The Cable

Situation Report: Exclusive: lawmaker blasts U.S. Central Command on ISIS intel probe; Washington growing frustrated with Iran; Syria cease-fire troubles; drones in Jordan; U.S. missile test; and lots more

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Only in FP: In an interview with Foreign Policy, a top lawmaker accused officials at the U.S. Central Command and the Pentagon of a “lack of cooperation” in his efforts to investigate the alleged manipulation of intelligence about America’s wars. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said he has discovered that ...

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Only in FP: In an interview with Foreign Policy, a top lawmaker accused officials at the U.S. Central Command and the Pentagon of a “lack of cooperation” in his efforts to investigate the alleged manipulation of intelligence about America’s wars. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said he has discovered that Central Command officials deleted emails and files related to the case, and told FP’s Paul McLeary and Dan De Luce that military officials are “slow-rolling us on getting the facts. We need to do a lot of interviews, and we need to know what files were deleted because the files that get deleted are the ones they don’t want you to see.”

The allegedly skewed intelligence products have had a direct impact on decisions taken in Washington over the course of the war against the Islamic State. “The damage has been done,” Nunes said. “For whatever reason, the intelligence has been manipulated, and poor decisions have been made.” He also said that despite months of attempts to get his investigators to Central Command headquarters for interviews with staffers and whistleblowers, military officials have only approved of one trip.

Pushing the envelope. How far can the Iranians push their development of advanced ballistic missiles and involvement in the war in Syria before Washington takes action? FP’s Dan De Luce and Elias Groll run down the state of play, and find that even members of President Barack Obama’s own party — who supported last summer’s nuclear deal with Iran — are growing frustrated.

They report: “Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who voted in favor of the nuclear deal, said he wanted to see the agreement succeed but that it was time to get “tougher” with Iran. “We’re going to have to be clear that we’re not going to tolerate their bad behavior, and we’re willing to punish Iran.” Most concerning to many lawmakers and analysts are the ballistic missile tests Tehran recently conducted despite a U.N. ban. Western intelligence agencies fear Iran is working on building an intercontinental ballistic missile, which could eventually be outfitted with an atomic warhead — if Tehran were to opt out of the nuclear agreement.

The forever war. To the surprise of few, the Pentagon is preparing to deploy teams of commandos to advise Nigerian forces in their fight against the West African militant group Boko Haram. The deployment would get American troops much closer to the battle that Nigerian forces are waging against the group, the New York Times reports. While still in its planning stages, the report says that U.S. military officials have recommended that commandos “position ‘small dozens’ of Special Forces in Maiduguri, a major city in the northeast on the edge of the conflict, to help Nigerian military planners carry out a more effective counterterrorism campaign. British special forces are already assisting in the city.”

Reapers in Jordan. Satellite imagery obtained by investigative website Bellingcat appears to show the presence of American-made Reaper drones at Jordan’s Muwaffaq airbase. The site reports that “the Reapers were deployed in March 2015, almost a full four months before Turkey gave the U.S. its okay to bomb IS from its airbases. It’s still unclear whether the drones belong to the U.S. or the one of its coalition allies, but their presence underscores Jordan’s importance in the U.S.-led coalition’s war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.”

Morning, all. Thanks for clicking on through to kick off the last full week of February. As always, if you have any thoughts, announcements, tips, or national security-related events to share, please pass them along to SitRep HQ! Best way is to send them to: paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.

Syria

The U.N.’s air drop over the Islamic State-besieged city of Deir Ezzour was a colossal failure, NBC News reports. Around half of the 21 tons worth of aid pallets “drifted away and are so far unaccounted for,” according to the World Food Program. The remaining pallets either landed in an area covered by land mines or hit their target but were damaged on impact following a parachute failure. Officials at the World Food Program say they’ll give it another shot, circumstances permitting.

Under the terms of the recent Syrian ceasefire hammered out between the U.S. and Russia, Russia is only supposed to bomb in certain areas controlled by the Islamic State and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. But in a bad omen for the fate of the agreement, Buzzfeed reports that Russian airstrikes have repeatedly pounded the city of Daraya, south of Damascus, despite no known presence by either group. Daraya is, however, close to Mezzeh airbase, used as a key airhub for the regime, which argues that the city is home of Nusra fighters. The constant bombardment of Daraya is now prompting the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front to threaten to abandon the terms of the ceasefire and carry on as usual. The Wall Street Journal also takes a look at ways that Nusra complicates the cease-fire agreement.

Iraq

Turkish troops have been secretly fighting the Islamic State in northern Iraq, despite promising to leave a hotly-disputed training center in near Mosul, the Daily Telegraph reports. peshmerga fighters say that Turkish M60T Sabra tanks have been shelling Mosul from the northeast. They estimate the size of the Turkish footprint in Ba’ashiqa at between 1,000 to 2,000 troops. Turkey had been operating a training facility for local troops to take on the Islamic State, but came under intense pressure from both the government in Baghdad and the White House to leave the area.

Europe

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday calling on European Union countries to end all arms exports to Saudi Arabia on account of the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition of Islamic countries is fighting the Houthi movement. Britain, in particular, has received criticism from the European Parliament for its $4 billion worth of arms deals with Saudi Arabia in the past year. The resolution is nonbinding and cannot compel any European Union countries to end their sales, but the Saudi arms deals also remain controversial within Britain.

Sudan

Friday marks the 13th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Darfur and, despite successive attempts at peace deals in that time, conflict continues. The Global Post’s Katie Campo writes that locals are sick of the years of fighting and at least one town has taken matters into its own hands to try and bring peace, hoping to act as a model for the rest of the region. The Malam Darfur for Peace and Development, begun by a local journalist, has helped facilitate peace talks between warring rebels and militia, luring displaced residents back to their homes and helping to rebuild the local economy as calm returns to the town.

Nukes

The U.S. Air Force carried out a test of a Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Thursday in hopes of sending a deterrent message to U.S. adversaries, the AP reports. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the unarmed nuclear missile test was intended to signal that “we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country, if necessary.” Despite problems with the Minuteman force revealed by the AP In 2013, Work says he hopes the test shows that the Minuteman is “the most effective, or one of the most effective, missiles in the world.”

As the Hog Turns

The continuing soap opera that is the Air Force vs. the  A-10 Warthog will be on hiatus for the next decade as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter says plans to put the birds in the retirement hangar are on hold at least until 2022. In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Thursday, Carter said that the fiscal year 2017 budget will kick the can on decisions about the plane’s future down the road until 2022, citing the need for the Warthog in the fight against the Islamic State. The service had planned to retire the plane, beloved of ground troops, and pass the savings and close air support responsibilities onto the F-35, provoking outrage among many in Congress and the wider public.

Finally…
Fighting a war with brand-new, high-tech, shiny equipment is kind of the way you want to fight, right? But it’s not the way most countries do things. Take a look at the rusted hulk of this old Russian T-64 tank as a Ukrainian army crew puts it through its paces. The tankers might not have the best gear, but they’ve figured a way to rig a camera to the gun barrel, at the very least.

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