The Cable

Situation Report: Texas safe from military rule; Obama Mideast summit flailing; Syrians start training; and more

By Paul McLeary with Ariel Robinson Two takeaways from Thursday’s Pentagon press conference with Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey: Paranoid? Carter stated emphatically that the U.S. military is not, repeat not, planning an armed takeover of the State of Texas. Some people in the southwest and the ...

By Paul McLeary with Ariel Robinson

Two takeaways from Thursday’s Pentagon press conference with Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey:

Paranoid? Carter stated emphatically that the U.S. military is not, repeat not, planning an armed takeover of the State of Texas. Some people in the southwest and the more paranoid corners of the Internet have seen the military’s upcoming multi-state training effort, dubbed Operation Jade Helm 15, as a first step toward implementing martial law. There’s all kinds of talk about training in abandoned malls and secret tunnels connecting five closed Walmart stores and other very American-dystopia sounding silliness. If you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading about it on the Facebook feeds of old high school friends you haven’t spoken to in 20 years, may I recommend a fun Friday Google search?

As an aside, both CNN and Fox News covered themselves in glory at the press conference by asking separate questions about the conspiracy theory, so we at least know where their heads are. If nothing else, the Pentagon press corps had a good laugh.

Army Bound. The other bit of news is that after months of delay and debate, the 350 U.S. Special Forces troops in Jordan and Turkey have finally started training “moderate” Syrian fighters — all 90 of them, reports FP’s Paul McLeary. There are lots of questions still to be answered about the training and what happens when these guys are actually in the field, but Carter did say the U.S. has some obligation to provide air support when they get into hard fights with the Islamic State and, possibly, even Assad’s troops. But issue of fighting Syrian government forces remains surprisingly murky.

Not what we planned. President Obama’s touted Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit at Camp David might not live up to its initial billing, FP’s John Hudson says. The GCC — a union that includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar — is unhappy with the administration’s work with Iran on a nuclear deal, are “looking [for some form of] a security guarantee, given the behavior of Iran in the region,” UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said at an Atlantic Council event in Washington on Thursday. “In the past, we have survived with a gentleman’s agreement with the United States about security…I think we need something in writing. We need something institutionalized.”

The Senate has overwhelmingly passed legislation that would give Congress a say on any nuclear deal between world powers and Iran. It’s come at a high price, however, and the collateral damage left by the months-long struggle to get the bill into law is enormous, writes FP’s David Francis.

Friday is here and sadly, we’re already thinking about Monday’s Situation Report, because if nothing else, we’re a planning organization. So think about what you’ve got, and what you’d like to see, and pass it along to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary.

North Korea

CNN’s Wiley Ripley got a rare chance to interview a high-ranking member of the North Korean government this week. Park Yong Chol, deputy director of the North Korean think-tank Institute for Research into National Reunification spoke about human rights abuses. “If you talk about human rights in my country, I will talk about human rights in the United States,” he said.

Saudi Arabia

The International Business Times’ Johnlee Varghese reports that Saudi Arabia beheaded five foreigners — two from Yemen, one from Chad, one from Eritrea, a one from Sudan — and then hung their bodies from helicopters to make an example of them.

Congo

“The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo is planning to go ahead and take action against a rebel group in eastern Congo even without the full cooperation of the Congo military,” Cara Ann writes for the Associated Press. Relations with the host country are “chilly.”

Justice?

Despite appeals for a stay on former Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr’s bail, a Canadian judge released him from prison Thursday. Rob Gilles writes on the tensions between the Canadian government and its justice ministry for the Associated Press.

The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman is in Edmonton, Alberta this week to cover Khadr’s release, and files this take from the scene.  

Human Rights Watch has accused Houthi rebels in Yemen of war crimes, Renee Lewis reports for Al-Jazeera. They have  accused the Saudi-led coalition of rights abuses as well.

More Gulf Cooperation Council

The Economist offers a smart take, writing that Gulf leaders believe that Washington’s nuclear deal with Tehran “which will lift most economic sanctions against Iran, will release tens of billions of dollars’ worth of frozen assets and free up trade and investment, allowing Iran to meddle even more than it already does in the conflicts of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and perhaps to stir up Shiites in Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia too.”

Russia

Karma comes to the Kremlin: After a month of buildup, Russia’s new tank, the T-14 Armata “ground to a halt.” The AP reports: “The engine was still rumbling but it wouldn’t move. After an attempt to tow it failed, the T-14 rolled away under its own steam about 15 minutes later. While the tank was stranded on the cobbled Red Square, the presenter commenting over the PA system said it was part of the training to “evacuate weaponry” and had been planned.”

Ukraine

Nearly 7,000 civilians have been killed in the war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists, the nation’s president Petro Poroshenko said on Friday. The figures mark a sharp increase from the most recent U.N. tally of around 6,100 people killed.

Finally, War on the Rocks lists 10 books you might have overlooked when planning where and when the next big war is going to flare up.

 

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