Situation Report: Carter and Bibi meet behind closed doors; Israeli ambassador works Hill; next Army chief in the hot seat; Russian drones over Syria; F-22 scraping skies; Afghan leader wants in on counterterror fight; and lots more
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Shut the door. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met for about two hours behind closed doors on Tuesday during Carter’s visit to Jerusalem, amid reports that the Israeli PM scratched public remarks with Carter at the last minute. Netanyahu, of course, has been ...
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
Shut the door. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met for about two hours behind closed doors on Tuesday during Carter’s visit to Jerusalem, amid reports that the Israeli PM scratched public remarks with Carter at the last minute.
Netanyahu, of course, has been a fierce critic of Washington’s negotiations to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, saying that in the long run, the deal will make Iran’s eventual path to a nuke easier, not harder.
While Carter has not offered any new weapons packages to Israel to try and smooth relations between the two countries, Netanyahu has said that he wouldn’t accept any offer anyway, since it would signal Israeli acceptance of the Iran deal. Meeting with Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon on Monday, Carter tried to speak to Israel’s worries about the accord, saying Israel remained “the bedrock of American strategy in the Middle East,” and that the deal doesn’t take any future military option against Iran off the table.
Back home. While Carter is in Israel, Ron Dermer, a Florida-born diplomat who is Israel’s ambassador to the United States, is busily working Capitol Hill, focusing on improving relations with the Congressional Black Caucus, FPs John Hudson writes in a scoop.
Dermer’s meetings began four months ago and have continued into recent weeks, but “have been met with mixed reviews” by lawmakers, Hudson writes. The meetings are seen as a way to ease tensions with the 30-member caucus, which has taken a dim view of Netanyahu’s forceful challenges to President Barack Obama on the Iran issue, particularly his February address to Congress, where he slammed the negotiations. The 60-day clock on Congressional debate over the Iran pact began on Sunday, but it is unclear how effective Dermer’s outreach will be in ultimately peeling off Democratic votes to try and scuttle the agreement.
Big day on the Hill. It’s hot seat time for U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, who’s heading up to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning for his confirmation hearing to be the next chief of staff of the Army. While there are no real roadblocks getting in the way of his confirmation, the hearing will likely contain some heated moments, given the debates over the size and function of today’s post-war Army.
Current Army chief Gen. Ray Odierno stirred the pot on Friday when he predicted that the fight against the Islamic State could take 10 to 20 years — which is far longer than the usual three to five years usually offered by U.S. military officials — and suggested that thanks to cuts in its force structure, the Army might have to tell the president that it can’t do what it’s been asked. “At some point we’re going to have to say what we’re not going to do because we’re not going to be able to do everything we’re being asked to do right now,” Odierno said.
Fall in line? One thing to look for in Milley’s testimony will be his answer to the question that will almost undoubtedly be asked: What is the greatest national security threat to the United States today? Remember, the nominees to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Joe Dunford, and the vice chief, Gen. Paul Selva, recently proclaimed that Russia is the biggest threat facing the country. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James has also repeatedly gone on record as having said the same. Will Milley follow?
Back on the road. Let’s not forget FP’s roving correspondent, Dan De Luce, who is wheels down in Washington after a hectic weekend trip with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey, which featured quick stops in Baghdad and Kabul. He writes that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been pushing the idea of his country acting as a hub for the fight against the Islamic State, “not just focused on Afghanistan but on the kind of threats that exist elsewhere in the region,” Dempsey told reporters on the trip. Ghani’s pitch is a way to keep some of the 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan there past president Obama’s 2016 window for their withdrawal.
More money, more problems. With Iran about to gain access to about $100 billion worth of the country’s assets that have been frozen in overseas accounts under the strict sanctions regime imposed by the international community, plenty of people are worried about how they’re going to spend it. FPs Sean Naylor takes stock of the arguments that groups like Hezbollah, the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and other Iranian-backed terror groups are about to gain from the windfall.
The Situation Report is staying on top of everything happening from Israel, to proxy wars, and everything in between, while keeping tabs on the rest of our messy, interesting world. Have anything noteworthy to share? Pass it along at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a shout or DM on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.
Are you someone who can come up with about 400 blast-resistant trucks in a three-year time frame? If so, the U.S. Army wants to talk. A solicitation recently posted on a government contracting Web site says that the Army is looking for as many as 400 Armored Personnel Carriers “to support Africom security forces” and foreign military sales programs in Africa. Requirements are relatively straightforward — at least until the full request comes out at the end of July — the Army wants a vehicle with a 10-passenger minimum seating capacity, 360-degree ballistic protection, and underbelly protection designed to deflect roadside bombs. No prices were available.
American intelligence and special operations forces may soon find themselves in uncomfortably close proximity to Chinese personnel in an unexpected place. Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti has been a hub for the U.S. and the war on terror, serving as home to a U.S. airbase and a facility for the secretive commandos of Joint Special Operations Command. But now the country’s leader, President Omar Guelleh, has signed deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars allowing China to operate the port of Djibouti, close enough to Camp Lemonnier to make American diplomats and defense officials nervous.
Russian has taken delivery of a new batch of Su-35S fighter jets and Su-34 bombers from Sukhoi. The arrival of the new aircraft comes following a string of recent crashes by Russian fighter jets, bombers and now a cargo aircraft, widely believed to be the result of a heightened operational tempo and poor sustainment on aging aircraft.
Russia’s drones are now making appearances over the skies of Syria. Syrian rebel groups, including the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, published pictures on Monday showing what appears to be the wreckage of a downed Russian Orlan-10 and Eleron-3SV drone. It’s not clear whether Russia has exported the drones to Syria or is operating them with Russian personnel, but until recently, Iran has been Syria’s sole provider of UAVs.
One of the most powerful voices in Iran has voiced his opinion on the nuclear deal. Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said that the deal crossed some of Iran’s red lines and that Iran will “never accept” the provisions in the recent U.N. Security Council resolution that restrict Iran’s access to conventional weapons. While the deal is expected to go through, despite Jafari’s apparent reservations, experts reached by The New York Times view his comments as either a pro-forma stressing of the Guards’ anti-western, revolutionary credentials or hedging for posterity in the event Iran one day sours on the nuclear agreement.
The Pentagon’s new F-22 fighter made its combat debut in Syria in the opening days of the U.S. air campaign, later expanding into the fight against Islamic State in Iraq. The AP crunched the numbers and found that the Raptor isn’t hitting as many targets as other jets. But that’s to be expected, since Air Force leaders say that it wasn’t designed for counterinsurgency fights like those in Iraq and Syria, anyway. Rather, the F-22 has been used to escort other aircraft and defend against any potential interference from Syrian air defenses.
The business of defense
Now that United Technologies’ Sikorsky helicopter operation has been sold off to Lockheed Martin for $9 billion, Chairman & CEO Marillyn Hewson has really put her mark on the world’s largest defense contractor. The scale of the move announced Monday is by far the biggest defense deal this year, and is the most significant change in the company’s operations since Hewson took over as CEO in January of 2013. Consider this: During her tenure, the company’s share price has risen from below $90 to over $200 as profits have risen rapidly
The deal not only gives Lockheed control over the venerable Black Hawk helicopter business, but a solid foothold in dozens of overseas markets, where customers from Australia to the U.A.E. will be looking to Lockheed for lucrative sustainment and repair contracts for decades to come to keep thousands of Black hawks flying.
P.W. Singer and August Cole, authors of the recent techno-thriller Ghost Fleet, have an oped up at Reuters dovetailing with the theme of their book. The two warn that the Defense Department still has “one foot in the past and only a tentative one in the future” when it comes to preparing for the next threat. Singer and Cole point to a number of big ticket items — the F-35, the Littoral Combat Ship and the KC-46 tanker — and see projects being designed based on the assumption of a permissive future threat environment. Instead, the authors argue that the U.S. needs to prepare for a future where it will have to face militaries like China on equal terms.
Who’s where when
9:00 a.m. The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts its fifth annual South China Sea Conference, featuring Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), among lots of think tankers.
9:00 a.m. Jon Wolfsthal, the Senior Director for Arms Control and Nonproliferation at the NSC speaks at the Center for a New American Security’s morning-long “Iran and the Future of the Regional Security and Economic Landscape,” conference.
9:30 a.m. The Senate Armed Services Committee will meet to question U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, who has been nominated to be the next Army Chief of Staff.
9:45 a.m The American Enterprise Institute hosts a two-panel discussion on Islam and what role, if any, it plays in fomenting terrorism. The first panel features Jennifer Bryson of the Zephyr Institute, Shadi Hamid from Brookings, and Abbas Kadhim from the Institute of Shia Studies. It wraps up with former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani and Mohamed Younis of Gallup.
3:00 p.m. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work unrolls the red carpet for President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari for an “honor cordon” as the head of state comes to the Pentagon for talks.
May we recommend a very readable New York Times review of Russia scholar Walter Laqueur’s new book, Putinism: Russia and Its Future With the West?
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