Situation Report

U.S. meets with anti-IS coalition; Is Turkey on board?; Baghdad on the brink; Climate change threatens national security; and more.

By David Francis with Nathaniel Sobel President Barack Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, are set to meet with 20 foreign ministers today to discuss the next phase in the war against the Islamic State. The aim of the meeting, taking place at Andrews Air Force base, is to develop a ...

By David Francis with Nathaniel Sobel

President Barack Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, are set to meet with 20 foreign ministers today to discuss the next phase in the war against the Islamic State. The aim of the meeting, taking place at Andrews Air Force base, is to develop a strategy to combat recent gains made by the group.

According to Alistair Baskey, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, the meeting "is part of ongoing efforts to build the coalition and integrate the capabilities of each country into the broader strategy." Representatives from Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates are expected to attend, according to Reuters.

The key country in these talks is Turkey. "Ankara has come under some pressure to send its own ground troops into Syria against Isis forces. The country could announce after the meeting that it will join Saudi Arabia in training moderate Syrian rebels," Reuters adds.

But is Turkey playing ball? From the Washington Post: Turkey denied Monday that it has reached any "new agreement" with the United States to allow the use of Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey for attacks on the Islamic State militant group, despite suggestions from the Obama administration that a deal had been reached. A statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said talks are continuing between Ankara and Washington over whether to permit U.S. forces to use Incirlik in the fight against the Islamic State, a radical al-Qaeda offshoot that has captured parts of Syria and Iraq. However, "there is no new agreement on the Incirlik issue," the statement said.

Apparently, Turkey isn’t ready to admit that it’s in bed with the U.S. FP’s Ratnam and Hudson: "The Obama administration insists that it has a large and growing coalition of nations arrayed to fight the Islamic State. If a new diplomatic blowup with Turkey is any example, though, the alliance may be far less robust than Washington says.

"The latest row concerns the key question of whether Turkey, which hosts a sprawling American air base, will let U.S. warcraft fly into Iraq and Syria to batter the militant group. U.S. officials said Sunday that Ankara had given the green light. Less than a day later, Turkish officials categorically denied that they’d agreed to allow their bases to be used against the terror group.

"The conflicting versions of events from the two allies have one of two causes. One is political: The White House is eager to show a war-weary American public that the United States won’t be fighting alone, but many Middle Eastern countries don’t want to rile up their own populations by advertising their roles in the coalition. The other is a more basic and troubling one: that Washington may be consistently misreading its partners and overestimating just how committed they are to the fight." More here.

The meeting comes as the fight against IS continues on a number of fronts. Fighting in Kobani, the town where Kurdish fighters held off IS over the weekend, appears to be intensifying. From the Wall Street Journal: "The monthlong battle for Kobani, which sits on the border with Turkey, has become the symbol of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State, which has captured large stretches of territory in Syria and Iraq since May. Despite a stepped-up air campaign by the U.S. and its Arab and Western partners, U.S. and Turkish officials said last week Kobani was close to falling. A top United Nations official on Friday warned that the city’s capture could touch off a massacre residents who haven’t fled."

Baghdad is also at risk of falling to IS. From the start of the conflict, IS has been the barbarian at Baghdad’s gates. However, until now, it seemed as if IS was content to threaten the city without actually taking it. New reports indicate that the Iraqi capital might once again be on the verge of falling.

From CBS News: Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Monday captured a military training camp in western Iraq, inching closer to full control of the restive Anbar province, as a spate of deadly bombings shook Baghdad, hitting mostly Shiite neighborhoods and leaving at least 30 dead. The attacks, hitting three Shiite-majority neighborhoods, came as many Iraqi Shiites families took to the streets to celebrate the Eid al-Ghadeer holiday, which commemorates the Shiite Imam Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law and the sect’s most sacred martyr.

DOD officials acknowledge that the fight against IS has taken some hits in recent weeks. But they insist that in the long term, the group would be defeated. Also, it’s the media’s fault. From WSJ: "We are taking a long view," said a defense official. "The media is taking a shorter view. We have prepared for a long fight. Degrading ISIL is going to take time." U.S. officials have maintained that Kobani is not of strategic importance to their fight in Iraq and Syria, where the objective is to train moderate rebels to some day take on the extremists in the midst of Syria’s civil war.

According to FP’s Rothkopf, empowering Muslim women is the key to degrading and ultimately destroying medieval and reactionary fanaticism: "Not only do countries that treat women badly do badly economically, politically, and socially, but countries in which extremist ideologies have taken root frequently treat women worst of all. In each case they have twisted their religious and cultural inheritances to promote practices that are abhorrent and indefensible, or they simply fail to recognize the rights or the promise of the women and girls among them. This has been taken to extraordinary extremes by groups like the Islamic State. In its slickly produced online English-language magazine, Dabiq, the group defends its enslavement of Yazidi girls and women and the taking of them as concubines by arguing that the practice is a "firmly established aspect of the Sharia." Why enslave girls and women? Because not to do so would apparently create temptations toward "fornication and adultery" too great for the men of their would-be caliphate to handle — men who are apparently powerful enough to make all the important decisions but who melt to butter when in the presence of a woman who is not some other man’s property." More here.

The IS campaign is getting a name this week, according to CNN. Operation Sorry We Left? Operation We Don’t Want to be Here? Operation It’s GWB’s Fault? I’d love to hear your suggestions. Best ones make it into tomorrow’s Sit Rep.

Does IS have chemcial weapons? Huff Post says they might. More here.<

Are terror suspects snitches? NYT thinks so. Read it here.

Finally on IS, FP’s Colum Lynch with a friendly reminder that the fight against Islamic extremism exists outside of the Middle East. While the world’s attention is fixed on the U.S.-led battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the global war on terror is suffering a serious setback in Mali, where resurgent Islamist militants have transformed the northern part of the country into the deadliest place in the world for United Nations peacekeepers. Read more here.

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I want to hear from you! I want the Situation Report to be a dialogue, not a one-way conversation. Have ideas about what I should be covering? Email me. Want to give your take on national security issues? Email me. Am I doing something wrong or missing something? Email me. Just want to chat about international affairs? Email me.

Speaking of dialogue, thanks to readers who called me out on giving the wrong title to Susan Rice yesterday. Rice is the former ambassador to the UN, and current National Security Advisor. Apologies for the mistake.

FP’s Rebecca Frankel has a book out today, entitled "War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love." You’ve seen the photo eaasy, but to get the full story of how dogs have been used in war, read the book. Buy it here.

Who’s where when: Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology and Acquisition Executive Honorable Heidi Shyu; and commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command, Gen. Dennis L. Via brief the press at the AUSA annual meeting and convention: delivering Innovation for Force 2025 and Beyond at 10:00 a.m… commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command, Gen. Dennis L. Via participates in a media roundtable at the AUSA annual meeting and convention: Army Materiel Command at 11:00 a.m… Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Honrable Katherine Hammic briefs the press at the AUSA annual meeting and convention — Resilient Installations: A Platform for Power Projection at noon… Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert participates in the Maritime Security Dialogue at CSIS at 4:00 p.m… commanding general, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. David G. Perkins; and deputy commanding general, Futures, and director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, Lt. Gen. Herbert R. McMaster Jr. participates in a media roundtable at the AUSA annual meeting and convention: Force 2025 and Beyond: Setting the Course at 5:00 p.m.

Meanwhile, Hagel says that climate change is a national security threat. The NYT’s Coral Davenport: "The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises.


"The report lays out a road map to show how the military will adapt to rising sea levels, more violent storms and widespread droughts. The Defense Department will begin by integrating plans for climate change risks across all of its operations, from war games and strategic military planning situations to a rethinking of the movement of supplies.

Hagel yesterday at a meeting of defense ministers in Peru: "The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere… Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration." Full story here and the roadmap itself here.

Former NSA head Michael Hayden says he’s "conflicted" about the prosecution of New York Times reporter James Risen. FP’s Groll: "Hayden’s comments about Risen’s case make him one of the most senior intelligence officials to question the wisdom of prosecuting the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter. ‘I am, like America, conflicted,’ Hayden said in the CBS interview. ‘You’re talking about ruining lives over things about which people are acting on principle.’

"It’s unlikely Hayden’s statements will have any practical impact on the case, but they may provide some political cover for the Obama administration if it wishes to jettison the case against Risen. Hayden told CBS that he believes Risen’s reporting harmed American interests but questioned the wisdom of redressing that offense in a way that ‘harms the broad freedom of the press.’" More here.

For the New Yorker, George Packer reviews Laura Poitras’s closeup view of Edward Snowden, here.

Speaking of hackers and Russia, the Washington Post is reporting that Russian hackers are targeting NATO and Ukraine, among others. "A Russian hacking group probably working for the government has been exploiting a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system to spy on NATO, the Ukrainian government, a U.S. university researcher and other national security targets, according to a new report. The group has been active since at least 2009, according to research by iSight Partners, a cybersecurity firm. Its targets in the recent campaign also included a Polish energy firm, a Western European government agency and a French telecommunications firm." Read more here.

Two governments are competing to rule Libya — but it may be the militias that wield the real power. Mary Fitzgerald for FP, here.

Army Chief Gen. Ray Odierno continues his campaign to convince DC that the plans to shrink the Army makes the U.S. vulnerable. From WSJ: "The world is changing in front of us. We have seen Russian aggression in Europe, we have seen ISIS, we have seen increased stability in other places," Gen. Odierno said. "So I now have concern whether even going below 490,000 is the right thing to do or not, because of what I see potentially on the horizon."

Kim Jong Un is back, and now he’s walking with a cane. FP’s Groll: "After spending more than 40 days absent from the public spotlight, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has finally made his return, according to a state media report published early Tuesday Korean time. Kim’s absence had sparked widespread rumors that he had been deposed from power, but now he’s back, appearing with a big grin on his face on the front page of the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper." More here.

For Al-Awsat, Al-Arabiya’s Abdulrahman Al-Rashed on why Turkey is keeping quiet on Syria, here.

The Daily Star in Lebanon takes the U.S. led coalition against IS to task for failing to act soon enough to stop the group. "Officials from the 40-plus member coalition appear adept only at offering lectures and theories on what needs to be done, and how others must "step up." What they’ve failed to do themselves is step up and offer a viable solution in Iraq, after their countries oversaw the dismantling of the Iraqi army, laying the groundwork for the current mess. They should also take responsibility for delaying a decision to assist mainstream rebels in Syria over the past several years, as ISIS steadily organized and seized territory."

The Ebola virus has the country in a panic right now. But is the threat from the virus overstated? That’s what some are arguing. Read more here and here.

FP’s Steven Walt makes the argument that global crises, from IS to Ebola, won’t impact your investments. "We also need to keep all this trouble in perspective. Most of the problems dominating the headlines today reflect local troubles that aren’t likely to have far-reaching consequences unless we make them do. Unless you believed the upbeat U.S. reports on Iraq and went long on Anbar province, your investment portfolio won’t be affected very much by anything the Islamic State does or does not do, unless foreign interference manages to make a troubling problem a whole lot worse. The Islamic State gets a lot of attention, but the state of Sino-American relations, the ability of the eurozone to generate some economic growth, and a resolution of the crisis in Ukraine are likely to matter a lot more to the overall state of world affairs in the months and years ahead. I’d even argue that a nuclear deal and gradual thaw with Iran will matter a lot more to world affairs than the battle against the Islamic State."


Speaking of Iran, is a nuclear deal close? Via Reuters: "Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday a nuclear deal with the West was bound to happen and he believed it could be achieved by a Nov. 24 deadline. "We have reached consensus on generalities and there are only the fine details to be worked out: whether we would reach an agreement within the next 40 days, if the time will be extended, etc.," the president told his people in a late evening address broadcast live on television.

CFR wants to know what you think. What threats or conflicts will emerge or escalate in 2015? For the past six years, in an effort to assist policymakers in anticipating and planning for international crises that threaten U.S. national interests, CFR’s Center for Preventive Action have conducted the Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS).Writing for FP, Micah Zenko summarizes last year’s results here. And you can take this year’s survey here.

And finally, why NATO will struggle to be relevant (hint: it has nothing to do with NATO’s mission, and everything to do with Europe’s economy). Read FP’s Nicholas Spiro here.

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