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SitRep: Chinese Jets Intercept U.S. Plane; Fallujah Stalled

Saudis Pressure U.N.; Gaza Getting Ready for a Fight; Apache Helos to Qatar; and lots more

ZHUHAI, CHINA - NOVEMBER 5: (CHINA OUT) J-10, China's multirole fighter planes perform a demonstration at the 7th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, on November 5, 2008 in Zhuhai of Guangdong Province, China. The event, also known as 'Airshow China', is scheduled to run from November 4 to 9, 2008 in Zhuhai, attracting nearly 600 exhibitors from over 30 countries and regions. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
ZHUHAI, CHINA - NOVEMBER 5: (CHINA OUT) J-10, China's multirole fighter planes perform a demonstration at the 7th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, on November 5, 2008 in Zhuhai of Guangdong Province, China. The event, also known as 'Airshow China', is scheduled to run from November 4 to 9, 2008 in Zhuhai, attracting nearly 600 exhibitors from over 30 countries and regions. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
ZHUHAI, CHINA - NOVEMBER 5: (CHINA OUT) J-10, China's multirole fighter planes perform a demonstration at the 7th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, on November 5, 2008 in Zhuhai of Guangdong Province, China. The event, also known as 'Airshow China', is scheduled to run from November 4 to 9, 2008 in Zhuhai, attracting nearly 600 exhibitors from over 30 countries and regions. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

 

Faceoff. Another U.S. surveillance plane has been intercepted by Chinese fighter jets. The details: On Tuesday, a U.S. Air Force RC-135 “Rivet Joint” was intercepted by two Chinese J-10 fighter jets over international waters in the East China Sea. “One of the intercepting Chinese jets had an unsafe excessive rate of closure on the RC-135 aircraft,” U.S. Navy Cmdr. Dave Benham said in a statement. “Initial assessment is that this seems to be a case of improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe maneuvers occurred,” he said.

It was the second such incident in the past month, and comes as Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew are in Beijing for the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and just days after U.S. and Chinese defense officials shook their fists at one another at a major international defense conference in Singapore.

 

Faceoff. Another U.S. surveillance plane has been intercepted by Chinese fighter jets. The details: On Tuesday, a U.S. Air Force RC-135 “Rivet Joint” was intercepted by two Chinese J-10 fighter jets over international waters in the East China Sea. “One of the intercepting Chinese jets had an unsafe excessive rate of closure on the RC-135 aircraft,” U.S. Navy Cmdr. Dave Benham said in a statement. “Initial assessment is that this seems to be a case of improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe maneuvers occurred,” he said.

It was the second such incident in the past month, and comes as Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew are in Beijing for the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and just days after U.S. and Chinese defense officials shook their fists at one another at a major international defense conference in Singapore.

Bad actor. In a stunning set of revelations, FP’s Colum Lynch writes that Saudi Arabia threatened to pull hundreds of millions of dollars from U.N. programs if the international body included the kingdom in a report detailing how various regimes and militias around the world are guilty of killing and maiming children. The report included details about the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, which has killed thousands of people, including hundreds of children. The U.S. has provided extensive aerial refueling and intelligence support to the Saudis over the past year in the bombing effort.

The threats led U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to scrub mentions of Saudi in the report, and sparked international outrage over his decision. Lynch reports, “senior Saudi diplomats told top U.N. officials Riyadh would use its influence to convince other Arab governments and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to sever ties with the United Nations.” The upshot? Now that U.N. officials have been telling the media about the kingdom’s behavior, the report has received more press than it likely would have in the first place

Fallujah trouble. The Iraqi army’s assault on Fallujah has stalled. And the problems have less to do with any resistance Islamic State fighters are putting up than with infighting — or lack of coordination — among the disparate Iraqi army units and various militia groups. Overall, the “seven battalions of Iraqi special forces units have been unable to advance for two days,” Reuters correspondents on the ground report. Maj. Ahmed Na’im with the Anbar police force said that his men and the Iraqi federal police never coordinate operations or share intel. “They have their own plans and take their orders from their own people,” he said.

Ousted. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has fired several key government officials, including the country’s intelligence chief Zuhair al-Gharbawi. It’s unclear why now and what comes next, but al-Gharbawi was appointed by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Hamas ready for war. Tensions in the Gaza Strip are high, and Hamas leaders say they’re getting ready. FP contributor David Patrikarakos sat down with a few militants recently in Gaza, where one told him, “The military is training…We control all the security in the strip, and we are hidden, so I am sure Israel has few obvious military targets. If they start a war, thousands of civilians will die.”

Tagging out. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is saying goodbye to his Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth in a small, private ceremony at the Pentagon Wednesday, almost two years to the day after she was confirmed by the Senate in June 2014. Replacing her in an acting capacity is Brian P. McKeon, who was Wormuth’s principal deputy, with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear stepping in to take McKeon’s old job. Got that? Finally, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Kelly Magsamen is stepping in to take Shear’s old job. Welcome to the waning days of a presidential administration, everybody.

Big money, fast choppers. Qatar has signed a $667 million contract with Boeing to buy 24 Apache attack helicopters to be delivered by 2020. The plan is for the Apaches to replace Qatar’s SA-342 Gazelle attack helicopters to provide close air support, armed recon, and anti-tank missions.

Good morning again from the Sitrep crew, thanks for clicking on through for the summer 2016 edition of SitRep. 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

Carriers

The Navy is sending out more aircraft carrier strike groups lately, with six of the service’s ten carriers carrying out operations at sea, Defense News reports. Four of those carriers are deployed abroad. The USS Harry S Truman is carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State from the Mediterranean and the USS Dwight Eisenhower is headed towards the Gulf. In Asia, the USS Ronald Reagan recently set sail from Japan and the USS John C Stennis is in the South China Sea. Two other carriers, the USS Carl Vinson and USS George Washington, are engaged in training operations off both U.S. coasts. The U.S. hasn’t seen this high a level of carrier activity since 2012.

Japan

The U.S. is broadening its military relationship with yet another east Asian ally. Breaking Defense reports that Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani signed a deal with the U.S. at the Shangri-La Dialogue that will allow the two countries to buy weapons from each other absent export and import restrictions. Japan has only recently begun to export weapons abroad within the past two years, shedding the long-held prohibition as the country begins to inch away from its post-war pacifism. The deal could see the U.S. buying selected parts and components from Japanese suppliers, if not whole systems.

North Korea

North Korean nuclear proliferation continues to move full speed ahead. An anonymous senior State Department official tells Reuters that North Korea has restarted plutonium production. That echoes similar claims from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, which recently said it had seen indications that the North was reopening its plutonium reprocessing facility at Yongbyon, which is used to reprocess spent fuel from a plutonium reactor. The move could allow Pyongyang to make more weapon-grade fuel to build out its nuclear arsenal. North Korea tested a nuclear weapon in January and has signaled it has no intention of ratcheting back its weapons program.

India

Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is hinting that there may be a big U.S.-India defense news announced during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States this week. Defense News reports that the news might involve a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which had been the subject of talks between the U.S. and India during Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s visit to the country in April. The LEMOA could allow for the U.S. to engage in defense-related technology transfers. The U.S. is also working on two other agreements with India related to communications security and geospatial intelligence.

Syria

Syrian opposition media is carrying claims by a Syrian military official that Israeli warplanes carried out an airstrike against Hezbollah weapons caches earlier this week. The unconfirmed report, picked up by Israel’s Ynetnews, claims that a Syrian radar and air defense installations were also targeted in the attack. Israel has reportedly carried out a number of airstrikes against suspected transfers of sophisticated Iranian weapons to Hezbollah since the conflict began and is said to have leaned on Russia to help prevent the arms trafficking.
Navy

Range is all the rage in naval artillery these days and Scout Warrior reports that Raytheon is working on another way to extend the distance at which American cruisers and destroyers can reach their targets. The defense contractor has developed a new round, the Excalibur N5, in order to meet the Navy’s request for a longer-range round. The Excalibur would be fired by the existing 5-inch Mk 45 guns and reach distances of up to 26 nautical miles.

2016

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tried to get Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to invest in a business venture, according to a scoop from Buzzfeed. In 2009, Gadhafi rented an estate owned by Trump in Westchester, New York to pitch his tent and stay during the United Nations general assembly meeting. Sources tell the news outlet that Trump hoped to use the visit to pitch Gadhafi on investing some of Libya’s oil money held by the Libyan Investment Authority in some unidentified business venture. Local opposition ultimately prevented Gadhfafi from taking up residence. Trump, however, attempted to portray himself as a supporter of the opposition to the now-deceased dictator’s stay, claiming to have “screwed him.”

Business of defense
Kalashnikov, the Russian company which makes the iconic AK-47 assault rifle, has found success in reorienting its business after sanctions on Russia put a crimp in its business. The New York Times reports that the company is back on track after focusing on the domestic consumer market in Russia rather than selling to the American gun buyers. The U.S. had made up nearly 40 percent of Kalashnikov’s sales, but American sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea cut off the company’s access to the lucrative market. Instead, Kalashnikov has turned a product by eschewing the crowded defense marked and offering semi-automatic versions of its guns to Russian hunters at home.

 

Photo Credit: China Photos/Getty Images

Adam Rawnsley is a Philadelphia-based reporter covering technology and national security. He co-authors FP’s Situation Report newsletter and has written for The Daily Beast, Wired, and War Is Boring.

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