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: DOD unveils domestic Ebola response; U.S. takes unprecedented steps in Syria; Mystery surrounds North Korean and Russian subs; the Marines get a new boss; and much more.

By David Francis with Nathaniel Sobel The Pentagon unveils its plan to stop the spread of the Ebola virus here at home. This comes as the Pentagon is coordinating its response to the west African outbreak, and comes despite the fact that only three Ebola cases have been diagnosed in the United States. The WaPo’s ...

By David Francis with Nathaniel Sobel

By David Francis with Nathaniel Sobel

The Pentagon unveils its plan to stop the spread of the Ebola virus here at home. This comes as the Pentagon is coordinating its response to the west African outbreak, and comes despite the fact that only three Ebola cases have been diagnosed in the United States.

The WaPo’s Paul Kane and Amy Ellis Nut: "The Pentagon announced Sunday that it will create a 30-person team of medical experts that could quickly leap into a region if new Ebola cases emerge in the United States, providing support for civilian doctors who lack proficiency in fighting the deadly virus.

"Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon’s Northern Command, which has a prime focus on protecting homeland security, to send this new team to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for high-level preparations to respond to any additional Ebola cases beyond the three confirmed in the country." More here.

Can a DC insider command the U.S. response to Ebola? Last week, Republicans called for Obama to do more to confront the disease here at home. Obama’s solution was to appoint an "Ebola czar" to coordinate the government’s response.  

FP’s Francis: "In an effort to placate Congress and reassure the American public that the Ebola virus would not spread across the country, President Barack Obama appointed Ron Klain, a political operative with no apparent public-health experience, to oversee the government’s response.

David Dausey, a Yale-trained epidemiologist who works on controlling pandemics, and who is dean of the School of Health Professions and Public Health at Mercyhurst University, said that it’s a mistake to appoint someone lacking public-health experience.

Dausey to FP: "You need somebody that understands the disease and how it spreads. If this person doesn’t have that background or knowledge, it would be problematic… You can’t be a czar for a disease if you don’t understand how the disease spreads." Klain starts his job today. More here.

Republicans continued to make their displeasure with the choice known on the Sunday shows. More here.

Meanwhile, the United States took an unprecedented step in Syria this weekend. FP’s Brannen: "U.S. aircraft delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State (ISIS) in the key Syrian-Turkish border town of Kobani on Sunday, further expanding Washington’s efforts to save the town from being overrun, according to a U.S. official. U.S. Central Command confirmed the airdrops conducted by C-130 aircraft Sunday night.

"…The supplies were not provided by the U.S., but instead came from other Kurdish forces outside of Kobani, the official told FP. U.S. aircraft merely facilitated the airdrops. American warplanes have been bombing Islamic State targets in and around the city for weeks, but the airdrops escalate that effort and mean that the U.S. is now facilitating direct assistance to the Kurdish fighters defending the city." More here.

Stopping ISIS from looting ancient artifacts could cut off a big part of the group’s funding stream. FP’s Drennan: "ISIS’s profits from looting are second only to the revenue the group derives from illicit oil sales. So understanding the Islamic State’s approach to the fate of ancient artifacts actually could be key to stopping its advance.

Michael Danti, one of the archaeologists leading a U.S. government-funded effort to document the destruction and looting of the cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria: "What we have from the satellite imagery is that there is industrial-scale looting all over Syria." More here.

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What’s Moving Markets Today: European stocks continue to tumble. The defense industry is trending down, which (obviously) is bad news for defense stocks. Last week U.S. markets went on a wild ride; expect more of the same this week.

Revolving Door: From Defense News, "Andrew Marshall-a Pentagon institution who influenced policy makers from the Cold War to today-has signaled his intention to step down in January, according to sources." Marshall, 93, leads the Office of Net Assessment, DOD’s internal think tank. More here. Gen. Joe Dunford, 58, takes control of the Marine Corp. Read more here.

From 38 North: North Korean Navy gets a new nuclear sub. According to their analysis, it’s either of Russian or Yugoslav origin. "A Yugoslavian origin for the design would not be unusual since the North Koreans acquired a number of submarine designs from that nation during the 1970s and used them as the basis for several experimental designs as well as the yugo class of midget submarines." More here.

North and South Korean troops exchange gunfire. A minor border skirmish in the DMZ resulted in no casualties. More here.

Speaking of submarines…

Sweden is looking for a foreign sub in its waters. Reuters’ Niklas Pollard and Alistair Scrutton: "Sweden released on Sunday a grainy photo of a mysterious vessel in Stockholm’s archipelago, as the military hunted for a foreign submarine or divers in the country’s biggest such mobilization since the Cold War. The search in the Baltic Sea less than 30 miles (50 km) from Stockholm began on Friday and reawakened memories of the final years of the Cold War when Sweden repeatedly sought out suspected Soviet submarines along its coast with depth charges." More here.

Perhaps the Swedes should put up a windmill, because the only thing that scares Putin is wind energy. Daniel Altman for FP: "It’s good to be Vladimir Putin these days. The Russian president can jerk most European countries around without fearing the consequences, thanks to their dependence on his natural gas. Meanwhile, Putin’s customers are probably dreaming of the day when they can tell him to piss off. But when they can finally live independently of his resources, international influence won’t be the only thing that crumbles for Russia and other petrostates.

"I’m not talking about the kind of energy independence that the United States may gain from fracking, or Brazil by exploiting its deep-sea oil reserves. I’m talking about the day when oil and gas are no longer used as fuel for vehicles and heating homes. For governments that depend on petroleum revenue, like Russia’s does, it could be a day of reckoning. Recent fluctuations in the demand and prices for oil and gas are just a sneak preview." More here.

Learn how Putin used Ukraine to consolidate power into a dictatorship. From Politico mag, here.

NATO seeks more U.S. ships to counter Russia. Military Times’ David Larter: "Royal Navy Vice Adm. Peter Hudson, who leads NATO Allied Maritime Command, said Oct. 7 that he was trying to lay the groundwork for more large-scale exercises to build cooperation between NATO powers, which would mean more time in 6th Fleet for sailors looking forward to sunny Mediterranean ports.

"Hudson said tensions with Russia have prompted the renewed push, and that he’d like to ‘re-energize complex, joint integrated training, so whether that’s frigates and destroyers in my warfare units or with carrier strike groups or amphibious ready groups, we’re well versed in it.’" More here.

From WaPo’s opinion pages, Anne Applebaum, one of the smartest voices out there on Russia and Europe, argues that Russian humiliation is not the reason for its aggression in Eastern Europe. More here.

Meanwhile, more on Iraq and IS…

Over the weekend, Iraq appointed its final government ministers. The AP’s story: "Iraqi lawmakers approved Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s remaining Cabinet nominees on Saturday, including for the critical defense and interior portfolios, completing the formation of a government that will strive to push the Islamic State extremist group out of the sprawling territory it has seized in recent months.

"Control over the two powerful security ministries has long been a source of tension among Iraq’s feuding political factions. The U.S. and other allies have been pushing for a more representative government that can reach out to Sunnis, who felt marginalized by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sunni discontent is widely seen as having fueled the IS group’s dramatic advances in Iraq since June, when it captured the country’s second largest city Mosul." More here.

The Arab League vows support for Iraq against IS. Al Awsat’s Hamza Mustafa in Baghdad: "Arab league Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said the organization and its members would "defend all countries against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria advance" on Sunday, on a visit to Iraq’s capital. Speaking at a press conference to mark the arrival of an Arab League delegation to Iraq including the foreign ministers of Kuwait and Mauritania, Elaraby also said that Arab countries were joining forces to stem the flow of IS sympathizers traveling from across the region to join the group, and called for a wide-ranging campaign against it.

"Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari said that Iraq welcomed aid from fellow Arab League members, but said Baghdad ‘has not requested and will not request’ the intervention of Arab or other ground troops on its territory as part of the fight against ISIS." More here.

It’s still not clear whether airstrikes neutralized the mysterious Khorasan Group. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin said that the military’s assessment of the effectiveness of the strikes is a "work in progress." More here, via The Hill.

In Afghanistan, civilians are paying the price for ineffective Afghan security forces. From Stars and Stripes: After more than a decade of international military involvement, the NATO-led coalition is departing, but that hasn’t coincided with a drop in violence. With NATO combat troops leaving by the end of the year, civilian casualties are up 15 percent from last year, according to the United Nations. More here.

Where were key members of the Haqqani network captured? And does their capture signal a change of direction by Kabul? Top ranking members of terrorist organizations have long enjoyed freedom of movement in Afghanistan. Is this changing? From WSJ: The detention of Anas Haqqani, the brother of the Taliban-affiliated group’s chief, and Hafiz Rashid, a military commander, was touted as an important victory for the Afghan government.

The Haqqani network was behind many of the most spectacular attacks against foreign and Afghan targets in recent years. Haqqani and Rashid are now the most senior members of the network in Afghan custody. More here.

Obama sees a deal with Iran that could bypass Congress.  The NYT’s David Sanger: "No one knows if the Obama administration will manage in the next five weeks to strike what many in the White House consider the most important foreign policy deal of his presidency: an accord with Iran that would forestall its ability to make a nuclear weapon. But the White House has made one significant decision: If agreement is reached, President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it.

"Even while negotiators argue over the number of centrifuges Iran would be allowed to spin and where inspectors could roam, the Iranians have signaled that they would accept, at least temporarily, a ‘suspension’ of the stringent sanctions that have drastically cut their oil revenues and terminated their banking relationships with the West, according to American and Iranian officials. The Treasury Department, in a detailed study it declined to make public, has concluded Mr. Obama has the authority to suspend the vast majority of those sanctions without seeking a vote by Congress, officials say." More here.

On yesterday’s NYT’s op-ed page, Israel’s intel minister says that no deal with Iran is better than an imperfect one: "Standing our moral ground will transmit a clear message to the leaders in Tehran that the only way to escape mounting pressure will be through ultimately making the necessary significant compromises." More here.

More on Israel…

Days after Israeli officials blasted Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon visits Washington. The AFP’s story: "In a statement released ahead of his departure, Yaalon warned that no dispute should be allowed to ‘cast a shadow’ over Israel’s crucial relationship with its closest ally.

"…On Friday, two senior Israeli cabinet ministers took aim at US Secretary of State John Kerry over remarks linking the growth of Islamic extremism to Israel’s decades-long conflict with the Palestinians." More here.

New research on how civilians are the key to fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s a new report out from CNA Corporation called "Risky Business-The Future of Civil Defense Forces and Counterterrorism in an Era of Persistent Conflict." The authors argue that the key to degrading Islamic extremism in Iraq and Afghanistan is not national armies but civil defense forces. This is an especially interesting idea given that the money the United States is sinking in to training isn’t paying off. Read it here.

France is struggling to cope with domestic terrorism. The WSJ’s Noemie Bisserbe and Stacy Meichtry: "In justifying his decision to launch airstrikes against Islamic State, French President François Hollande has warned the French public of ‘young men who are indoctrinated, brainwashed, and who can come back home with the worst plans in mind.’ Islamic State has responded by calling on European nationals to mount terrorist attacks on their native soil.

"…In France, officials and lawmakers say, the grinding pace of the country’s legal system is dramatically out of step with the fast-moving realities of the antiterrorism fight."  More here.

The Air Force’s top-secret drone, the X-37B, returned from 670 days in space. What it was doing up there is anyone’s guess. More here.

Did the Nigerian government make a deal with Boko Haram? Right now, it depends on whom you ask. FP’s O’Grady with more here.

Finally, here in North Carolina, where I spend my weekends and where I’m writing SitRep early this morning, foreign policy has found its way into a nasty Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis. Until recently, it was all about domestic policy. Now, Ebola and IS are becoming big issues. (Television is flooded with foreign policy campaign ads. None of them are good.) More here.

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