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.

FP’s Situation Report: Obama admin goes after former SEAL and No Easy Day author for book profits; Afg. election results out today; Are neocons returning as neoneocons? Shin Shoji’s worst moment in ‘this town’; And a bit more.

  By Gordon Lubold Hamas vows to avenge the deaths of its fighters. There was a new, deeper cycle of violence in the Middle East this morning that darkened the prospect of peace anytime soon. The NYT’s Isabel Kershner this morning: "Hamas’s military wing said on Monday that seven of its fighters from Rafah in ...



By Gordon Lubold

Hamas vows to avenge the deaths of its fighters. There was a new, deeper cycle of violence in the Middle East this morning that darkened the prospect of peace anytime soon. The NYT’s Isabel Kershner this morning: "Hamas’s military wing said on Monday that seven of its fighters from Rafah in southern Gaza had been killed in Israeli airstrikes, its heaviest losses in months, and vowed to avenge their deaths, warning on its website that ‘the Zionist enemy will pay a heavy price.’ More than 20 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel late Sunday and early Monday. One reached deep into Israeli territory, crashing into open ground near Beersheba, about 25 miles from the border with Gaza. The cycle of violence has continued in the wake of the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month and the grisly revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem last week." More here.

Al Jazeera: "Israeli airstrikes killed at least nine Palestinian fighters Sunday in the deadliest exchange of fire since the latest round of attacks began weeks ago. Seven fighters from the Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, were killed when an air strike hit a tunnel at Rafah, in the south of Gaza. Two of the men from the Al Hussinin brigade, a military group belonging to Fatah, were targeted by drone strikes east of the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza on Sunday, witnesses said. Four civilians were wounded when Israeli jets fired a rocket at a field near their house in the northern Gaza Strip in Beit Hanon." More here.

The U.S. chides Israel for the treatment of the American teen. FP’s Kate Brannen, this morning: "The State Department said Sunday that it was ‘profoundly troubled’ by Israel’s treatment of a Palestinian-American who was detained and allegedly beaten by Israeli security personnel, unusually harsh words from the Obama administration that point to a growing divide between the American and Israeli governments. Tariq Khdeir, a high school sophomore visiting Jerusalem from Tampa, Fla., was arrested Thursday and held for three nights in Israeli before being released Sunday under house arrest after his family posted bail.

"A video posted online appears to show Israeli police officers hitting and kicking him before the arrest. In addition to the video, there are photos of Khdeir’s face, disfigured with a black eye and swollen lip. It sparked outrage among Palestinians, who are already up in arms over the killing of Khdeir’s 16-year-old cousin, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, whose body was found beaten and burned in a Jerusalem forest on Wednesday.

"…Combined, these events have thrown Israel into a new cycle of violence that threatens to further unravel any chance of restarting the peace talks that collapsed in April. ‘The focus of diplomacy now needs to be crisis management and a prevention of a further deterioration of conditions of the ground,’ said Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Center on Foreign Relations. ‘There is no real prospect of bringing the parties back to the negotiating table for the foreseeable future.’" More here.

Meantime, an Iraqi general is killed during an operation west of Baghdad, AP reports this morning. AP: …"Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan Ibrahim said Iraqi army Sixth Division commander Maj. Gen. Najim Abdullah Ali was overseeing a raid Monday outside the village of Karma when a mortar round exploded nearby, killing him. The Sixth Division is deployed in the Sunni-dominated areas west of Baghdad, which is one of the most active fronts in the government’s fight against militants led by the Islamic State extremist group. The Sunni militants seized control of the city of Fallujah, near Karma, and parts of the provincial capital of Ramadi earlier this year." More here.

Airstrikes slam into Mosul the day after ISIS’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdad made that big speech over the weekend. The WaPo’s Abigail Hauslohner: "Warplanes carried out multiple bombing raids in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday, a day after the leader of a powerful al-Qaeda-inspired militant group appeared online in a video from the city’s main mosque. Residents of the city, reached by phone, said airstrikes shook the city at least three times Sunday, starting at dawn. It remains unclear what force carried out the airstrikes. The U.S. Defense Department said that it had no knowledge of the airstrikes and that U.S. forces were not involved. An Iraqi government official in Baghdad said he had no information about any airstrikes near Mosul." More here.

On Thursday at the Pentagon, Hagel and Dempsey talked Iraq and left open the door that U.S. troops could fight there. FP’s Kate Brannen, here.

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The Obama administration is finally going after the former Navy SEAL who wrote the bestseller No Easy Day about the bin Laden raid. Lubold exclusive: "…The Justice Department and the Pentagon are in settlement talks, which have not previously been reported, with No Easy Day author Matt Bissonnette, who wrote the book in 2012 under the pseudonym Mark Owen. The book bumped Fifty Shades of Grey from the top of the USA Today best-seller list when it was first published and has gone on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. The book infuriated many at the Pentagon and in the secretive Special Operations community because Bissonnette didn’t submit it for a pre-publication review designed to prevent the disclosure of any top-secret information about the raid.

A Pentagon spokesman: "The department continues to assert forcefully that Mark Owen breached his legal obligations by publishing the book without pre-publication review and clearance… Settlement negotiations continue with an intent to pursue litigation if talks break down."

"The Pentagon has long said that ‘all options are on the table’ when it came to the book. But defense officials have only hinted that the government would go after the proceeds of the book if Bissonnette didn’t participate meaningfully in settlement negotiations.

Pentagon officials hadn’t said, until now, that the administration was actively seeking to seize the funds from the book and would pursue charges against the author if those negotiations failed."

Bob Luskin, the attorney for Owen/Bissonnette: "We are indeed in discussions with the DOD about a possible resolution of this matter and I’m optimistic that they will be successful… Beyond that, I really don’t want to comment." Read more here.

Clashes in Yemen between rebels and tribesman kill 35. AP’s Ahmed Al-Haj, on some of the worst fighting there in months, here.

And Yemeni air force bombs Houthi rebels after ceasefire collapses, in Asharq al-Awsat over the weekend, here.

Today in Afghanistan, election authorities are expected to unveil preliminary results of the presidential run-off. Bloomberg’s Eltaf Najafizada early this morning: "…Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round of voting in April, is boycotting the results after accusing the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan of stuffing ballot boxes in favor of Ghani, a former World Bank economist. His camp wants today’s announcement delayed again. ‘We will not accept the preliminary results until clean votes are separated from fraudulent votes,’ Abdullah told reporters in Kabul yesterday. ‘The international community wants a government based on legitimate votes.’" More here.

Germany wants answers from the U.S. on the spy. The whole U.S. monitoring Merkel’s calls thing was bad enough for German citizens. But then, on Friday, there emerged the story of the German citizen accused of spying for the U.S. Countries spy on each other all the time. Yet this one was troubling for many in German. The NYT’s Alison Smale: "With mystery enveloping a German intelligence service employee accused of spying – reportedly for the United States – German officials and commentators on Sunday angrily demanded a response from Washington, warning that an already troubled relationship was at risk of deteriorating to a new low. The demands for a statement from the United States were nevertheless couched in cautious terms, suggesting that the scandal, which exploded on Friday when Germany’s federal prosecutor reported the arrest of the 31-year-old employee of the Federal Intelligence Service, might not be as bad as initially feared." More here.

How it’s seen over there: "Enough!" say Germans over spying, from Germany’s The Local, here.

And, Merkel of course takes it all very seriously. Deutche Welle: "…German-US relations have been on the rocks since revelations of mass surveillance not only on German citizens, but also on Chancellor Angela Merkel and other politicians made headlines last year. Chancellor Merkel’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert… described [the situation] as ‘very serious.’ Espionage is ‘not something we take lightly,’ Seibert told reporters in Berlin." More here.

For Ukrainian forces battling Russian separatists, a feeling of accomplishment. The NYT’s David Herszenhorn on Page One: "When pro-Russian rebels first fanned out across eastern Ukraine in April, seizing public buildings, ousting local officials and blockading streets and highways, the government’s security forces – a ragtag lot of poorly equipped and understaffed military and police units – were largely paralyzed by dysfunction and defection… In the past week, however, after President Petro O. Poroshenko called off a cease-fire and ordered his troops to end the rebellion by force, an entirely different Ukrainian military appeared to arrive at the front.

"Soldiers retook an important checkpoint at the Russian border, routed insurgents from the long-occupied city of Slovyansk, and, on Sunday, began to tighten a noose around the regional capital of Donetsk ahead of a potentially decisive showdown… the recent success, however tentative, reflects what officials and analysts described as a remarkable, urgent transformation of the military and security apparatus in recent months." More here.

What’s on your summer reading list? Here’s what David Petraeus, chairman of KKR Global Institute and visiting professor of public policy at the City University of New York’s Macaulay Honors College told Politico magazine: "I recommend the just-published Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman, by Robert O’Connell-a superb examination of the many facets of the iconic Union general who emerged as Ulysses S. Grant’s most trusted battlefield commander. O’Connell’s biography of Sherman brings to life an enigmatic, fascinating figure who emerged a brilliant strategist and a master of maneuver, and whose victories in 1864 helped to ensure Abraham Lincoln’s re-election and ultimately turned the tide of the Civil War." 31 more folks tell Politico magazine what they’re reading this summer, here.

Speaking of Politico and retired senior officers, Denny Blair’s take on Japan’s military-muscle flexing in Politico, here.

Stepping back: Shin Shoji, a Washington-based producer with NJK, Japan’s Broadcasting Corporation, is returning to Japan. But we asked him what his best and worst moments were during his experience here over the last few years being a reporter in Washington. His best moment in DC reporting:  "As an international affairs professional, it is a huge dream come true for anyone to be in the frontlines where global events develop and evolve on a daily basis. To be able to witness huge policy developments and to develop relationships with real people who are hands-on on those issues is a huge privilege that people outside of Washington will not get so easily. Washington is in a league of its own, well above any cities in that regard, including New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Beijing."

His worst moment in DC reporting, and he even uses the term "this town": "Information asymmetry at its worst. People in this town are assessed on being at the right place at the right time, with the right person for a particular information significantly more often than knowing the significance or long-term implication of that information as an analyst. If anyone complains about a bell curve grading in undergraduate exams as being unfair, information asymmetry in Washington reporting makes pre-med science exams a cakewalk." It was good to get to know Shin and we wish him well.

A Native American veteran’s battle with PTSD; Read that bit in Al Jazeera, here.

The neo-neocons: Are the they courting HRC? Good Monday reading ICYMI on Sunday in the Times’ Sunday Review section by Jacob Heilbrunn: "…Even as they castigate Mr. Obama, the neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat: aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy. To be sure, the careers and reputations of the older generation of neocons… and not all of them are eager to switch parties… But others appear to envisage a different direction – one that might allow them to restore the neocon brand, at a time when their erstwhile home in the Republican Party is turning away from its traditional interventionist foreign policy." More here.

Larry Summers, the former treasury economic adviser to Obama, writes today about the erosion of U.S. leadership, in the WaPo’s op-ed pages today, here.

And this morning, the story of how Hillary is moving away from Obama pre-2016. The WSJ’s Peter Nicholas on Page One, here.

Hey, can you pass a U.S. citizenship test? Might be a good question. Take it here.

A little help here… Southern Command’s John Kelly urgently needs Congress’ help to stem the flow of illegal drugs, weapons and people from Central America. Defense One’s Molly O’Toole: "… [Kelly] has asked Congress this year for more money, drones and ships for his mission – a request unlikely to be met. Since October, an influx of nearly 100,000 migrants has made the dangerous journey north from Latin America to the United States border. Most are children, and three-quarters of the unaccompanied minors have traveled thousands of miles from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras."

Kelly to O’Toole: "In comparison to other global threats, the near collapse of societies in the hemisphere with the associated drug and [undocumented immigrant] flow are frequently viewed to be of low importance… Many argue these threats are not existential and do not challenge our national security. I disagree." More here.

In the Daily Caller, total recall of the Greatest Generation by 9/11 era Army Rangers. Contributor Alex Quade, 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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