- By Paul McLearyPaul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. He joined the Washington office in 2015 after working for Defense News, where he was also on the Pentagon beat, and covered stories relating to Pentagon spending and the defense industry. While there, and in a previous incarnation as a New York-based reporter, Paul embedded with U.S. Army and Marine Corps units in Iraq and Afghanistan to cover ground combat operations, where he got inside a secretive drone program being run out of Bagram air base. He has also traveled with the U.S. Navy, covered NATO meetings in Europe with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and stalked major international arms shows in Paris and London., Adam RawnsleyAdam 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.
Deal and other deals? The Obama administration is pushing back against reports that the United States and other countries agreed to allow Iran to evade restrictions in last year’s historic nuclear deal. “There has been no loosening of Iran’s commitments and there have been no exceptions given,” State Department spokesman John Kirby insisted at a Thursday press conference. But a new paper by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, FP’s John Hudson and Dan De Luce report, claims that the United States and other countries granted Iran exemptions “so that Tehran would be eligible to receive relief from punishing economic sanctions earlier this year.” The two have lots more, including details from Capitol Hill, here.
Europe and Moscow want to talk. Washington? Not so much. U.S. officials aren’t thrilled about a German proposal for new arms control pact with Russia — an idea that France is also supporting. Daniel Baer, the U.S. envoy to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told Reuters that while Washington wants to continue talking to Moscow, “in the context of a situation where Russia is violating a bunch of agreements that it’s made before, one should approach the idea of any new agreement with some caution.”
The report comes the same day that the U.S. Treasury Department announced a series of new sanctions against Russia aimed at targets who skirted previous penalties put in place after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014, FP’s David Francis writes. Treasury announced the sanctions as Russian troops continue to gather on the border with Ukraine where they’re conducting military drills. On Thursday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported EU sanctions would remain in place for another six months, something that is of particular concern to Washington.
Aussie flub. A U.S. Army Colonel took the unique step Thursday of openly calling out one of Washington’s closest friends over who it does business with. Speaking on Australian radio, U.S. Army Pacific Assistant Chief of Staff Col. Tom Hanson said that “the Australians need to make a choice…between balancing the alliance with the United States and the economic engagement with China.”
FP’s Paul McLeary asked the Defense Department about Hanson’s comments, and a spokesperson quickly distanced the building from his opinions: “the idea that Australia, or any country, needs to choose between its longstanding ties to the United States and its emerging links with China presents a false choice,” they wrote in an email. The comments are particularly stinging for the Aussies, who in fact have been struggling to balance how close to pull to Beijing economically, since it is difficult to ignore a growing economic powerhouse who happens to live down the block.
Jets away! Maybe! A long-awaited deal to sell dozens of American fighter jets to Qatar may finally happen, according to a new Reuters report. The sale, which has been in the works for two years — FP’s Dan De Luce chronicled the fascinating back-and-forth earlier this year — would be for 36 Boeing F-15 fighter jets valued at around $4 billion. Another request for the sale of 28 F/A- 18E/F Super Hornets, plus options for 12 more, to Kuwait in a deal valued at around $3 billion is also working its way through the State Department.
Good morning and 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley
Russia’s Pinky swears
Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised the hacking of the Democratic National Convention’s network and the subsequent leak of its files, but denies any Russian involvement in the breach. In an interview carried by Bloomberg, Putin said that the perpetrator of the attack is immaterial and that “the important thing is the content that was given to the public.’’ Putin also denied Russian complicity in the break-in, saying “I don’t know anything about it, and on a state level Russia has never done this.” Cybersecurity firms have attributed the attack to Russian intelligence-linked hacking groups, a claim echoed by FBI officials.
Russia and Japan are looking to settle a decades-long island dispute, and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin chatted with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Friday about the islands that Russia seized in the waning days of WWII off the northern coast of Japan. Moscow isn’t talking about handing the islands back, but it seems they’re interested in talking. About something. At the same time, however, Moscow says its getting set to deploy a new division worth of troops to keep an eye on those same islands in Russia’s far eastern province of Chukotka. The deployment would have the side effect of placing lots of Russian troops just a few dozen miles from the coast of Alaska, BTW.
China’s top air force officer says the People’s Liberation Army is in the market for a new bomber. According to the AP, Ma Xiaotian, commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), offered cryptic remarks about plans for a next generation strategic bomber, saying only that “you will see it in the future.” The most advanced existing strategic bomber in the PLAAF thus far is the H-6K.
Seoul may be the latest customer for Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon submarine-hunting spy planes. South Korean defense officials tell the Korea Joongang Daily that Seoul is eyeing the P-8 as part of its attempt to address the threat from North Korea’s new ballistic missile submarine, saying that “there are limits with the outdated antisubmarine patrol aircraft currently operated by the [South Korean] Navy.” South Korea currently operates the Lockheed P-3 Orion, originally developed in the 1960s.
The Iraqi military has purchased some shiny new attack aircraft for its war against the Islamic State. Satellite imagery of Baghdad’s Rasheed Air Base shows a total of 21 Su-25 close air support planes, a step up from the Russian Frogfoot aircraft known to be in Iraq’s inventory. It’s not quite clear where Iraq’s new planes came from, though Moscow seems the likeliest candidate. Russia announced that it would sell Su-25s to Iraq in two batches batches back in 2014. Iran, as well, sent five of the planes to Rasheed in the summer of 2014.
New documents from a lawsuit against the Navy show that the service may have upheld a punishment against a Marine in order to cover up its complicity in the abuse of an Afghan child sex slave, according to the Washington Post. Marine Maj. Jason C. Brezler sent a classified report over an unclassified webmail service about an Afghan police chief, Sarwar Jan, accused of keeping child sex slaves. The document shows that Navy and Marine officials knew of allegations against Sarwar Jan before one of the children he abused killed three Marines in an August 2012 attack. The documents filed in court show that a Navy judge advocate general recommended against offering Brezler an administrative review on charges of mishandling classified information in order to minimize media attention to the case in the wake of the attack.
Bots o’ war
According to local media reports, Saudi Arabia has purchased Wing Loong drones from China. The drone, made by China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, closely resembles the American Predator drone made by General Atomics and is capable of firing air-to-ground missiles. IHS Janes previously reported that satellite imagery showed Chinese CH-4 drones, which resemble the American Reaper drone, on the runway at Jizan Regional Airport.
The Army Research Laboratory is trying to make your childhood dreams come true with a real life hoverbike. PopSci reports that a new video released by the lab shows a prototype hoverbike, which resembles an oversized quadcopter. The Army has dubbed the aircraft the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle and says it can be used to rapidly resupply troops on the battlefield. Initial plans for an Army hoverbike, reported in 2015, suggested that the service may be looking to use hoverbikes for tactical reconnaissance.
Photo credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images