former officials, diplomats, and experts say” FP’s Keith Johnson and Dan De Luce write.

Will war of words turn into shooting war? Monday was a big day in war talk. The North Korean government said the U.S. had already declared war and threatened to shoot down U.S. aircraft in international airspace, the White House denied it, and then one of Trump’s top military aides said war is a real possibility.

National security advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, speaking at a conference in Washington, said “what we hope to do is to avoid war with them but we cannot discount that possibility.” But several experts contacted by FP’s Paul McLeary said that when it comes to taking down U.S. aircraft, there’s little chance that North Korea can be successful.

Defensive posture. North Korea appears to have bolstered its defenses along its East Coast, near where U.S. B-1B bombers and F-15s flew over the weekend.

Dunford speaks. All of this will likely be included in the list of questions Senators ask Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford TUesday morning, as he testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee in a prescheduled reappointment hearing to serve another term as DoD’s top uniformed officer. His testimony at 10:00 a.m. will be livestreamed here.

On the road with Mattis. Defense Secretary JIm Mattis is in India, where he held discussions with that country’s leadership on Tuesday about increasing defense ties, and asked for India’s help in Afghanistan.

Up and out. The commander of U.S. naval forces in the Pacific abruptly announced his retirement late Monday after he was passed over for command of U.S. Pacific Command.

U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift was in charge when two U.S. naval vessels were involved in deadly accidents just weeks apart this year. Head of the U.S. pacific Command Adm. Harry Harris is expected to retire in the coming weeks. Harris is reportedly being considered to be the Trump administrations next nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Australia.

California preparing for attack. Noting the heightened North Korean threat, the Los Angeles-area Joint Regional Intelligence Center issued a bulletin last month warning that a nuclear attack on Southern California would be “catastrophic” and urged officials in the region to shore up their nuclear attack response plans, reports FP contributor Jana Winter.

Kurds v. everyone else. Iraqi Kurds finally help their referendum to declare independence from Baghdad on Monday, and while the votes are still being tallied, but neighbors are already taking action, write FP’s Rhys Dubin and Emily Tamkin.

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

Facebook. Russian operatives purchased around 3,000 provocative Facebook ads during the 2016 election designed to rile up voters along divise racial and religious fault lines, sources tell the Washington Post. Russian ad buyers played both sides of the divide over the Black Lives Matter movement, running messages that both supported and condemned the group and tried to gin up anti-Muslim sentiments among Republicans with ads highlighting Muslim women’s support for Hillary Clinton.

Heist. A South Korean legislator says government data shows North Korean hackers tried to break into the Bank of Korea’s networks around seven or eight times in the first eight months of 2017.

China blocks WhatsApp. One of the preparations for a big Communist party meeting next month, Chinese officials have blocked access to WhatsApp, a popular encrypted messaging application that is owned by Facebook.

Not so open skies. The U.S. is curbing Russian access to overflight rights in the U.S. under the Open Skies treaty, which allows for mutual, periodic surveillance flights among countries from the former Soviet Union, North America, and Europe. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. is placing restrictions on Russia’s surveillance flights in retaliation for what they say is a violation of the treaty by Russia in preventing overflight of Kaliningrad in the Baltics.  

Civ-mil imbalance. A new Washington Post-ABC poll finds that nearly twice as many Americans trust U.S. military leaders to handle relations with North Korea than those who say they trust President Trump to deal with Pyongyang.

Slow roll. Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli is complaining that the U.S. and Germany are implementing a covert arms embargo against his country, accusing the two of slow rolling shipments of spare parts for weapon systems. An anonymous “European industry source” that sounds rather like it’s Turkish tells Defense News that British and French defense contractors could swoop in to fill the void left by left by U.S. and German companies shipping parts in drips and drabs.

Fake news. Iran’s test of a new medium range ballistic missile actually took place seven months ago and not last weekend as originally reported, anonymous U.S. sources tell Fox News. President Trump appeared to be unaware of the news at the time, tweeting that “Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel” on Saturday.

Nice convoy you got there. American defense contractors say Baghdad is shaking them down for arbitrary and expensive tax payments, making them cough up 20 percent of what they believe the value of a contract is or face problems moving goods and people through the country. Contractors say the enforcement hinders the fight against the Islamic State and led to companies passing along the extra costs to U.S. taxpayers but State Department officials push back on the claims, saying “Iraqi enforcement of tax laws has not disrupted U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS.”

Puerto Rico. The military is pitching in to provide relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria knocked out power and communications on the island territory. Thus far, Northern Command has sent the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and dock landing ship USS Oak Hill to ferry sick and wounded from the island for medical treatment and haul in supplies and Transportation Command is providing eight UH-60 for more help carrying relief supplies alongside 2,600 active duty and National Guard troops working on relief operations in the region.

 

Photo Credit: STR/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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