The Cable

Situation Report: Attacks on Egyptian, Turkish security forces; Russian ship towed home; North and South Korea trade fire; Kiev warns pro-Russian rebels; Army family angry at treatment; and lots more

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Violence flares. Wednesday was a bloody day for two key U.S. allies, as Turkey and Egypt were each forced to deal with a series of domestic attacks on their security forces. In Cairo, a large car bomb exploded early Thursday morning close to a national security building, ripping the ...

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Violence flares. Wednesday was a bloody day for two key U.S. allies, as Turkey and Egypt were each forced to deal with a series of domestic attacks on their security forces.

In Cairo, a large car bomb exploded early Thursday morning close to a national security building, ripping the facade off of the front of the structure and blowing out windows for blocks. The bombing comes amid a series of attacks on government forces which have included bombings in Cairo by Islamic State-affiliated militants, the destruction of a naval vessel off the country’s Mediterranean coast, and the assassination of Egypt’s attorney general by a car bomb in Cairo. In response to the violence, the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has pushed through a tough new anti-terrorism law that offers a sweeping definition of terrorism and sets harsh punishments, including fines for journalists who don’t parrot the opinions of the government.

Urban fighting. In Turkey, unidentified gunmen opened fire on police in the capital on Wednesday, while a bomb killed eight soldiers in the country’s restive southeast. The southern region — where the borders of Syria, Iraq, and Turkey converge — have become a hotbed of unrest, featuring running street battles between government forces and Kurdish militants in recent months. The Turkish government has estimated that 50 security officials, 400 Kurdish PKK members and several civilians have been killed since June. The PKK, declared a terrorist organization by both the Turkish and U.S. governments, has been recruiting teens heavily, and claims to have hundreds of armed volunteers ready to take the fight to Turkish government forces.

The new fighting in Turkey comes just after weeks after Ankara jumped into the war against the Islamic State by opening up its air bases to the U.S.-led coalition hitting the jihadists in Syria. Turkey has take the opportunity to also hit the PKK in Iraq, launching air strikes on Kurdish militant camps across the border in northern Iraq, and detaining more than 2,500 suspected members of radical Kurdish and Islamic groups.

The human domain. Of the 36 million hacked accounts registered with Ashley Madison — a dating website which advertises itself as a discreet way to have an affair — tens of thousands feature .mil or .gov email addresses. (Shockingly, not all accounts on the site are legit. Unless The Muppets’ Kermit the Frog really is stepping out on Miss Piggy.) But there is going to be some pain. The government-related domains with the biggest user community on the site are: with 6,788 entries,, with 1,665 entries, and with 809. Other major agencies included in the dump include the State Department, whose domain includes 33 entries.

As we ease into another Thursday morning, we would just like to say thanks again for reading, and offer a gentle reminder that we’re still interested in any tips, notes, or otherwise interesting bits of information that you may have at your disposal. Please pass them along to  or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.


A meeting to discuss ways to unite the Sunni tribes of Anbar province against the Islamic State devolved into a fistfight this week, as tribal sheiks accused others from rival families of working with the jihadists, causing bodyguards and sheiks to start throwing punches and chairs. But all is not lost, according to sheik Hamid Shawkat, head of Anbar’s tribal council. He blamed paid “infiltrators” for the disruption, insisting that “we are united,” since “we want more training and supplies.”

The homefront

The family of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, the highest-ranking American officer killed in combat since the Vietnam War, is unhappy with the Army’s investigation into the deadly August 2014 attack in which when an Afghan soldier opened fire on Greene as he reviewed an Afghan Army training site. A scathing Washington Post story details the Greene family’s complaints over what they see as the lackluster report on the attack, and the lax security provided for Greene and his soldiers at the site. Similar “green on blue” attacks have killed 147 coalition service members and wounded hundreds of others since 2007, when the Defense Department started tracking them.


Iran and Saudi Arabia are waging a quiet battle to fund competing Sunni and Shiite schools in the West African country, FP contributors Paul Raymond and Jack Watling write. The sectarian tensions that are so familiar in the Middle East have largely been alien to Mali, which has a more tolerant, pluralist religious tradition. But Saudi Arabia and Iran are facing off in a bid for influence in the country, each sponsoring their own schools emphasizing their own national religious traditions in an attempt to gain influence and a foothold in the country.

North Korea

Tensions along the border between North and South Korea have boiled over into an artillery exchange between the two countries on Thursday. South Korean media reports that counter battery radars along the southern side of the DMZ detected incoming artillery from North Korea and the South responded with a barrage of 155 mm artillery across the border.

North-South relations took a nosedive recent after South Korean soldiers were injured stepping on North Korean land mines planted along the DMZ. As a result, South Korea’s military brass told troops not to hesitate to fire back in the face of another provocation by the North. South Korea’s Marine Corps commander told troops to “boldly pull the trigger” if attacked. The DMZ has descended into something of a shoutfest recently as South Korea resumed loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts for the first time in years following the landmine incident and Pyongyang has responded by firing artillery across the border.


NATO is warning Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine not to move westward from their current positions in an attempt to grab more territory. The warning comes as fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels has risen to its most violent point since the parties involved signed a nominal ceasefire back in February. The statement also called on Russia to exercise its influence in order to bring about a political solution and demanded an end to the violence and intimidation of monitors for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.


India is holding talks with the U.S. to explore the possibility of American help in building its first aircraft carrier, the INS Vishal. According to the Times of India, an Indian delegation recently toured the shipbuilding facilities in Norfolk, Virginia to see the new Ford-class carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, under construction. India is specifically seeking the transfer of electromagnetic aircraft launch systems, used to help propel aircraft off the deck of American carriers.


Just four days after Russia delivered a new missile corvette to Egypt and the ship flew both Egyptian and Russian flags during an opening ceremony for the new Suez Canal, the ship was spotted being towed back to the Black Sea manned only by a Russian crew. While there is no official word on what is going on, Jane’s  reports that the Egyptian Ministry of Defense “implied” in an August 15 statement that the Egyptian Navy isn’t able to operate the vessel just yet because it had been transferred before Egyptian sailors could be fully trained up on how to drive it, and they’ll travel to Russia for technical training.


China’s version of is partnering with a domestic arms company under sanctions from the United States for selling missile components to Iran. The New York Times reports that China’s online commerce giant Alibaba is working with Norinco, a state-owned arms company, on a joint venture to build applications for Beidou, China’s national satellite navigation alternative to GPS. The U.S. has repeatedly sanctioned Norinco for its dealings with Iran. Why is a retailer getting in business with an arms company? The Times suggests that tossing money towards a state-owned business is just Alibaba’s way of cozying up to China’s government for better relations.

Business of defense

The Los Angeles Times rounds up the brewing battle between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to see whose spy plane will come out on top in a hotly anticipated U.S. Air Force competition. In one corner, Lockheed is arguing that its high-flying, iconic U-2 spy plane, first introduced in the mid-1950s, can continue to get the job done until 2045, well past its planned retirement date in 2019. On the other side, Northrop is working on an updated version of its unmanned Global Hawk drone, which can carry the same suite of sensors as its manned U-2 counterpart. U-2 partisans point to the jet’s reliability, flying well above the weather at 70,000 feet. Northrop counters that its Global Hawks, which are sometimes grounded by poor weather, can fly closer to their intended surveillance targets.


The Believer has a thoughtful story on PTSD and how one former servicemember and State Department foreign service officer has taken to writing, and working with other vets in writing workshops, to deal with the pain. Kristina Shevory tells the story of how Ron Capps, who almost ended his life while in a whiskey and Prozac-fueled haze in the Sudanese desert, clawed his way back to life.

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