Situation Report: Erdogan vows to crush Kurdish militants; Kerry says Iran deal is the best he’s going to get; China makes the Asia pivot more interesting; Interests align on Syria; and more.
By David Francis and Adam Rawnsley Enemies all around. On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to continue a relentless campaign against Kurdish militants “until not one terrorist” is left to fight. He’s reacting to a series of attacks within his own country — including one on a U.S. consulate — thought to be ...
By David Francis and Adam Rawnsley
By David Francis and Adam Rawnsley
Enemies all around. On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to continue a relentless campaign against Kurdish militants “until not one terrorist” is left to fight. He’s reacting to a series of attacks within his own country — including one on a U.S. consulate — thought to be conducted by the Kurdish separatist group PKK. At the same time, Erdogan is quickly becoming America’s most important partner against the Islamic State.
Fortunately for Erdogan, U.S. warplanes are in Turkey to help him in the fight. But he’s on his own with the Kurdish rebels, and that complicates his motivations.
Despite what may seem like a unified front against Islamic State, Josh Walker, a non-resident Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund who specializes in Middle East security issues, tells SitRep that the new offensive hasn’t changed Turkey’s pursuit of its longstanding interests regarding the region’s Kurdish population.
“Turkey has been unilaterally striking its traditional enemies the PKK in Iraq to weaken them militarily as they have been escalating violence across the Turkish homeland, even as America has been protecting their Syrian offshoots,” Walker said.
As if all of this isn’t confusing enough. “Turkey’s direct military involvement adds another set of competing interests that will further complicate the situation in the short-term even if in the long-term it may prove to be a game-changer,” he added.
In other words, there’s a price to be paid for getting Turkey on board in the fight against the Islamic State. Kurdish militias, some of which are supported by the United States and have proven effective against the terror group, are now squarely in Turkish crosshairs.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the BBC the use of ground troops against the Islamic State had not been ruled out. He also wants a no-fly zone over certain parts of Syria.
Nobody does it better. “There isn’t a, quote, ‘better deal’ to be gotten,” Secretary of State John Kerry told an audience in New York Tuesday, FP’s John Hudson reports. His comments are part of a continuing effort to convince skeptics that the nuclear accord between the P5+1 and Tehran is a good one. Or at least the best Washington can achieve.
Three dozen retired generals and admirals made public an open letter essentially agreeing with Kerry’s assessment. From a report by the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung: “Calling the agreement ‘the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,’ the letter said that gaining international support for military action against Iran, should that ever become necessary, ‘would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance.’”
Whether or not this will be enough to silence Congressional critics remains to be seen. But this is a strong showing of former military brass. And that’s a powerful chorus.
Pivot to this. China made a huge soft power concession Tuesday when it devalued its currency by the biggest margin in twenty years; it devalued it again Wednesday. This has huge implications for the world’s economy but also for the Pentagon. Beijing’s admission that its economy needs help leaves room for the United States to assert itself in the region, FP’s David Francis reports. As Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in April, passing a trade deal with Asia that excludes Beijing is just as important as acquiring another aircraft carrier.
Can statecraft solve Syria’s civil war? Moscow is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most fervent backer. Now, according to a report by the New York Times’s Anne Barnard, “diplomats from Russia, the United States and several Middle Eastern powers are engaged in a burst of diplomatic activity, trying to head off a deeper collapse of the country that could further strengthen the militant group Islamic State.”
It’s hump day, and SitRep chief Paul McLeary is one day closer to returning to your inbox next Monday. Until he does, please direct any tips, notes, or otherwise interesting bits of information to email@example.com, or get social with us on Twitter: @davidcfrancis or @arawnsley.
The New York Times‘s Helene Cooper reports from aboard aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on the stark contrast between the speed and efficiency of U.S. jets as they take off for Iraq and the glacial pace of the Iraqi forces they’re supporting on the ground. The complications in Iraq are many, as communicating with Iraqi forces calling in airstrikes can devolve into messy bureaucracy and local troops lack the combat engineering skills to repair infrastructure destroyed by Islamic State in its wake.
Bloomberg reports that there might not be a post-nuclear agreement cleanup effort going on at a suspected Iranian nuclear weapons research site after all. Earlier this week, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) released satellite imagery of the Parchin military facility in Iran taken after the U.S. and Iran signed the nuclear accord. The imagery, ISIS claimed, suggested unusual activity at the site and a possible effort to thwart future inspections. But Bloomberg’s Jonathan Tirone spoke to Robert Kelley, a former intelligence analyst who reviewed five years worth of imagery from the site and confirmed that many of the same vehicles cited in the ISIS report as signs of a recent uptick in activity were parked near the facility well before the recent deal was signed.
The New York Times reports that Dutch investigators may have found forensic evidence linking a Russian surface-to-air missile to the crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Prosecutors in the Netherlands said on Tuesday that investigators found fragments of what appears to be a Buk missile in the wreckage of MH17 in Ukraine. Just hours after the crash, open-source sleuths pieced together social media evidence indicating Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels had fired a Buk missile at the aircraft, mistakenly believing it to be a Ukrainian military plane. However, Dutch officials have yet to accuse any specific parties of responsibility for the incident.
The Defense Department will carry out shock tests on the first of the new Gerald Ford-class aircraft carriers, breaking with precedent and potentially delaying the ship’s deployment, Defense News reports. The Navy traditionally has not carried out shock tests, in which explosions set off near the ship are used to test its survivability, on first-of-a-kind carriers. But the USS John F Kennedy (CVN 79), the second of the Ford-class carriers, isn’t expected to be ready for another seven or eight years. As a result, the Navy will carry out the tests on the USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78), which will likely delay its deployment for six months.
PopSci’s Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer take a look at China’s new mystery missile and launcher, recently seen furtively traveling around China’s highways by truck drivers. The missile and its launcher resemble a larger version of China’s CJ-10 land attack cruise missile. However, Lin and Singer report that the system is thought to be China’s new YJ-18 anti-ship missile.
Reuters reports that Syrian forces have retreated from positions along the Sahl al-Ghab plain in northwest Syria in order to avoid further casualties as a coalition of Islamist rebels, including al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, have captured a handful of towns in the area. The rebel advances in Latakia province threaten the heartland of Syria’s Alawite minority and an important source of political support for Assad.
The Taliban took a swipe at its Islamic State rivals for a recent video showing the group blowing up prisoners with explosives. The group posted a statement to its website condemning the “horrific video” and the Islamic state for “brutally martyring several white-bearded tribal elders and villagers.” The two militant groups have been in conflict as Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan have taken territory from the Taliban, recruited disaffected former Taliban members, and challenged Taliban rule.
A massive blast at a market in Nigeria’s Borno state has killed 47 people. Witnesses at the scene of the explosion say a female suicide bomber may be responsible. At the moment, all eyes are on Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram as a likely suspect in Tuesday’s attack.
A Russian shipbuilding company is mulling prospects for building a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, according to a report from the TASS news agency. Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation told the outlet that studies by the Nevskoye Design Bureau indicate that nuclear power is the only way to go for building a carrier that meets Russian navy requirements. But, Russia’s Defense Ministry currently has no plans to build the carrier, and Nevskoye officials admit they’re out on a limb with their design ideas with little guidance from Russia’s navy.
Who’s where when
9 a.m. Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, USMC, and Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, USN, commander, Naval Air Forces, will be at the Center for Strategic and International Studies for a discussion of the state of naval aviation and fleet personnel and equipment. The event will be live-streamed here.
1 p.m. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno will host a press conference on the state of the Army. You can watch it live here.
6 p.m. Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall will give the keynote speech at the 2015 Space and Missile Defense Symposium at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a new report in conjunction with the International Youth Forum: “What Youth Want: A Pocket Guide for Policymakers.” The report, which reviews polling data and statements from recent international youth summits, says top priorities for young people include employment, entrepreneurship, quality education, better governance, and less corruption in government.
The London-based European Leadership Network breaks down recent Russian and NATO exercises since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and finds both sides girding themselves for conflict and “preparing for the worst.”
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