The Cable

: Four Marines Killed in Chattanooga; Accused Shooter Apparently Killed by Law Enforcement; Feds Now Investigating Attacks as Domestic Terrorism; What to Do About Boko Haram; Japan Rising; and Lots More

By David Francis with Adam Rawnsley Tragedy in Tennessee. Four Marines were killed when a heavily armed lone gunman fired on a military recruitment center and a reserve center in Chattanooga. Law enforcement authorities identified the shooter as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who reportedly never left his car during the two shootings, several miles apart. He ...

By David Francis with Adam Rawnsley

Tragedy in Tennessee. Four Marines were killed when a heavily armed lone gunman fired on a military recruitment center and a reserve center in Chattanooga. Law enforcement authorities identified the shooter as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who reportedly never left his car during the two shootings, several miles apart. He was apparently shot and killed by police. A member of the Navy, a Chattanooga police officer, and a third person were injured.

What we know. Federal authorities are treating the attacks as an act of “domestic terrorism,” FP’s David Francis reports. Edward Reinhold, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Knoxville division, said, “We have not determined if it was an act of terrorism or a criminal act.” He also said the FBI had no knowledge the attack was coming.

The Defense Department is still withholding the names of the dead, but local news outlets are reporting that Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan was one of the four slain in Thursday’s shootings. Sgt. Sullivan of Springfield, Massachusetts, fought in Iraq, where he was decorated with a Purple Heart and served with India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines.

According to the SITE Intelligence Group, Abdulazeez maintained a blog where he published two Islam-related posts on July 13. In them, he wrote, “life is short and bitter” and encouraged Muslims not to let “the opportunity to submit to allah [sic] … pass you by.” He went on to write, “companions of the prophet fought Jihad for the sake of Allah.”

We know the 24-year-old was born in Kuwait to a middle-class Muslim family and moved to the United States at a young age, where he became a naturalized citizen. He graduated in 2012 from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with an electrical engineering degree. An online resume says Abdulazeez worked as an intern at Mohawk Industries and the Tennessee Valley Authority. He was arrested for DUI by Chattanooga police in April when officers noticed his car swerving lanes, smelled marijuana in his car, and saw white powder under his nose.

He also chose this quote for his high school yearbook: “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?”

What we don’t know. It’s not clear whether Abdulazeez has formal ties to any terrorist organization. Nor is it clear whether he had any contact with Islamic extremists overseas. Authorities have yet to determine whether Abdulazeez had accomplices who helped him plan the attack.

Target: U.S. military. Jihadists associated with the Islamic State have called for attacks around the world during Ramadan. The terrorist group has also urged sympathizers to kill U.S. service members.

The FBI is cracking down on Americans allegedly collaborating with the Islamic State. In the run-up to the July 4 weekend, federal police arrested more than 10 people for planning attacks. Feds are also tracking roughly 150 U.S. citizens who have traveled to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State.

A growing list. Add Chattanooga to Fort Hood, Texas, where Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist, killed 13 and injured more than 30 in 2009. And Little Rock, Arkansas, where Muslim convert Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, born Carlos Leon Bledsoe, killed Pvt. William Long, 23, and wounded Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, 18. And the Washington Navy Yard, where lone gunman Aaron Alexis killed twelve people and injured three more in 2014.

What to do about Boko. The United States wants to help the Nigerian government in its fight against Boko Haram, the terror group that’s been operating in northern Nigeria for years. FP’s Dan De Luce and Siobáhn O’Grady report that the White House is going to help, but don’t expect drones or any other large-scale assistance to be part of the package. Instead, look for more military training and equipment.

Japan gets offensive. Tokyo is constitutionally prohibited from waging offensive warfare. But that’s changing. On Thursday, its lower house of parliament passed 11 security-related bills that allow Japan to gear up to engage in combat overseas. China’s not happy, but DoD and U.S. defense contractors are. Check out this report from FP’s David Francis.

You’re usual SitRep author gets to sleep in today, somewhere near a sandy beach. And I get to return to your inbox, if only for a day. But don’t worry, Paul McLeary will be back Monday, and he’d love some tips. Have anything noteworthy to share? Pass it along at paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or send a shout or DM on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.

Yemen

Special forces from the United Arab Emirates have teamed up with local militias backed by Saudi Arabia and al Qaeda militants to win back the city of Aden from pro-Iranian Houthi rebels. It’s another example of the odd partnerships needed to regain control of Yemen, home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Read the Wall Street Journal report here.

Egypt

Militants from Islamic State’s Sinai branch hit an Egyptian navy frigate with a “guided missile” on Thursday, as FP’s Elias Groll reports. The group released images of the attack, showing the missile slamming into the ship. Sinai has been an active hub for jihadists targeting both the Egyptian government and Israel. As the Islamic State’s global brand has taken off in recent months and Egypt’s government has cracked down against dissidents, the violence has increased dramatically, with large, complex attacks on Egyptian military and police.

Anthrax Review

The Daily Beast‘s Nancy Youssef got an advanced look at the Pentagon’s inquiry into the accidental shipment of live anthrax to facilities around the world. The report attributes “no single cause” to the error. Instead, the Army blames the lack of a widely accepted standard for ensuring anthrax spores are dead before they’re shipped. The Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, which provides the spores for research, sent out the samples to facilities in 21 states and seven countries before realizing that their inactivation procedures had failed to kill the spores. Experts reached by the Beast, though, say the Pentagon is covering for poor oversight and management of its Dugway facility.

U.K.

Britain’s most senior military officer says the country’s armed forces are straining to support a more activist foreign policy around the world. Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Nicholas Houghton said in a speech Thursday that the limited number of fighter jets available, combined with Britain’s current operations in Iraq and Prime Minister David Cameron’s push to conduct airstrikes in Syria, has pushed the air force to its limit. Cameron has pledged to hit NATO’s defense spending target of two percent of GDP in future years, but decisions on the size and composition of the U.K. aircraft inventory and other budget priorities are pending a forthcoming strategic defense and security review.

British pilots have already been conducting airstrikes in Syria (sort of). While no U.K. aircraft have launched strikes, three British pilots and a handful of other British military staff have embedded with American, French, and Canadian forces to carry out operations against Islamic State targets in Syria.

Ukraine

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the downing of MH17, the Malaysian airliner shot down by a Buk surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels. Open source investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat is recreating the incident on the @MH17Live account, tweeting out Ukrainian intelligence phone intercepts and witness accounts posted to social media as they happened a year ago.

New evidence linking the MH17 attack to Russian-backed rebels has also emerged. On Thursday, Australia’s Daily Telegraph released never-before-seen video of Ukrainian rebels arriving at the crash site and reacting with surprise upon discovering a civilian aircraft and not a Ukrainian air force transport plane, as rebels initially claimed.

Iran

The Obama administration’s former point man on Iran is calling for the United States to provide Israel with an independent strike capability against Iranian nuclear facilities to deter the Islamic Republic from violating the recent nuclear agreement. Dennis Ross wants DoD to sell GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrators, also known as “bunker busters” for their ability to penetrate hardened underground facilities, and the long-range B-52 bombers to carry them. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have reportedly turned down previous requests from Israel to sell the bombs. Whether Israel has the infrastructure to support a bomber like the B-52 — and whether it could survive contact with the S-300 air defense system Russia claims it will sell to Iran — remains an open question. Meanwhile, Iranian hardliners say the deal crosses their red line, according to the New York Times.

Who’s Where When

10:00 a.m. Alan Estevez, principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition, and Jacques Gansler, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, will speak on “Rethinking the Packard Commission Approach after 30 Years,” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Live stream here.

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