By Gordon Lubold
Did they or didn't they? The Daily Mail reports today that Saudi warned the U.S. of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The newspaper says that Saudi Arabia sent a written warning about accused Boston Marathon suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the Department of Homeland Security in 2012, citing a senior Saudi official the news outlet says has direct knowledge of the document. This would be separate from the correspondence between the Russian government and the FBI and, if true, a significant development in who knew what when. "Citing security concerns, the Saudi government also denied an entry visa to the elder Tsarnaev brother in December 2011, when he hoped to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the source said. Tsarnaev's plans to visit Saudi Arabia have not been previously disclosed," the paper's Web site, MailOnline reported. The NSC's Caitlin Hayden told Situation Report this morning, echoing comments made in the initial report, that: "We and other relevant U.S. Government agencies who deal with this kind of information have no record of any such letter being received."
An "upward trajectory:" Obama appeared to tiptoe closer to providing lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. Hours after President Barack Obama said he wanted more concrete evidence that the Assad regime in Syria had used chemical weapons on its people, there were news reports that the administration was considering sending lethal aid to the opposition. Later, NSC spokeswoman Hayden noted, "our assistance to the Syrian opposition has been on an upward trajectory." But it wasn't yet clear just how fast any lethal aid would flow to the opposition, and the WaPo's Karen DeYoung reports that the White House isn't about to pull the trigger right away. "The officials said they are moving toward the shipment of arms but emphasized that they are still pursuing political negotiation. To that end, the administration has launched an effort to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin that the probable use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government - and the more direct outside intervention that could provoke - should lead him to reconsider his support of Assad," she writes. But, DeYoung writes that senior officials described Obama as "ready to move on what one described as the ‘left-hand side' of a broad spectrum that ranged from "arming the opposition to boots on the ground."
FWIW: Sorting out the polls on Syria. Yesterday we cited a new CBS poll that showed that 62 percent of Americans do not think the U.S. has a responsibility to intervene in Syria. That contrasts with an earlier poll, from Pew, that shows that 45 percent of Americans favor military action against the regime if chemical weapons are found to have been used against the Syrian opposition. While the polls offer a different conclusion of Americans' views on Syrian intervention, a friend to Situation Report pointed out that the CBS poll showing fewer Americans supporting intervention was taken over a period before and after the U.S. acknowledged April 25 that a U.S. intelligence assessment showed that CW was used, at least on a small scale, between April 24-28. The Pew poll, on the other hand, which shows more Americans supporting military action against the regime, was taken between April 25-28, right after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the announcement. Read the polls for yourself, here.
Welcome to Wednesday's First of May edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. If we can get it in, we will. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings, and military stories of success or excess.
Nerd alert for insurgency nerds. The Council on Foreign Relations has produced a new interactive tool called the "Invisible Armies Insurgency Tracker," gleaned from material from Invisible Armies, CFR's Max Boot's new book. The tracker presents a visual history, with maps and charts of more than 400 insurgencies, from 1775 to 2012, that attempts to depict the "global distribution of insurgencies" and their outcome. Click on a country or region, and use the little slider to adjust the period. Check it out, here. Info on Boot's book here.
Is Comeback Kid Petraeus headed to KKR? Maybe. Gawker is reporting that as part of David Petraeus' comeback plan he may cash in with a job at private equity firm KKR & Co. It's part of Petraeus' carefully orchestrated plan to re-emerge from the shadows after his disastrous fall last fall. P4 has already attended some quiet-but-splashy events for veterans but is also likely looking at a book deal, a speaking tour and academic affiliations. Gawker: "The David Petraeus comeback tour may lead the disgraced former general through the cleansing fires of high finance, where your alleged sins can be washed away with a few stellar exits. He has been making the rounds at a number of New York-based venture capital and private equity firms and one very knowledgeable source said Petraeus is slated to announce a relationship shortly. Gawker and other sites have also suggested P4 is looking at the Carlyle Group or Palantir.
Beltway Fixer Robert Barnett, when asked by FP's John Hudson, by e-mail, on the move: "No comment."
The Odierno-Hunter feud, con't. Army Secretary John McHugh yesterday backed Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno in the public feud between him and Rep. Duncan Hunter, the Republican from California and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who got into a row last week over the Army's Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS. In a moment of emotion, Odierno lashed out at Hunter, a former Marine and son of the former HASC chairman of the same name, at a hearing last week. At a Defense Writers Group breakfast Tuesday, McHugh was clear: "The chief spoke for himself," he said. Read the backstory from Baron, here. Meanwhile, Hunter's spokesman, Joe Kasper, told Baron that Hunter's office was surprised to see McHugh's remarks. Baron: "Following Thursday's argument in the hearing, Hunter's staff thought they had an agreement with Army officials to avoid any additional public back-and-forth over the issue. However, Kasper argued that the Army ran the clock out on soldiers deployed in Afghanistan who had been begging for Palantir for nearly a year. He also objected to McHugh's assertion that Hunter was mistaken about the request still being active, telling the E-Ring that Hunter was fully aware that the 3ID headquarters at Fort Stewart had ordered a ‘hold' on the request from Afghanistan, and referenced it during Thursday's hearing." Kasper: "There've been repeated requests for it that go back a year,' a frustrated Kasper said, providing a list of requests and denials dating to May 2012."
The video of the civilian cargo plane crashing near Bagram this week is truly disturbing. The crash Monday of a civilian cargo plane bound for Dubai killed all seven crewmembers aboard. While the Taliban claimed responsibility for the downed plane, officials have denied this is true. Meantime, video from the dashboard of a vehicle on the ground shows the entire thing. The plane arcs steeply upward like many planes do when they take off from war zones and then pivots before slamming into the ground. Read Danger Room's take, here.
Steve Flanagan is now at the White House. CSIS' Flanagan is now at the NSC as senior director for defense policy.
Moving on up: Pulitzer-prize winning journalist turned defense flack for Lockheed and Raytheon Anne Marie Squeo joins 30 Point. Squeo, the vice-president of communications at Lockheed, who was the previous director of PR at Raytheon is joining 30 Point Strategies as a managing director May 6. Squeo will lead 30 Point's efforts in "media engagement and crisis communications and build something called "integrated strategies" to advance clients' business goals. From the There is Life After Journalism Department - "Prior to transitioning to corporate communications, Squeo spent nearly 15 years as a journalist, including more than seven years at The Wall Street Journal. In this role, she won the Gerald Loeb Award in 2004 for Beat Reporting and was part of a small team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for National Reporting. She began her journalism career at Bloomberg News, where she led antitrust reporting during a period of heightened government activity," according to a press release.
- LAT: Obama renews call to close Gitmo.
- Miami Herald: Tracking the hunger strikes at Gitmo.
- Miami Herald: Transcript of Obama's remarks on Gitmo.
- The New Yorker: A hundred hungry men at Guantanamo.
- CFR: Obama to face Bipolar Mexico.
- USIP (Heydemann): The way forward in Syria.
- CSIS: Beyond the last war: balancing ground forces and future challenges.
- Battleland: A key step: re-certifying vets for post-military jobs.
- Defense News: House GOP unveils next move on controversial East Coast missile plan.
- Duffel Blog: Marine Corps establishes "service utilities" for more professional look.
- Danger Room: U.S. looks to re-up its Mexican surveillance system.
- Air Force Times: Air Force leaders, family honor fallen airmen.