The Cable

Situation Report: Climate change as a security issue; Iranian general back in the picture; continuing questions over Jordan shooting; Syrian government wins one; Veterans Day news; and lots more

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Hot, and getting hotter. Drought, rising temperatures, and the food scarcity and unpredictable migrant flows that follow are serious and growing national security issues that can make bad situations even worse, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday at Old Dominion University. The school sits near the world’s largest ...

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Hot, and getting hotter. Drought, rising temperatures, and the food scarcity and unpredictable migrant flows that follow are serious and growing national security issues that can make bad situations even worse, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday at Old Dominion University. The school sits near the world’s largest naval base at Norfolk, Virginia, and Kerry used the location to point out that rising seas and melting permafrost also seriously threaten military bases themselves. FP’s Keith Johnson writes that Norfolk is “home to one-fifth of the U.S. Navy, [where] sea levels are rising twice as fast as the global average and could rise more than 5 feet by the end of the century, potentially putting the main U.S. naval base out of commission.”

Picture this. The selfie general is back. FP‘s Siobhán O’Grady writes that Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Qods Force and quarterback for Tehran’s (semi) covert wars in Iraq and Syria has returned to model for his public in a new series of pictures published online. The pics show the general posing with the Iranian-backed Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia and attending the funeral of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer. Photos of Iraqi troops and militia posing with Suleimani flooded the Internet for months earlier this year, before going rather quiet recently after some in Tehran began to bristle at the general’s increasingly public persona.

More questions. “Maybe, maybe, maybe….maybe he was provoked.” No one seems to know why a 29 year-old Jordanian military officer opened fire on a group of international police instructors at a training center near Amman, Jordan on Monday. Family members of the shooter, Anwar Saad, appear deeply confused over why he opened fire, killing three employees of DynCorp International, including an American intelligence and security contractor. The dead include U.S. citizen Lloyd “Carl” Fields, 46, a former deputy sheriff from Louisiana; Conrad Vaughn Whitehorn, 37, of Johannesburg, South Africa; another American whose name and employer have not been released, and a Jordanian who is also not being identified. Jordanian officials maintain that a total of six people were killed in the attack, and several others wounded.

Thanks again for clicking on through for another day with SitRep. As always, if you have any thoughts, announcements, tips, or national security-related events to share, please pass them along! Best way is to send them to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.

Listen to this week’s fascinating Global Thinker’s podcast with 2013 Global Thinker and epidemiologist Caroline Buckee and FP columnist and global health expert Laurie Garrett. They discuss ebola, malaria, and the world’s next health crises. Listen and subscribe to FP’s Global Thinkers podcasts here: http://atfp.co/1ljqfAp

Veterans Day

There wasn’t much talk of vets or the issues surrounding the veteran community at Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate, which fell on the eve of the Veterans Day holiday. None of the candidates managed to note the day in their remarks or closing comments, Military Times’ Leo Shane notes. Well, almost. Donald Trump did manage to suggest that when the U.S. was in Iraq in force, Washington should have taken oil from the Iraqi government to give to “our wounded warriors,” Shane writes. That’s something, we suppose.

If you’re in Washington near the Capitol building on Wednesday, take a look at the flag that is flying atop the building — it’s not the usual flag fluttering up there. “Dozens of veterans” assisted in a months-long project to make a flag as flagmakers would have in the 18th century, Washington Examiner’s Jacqueline Klimas writes. The flag was produced “using 50 percent organic biodynamic cotton and 50 percent industrial hemp grown by veterans in Kentucky,” who also hand-dyed the flag. The vets were involved in every step of the process, from “planting and harvesting the hemp, spinning and dying the yarn, and embroidering the stars on the hand-woven 3-foot-by-5-foot flag.”

Syria

Agence France Presse reports that Syrian army troops have broken the siege of Kweres airbase near Aleppo and linked up with hundreds of Assad regime soldiers inside the facility. The Islamic State had besieged Kweres since mid 2014, and some experts say the base could be a new launchpad for Russian planes in their air war against rebels fighting the regime of the president, Bashar al-Assad. But the Institute for the Study of War says the opening of the base is likely little more than a “symbolic victory,” as it is unclear what strategic value the facility possesses. Still, “the success of the operation relied heavily upon Russian air support as well as reinforcement from hundreds of Iranian-backed proxy fighters,” the Institute’s Chris Kozak writes.

One of the more successful rebel coalitions is in the throes of some internal strife. Over at World Politics Review, Syria analyst Sam Heller takes a look at Jaish al-Fateh (aka the “Army of Conquest”), the northern Syria rebel umbrella group comprised of the Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa, which helped wrest Idlib from regime control. Heller writes that Jund al-Aqsa has angrily quit the group over other members willingness to attack the Islamic State and unwillingness to focus more on fighting the U.S. and Russia, straining unity within the rebel coalition.

Saudi Arabia

The U.K. may halt future arms sales to the government of Saudi Arabia, if reports that the country’s air force has committed human rights violations in its bombing campaign in Yemen. Human rights groups have pointed to hundreds of civilian casualties in the bombing campaign to oust Houthi rebels from power, but London’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC Tuesday that “we need to work with the Saudis to establish that international humanitarian law has been complied with. We have an export licensing system that responds if we find that it is not. We will then find that we cannot licence additional shipments of weapons.”

Egypt

Not good. CNN managed to spot Egyptian security personnel using bomb detectors that look suspiciously like the ADE 651 — a sham device passed off by a British con artist as a handheld bomb detector and sold to the Iraqi government several years ago. CNN videotaped private security guards at hotels in Sharm al-Sheikh, where intelligence agencies says a terrorist bomb recently downed a Russian airliner, holding devices similar to the ADE 651. James McCormick, who sold the devices to for millions of dollars in Iraq, was convicted and sentenced to prison for the fraud.

Djibouti

Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Fang Fenghui recently visited the East African nation of Djibouti for a visit with its President Ismail Omar Guelleh. The visit raised some eyebrows as the U.S. has been concerned for some time about purported plans for a Chinese military base in Djibouti. AFP reports that Chinese media downplayed reports of basing plans but some worry that a Chinese presence near Camp Lemonnier would make for uncomfortable proximity to some of the United States’ most sensitive special operations units and hardware used in the war on terror.

Afghanistan

The Long War Journal takes a look into the background of Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, the recently appointed head of a dissident Taliban faction opposed to Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s leadership of the group, and finds that Niazi was responsible for the deaths thousands of members from the Shiite Hazara minority during the late 1990s. In 1998, the Taliban installed Niazi as the governor of Mazar-e-Sharif shortly after the group took the city and in short order Niazi began inciting citizens of the city to attack its Haza Shiite residents as revenge for their opposition to the Taliban, which led to the massacre.

Russia

Vladimir Putin says Russia is working on rolling out “strike systems capable of penetrating any missile defenses” and in particular the missile shields of the United States, according to the AP. While the U.S. has insisted for years that its ballistic missile defenses have been deployed to counter the missile programs of rogue states like Iran and North Korea, Russia remains unconvinced. Putin said that Russia’s defense industry has been working on weapons that can neutralize U.S. missile shields and plans on introducing them to Russian military units soon.

Air Force

In the latest installment of the debate over whether the Air Force will retire the beloved and venerable A-10 close air support plane, the service now says it may slow its roll on mothballing the Warthog. Why the change? Air Combat Command chief Gen. “Hawk” Carlisle told reporters that the demands for the A-10 in the wars in Iraq and Syria has forced Air Force officials to consider keeping the plane around for a little longer, just in case. The Air Force has encountered stiff opposition from Congress and military experts for its plans to retire the A-10 and allow the F-35 to take over its close air support responsibilities.

Cybersecurity

Check Point, an Israeli security firm, claims to have unmasked hackers linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards according to a new report from the company. The hackers in question were behind a campaign of breaches adorably dubbed “Rocket Kitten” which aimed at networks owned by NATO governments, firms, embassies and officials. Check Point says they found a server used by the group to serve up phishing websites that didn’t require a password for access. From there, the company managed to access lists of the group’s victims as well as personal documents and the identities of the hackers themselves.

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