SitRep: Was An Iconic U.N. Chief Assassinated?; Top U.S. General in Turkey
Murder and the U.N. Was Dag Hammarskjold, one of the most revered and iconic secretaries-general in the history of the United Nations, assassinated by an apartheid-era South African paramilitary organization that was backed by the CIA, British intelligence, and a Belgian mining company? Could be. FP’s Colum Lynch gets the scoop that U.N. Secretary-General ...
Murder and the U.N. Was Dag Hammarskjold, one of the most revered and iconic secretaries-general in the history of the United Nations, assassinated by an apartheid-era South African paramilitary organization that was backed by the CIA, British intelligence, and a Belgian mining company? Could be. FP’s Colum Lynch gets the scoop that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will propose reopening an inquiry into allegations that Hammarskjold had been murdered when his plane crashed in Zambia, while he was brokering a peace deal.
Lynch writes that at the time of Hammarskjold’s death, “U.N peacekeepers had been battling Belgian-backed separatists in the mineral-rich Congolese province of Katanga. Days before Hammarskjold’s death, the U.N. launched an offensive against Katanga’s separatists as part of an effort to drive hundreds of Belgian officers and European mercenaries out of the country.”
Adding to the list. American aircraft hit Islamic State targets over the weekend in Sirte, Libya for the first time since February, as part of what Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said will be part of an ongoing series of strikes in the country. “We are prepared to carry out more strikes in coordination” with Libya’s Government of National Accord, he said, adding that the strikes do not have “an end point at this particular moment in time.” The GNA, which has the backing of western powers, has struggled to win the support of many of the militias active throughout the war-ravaged country.
Get the paper. The legal authorization for the Sirte strikes, just like American strikes on other militant Islamic groups from East Africa on through Iraq and Syria, comes from the Authorization for Use of Military Force, (AUMF), adopted in the days after the attacks on Sept. 11 2001 to target the Taliban. One person uncomfortable with that state of affairs is the Democratic nominee for the vice presidency of the United States, Tim Kaine. The Virginia Senator has for years worked to get a new ISIS-specific AUMF passed that would account for all of the non-Taliban wars Washington is fighting, but hasn’t been able to gain much traction.
Visiting hours in Turkey. The U.S. military’s highest-ranking officer arrived in Turkey’s capital Monday hoping to mend the raw feelings left by last month’s failed coup against the civilian-led government. And despite protests in front of the U.S. Embassy where demonstrators held signs saying “Get Out Coup Plotter Dunford,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said things went pretty well. “The tone in all three meetings was very positive and non-accusatory at all,” the general told reporters after his meetings with military and civilian officials, in comments which set a pretty low bar for what was expected going into the exchanges.
We’re good. Turkish politicians presented a united front in Washington Monday, with representatives from three of the country’s major political parties holding a press conference at the Turkish embassy to insist they’re on the same page in condemning the botched military coup attempt last month. They also said they’re together in “demanding that the U.S. agree to the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based cleric accused of orchestrating the coup,” FP’s John Hudson reports.
Bad scene. A military mom was booed at a Carson City, Nevada rally featuring Republican VP nominee Mike Pence Monday. Catherine Byrne — whose son serves in the Air Force — asked Pence about Donald Trump’s increasingly aggressive war of words with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, a decorated Army veteran, was killed in Iraq in 2004. “Will there ever be a point in time when you’re able to look Trump in the eye and tell him enough is enough?” she asked, setting off the crowd. Pence quieted the crowd, saying “that’s what freedom looks like. That’s what freedom sounds like.” Many Senate Republicans up for reelection this year have criticized Trump’s fight with the family.
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An FBI employee has pled guilty to spying for the Chinese government, the Washington Post reports. The guilty plea comes as a bit of surprise because the feds kept the arrest of Kun Shan Chun under wraps since March. Chun, who worked as a technician for the FBI’s Manhattan field office, admitted to passing an FBI organizational chart and documents about the Bureau’s surveillance gear to the Chinese government. In return, Chinese officials plied Chun with cash, prostitutes, and lavish trips.
China is trying to cut its armed forces by 300,000 troops to make for a leaner, meaner, more agile, modern military. But how can it fire a few hundred soldiers without risk of an angry, organized pushback? Golden parachutes. Bloomberg reports that the People’s Liberation Army is stuffing laid off troops’ pockets with cash before they push them out the door in order to trim its end strength. The buyouts offer troops a one time payment and the ability to keep receiving 80 percent of their monthly salary after leaving the service.
Russia lost five troops after one of its Mi-8 military helicopters was shot down in Idlib, Syria on Monday, during what Moscow claims was a humanitarian mission. But an analysis by weapons experts raises questions over how much aid the Mi-8 could actually carry. Nic Jenzen-Jones of Armament Research Services (ARES), an Australia-based weapons monitoring group, told The Daily Beast that “in this case, the Mi-8 AMTSh appears to have been fitted with two B-8V20A rocket pods, each capable of carrying 20 80 mm S-8 rockets. From the images available so far, it is not clear whether the rocket pods were loaded.”
A suspected chemical weapons attack hit a village near the site of the shootdown, a Syrian rescue service said on Tuesday. A spokesman for Syria Civil Defence told Reuters that 33 people, mostly women and children, were affected by the gas in Saraqeb. In the hours after the helo went down, another helicopter dropped barrels on the town, which activists suspect was chlorine.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in a tough spot. He’s leading the fight against the Sunni Islamic State, while Shiites in his own government — and on the streets of Baghdad — protest against the security gaps in the capital, corruption, and political gridlock. And now Abadi has ordered an investigation into allegations of corruption in a series of weapons deals. Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri has denied charges of corruption tied to companies looking to sell planes, trucks, and other equipment to the army, along with deals to appoint soldiers, officers and personnel at the ministry of defense.
Smoke gets in your eyes
With the city of Aleppo cut off and surrounded by Assad regime and Russian forces, residents are trying to create a smokescreen to in the hopes that it can blind Russian and Syrian aircraft bombing the city. Video posted to social media shows children in eastern Aleppo setting fire to tires to send clouds of thick, black smoke into the skies above the city. The move inspired a viral hashtag campaign among opposition supporters, using tags such as #AngerForAleppo.
China is high fiving the Afghan government for its help in tracking down Chinese militant Islamists in the country. Reuters reports that Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan thanked Afghanistan’s army chief of general staff Qadam Shah Shaheem for help fighting the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which the United States has designated as a foreign terrorist organization. China has been building deeper links with neighboring Afghanistan, participating in regional peace talks aimed at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Army Maj. Gen. John Rossi passed away at his home in Alabama on Sunday, just two days before he was due to take command of Army Space and Missile Defense Command. There’s no word yet on the cause of death, but Army investigators say there’s no sign his death was suspicious. The current commander of Space and Missile Defense Command, Lt. Gen. David Mann, will stay on to lead the organization.
The U.K. is about to start spending billions on its ballistic missile submarine replacement program.
Here’s a closer look at the training that American and Canadian troops are providing for Ukrainian troops at a site in western Ukraine.
For the first time in a decade, U.S. B1B bombers are going to replace B-52’s in the Pacific.
The U.S. government is wary of naming Russia as guilty of cyber crimes.
Washington and Jerusalem are still talking about new defense aid package, but are nearing a deal that would send billions to Israel over the next decade.
It looks like Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new defense minister will be Tomomi Inada, a hawkish and controversial choice that would upset both China and South Korea given her conservative views on wartime history.
Photo Credit: Turkish Armed Forces/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Paul McLeary was a staff writer at Foreign Policy from 2015-2018.
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