The Cable

Situation Report: North Korean nukes?; India and Pakistan to the rescue in Yemen; the mountain comes to Northcom

By Paul McLeary and Sabine Muscat Seeing is believing! The Department of Defense insists that a North Korean missile that has never been tested is nevertheless capable of being outfitted with a nuclear warhead and hitting the United States. Ever since the KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile was dragged around a Pyongyang parade ground in 2012, ...

By Paul McLeary and Sabine Muscat

Seeing is believing! The Department of Defense insists that a North Korean missile that has never been tested is nevertheless capable of being outfitted with a nuclear warhead and hitting the United States. Ever since the KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile was dragged around a Pyongyang parade ground in 2012, many analysts have maintained that it was simply a mock up built for propaganda purposes. But  Adm. William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, still thinks that North Korea has “the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland…We assess that it’s operational today, and so we practice to go against it.”

The Pentagon is, above all things, a planning organization…

Mine mine mine! While the Islamic State continues to destroy elements of modernity when it suits the group’s purposes, senior leadership has apparently been squirreling away the latest in American military tech for themselves. Jonah Leff, director of operations for Conflict Armament Research says that while the rank-and-file Islamic State fighter is using Cold War-era gear, American kit is “thought of as elite” and is reserved for top-level leaders FP’s Paul McLeary reports.

Complex motivations? A new Frontline documentary on the little understood Yemeni Houthi insurgency paints a portrait of the group as (shockingly!) complex, with a variety of motivations, historical grievances, loyalties, and desires. While not sympathetic to the group, the doc by journalist Safa Al Ahmad traces the Houthis wars with the government in the early 2000s to its current experiment with power. “Ahmad’s film is a revelation,” writes FP’s Elias Groll, “both for its remarkable footage of the Houthi movement and for its clear-eyed perspective on Yemen’s politics and future.”

Who Where When

8:30 a.m. The National Press Club hosts an event on U.S. military and police assistance to other countries. 10:00 a.m. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske speaks at the Brookings Institution. 10:15 a.m. Secretary of State John Kerry meets Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra. 11:30 a.m. Peter Mansoor, Executive Officer to General Petraeus during the Iraq War in 2007, speaks on the rise of ISIS at American University. 4:00 p.m. The Atlantic Council hosts a panel on the Iranian cyber threat.

President Barack Obama begins a trip to Jamaica and Panama.

The Business of Defense

New eyes for commandos. The U.S. Special Ops Command is looking for a new private contractor to fly some of its drones at “six operational sites” according to a solicitation on a government Web site. The commandos aren’t looking for anything new — they want strictly “non-developmental contractor-owned, contractor-operated” drones that can collect intel as well as perform some electronic warfare missions.

All of the most interesting stuff is classified, but we do know that the Medium Endurance Unmanned Air System gig would be a follow-on to the February 2013 deal with Boeing subsidiary Insitu Inc. to provide ScanEagle aircraft. The command is looking to follow up on that $190 million February 2013 deal which was forged after a previous contract with Textron’s AAI fell through under murky circumstances.

To the Mountain! The Pentagon recently defense powerhouse Raytheon a $700-million deal to install new equipment inside the Cheyenne Mountain complex in Colorado. The contract, will “support threat warnings and assessments for the North American Aerospace Defense Command Cheyenne Mountain Complex.” More here.

Guns and gas: Not only has Washington agreed to start refueling the fighter planes from the Gulf states bombing Yemen, but now it’s speeding up arms supplies to the Saudi-led coalition, according to Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “We have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center” he told reporters in Riyadh.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of the Situation Report. Let us know what you think, or if you have something interesting to flag: or on Twitter at @paulmcleary.


Somalia also supports the fight against the Houthi – by letting Saudi Arabia use its airspace, land and territorial waters, Abdalle Ahmed writes in the Guardian.

India’s Economic Times reports on the U.S., France and Germany let India evacuate their citizens from Yemen. Both China and India have surprised the world with their massive rescue missions of their own citizens and other nationalities.

The Hindu also reports that 11 Indian nationals rescued by Pakistan’s Navy after setting sail from Yemen will fly home from Karachi by a special flight “in a rare show of cooperation between India and Pakistan that has arisen from the conflict in Yemen.”


For more on the North Korean nuke assessment mentioned up top, check out 38 North, a project of the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and their new report The Future of North Korean Nuclear Delivery Systems for more.

The head of Vietnam’s ruling communist party walks a tightrope during a visit to Beijing, as the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Browne reports: “how to show deference to China without appearing meek back home.“

Reuters reports that Vietnam has been hedging its bets in the region: “Vietnam has strengthened its military relationship with old enemy the United States since the South China Sea dispute has heated up following Xi’s assumption of power in 2013, and Vietnam has also sought common ground with the Philippines on facing China over the spat.”

70 years after World War II, Americans and Japanese share a deep mutual trust and an equally deep distrust of China, according to a new Pew Research Center Survey.

Thailand’s military dictator Prayuth Chan-ocha says he realized martial law was hurting the country’s reputation, so last week he lifted martial law and declared instead that his orders will have the force of law.


The BBC on an Islamic State style beheading by Uzbek militants in Afghanistan: “Militants who kidnapped 31 people from a bus in Afghanistan in February have released a video showing one of the hostages being beheaded

The Associated Press: “A Pakistani judge on Tuesday ordered that criminal charges be filed against a former CIA lawyer who oversaw its drone program and the one-time chief agency operative in Islamabad over a 2009 strike that killed two people.”


CNN’s Jim Acosta: “The State Department is expected to recommend that Cuba be removed from the government’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, a U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday, a notorious designation that has been a stumbling block in the establishment of embassies in both Havana and Washington.”

The BBC: “Malaysia has passed a controversial anti-terrorism bill, which the government says is needed to tackle the threat from Islamic extremists.”


International Business Times: Russia’s moves in Ukraine have made it’s neighbors pretty nervous, so much so that Finland’s Foreign Minister Erki Tuomioja has warned that beefing up NATO’s military presence at the Russian-Finnish border is not a good idea because it could prompt Russia to retaliate.

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