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: More support for the U.S. mission; Military has actually flown more than 2,700 missions in Iraq; Push for hiring vets creates resentment; Fred Kagan: send 25k troops; and a bit more.

  By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel Note that technical issues caused a problem earlier with SitRep. Re-sending SitRep now in its normal form…  Iran rejected the idea of working with a global coalition. AP this hour: "As diplomats from around the world sought a global strategy to fight Islamic State extremists, Iran ruled out ...



By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Note that technical issues caused a problem earlier with SitRep. Re-sending SitRep now in its normal form… 

Iran rejected the idea of working with a global coalition. AP this hour: "As diplomats from around the world sought a global strategy to fight Islamic State extremists, Iran ruled out working with any international coalition, saying it had rejected American requests for cooperation against the militants. Neither Iran nor Syria, which together share most of Iraq’s borders, was invited to the international conference Monday in Paris, which opened as a pair of French reconnaissance jets took off over Iraqi skies.

"With memories of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq still fresh, the U.S. has so far been alone in carrying out airstrikes and no country has offered ground troops. An American official said several Arab countries had offered to conduct airstrikes, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue." More here.

Needed support grows for the U.S. mission in Iraq and Syria. The WSJ’s Jay Solomon: "International support for the U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State gathered strength with the U.K. vowing to destroy the group after it killed a British aid worker, Arab states agreeing to participate in airstrikes and Australia pledging forces. British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday his country will do whatever is needed to combat the threat posed by the extremist group operating in Iraq and Syria, reacting to a video released on Saturday that showed the beheading of Briton David Haines.

"Leading Middle East countries are prepared to join the U.S. in conducting airstrikes on militant targets in Iraq and Syria, according to senior U.S. and Arab officials. Though pledges of support are rolling in, the plan of action is still short on specifics, particularly on the next steps and the scale of military forces that various countries will commit. Islamic State, in the meantime, continues to hold vast tracts of land in Syria and Iraq and has built up a formidable financing structure that includes control of oil resources." More here.

U.S. officials say that Arab states are willing to join the air fight against the Islamic State in Iraq. The WaPo’s Anne Gearan and Karla Adam in Paris: "Several Arab states have offered to conduct airstrikes against militants in Iraq alongside the efforts of the United States, U.S. officials said Sunday as the Obama administration sought to bolster its case for action against the Islamic State.

"A lot of this is still in the discussion phase, but I want to be clear that there have been offers, both to CENTCOM and to the Iraqis, of Arab countries taking more aggressive kinetic action against ISIL," including airstrikes, a senior State Department official said in Paris, using an alternative acronym for the militant network." More here.

A beheading video meant to shake the US coalition against ISIS may strengthen it instead. FP’s Shane Harris: "…Video of the murder of David Haines, which appeared online Saturday, seems designed to try to splinter the coalition that President Barack Obama has made the centerpiece of his emerging strategy for countering the Islamic State. In an address to the nation last week, Obama said that an array of countries would aid in the anti-Islamic State effort and that the U.S. wouldn’t have to shoulder the burden alone.

"So far, though, it’s not clear how large a coalition it will be, and how much of the load other countries will actually be willing to carry. Britain has been the only country beyond the U.S. willing to consider airstrikes on targets inside Iraq, but it has yet to carry any out, and has already said that it would not consider strikes inside Syria. Germany and France, both of which are arming Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, have also ruled out carrying out strikes in Syria." More here.

Before Obama’s new push against the Islamic State, the U.S. had actually already flown 2,700 missions in Iraq. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio: "…The 2,749 sorties through Sept. 10 include surveillance and refueling aircraft, providing a fuller measure of the scope of operations than the 156 airstrikes that were described through yesterday in statements by U.S. Central Command. Surveillance aircraft spot potential targets, and refueling in flight lets U.S. combat aircraft loiter over an area, perhaps for hours, to observe, classify, verify and in some cases attack militants’ positions. That has allowed U.S. fliers to drop 253 bombs and missiles that destroyed 212 Islamic State targets such as Humvees, checkpoints and armed vehicles, according to the Pentagon." More here.

The transcript of Kerry’s interview yesterday with CBS’s Bob Schieffer, here.

The NYT’s Friedman yesterday on why Obama’s strategy for fighting ISIS isn’t all about us. Find the full column, here.

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Fred Kagan is back: The intellectual father of the Iraq surge wants to send 25,000 American troops to Iraq and Syria. FP’s Groll story from Friday evening: "…On Friday, Kim Kagan, Fred Kagan, and Jessica Lewis… released a 29-page strategy for defeating the Islamic State. Their plan envisions the deployment of as many as 25,000 American ground troops spread across Iraq and Syria and calls on the U.S. military to forge an alliance with moderate Sunnis in the two countries to overthrow the Assad government and restore stability to Iraq. Most of that force would be deployed in Iraq, but the plan envisions at least a battalion inside Syria.

"Riddled with hopeful assumptions about the consequences of American military action and the existence of potential U.S. allies on the ground, the plan might very well be filed away among the sundry think tank reports produced every day in Washington were it not for the identity of its authors. Fred Kagan was one of the intellectual architects of the first U.S. surge in Iraq, the operation widely credited with helping restore stability there ahead of the 2011 U.S. withdrawal." More here.

Al-Qaida militants are flowing into San’a, Yemen’s capital. The WSJ’s Maria Abi-Habib and Hakim Almasmari: "Scores of al Qaeda militants have moved into Yemen’s capital San’a in an attempt to exploit swelling political unrest and destabilize the government, officials said. While President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government is bogged down with protests in the capital by the Houthis-a Shiite Muslim political and militant group-at least 60 al Qaeda militants have slipped in over the past few weeks and joined sleeper cells, according to Yemeni officials.

"Although Yemeni officials said al Qaeda’s strength in Yemen is growing, the U.S. administration is holding up its counterterrorism strategy in the country as a model for the campaign against the extremist group Islamic State, which operates in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. provides funding and training for Yemeni counterterror forces and conducts drone strikes targeting the militants." More here.

Justice’s Holder pushes to have a case dropped against an anti-Iran advocacy group. The NYT’s Matt Apuzzo: "In his first year in office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. put new limits on when the government could dismiss lawsuits in the name of protecting national security. Now, in what he has said is likely his final year, Mr. Holder has claimed broad authority to do just that in a case unlike any other. The Justice Department intervened late Friday in a defamation lawsuit against United Against Nuclear Iran, a prominent advocacy group that pushes for tough sanctions against Tehran. The government said the case should be dropped because forcing the group to open its files would jeopardize national security." More here.

The Islamic State is losing ground on one important front: Twitter. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker: "Earlier this week, the president reiterated the administration’s ultimate objective toward the Islamic State: airstrikes and partner support "to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group." But one former IS safe haven may have already been reclaimed: the social networking site Twitter. It’s a recent change." More here.

State of the Air Force: Who’s where when today – President Barack Obama and Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn host a Medal of Honor ceremony at 1:50 p.m. at the White House…  Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno meets with the Spanish Army Chief Gen. Dominguez Buj… Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James delivers remarks on the "State of the Air Force" at 10:30 a.m. in National Harbor, MD… Navy Secretary Ray Mabus delivers remarks at CFR and then participates in a Q&A at CFR… ASD Intl Security Affairs Derek Chollet is in Paris to join Secretary Kerry’s delegation for the international conference on ISIL. Later, ASD Chollet meets with senior French defense officials to discuss the fight against ISIL, follow-up from the NATO Summit, as well as Ukraine and Africa.

Here’s more on those two Vietnam-era soldiers receiving the Medal of Honor today. Stars and Stripes’ Jennifer Hlad with that story, here.

Obama’s drive to hire veterans for federal jobs creates some resentment. The WaPo’s Lisa Rein: "… Those who did not serve in the military bristle at times at the preferential hiring of veterans and accuse them of a blind deference to authority. The veterans chafe at what they say is a condescending view of their skills and experience and accuse many non-veterans of lacking a work ethic and sense of mission." More here.


Military Times’ Andy deGrandpre with a long form piece about the drama surrounding the first book about MARSOC: "It’s a rare individual who can, in one breath, wax poetic about his bar band’s adaptation of Pink Floyd’s early psychedelia and, in the very next, deconstruct his Marine special operations team’s quixotic foray in Afghanistan’s hopeless Bala Murghab valley. But Michael Golembesky is just that sort of dude. By his own admission, Golembesky was MSOT 8222’s black sheep when he arrived in 2009 as a newly minted joint terminal attack controller, the guy on the ground responsible for coordinating close-air support and instructing pilots which targets to light up. Or as Golembesky describes in ‘Level Zero Heroes,’ his highly anticipated book detailing the experience, ‘the guy who could be their salvation – or damnation – in a firefight.’" More here.

Nathaniel Penn for GQ on male sexual assault victims in the military, here.

GOP lawmaker: Snowden should go to jail, not Switzerland, sheesh. FP’s John Hudson, who totally got Drudged with this story: "The powerful chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has condemned Edward Snowden’s plans to seek political asylum in Switzerland, whose attorney general says the former NSA contractor could be immune from U.S. extradition requests if he manages to make it to the central European country without being arrested.

"Edward Snowden is a traitor and should be brought back to the United States to face trial," Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican head of the panel, told Foreign Policy. "We should not allow him to trade our intelligence community’s sources and methods for safe haven in other countries." More here.

According to top-secret documents from the NSA and the British agency GCHQ, the intelligence agencies are seeking to map the entire Internet, including end-user devices. Spiegel’s Andy Müller-Maguhn, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Michael Sontheimer, here.

Pushing for a bigger military budget, Israel’s air force chief provides a window into what keeps him up at night.  The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren: "Israel’s air force commander gave an apparently unintended insight into his priorities and preoccupations, when he remarked during comments about the defense budget that Israel might need to send its attack planes to Tehran at very short notice. Speaking about the imperative for the government to allocate additional funding to the armed forces, Israel Air Force chief Major-General Amir Eshel declared that ‘there’s no one in this room who’d be prepared to ride in a car as old as our planes. I’m telling you, no-one. Yesterday these planes were in Gaza, and tomorrow we may send them to Tehran.’ The remarks were not delivered in the tone of a threat, but rather as a statement about a possible mission that would require up-to-date equipment." More here.

From The Daily Star in Lebanon’s editorial yesterday: "Representatives of Lebanon’s business community sounded a warning Friday about the danger posed by the country’s political paralysis and its failure to elect a president – it’s the kind of distress call that politicians are adept at ignoring." More here.

For Al-Awsat, Tariq Alhomayed on Hamas’ recent statement that "there is nothing wrong" with negotiations with Israel, here.

On the shelves today: Robert Haddick’s new book on China’s growing ambitions and military power and U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.  From the publisher, Naval Institute Press: "In Fire on the Water, Robert Haddick contends that much of the general public and many U.S. policy experts are unaware of the threat that China’s military modernization poses to America’s national interests in the Asia-Pacific region. He maintains that within a decade China will have the military power to place U.S. influence throughout East Asia at risk. To avoid a future crisis, the United States needs to fashion a new and more competitive strategy, one that better matches the strengths of the United States and its allies against China’s vulnerabilities." More here.

North Korea sentences a U.S. citizen, Californian Matthew Miller, to six years hard labor. The WSJ’s Jonathan Cheng, here.


Gordon Lubold is a senior writer at FP and author of Situation Report with help by Nathaniel Sobel, director of research at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Follow him @glubold and him @njsobe4.

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