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.

E-mails by Pentagon contractor show 2012 exchanges about Iran shipments; Hagel is wheels up for Asia; Don’t criticize the troops, you could lose your job; Marine whistleblower, so relieved; The fallacy of the “sex jihad;” and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold An agreement on Syria. The NYT this morning: "The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have agreed on a resolution that will require Syria to give up its chemical weapons, but there will be no automatic penalties if the Syrians fail to comply, officials said Thursday. The agreement, hammered ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

An agreement on Syria. The NYT this morning: "The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have agreed on a resolution that will require Syria to give up its chemical weapons, but there will be no automatic penalties if the Syrians fail to comply, officials said Thursday. The agreement, hammered out after days of back-room negotiations, is a compromise among the United States, its allies and Russia about how to enforce the resolution, which would eliminate Syria’s chemical arms program. But the deal, when approved by the 15 members of the Security Council, would amount to the most significant international diplomatic initiative of the Syrian civil war. It would also be a remarkable turn for President Obama, who had been pushing for a military strike on Syria just a few weeks ago before accepting a Russian proposal to have Syria give up its chemical arsenal." More here.

Russia just outfoxed America at the U.N. Again. FP’s Colum Lynch: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met under the steely gaze of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whose portrait hung over their negotiating table at U.N. headquarters, and hammered out their latest agreement Thursday on a U.N. Security Council resolution to scrap Syria’s chemical weapons. The presidential portrait was a subtle reminder that Putin’s top diplomats hold the home court advantage at the United Nations. For most of the past two years, Lavrov and U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin have largely defined the rules of the game in the U.N. Security Council, effectively constraining American and European attempts to use the U.N. Security Council to apply economic or political pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The relatively toothless deal struck Thursday is just the latest example." Read the rest here.

Chuck Hagel is wheels up tomorrow. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is headed to Asia tomorrow, including stops in Korea and Japan. He’ll head to Korea for the 60th Anniversary of the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance and participate in the 45th Security Consultative Meeting. While there, he’ll also "preside over" the Korea change of command ceremony in which Lt. Gen. Curt "Scap" Scaparrotti will relieve the retiring Gen. J.D. Thurman. On Wednesday, Hagel will leave for Tokyo, where he will join Secretary of State John Kerry for the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, returning to Washington Oct. 4.

Situation Report on the road. We’ll be accompanying Hagel to Asia, so look here for updates as well as @glubold. Inbox arrival times for Situation Report next week may vary so "check local listings," as they say. We kid. But forgive us in advance if we’re early or late next week.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us at 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.

Scoop: The Pentagon contractor shipping goods through Iran may have known about the illegal activity as early as 2012. Anham, the firm with a fat Pentagon contract to provide food service and water to American forces in Afghanistan, may have known about its potentially illegal shipments through Iran as early as 2012, Situation Report has learned. The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that Anham FZCO, which is contracted with the Pentagon to support troops in Afghanistan, had shipped some materials through a third party for a warehouse it built at Bagram Air Base there. Those shipments last year came by using Iran’s Bandar Abbas seaport before being transported across Iran, the paper’s Jay Solomon and Nathan Hodge reported. That allowed Anham to snag a Pentagon contract estimated at $8.1 billion, according to the paper. But shipping goods across Iran could be in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran, and now an investigation is underway. Anham told The Journal that it only became aware of the shipping issue within the last week. Yesterday’s WSJ story here.

But e-mails provided to Situation Report seem to indicate clearly that company officials were aware of the shipments through Iran as early as February of last year. In a note from a subcontractor, "Dana Tracks LLC" to corporate officials on Feb. 16, an e-mail describes the status of eight shipping containers leaving Bandar Abbas. "So far, his team in Iran hasn’t got back to him on this as they are busy getting done with the procedures at the customs there," the e-mail says. "According to him, moving the containers through the new route requires lots of procedures with the shipping lines and customs."

Anham would not address specifically the apparent discrepancy between what it said to the WSJ and what the e-mail traffic among company officials seems to indicate about the timing of their awareness of the shipments through Iran. Anham’s Sam Fabens, to Situation Report: "Anham has made a voluntary disclosure to the Treasury and Commerce Departments that some items were transhipped through Iran and we are currently conducting a full investigation.   Based on the current state of the investigation, Anham believes that only a handful of foreign-origin items for use in Afghanistan were involved out of our thousands of shipments to Afghanistan, all or some of which we believe may have been eligible for such transshipment under legal exceptions and other provisions of law in place at the time.  We will not comment on any specific charges or allegations until that investigation is complete nor will we be responding to rumors and innuendo.  Anham remains committed to providing the best service in a remarkably hostile environment."

The Defense Logistics Agency’s Michelle McCaskill’s statement to Situation Report this morning: "Anham leadership notified DLA leadership Sept. 23 that it made a disclosure to the U.S. Treasury and the Commerce departments, stating that certain items may have been transshipped through Iran by a subcontractor.  We have requested additional information from Anham, as well as appropriate government agencies, to confirm that Anham’s actions, including its performance under its contract with DLA, remain in accordance with applicable law and regulations."

Joe Dunford is issuing his assessment of war operations in Afghanistan today and Situation Report got a sneak preview. ISAF Commanding Gen. Joe Dunford’s BLUF: "As the ANSF have assumed the lead in their first fighting season, they have proven capable of effectively securing the Afghan people. The vast majority of the violence takes place away from populated areas. ISAF continues to provide combat support and combat service support where there are remaining ANSF capability gaps. At the end of this quarter, it’s clear that the ANSF have tactical overmatch vis-à-vis the Taliban. The Taliban have largely failed to accomplish their objectives outlined in their seasonal operations plan."

And: "ANSF capabilities are not yet sustainable, but they have made significant and very real progress.  Much work remains to be done on the systems, processes and institutions necessary to make our progress enduring, and we are providing support at the ministerial level, as well as the corps level and below.  In the fielded force, the Afghan Air Force (AAF), logistics and intelligence are particular focus areas for improvement. Read the rest of his assessment here.

1986 calling: What Ollie North tells us about Hasan Rouhani. FP’s Shane Harris looks back at the deal Rouhani and North forged in May 1986 and what it says about the kind of negotiator Rouhani is. Harris: "In those meetings, the man to whom U.S. officials are now turning as the best hope for a rapprochement with Iran, after more than three decades of hostilities, showed himself to be a shrewd negotiator, ready to usher in a new era of openness. But he was also willing to subvert that broader goal and string the Americans along to get what he wanted — more weapons. If there is a window into how Rouhani thinks today and how he will approach negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, it may be those few days in May he spent in high-stakes talks with the Americans over hostages and the countries’ shared futures." Read the rest here.

Move over, Iran, some Israelis want to come clean on their nukes, too. FP’s Yochi Dreazen: "Iranian President Hassan Rouhani demanded on Thursday that Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a step that would require Israel to dismantle the nuclear weapons it has never publicly acknowledged that it possesses. It’s a time-honored talking point from Tehran’s leaders. But it comes with an ironic twist. A significant number of Israelis kind of agree Rouhani’s demand — or, at least the part about Israel finally owning up to its nuclear arsenal." Read the rest here.

Undoing a deal? GOP hard-liners may shut down the government. The WaPo’s Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane: "Washington stumbled toward a shutdown as the Republican Party’s rebellious right wing on Thursday blocked a strategy by House Speaker John A. Boehner for navigating a series of deadlines to keep the government funded and avoid a first-ever default. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team revealed the first step of that plan to rank-and-file lawmakers early Thursday, urging conservatives to shift their ­assault on President Obama’s health-care law to the coming fight over the federal debt limit… But about two dozen hard-liners rejected that approach, saying they will not talk about the debt limit until the battle over government funding is resolved. ‘Quite frankly, I think that’s primarily where we need to be putting our attention," said Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), who has led the drive in the House to use the threat of a shutdown to defund the health-insurance initiative, Obama’s signature legislative achievement.’ More here.

Is the reverence for the military dissipating? As the war in Afghanistan enters its final legs over the next year and the war in Iraq was like forever ago, the yellow ribbons have fallen off the backs of people’s cars, some Americans will begin to perceive the military differently. The reverence dissipates. People may start to ask questions. One Manhattan woman did, and she got fired for it. She was probably over the top, but we wonder if we’ll begin to see more of this. Her FB post: "Everyone is constantly glorifying the military calling them ‘heroes’ etc. War is not ‘heroic.’ Saying no to violence and solving problems peacefully is heroic. So no, I will not thank those who CHOOSE (ON THEIR OWN FREE WILL) [caps hers] to go kill themselves in battle. Get a life and a real job. Oh, and stop demanding a military discount everywhere you go. You’re no better, nor no more deserving than a ‘civilian.’" Then she got so fired. AP: "A Manhattan woman says she was fired and has received death threats after posting comments on Facebook that criticized the military. Meagan May posted a comment in September that she did not consider the military heroic and criticizing military personnel for expecting discounts at businesses. May told WIBW she posted the comments because she believes soldiers receive too much special treatment. She said her employer, Carmike Cinemas in Manhattan, fired her after she posted the comment. Carmike also posted on May’s page that her comments did not reflect the attitude of the company. Carmike officials said they fully support and honor military personnel. May says she isn’t backing down because she thinks she should be able to post whatever she believes on Facebook." The story here.

At the Russian Arms Expo, planes, priests and tanks. FP’s John Reed: "Russia is holding its annual celebration of military hardware this week in the Ural Mountain town of Nizhny Tagil. The Russian Arms Expo 2013, which lasts from Sept. 25 through 28, is held to promote Russia’s $14-billion arms industry. This year’s show boasts more than 400 exhibitors from 50 countries and, according to the shows promoters, is one of the largest weapons shows held in Russia." Read his bit here.

A sex jihad? Are women racing to Syria from Tunisia? Probably not. FP’s David Kenner: "It’s the story that launched 1,000 headlines. And it’s not hard to see why: Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou announced last week that Tunisian women were traveling to Syria to wage "sex jihad," where they were having sex with "20, 30, [or] 100" militants, before returning pregnant to Tunisia. There’s only one problem: There’s no evidence it’s true. The Tunisian Interior Ministry has so far failed to provide any further information on the phenomenon, and human rights activists and journalists have been unable to find any Tunisian woman who went to Syria for this purpose. ‘Everything I’ve heard were very broad allegations that didn’t really have all the features of a serious reporting about the case,’ said Amna Guellali, the Tunisia researcher for Human Rights Watch. ‘All I have is very sparse, very little information, and I think that’s true for a lot of people working in the human rights community, in addition to reporters.’ Read the rest here.

Trending now, as they say: The Guardian’s piece on Sy Hersh, who talks about Obama, the NSA and the "pathetic American media." The first thing we do, let’s kill journalists, Hersh seems to be saying in this new piece today. The Guardian: "Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider… He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth." Read it here.

What’s going on here? The Marine Corps relieved the whistleblowing lawyer who tried to take down a Commandant. Marine Corps Times’ Hope Hodge: The Marine Corps has removed from his job a staff judge advocate who publicly accused Commandant Gen. Jim Amos of unlawful command influence in the high-profile cases against eight Marines prosecuted in connection with a war-zone video of scout snipers urinating on enemy corpses. Maj. James Weirick was also placed under a Marine Corps Protective Order and asked to turn in his personal weapons and submit to a voluntary psychiatric evaluation… Siegel said the complaint centered on an email Weirick sent to Peter Delorier, one of Amos’ former civilian legal advisers. In the Sept. 21 email, reviewed by Marine Corps Times, Weirick pleads with Delorier, who now works at Camp Lejeune, N.C., to ‘come clean’ about his role in the alleged manipulation of justice by the commandant’s office. In what may be the most aggressive portion of the email, Weirick implies that Delorier’s superiors caused him to be moved from his Senior Executive Service position at the Pentagon because of his role in the alleged unlawful command influence. He further alleged that Delorier’s former supervisor, Robert Hogue, Amos’s top civilian attorney, had sold him out after promising to protect him from professional repercussions related to the scandal if he "took the fall." ‘He can’t offer you protection from Weirick. That protection can’t be offered by anyone. Ever," Weirick writes. He concludes forcefully. ‘Forward this email to anyone you want. Retain counsel and forward it to him or her. It matters not to Weirick. Everything in this email is true. But, you owe it to yourself and the Marines who have suffered because of these lies and (discovery) violations, to come forward and be honest about all that has happened," he writes. ‘It’s never too late to do the right thing.’" More here.

The whole bit about (former FP colleague) and Daily Beast senior writer Josh Rogin was what it was. Tweeps heralded Rogin’s grace after he was smacked in the face by a comedian who didn’t like Rogin’s snarky Tweets after comedian Dan Nainan’s performance at the DC Improv. But this animated recreation of the fight is pretty good. Click bait 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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