The Cable

Situation Report: Eyes on Spies; Snowden; Choppers for Pakistan; Sec Def on the economics of Asia; and much more

By Paul McLeary and Sabine Muscat Is the era of the passport-swapping international spy over? FP’s Kate Brannen delivers an absolute must read about a topic you’ll be surprised you never thought much about. The expansion of biometric data (fingerprints, iris scans and facial images) along with closed-circuit TV surveillance and Internet-tracking tools have made ...

By Paul McLeary and Sabine Muscat

Is the era of the passport-swapping international spy over? FP’s Kate Brannen delivers an absolute must read about a topic you’ll be surprised you never thought much about.

The expansion of biometric data (fingerprints, iris scans and facial images) along with closed-circuit TV surveillance and Internet-tracking tools have made life even more dangerous for undercover agents slipping in and out of international airports. “You have to take many more security measures to be able to prepare someone to operate in an environment in which you can no longer physically hide,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in a recent interview with Foreign Policy.

Trade czar — er — Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is currently en route to Japan and South Korea, but not before he made a big push for a proposed multinational trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 of its Asian trading partners.

In a speech at Arizona State University on April 6, Carter pushed the as-yet-to-be-completed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a deal that could increase U.S. exports by $123 billion over the next decade. Carter made economic issues the centerpiece of his address, adding that the TPP is as important to him as a new aircraft carrier, since economic partnerships can breed long-term security relationships. Carter will spend April 8-9 in Tokyo trying to kickstart stalled negotiations over updates to a 1960s-era defense agreement with Japan, before heading to Seoul for two days of talks with South Korean officials.

RED SIREN: Self-proclaimed “Maverick” Sen. John McCain tells NBC News that he’s in for another run as the senior Senator from Arizona in 2016, when he’ll be 80 years old. The head of the Senate Armed Services Committee is one of the key players in the national security game, and if his party holds on to the chamber, McCain has no intention of stepping down.

Fidel sighting! On April 4, the Cuban government released images of 88-year-old Fidel Castro addressing a group of 33 Venezuelans visiting a school in Cuba. FP’s John Hudson asks what it all means. Is it a message to Washington, or Caracas? Or both?

The beginning? On April 6, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren confirmed that the U.S. has agreed to begin performing aerial refueling of Saudi and allied bombers hitting targets in Yemen, with the caveat that American tankers won’t gas up over Yemeni airspace.

“Aerial refueling has been approved but has not yet been conducted,” he told reporters at the Pentagon. “It’s been authorized, assets are in place. The Saudis have not requested it. Any refueling will not take place over Yemen. Any refueling will take place over Saudi Arabia or other places.”

The Business of the Pentagon

Reuters’s Andrea Shalal: “The Pentagon is pushing back against congressional moves to ease requirements for multiyear weapons procurements, saying it will continue to insist that such deals generate significant savings for the government before relinquishing yearly control.”

Did we say business? Pakistan wants to buy 15 AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters and 1,000 Hellfire II missiles from the U.S. in a deal that would be worth about $952 million if the U.S. Congress signs off on it. The sale would up Pakistan’s precision firepower in places like the “North Waziristan Agency, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and other remote and mountainous areas in all-weather, day-and-night environments” the Department of Defense wrote on April 6. The deal would also make some money for U.S. defense contractors Textron, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

Defense biz watcher Roman Schweizer of Guggenheim Partners writes in an early morning note today that we should expect more sales like this “given the current state of conflict and/or tension in key regions (Middle East, Europe and Asia), we expect U.S. foreign military sales should continue to be strong throughout the year” most notably in replacing “precision munitions among NATO and Middle East countries participating in air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. We also expect eastern NATO countries will increase procurements in the wake of continued Russian activity in Ukraine.”

Case in point is Poland, which has said that it will spend about $42 billion over the next decade on a series of defense upgrades, including billions on a new air defense system in the coming months. The two finalists in that contest are US company (and maker of the Patriot missile system) Raytheon and a European consortium made up of the Italian/French MBDA and France’s Thales Group.

As some famous sons of D.C. once said, “Never mind what’s been selling, it’s what you’re buying”

Hey there! Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of the Situation Report. Let us know what you think or pass along some good ideas or tips to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or over at Twitter: @paulmcleary

Who’s Where When

11:00 a.m. The Stimson Center hosts a panel on “Tracking Arms In Conflict – Lessons From Syria And Iraq.” 12:00 p.m. The New America Foundation hosts a panel on “The Digital Threat of ISIS and the War in Syria.” 1:00 p.m. The Center for Strategic & International Studies host a panel on “Next Steps in Missile Defense.” 2:45 p.m. Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall speaks on “Preventing Atrocities and Violent Extremism” at the American University. 3:00 p.m. Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to the U.S. Lukman Faily speaks at Johns Hopkins University.

More Carter in Asia:

Reuters: “North Korea has declared a no-sail zone for its ships off its east coast, South Korean media reported on Monday, suggesting more missile launches are possible before the U.S. defense chief visits Seoul this week.”

More Asia:

Rappler’s Carmela Fonbuena: “The United States military is doubling the troops it is sending to the Philippines later in April to join war games organized by the chief of the military command in charge of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), according to a military statement on the annual US-PH Balikatan Exercises.”

India Today on the launch of India’s first indigenously built attack submarine: “The Scorpene is part of the ambitious Project 75 of Indian Navy’s submarine programme, undertaken with French collaboration, which will include six such vessels joining the fleet over the next few years.”

Terrorism: Malaysia detains suspected Islamic State supporters. The jury in the trial of Boston marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev will deliberate today.

The Associated Press: “Malaysian police have detained 17 suspected militants who authorities said Monday had planned to attack police stations and army camps to acquire weapons and carry out terrorist acts in Kuala Lumpur.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Brent Kendall: “The Supreme Court on Monday asked the federal government to weigh in on judgments awarding nearly $2 billion in frozen Iranian banking assets to terrorism victims.”

USA Today’s G. Jeffrey Macdonald: “In his closing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty said Tsarnaev was a full participant in the bombings, one who ‘wanted to terrorize’ Americans.”

Iran deal:

The Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Casey: “Israel’s intelligence chief proposed a dramatic revamp of an agreement forged last week between six world powers and Iran over its nuclear program and said the U.S. Congress was the most likely arena to fend off an unfavorable deal.”

The Diplomat on why India is the big winner of the nuclear deal with Iran:

Israel:

The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner: “For Israel’s military, maintaining control of the occupied West Bank has been fraught with contradictions in recent months, creating a tension that senior military officials say does not bode well for stability.”

Russia

The BBC:Kenyan fighter jets have bombed positions of militant Islamist group al-Shabab in neighbouring Somalia, a military spokesman has told the BBC.”

The Los Angeles Times’ W.J. Hennigan speculates on the intent of Russian military aircraft near U.S. shores: “U.S. officials view the bombers — which have been detected as far south as 50 miles off California’s northern coast — as deliberately provocative.”

The AP’s Monika Scislowska on Eastern European civilians taking up military training to counter the perceived threat from Russia: “In Poland, doctors, shopkeepers, lawmakers and others are heeding a call to receive military training in case of an invasion. Neighboring Lithuania is restoring the draft and teaching citizens what to do in case of war. Nearby Latvia has plans to give university students military training next year.”

The Business of the Pentagon

Reuters’s Andrea Shalal: “The Pentagon is pushing back against congressional moves to ease requirements for multiyear weapons procurements, saying it will continue to insist that such deals generate significant savings for the government before relinquishing yearly control.”

Did we say business? Pakistan wants to buy 15 AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters and 1,000 Hellfire II missiles from the U.S. in a deal that would be worth about $952 million if the U.S. Congress signs off on it. “This proposed sale will provide Pakistan with a precision strike, enhanced survivability aircraft that it can operate at high-altitudes….in North Waziristan Agency, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and other remote and mountainous areas in all-weather, day-and-night environments” the Department of Defense wrote on April 6. The deal would make some money for U.S. defense contractors Textron, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

Revolving Door:

The Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman: “President Obama has tapped an Army lawyer and former congressman from Oklahoma to serve as the Pentagon’s top personnel official. Brad Carson, 48, will serve as acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, the primary official overseeing military personnel and compensation policies.”

And finally

Could you pass the FBI’s new fitness test? http://time.com/3772114/fbi-fitness-tests/

 

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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