The Cable

Situation Report: The business of defense; Abadi to Moscow; remembering what this weekend is all about; and lots more

By Paul McLeary with Ariel Robinson BREAKING: The U.S. Central Command announced this morning that Iraqi forces have broken through the Islamic State’s months-long siege of the Baiji oil refinery and are now resupplying the beleaguered Iraqi troops inside the facility. “In the past 72 hours, we have seen the ISF make steady, measured progress ...

By Paul McLeary with Ariel Robinson

BREAKING: The U.S. Central Command announced this morning that Iraqi forces have broken through the Islamic State’s months-long siege of the Baiji oil refinery and are now resupplying the beleaguered Iraqi troops inside the facility.

“In the past 72 hours, we have seen the ISF make steady, measured progress in regaining some of the areas leading to the Baiji Oil Refinery despite the significant Daesh resistance in the form of IEDs, suicide vehicle borne IEDs, as well as heavy weapon and rocket fire attacks,” Brig. Gen Thomas Weidley said in a statement. It’s a start, but will it be enough to turn the tide?

Things may be bad, but business is good. The week is ending with a bang after announcements that the United States is looking to sell $3.8 billion worth of military equipment to Israel and Saudi Arabia. And not to be outdone, Russia is working hard to expand its defense business with Iraq.

In the first instance, Israel has requested 14,500 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) precision guided weapons for its Air Force in a potential deal worth $1.8 billion. If the sale goes through — which it should — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Raytheon Missile Systems should all be pretty happy.

Similarly, the State Department has signed off on the sale of ten MH-60R helicopters with associated radars and dozens of Hellfire missiles — and 380 laser-guided rockets — in a $1.9 billion package. Those people you see smiling? They probably work for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and Lockheed Martin, both of which should do pretty well when the deal is finalized.

Are the similar dollar amounts and the fact that the deals were announced within 24 hours of each other a coincidence? Your call, friends.

Russia and Iraq. In the midst of the most dire crisis his country has faced since the departure of the last U.S. combat troops in December 2011, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi this week did the obvious thing to do: he got on a plane and flew to Moscow.

Iraqi officials insisted that the trip was simply part of a long-planned commitment to meet with Russian officials about potential energy and arms deals. No word yet on what those deals might be, but both Iraq and the U.S. have spent billions to buy dozens of Russian attack helicopters over the years (with Washington buying them for both Afghanistan and Iraq), along with some armored vehicles.

At the end of a second day of meetings on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow and Baghdad are “expanding cooperation in the area of military technology,” and that “our companies are working in your country and we are talking of investments in the order of billions of dollars.” Abadi also visited with a group of Iraqi officers being trained in Russia.

How confident is Washington in Abadi’s ability to lead his country through this crisis while navigating his way through the minefield of sectarian politics and rivalries? “He’s the only horse to back,” lamented one former CIA official. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov however, sees things a bit differently, saying recently that in the fight against the Islamic State, Moscow is ”helping both Iraq and Syria, possibly more effectively than anyone else, by providing weapons to their armies and security forces.”

And while all of this is happening, Iraqis are increasingly blaming the United States for the fall of Ramadi.

It’s the Friday before a long holiday weekend were we all pause and think about those who have fallen in service to our nation. We hope that everyone out there stays safe, happy, and gets some rest in this weekend, because we’re back after it in a big way on Tuesday. Event SitRep needs a rest sometimes. Hit us up at paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary.

Libya

U.S. officials are sharply divided over how seriously to take the threat posed by a militant group in Libya that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, has killed in the name of the Islamic State, and claims to be part of the Islamic State, reports FP’s Lara Jakes.

Defense Department

The U.S. Marine Corps waived a rule late Wednesday night that would have required families of the Marines who died in a helicopter crash in Nepal to cover their own travel costs to meet their loved ones’ caskets Delaware because they were killed during a humanitarian operation, rather than a combat mission. That would have disqualified them had the Marines not stepped in with travel compensation, FP’s John Hudson and Paul McLeary write.

Tech

Vice has a cool little explainer about 3D printed technology and the potential for it to turn some parts of the defense industry on its head. The  way it works now, Peter Singer writes, is that defense firms locate their manufacturing system in multiple parts of the country. But “by liberating not just the design, but the actual manufacture from the assembly line, the technology bodes an incredibly disruptive shift for not just what is used in war in the 21st century—it is also changing the how it is made, and therefore might also shift the who and where.”

It’s a thing. Ballistic wallpaper. Lightweight, Kevlar-fiber-lined wallpaper is being developed by the U.S. Army, the BBC reports. While the concept of a bulletproof coating for temporary structures isn’t new, this wallpaper appears to be fairly simple to apply.

Syria

According to witness testimony, Turkey’s state intelligence has helped ship arms to Syrian rebels, Humeyra Pamuk and Nick Tattersall report for Reuters. “Syria and some of Turkey’s Western allies say Turkey, in its haste to see President Bashar al-Assad toppled, let fighters and arms over the border, some of whom went on to join the Islamic State militant group,” they write.

Afghanistan

The Kabul government “has enlisted hundreds of militia fighters controlled by local commanders to battle Taliban militants near the northern city of Kunduz,” Reuters reports, in an effort that “is on a larger scale than previous attempts by the government and NATO forces to recruit militias in the fight against the Taliban.”

China

The Chinese navy issued eight warnings to a U.S. military surveillance plane flying over the man-made islands that Beijing has been building in the South China Sea, CNN reports, after it got a hold of some U.S. Navy footage of a series of recent encounters.

On the road

Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin continues her European tour. Having already met with German and Estonian officials, she’s now wrapping things up in Paris, where she has been discussing Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, as well as France’s engagement in North Africa and the Middle East, and the U.S.-France defense relationship.‎

Think Tanked

The Project on Middle East Democracy has come out with a new report that looks at how Washington’s foreign assistance dollars are being spent. Their analysis shows that “a higher proportion” of U.S. assistance to the region today is budgeted for “military and security assistance than was the case in 2010, despite public discussion in 2011 of “rebalancing” aid to the region in the opposite direction.”

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