Situation Report: Drones all around for the Navy; verbal spats among U.S. Middle East allies; and CENTCOM turns media critic
By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson Relationship status: complicated. After a pair of dueling press conferences with Iraqi and Saudi government officials on Wednesday, FP’s Lara Jakes and Paul McLeary write that “the Obama administration is caught between two allies over the rising war in Yemen.” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi led off by charging ...
By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson
By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson
Relationship status: complicated. After a pair of dueling press conferences with Iraqi and Saudi government officials on Wednesday, FP’s Lara Jakes and Paul McLeary write that “the Obama administration is caught between two allies over the rising war in Yemen.” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi led off by charging that the Saudi campaign in Yemen is not “logical,” and suggested that the Obama administration backs up his skepticism. That didn’t sit well with the Saudi ambassador, who hours later shot back, telling Abadi to clean up his own house before fretting about the House of Saud’s problems.
And speaking of that messy house, the Islamic State “is reportedly marching on key Iraqi city of Ramadi—upending the momentum that the U.S.-led military coalition seemed to have just days ago, and threatening to shatter an already delicate recent power shift that both the U.S. hoped to exploit,” reports the Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef.
Fact Check. The U.S. Central Command issued a terse and unusual statement late Wednesday night, starting that “Contrary to an article published by Bloomberg View today, Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata will continue to lead the U.S. Syria Train and Equip program and there is no effort underway to replace him. Any speculation to the contrary is inaccurate.”
Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin reported on April 15 that Nagata — very much a rising star in the U.S. military hierarchy — was being replaced, and even got Sen. John McCain to complain about how dumb it is to replace an officer who is still very much engaged in his mission.
In case you missed it, FP’s Sean Naylor reported back on March 30 that Nagata’s two-year tenure running Central Command’s special operations component is almost up, though some in the chain of command are lobbying to extend his tour. But potential replacements are already lining up for the choice gig. According to one of Naylor’s sources, “there’s such a lot of anticipation about this right now … because this is a very good [Special Forces] mission.”
Droning on. Hot on the heels of the announcement that the U.S. Navy will begin launching underwater “drones” from submarines later this year, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has unveiled plans to appoint a new deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for unmanned systems. Mabus also told a Navy conference this week that the $12 billion a year F-35 Joint Strike Fighter “almost certainly will be the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly.”
Space case. Here’s something interesting. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work flew to Colorado this week for a space industry conference to deliver a classified message to the industry execs gathered. Reuters’s Abdrea Shalal got the scoop on some of what he told them. Clearly concerned by China, Russia, and North Korea’s forays into space, Work said that both classified and unclassified space assets needed more protection, and the defense department is looking to spend $5.5 billion over the next five years on these new capabilities.
Who’s Where When
9:30 a.m. Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, and Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander, U.S. Forces Korea, provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on their budget requests for 2016. 10 a.m. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter provides remarks at the portrait unveiling ceremony in honor of Leon E. Panetta, twenty-third Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon Courtyard. At 12:15 p.m. Carter will then host an honor cordon to welcome Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, to the Pentagon.
Morning all. Welcome to the Situation Report. Have anything to say? News to break? An event to tip us off to? Drop a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @paulmcleary. And please join me in welcoming Ariel Robinson, who will also be logging the late night and early morning hours helping to put this little thing we got going here together.
FP’s David Francis reads a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report so you don’t have to. The GAO “has concluded that cyberthreats are the latest risk — and potentially the hardest to find — to airlines. That’s because hackers increasingly may be able to access air traffic control systems and avionics that operate and guide planes that use Wi-Fi to fly” he writes.
Reuters: “Japan’s air force said on Wednesday that jet fighter scrambles have reached a level not seen since the height of the Cold War three decades ago as Russian bombers probe its northern skies and Chinese combat aircraft intrude into its southern air space.”
The Korea Herald reports that South Korea has reached a 1.64 trillion ($1.49 billion US) deal with Korea Aerospace Industries for two “locally made” helicopters: one civilian, and one military, with more than 50 common components. The company will be getting some assistance from Airbus Helicopters.
Ajay Kaul reports for the Asian Age that Indian Prime Minister Modi wants “to give something to humanity.” In that light, Canada and India signed a five-year agreement to deliver 3,000 metric tons of uranium, at an estimated cost of $254 million. Deliveries will begin this year. The partnership represents a tectonic shift between the two nations; exporting uranium and nuclear hardware to India has been banned in Canada since the 1970s.
Reuters reports that Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu blames the U.S. for Russian military involvement in Ukraine. “The United States and its allies have crossed all possible lines in their drive bring Kiev into their orbit. That could not have failed to trigger our reaction,” he said in Moscow.
As Carl Schreck writes for Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, Ukraine has only been able to get approximately $200 million in nonlethal military aid from the U.S., though Canada pledged this week to send 100 trainers to help get the Ukrainian national guard into shape.
While Iraqi and American officials talk in Washington, the Islamic State “overran the headquarters of an Iraqi Army brigade stationed in the Thar Thar area” near Fallujah two days ago. “The suicide assault marks the second time that the jihadist group has taken over an Iraqi military headquarters in the region in two months” writes Long War Journal’s Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defense and head of intelligence met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss enhanced joint operations between the two powers. As Al-Arabiya reports, Al-Sisi stressed the security of the Gulf and the Red Sea, drawing his own “red line” for Middle East security.
Kenya’s Daily Nation reports that national leaders and clerics announced a ten-day amnesty for “radicalised youths to surrender and be reintegrated into their communities.” While a specific plan is yet to be determined, the country’s secretary for the interior did say the ‘demobilisation’ process will include training for youths in “income-generating ventures.” Youths who fail to surrender will be considered terrorists.
According to U.N. officials, the Central African Republic is at a “critical stage” in its transition. The conflict in the CAR has been devastating, with a death toll of over 5,000. However, the tides may be turning according to al Jazeera: two former CAR presidents have signed an agreement continuing last year’s truce. Many are skeptical, though, as the current interim government was not involved in the negotiations.
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