SitRep: Fallout in South China Sea; ISIS Preparing For The End
Kerry and Putin Discuss Syria; Former General Says ISIS Will Drink American Blood; And Lots More
By the book. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was once a highly respected U.S. intelligence chief. Now he’s issuing alarmist statements about the Islamic State and urging cooperation with Russia.
“I’m totally convinced that, without a proper sense of urgency, we will be eventually defeated, dominated, and very likely destroyed” by Islamic militants, he writes in his new book, The Field of Fight, which was released Tuesday. “[T]here’s no doubt,” he adds, “that they are dead set on taking us over and drinking our blood.” FP’s Paul McLeary and Dan De Luce read the new tome, and pick out some choice bits here.
Water world. China lost big on the South China Sea ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on Tuesday, but Washington is trying to lay low. The court ruled that Chinese claims to most of the contested waterway were without legal merit, but U.S. defense officials say that the ruling won’t change much about American policy and that U.S. freedom of navigation operations will continue.
While China is unhappy with the ruling, many forget that Taiwan shares many of the same maritime claims. And the Taiwanese government is equally miffed, the New York Times reports. In the hours after the ruling, the government sent a warship into the controversial waterway, “to display Taiwan people’s resolve in defending the national interest,” Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, said in a speech. The decision by the tribunal had “gravely harmed” Taiwan’s rights in the South China Sea, she added.
Keyboard commandos. Back on dry land, there are also problems that need to be addressed. FP’s Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reports that within hours of the court’s ruling, a “massive wave of anger erupted across Chinese social media, where grassroots nationalism flourishes. But to the ruling Communist Party, such sentiment is a double-edged sword: official censors moved quickly to curtail online discussion that seemed to overstep the bounds of acceptable nationalist discourse.”
Things fall apart. Is the Islamic State on the move, or in retreat? In some ways it’s both. The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick and Souad Mekhennet spoke to one Islamic State operative who admitted that while the group sees their “core structure in Iraq and Syria under attack,” they have “shifted some of our command, media and wealth structure to different countries.” That’s something that western intel analysts have been warning about for months, and a spate of attacks outside of the Middle East appears to bear this out. “We do have, every day, people reaching out and telling us they want to come to the caliphate,” said the operative, “but we tell them to stay in their countries and rather wait to do something there.”
Putin play. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Moscow this week to discuss ways to increase military cooperation with Russia in Syria, but not everyone in the White House, and at the Pentagon, is on board with the plan. A new U.S. proposal, the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung reports, calls for the establishment of a “Joint Implementation Group” with Russia, “through which the two countries would initially exchange intelligence and operational information on the locations of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, and ‘synchronize’ their independent operations against the Islamic State. Once al-Nusra targets have been agreed, they would determine what action to take and ‘deconflict’ their air operations.”
New Afghanistan plan. Armed with the new ability to bomb Taliban targets in Afghanistan, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in the country, Gen. John. W. Nicholson, told reporters Tuesday he has used the new authority “almost daily,” especially in the country’s East. Last week, President Barack Obama announced he will leave 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into next year, rather than shrinking the number to 5,500, as previously planned. Nicholson added more details to the plan Tuesday, telling reporters that another 400 U.S. troops will be based in countries in the region, traveling to Afghanistan as needed. Of course, they won’t count against the 8,400-troop number.
Rebel, rebel. A group of senior House Democrats, including longtime Iran hawks, are refusing to support a last-minute Republican push to pass multiple Iran sanctions bills before the summer recess and dismissing the effort as naked partisan point-scoring, FP’s John Hudson reports.
Meet and greet. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter — who comes home Wednesday after a week in Europe and the Middle East — will host representatives from 34 nations in the coalition battling Islamic State Joint Base Andrews, Maryland next week to discuss the fight, the Pentagon has announced.
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South Korea announced that the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) battery offered by the U.S. will be located in Seongju, in the southeast of the country, Reuters reports. The Defense Department and South Korea reached an agreement last week to deploy a THAAD battery to the country, angering both North Korea and China. South Korean officials say the Seongju placement will allow the THAAD system to cover 50-66 percent of South Korean citizens from incoming North Korean ballistic missiles, while avoiding interference with the local environment and population. South Koreans living near the THAAD site also protested the decision Wednesday.
The latest crop of jihadists carrying out attacks in Saudi Arabia aren’t tactical masterminds but they’re still causing plenty of trouble. Reuters notes that the attackers in the past three suicide bombings carried out against Saudi Shiites, the Prophet’s mosque, and the U.S. consulate didn’t manage to kill much more than the perpetrators themselves. Nonetheless, experts tell the wire service that the very existence of a bomb-making network and pool of potential attackers points to a worrying strength on the part of the Kingdom’s domestic terrorists.
India will test out its homebrew armed drone in flight trials in a few weeks, according to the Deccan Herald. The Rustom II will take to the air at India’s Chitradurga test flight range towards the end of July. India has purchased a number of Heron drones from Israel and defense officials hope the medium altitude long endurance Rustom II will one day replace the Israeli imports. India’s defense ministry hopes to eventually produce 76 Rustom II aircraft.
The Air Force’s top secret stealth drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel, may have just been spotted on social media. Defense Tech reports that a YouTube video shot in Nevada appears to show the batwing-shaped drone flying against a desert horizon. The aircraft, once dubbed “the Beast of Kandahar” for its surreptitious appearance in Afghanistan, has been used for highly classified missions, such as spying on Iran’s nuclear program and surveilling Osama Bin Laden’s residence in advance of the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader.
A company out of Ann Arbor, Michigan is using some spider-man technology to craft a stronger line of body armor and the Army is taking an interest, Defense One reports. Kraig Biocraft has been working on Dragon Silk, a fiber based on spider silk. Spider silk, it turns out, is incredibly strong but difficult to harvest in bulk. Kraig Biocraft managed to sidestep the problem by genetically engineering silkworms to produce spider silk, allowing them to weave it into a bullet-resistant fabric that holds the promise of being more flexible than the kevlar material currently used in body armor.
The U.S. Navy isn’t the only service currently peeved with the slow process to approve fighter jet sales to America’s Gulf allies. Air Force Deputy Undersecretary Heidi Grant added her voice to the growing chorus of defense officials urging the White House to green light the sale of 60 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets worth $7 billion to Qatar and Kuwait and 16 F-16s to Bahrain for another billion dollars. Grant said the delay is causing frustration among the U.S. allies and that she hopes the process doesn’t do any lasting damage to the U.S. relationship with the three countries. In June, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus warned that the slow rolling force Boeing to close and then reopen the Super Hornet production line, leading to costlier jets.
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