Situation Report

A weekly digest of national security, defense, and cybersecurity news from Foreign Policy reporters Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, formerly Security Brief. Delivered Thursday.

Exclusive: Assad used chems; Meet the man who doles out U.S. aid to Syria; Putin’s got Wasta; O’Bagy gets axed from ISW; P4 gets mobbed (scary video); Winnefeld talks to the IT Crowd; and a bit more. [Presented today by Lockheed Martin]

By Gordon Lubold U.N. inspectors have collected a ‘wealth’ of evidence that point to Syrian President Assad using chemical weapons, FP has learned. FP’s Colum Lynch with this exclusive: "The inspection team, which is expected on Monday to present U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with a highly anticipated report on a suspected Aug. 21 never ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

U.N. inspectors have collected a ‘wealth’ of evidence that point to Syrian President Assad using chemical weapons, FP has learned. FP’s Colum Lynch with this exclusive: "The inspection team, which is expected on Monday to present U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with a highly anticipated report on a suspected Aug. 21 never agent attack in the suburbs of Damascus, will not directly accuse the Syrian regime of gassing its own people, according to three U.N.-based diplomats familiar with the investigation. But it will provide a strong circumstantial case — based on an examination of spent rocket casings, ammunition, and laboratory tests of soil, blood, and urine samples — that points strongly in the direction of Syrian government culpability. A Western official, to Lynch: "I know they have gotten very rich samples — biomedical and environmental — and they have interviewed victims, doctors and nurses… It seems they are very happy with the wealth of evidence they got."  Lynch: "The official, who declined to speak on the record because of the secrecy surrounding the U.N. investigation, could not identify the specific agents detected by the inspector team, but said, "You can conclude from the type of evidence the [identity of the] author." Read the rest here.

Meet the man who delivers American non-lethal assistance to Syria. An American whom the Syrian opposition knows as "Mr. Mark" is about to be one of the most important players in the planet’s most important conflict. Mark Ward is the U.S. State Department’s senior advisor on assistance to Syria, and from his perch across the border in Gaziantep, Turkey, he oversees a growing American assistance package. Much of it is humanitarian aid provided to Syrians in need of help during the civil war. But an enlarging pot of assistance — from packaged meals to pickups — goes to the Syrian opposition’s Supreme Military Council (SMC). Ward has been working out of hotel rooms and warehouses in Gaziantep since last November. With his San Francisco Giants ball cap and the authority of a veteran foreign service officer seasoned in world crises, Ward is the face of American assistance in Syria. He now oversees the $1.2 billion aid package that has flowed or, to some critics, trickled into the country since March 2012… The delay, perceived or real, frustrates Ward, too, who himself wishes assistance could be faster. But as he told FP, shipping aid and equipment into Syria too quickly could mean that it goes to the wrong organizations or communities. Experts on Syria who guide Ward and his team on where best to send it tell him to go slowly. "It’s like vetting the end users of our aid to be sure they aren’t bad guys," he said in an interview with FP during a visit to Washington last week. "Rush it, and you could do real harm." Read the rest of our story, "The Delivery Man," including why Ward believes MREs are the key to the crawl-walk-run approach, here.

And just in time, too: Arms have begun to arrive in Syria. The WaPo’s Ernesto Londono and Greg Miller: "The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear – a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war… The weaponry ‘doesn’t solve all the needs the guys have, but it’s better than nothing,’ the opposition official said. He added that Washington remains reluctant to give the rebels what they most desire: antitank and antiaircraft weapons. The CIA shipments are to flow through a network of clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan that were expanded over the past year as the agency sought to help Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, direct weapons to moderate Syrian rebel forces." The rest of their story here.

WSJ’s Page Oner about rebels feeling the delay in assistance from the U.S. has hurt if not almost killed their cause. The WSJ’s Nour Malas: "Rebels in Syria, already frustrated with delays in promised U.S. military aid, said on Wednesday that they gave up on the prospect of decisive foreign help after President Barack Obama asked Congress to delay a vote on striking Syria…Rebels in Syria, already frustrated with delays in promised U.S. military aid, said on Wednesday that they gave up on the prospect of decisive foreign help after President Barack Obama asked Congress to delay a vote on striking Syria… Supreme Military Council leader Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss and other council members said support so far has been inadequate. U.S. officials said rebels had unfounded expectations and often misinterpreted their statements and actions." More here.

Welcome to Thursday’s laden edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us and we’ll stick you on. And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. And remember, if you see something, say something — to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold.

Putin is taking center stage as the man at the moment with the most Wasta when it comes to Syria. The NYT’s Steven Lee Meyers, in Moscow: "…Suddenly Mr. Putin has eclipsed Mr. Obama as the world leader driving the agenda in the Syria crisis. He is offering a potential, if still highly uncertain, alternative to what he has vocally criticized as America’s militarism and reasserted Russian interests in a region where it had been marginalized since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although circumstances could shift yet again, Mr. Putin appears to have achieved several objectives, largely at Washington’s expense." That here.

Putin’s bold op-ed at the NYT today: "No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack – this time against Israel – cannot be ignored. It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’ But force has proved ineffective and pointless…In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes." The rest, here.

Elizabeth O’Bagy, let go from the Institute of the Study of War. O’Bagy, who had emerged as a lead analyst on Syria, was abruptly shown the door yesterday after it was confirmed that she had padded her academic credentials with a PhD from Georgetown University. Questions were raised last week after an op-ed she wrote in the WSJ that portrayed rebel forces positively – and cited by the likes of Sen. John McCain and others – that failed to disclose that she was part of a pro-Syrian rebel political group, the Syrian Emergency Task Force. ThinkProgress’s Zach Beauchamp has an inside look her firing yesterday: "…O’Bagy had already begun to misrepresent her credentials. [ISW President Kim Kagan] told me that she ‘knew [O’Bagy] was a student at Georgetown in a combined masters/PhD program,’ and that new hire was writing a dissertation on ‘female militancy in Islamic extremist organizations.’ Several media outlets have repeated this account as fact in their write-ups of O’Bagy’s firing, all maintaining that she is still in the process of completing a Georgetown doctorate. This is almost certainly false. Either O’Bagy was at one point enrolled a PhD program and dropped out, or she has been lying the entire time. Some evidence points to the latter… She is not listed as a PhD student on the Government department’s website. She does not exist in the university directory. A search of the entire Georgetown website turns up only one hit, a congratulations notice for Masters graduation… The [WSJ’s] mistake (which it later corrected) led to more intense scrutiny of O’Bagy’s past. The Daily Caller, which first broke the Journal’s omission on September 5th, did a follow-up on September 9th in which O’Bagy claimed to have written her dissertation. More importantly, September 9th was also the day that a discussion broke out amongst a group of scholars about O’Bagy’s purported Georgetown credentials. Records obtained by ThinkProgress show a conversation, which included members of the Georgetown faculty, in which a number of academics expressed deep skepticism about O’Bagy’s Ph.D. Near the end of the conversation, one participant mentioned that ‘ISW was contacted’ with the group’s concerns." Read the rest here.

Learn here how satellite imaging could be used to detect border wars and other activity. The United States Institute for Peace’s Viola Gienger, on the Olive Branch blog: "Publicly available satellite imaging used to document atrocities in Darfur and wartime destruction in the Syrian city of Aleppo will be tested by scientists in a USIP-funded project to gauge its usefulness in tracking the signs of impending cross-border conflict. USIP recently awarded $119,474 to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to analyze satellite images from six past conflicts in Asia, Eurasia, and Africa. Scientists will be looking for signs such as the massing of troops, construction of trenches, or the building of military facilities near borders that might in the future help signal looming war. The idea would be to detect evidence of impending fighting without risking the danger of injecting monitors on the ground, and therefore buy time to try to de-escalate potential conflict. "This is a cutting-edge initiative," said Katherine Wood, a consultant for USIP who helped screen grant applicants. "The emphasis is on developing an early-warning system." Read the rest here.

Military Times poll shows that troops oppose Syria strikes, 3:1. Gannett-owned Military Times Newspapers is out with a poll of uniformed troops that shows that 75 percent answer "oppose" to this question: "Would you favor or oppose U.S. airstrikes against military targets in Syria in response to reports that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons to kill civilians in that country?" Another 21 percent favor strikes in response to the chemical attack; 4 percent gave no opinion. The Military Times poll is an "unscientific" polling of about 750 officer and enlisted personnel who read Military Times and was taken earlier this week. Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman: "To the list of skeptics who question the need for air strikes against Syria, add an another unlikely group – many U.S. troops… A higher percentage of troops, about 80 percent, say they do not believe getting involved in the two-year-old civil war is in the U.S. national interest. The results suggest that opposition inside the military may be more intense than among the U.S. population at large. About 64 percent of Americans oppose air strikes, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll published Monday… For many troops, money is a key consideration. Troops question the cost of bombing Syria at a time when budget cuts are shrinking their pay raises, putting their benefits package at risk and forcing some of their friends to separate involuntarily." Army Sgt. 1st Class Chris Larue, a maintenance expert at Fort Eustis, Va.: "We don’t have money for anything else but we have a couple hundred million dollars to lob some Tomahawks and mount an expensive campaign in Syria?" More here.

Petraeus Resurrection, Version 3.0: Petraeus gets mobbed, screamed at, chased down a New York street and protesters call him a "scumbag" and a "war criminal." Angry demonstrators followed David Petraeus down a street Monday, taunting him as he walked alone and without his infamously large entourage, calmly in a dark suit and red tie down a street near the City University of New York. Petraeus has accepted a teaching gig at the school in recent months. Protesters screamed angrily at him, pledging to be there for each class and demanding his departure from CUNY. He had at first accepted a $200,000 job for being an adjunct professor until students and faculty rebelled and accepted lower pay. But the protests this week seemed a bit overdone. They were organized by another adjunct professor, CUNY Hunter College Adjunct Professor of Latin American History S. Sandor John, who said: "Most of our students at CUNY are from the working class and from oppressed communities, specifically from families whose roots are in countries where the effects of U.S. imperialism and militarism have been experienced in the most unspeakable and horrific ways." Ann Kirschner, the dean of Macaulay Honors College at CUNY sent a statement to NPR last night: "We may disagree, but we must always do so in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding. While the college supports the articulation of all points of view on critical issues, it is essential that dialogue within the academic setting always be conducted civilly."

Former Petraeus spokesman Steve Boylan, to Situation Report, this morning: "As you know, he is a determined individual, has faced adversity in many forms in the past and will probably do so in the future. He is no shrinking violet and suffice it to say, something like this would not deter him from doing his job or what he feels is right."

NPR’s intro to the video is perhaps a bit overstated, but still: "We warn you the video contains a couple of expletives and the aggressiveness means it can be tough to watch." Click bait, here.

Michael Lumpkin to be nominated to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Ops and Low Intensity Conflict, Jamie Morin to go to CAPE to replace Christine ("Top Gun") Fox.  A senior defense official e-mails Situation Report: "As a former SEAL team commander, Michael has deep operational background that makes him well suited to one again help oversee policy for U.S. special forces. But Michael will bring to the role more than just the tactical knowledge of how to fight and win. For the last six months he has advised Secretary Hagel on complex personnel issues facing the Department of Defense. Coupled with his service as V.A. Deputy Chief of Staff he is deeply aware of all that goes into supporting our special forces before, during, and after their time on the battlefield." Meanwhile, Morin will go to replace Fox, who left CAPE, or the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, which produced the ever-popular "Strategic Choices Management Review," or SKIMMER – or "Scammer," as it’s not so affectionately known around the Department.

Sandy Winnefeld joins the IT Crowd this morning, speaking at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Joint Warfighter Day this morning.  Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, this morning: "…the question I would pose to this room full of professionals . . . is whether or not the department’s information technology enterprise is meeting our warfighting needs, and if not, what can we do about it? Now, I tell people that strategy is about balancing ends, ways, and means, and that all three are shifting under our feet, including the particular "way" we call IT.?We have learned a great deal about network warfare in the last 12 years of war. We’ve also learned a great deal about intelligence-operations integration, which is so heavily dependent on networked warfare. Nobody does this like we do." Remarks will likely go up here.




Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children. Twitter: @glubold

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