Situation Report: More on Iran nuke deal; angry Iranian and Israeli tweets; the cyber link to hauling military gear; strange sights in Yemen; big bonuses for U.S. drone pilots; and lots more
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley The road ahead. It’s already looking to be a long, hot, political summer in Washington now that a deal has been reached to halt the Iranian nuclear program for at least a decade in return for sanctions relief. While images coming out of Tehran show jubilant crowds excited about ...
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
The road ahead. It’s already looking to be a long, hot, political summer in Washington now that a deal has been reached to halt the Iranian nuclear program for at least a decade in return for sanctions relief. While images coming out of Tehran show jubilant crowds excited about the possibility of Iran taking the first tentative steps toward rejoining the global community, the scene in Washington has been dominated by often sullen Democratic members of Congress, promising to give the text of the agreement a close read before throwing their support behind the accord.
On the Republican side of the aisle, the mood has been captured by speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who vowed, “we’ll do everything we can to stop it.”
The details. One of the keys to winning or losing political support for the deal rests in how much access international inspectors will actually have to Iranian facilities. FP’s Colum Lynch and John Hudson report that the inspections program is a mixed bag, with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors being given extensive access to Tehran’s nuclear sites for the next 25 years, including “any location in Iran in order to ensure the country’s compliance, including military facilities.” That includes daily access to Iran’s main nuclear sites at Natanz and Fordow and the use of modern technology to monitor uranium mines, mills, storage facilities and centrifuge production. But critics are concerned over a provision that requires multiple weeks of negotiations to secure access rights to sensitive declared or undeclared nuclear sites.
More deals to come. While the big one is done, the negotiating is hardly over. FP’s Elias Groll writes that those looking for answers on Iran’s past nuclear weapons work are likely to be disappointed in the text of the deal. There’s actually a second agreement in the works, which lays out a roadmap to “to address the remaining outstanding issues.” According to the terms of that agreement, Iran promises that it will provide by Aug. 15 a set of answers in writing along with related documents regarding its past nuclear activities, followed by a review process that will likely include future meetings to remove what the agreement calls “ambiguities.”
And FP’s Siobahn O’Grady captures a series of caustic tweets from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivering a message to his country’s neighbors: Don’t listen to Israel, who he called “the warmongering Zionist regime.” His tweets come in response to the spate of Israeli politicians who have come out hard against the deal. Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, tweeted Tuesday that the deal is a “historic surrender by the West to the axis of evil headed by Iran.” Israeli Science Minister Danny Danon, said the pact “is like providing a pyromaniac with matches.”
Looking back. Meanwhile, Military Times takes a look back at Iranian involvement in the worst of the fighting in Iraq, where Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford — President Barack Obama’s nominee to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — recently estimated about 500 U.S. service members “were killed by Iranian activities,” which included the supply of bomb-making materials for Iraqi Shiite fighters targeting American troops.
Top brass looking to Moscow. In a non-Iran related item, we note that despite all of the talk about the threat posed by Iranian nukes and military adventurism across the Middle East, some of the top U.S. generals at the Pentagon seem to agree that Russia — and not Tehran, or China, or the Islamic State — is the greatest threat to U.S. national security today.
The Situation Report is back to take it all in, and send it back out. Have anything noteworthy to share? Pass it along at email@example.com or send along a shout or DM on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.
Surprisingly, there appear to be lots of small, specially-made U.S.-made armored vehicles in Yemen. A series of Tweets and Facebook posts over the past several days have shown pro-government militiamen commandeering the MAT-V, (Mine Resistant, All Terrain Vehicle) a small(ish) variant of the hulking MRAP vehicle, with government troops triumphantly driving them into the recaptured southern port city of Aden. The issue is, however, that Yemen hasn’t actually purchased any of the armored vehicles that U.S. defense manufacturer Oshkosh Defense originally built for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.
If they didn’t buy them, there are really only a handful of places the vehicles could have come from: stocks left behind when U.S. Special Forces left the country in March, from Saudi Arabia, which purchased about 450 of the lightweight MRAPs in 2013, or the United Arab Emirates, which has purchased about 800 of the vehicles since 2011. Both Gulf countries are currently involved in the air war over Yemen.
While we don’t know if U.S. special ops troops in Yemen had MAT-Vs with them, earlier this year the Defense Department admitted that it had lost track of $500 million worth of equipment in the country, including 16 small drones, 19 airplanes, and 160 Humvees. But the MAT-V is more than just a Humvee. It’s supposed to provide increased protection without sacrificing greater maneuverability.
When you think of cyber security, chances are you’re not thinking of shipping military equipment around the country and across the world. But the Defense Department’s Transportation Command, (Transcom), regularly contracts with commercial shipping firms that operate on commercial networks, putting the whole operation at risk. During his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee to take over Transcom, Air Force Gen. Darren W. McDew said that about 90 percent of the work the command does with private firms happens on commercial networks. And those networks can be shut down. “That threat is there,” he said. “I believe that U.S. Transportation Command has put some things in place to make that less likely, but as we go forward, the threat only gets worse.”
Navy officials say that that some parts of the world could see gaps in continuous presence of aircraft carrier coverage this year thanks to maintenance requirements. The high operational tempo for carriers over the past three years has meant that some carriers will be in port for upkeep rather than providing coverage at sea. Where, exactly, the carrier coverage gap will appear is an open question but some worry that U.S. forces could see, albeit it temporarily, fewer carriers backing them up amid the various conflicts in the Middle East.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James will announce a plan to offer bonuses in order to address the shortage of drone pilots, according to The Wall Street Journal. The service is currently struggling to fill drone cockpits, training 180 pilots while losing 230 each year for a net annual loss of 50 pilots. The high demand for unmanned surveillance has placed tremendous stress on those currently flying the aircraft.
Turkey has pledged to help Baghdad prosecute the war against the Islamic State by offering to train Iraqi police. The pledge came at a joint news conference between Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. The foreign ministers traded veiled, if mild, critiques of each other’s performance in the fight against the jihadist group. Çavuşoğlu said he hoped that Iraq would restructure its forces, currently heavily reliant on Shia militias, saying the groups “are not efficient enough.” In an oblique reference to Turkey’s sometimes less-than-enthusiastic approach to fighting the Islamic State, Jaafari said Iraq “expect[s] uninterrupted military support” from its northern neighbor.
Who’s where when
11:30 a.m. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James provides remarks on current Air Force operations at the National Aeronautic Association Luncheon in Arlington, Virginia.
The Frontline documentary series on PBS broadcast a gripping and grueling look at how the Islamic State has affected women in the region. The documentary uses the efforts of Khalil al-Dakhi, a Yezidi man who helps captured women and children escape from sexual slavery in Islamic State-controlled areas in Iraq. Also featured in the piece: Islamic State’s Al-Khansa Bridages, the all-women police force which enforces Islamic State’s brutal social order on the women under its control.
A double suicide bombing has killed a senior leader and half a dozen fighters from the hardline Islamist Ahrar al-Sham rebel group in Syria. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but all eyes are on the Islamic State, which Ahrar al-Sham has fought alongside in its efforts to overthrow the Assad regime. Ahrar al-Sham has recently tried to market itself as a more western-friendly group deserving of aid, going so far as to place an op-ed in the Washington Post — this despite reputed ties to the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and conservative Islamist ideology.
On July 11, Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivered a little-covered speech in Charlotte, North Carolina to about 2,500 county officials from around the country about reintegration for men and women leaving the armed services, and calling for a new way to keep talented civilians working with the military. In so doing, he delivered the crisp message about retaining talent, recognizing that what a worker 20 years ago thought was a good deal might not fly with a 25 year-old today.
“We know we can’t push a one-size-fits-all career model anymore,” he said, adding that he’s working on new programs to retain top talent that might look to the tech sector for more career fulfillment. “We’re developing new partnerships with America’s private sector and tech communities starting with setting up a DoD innovation hub in Silicon Valley, and making ourselves more open to working with start-ups, commercial companies, and small businesses,” he explained.
Here in the U.S., the Defense Department uses balloons as spotters for cruise missiles, which you may see hovering over the skies of Maryland from time to time. But Russia’s KRET company is looking to develop balloons that could be equipped with radar to detect ballistic missile launches and track their flight trajectories. Their interest in ballistic missile early warning capabilities is pretty understandable: at the moment, the Russians are somewhat blind to ballistic missile launches thanks to problems with its aging array of warning satellites and delays in launching replacements.