National Security

Room for two? Hagel defines his role with Carter; In Egypt, U.S. influence waning and allies undermine interests, “Some is and some isn’t:” U.S.-China militaries agree to work together; Were the Chinese questions planted?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The new boss ain't the old boss: Hagel is quietly defining his role vis-a-vis his Deputy, Ash Carter, in the E-Ring. As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel settles into his job at the Pentagon, he and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, the man who was also considered in line for the top job, are figuring out who does what. As Hagel establishes his own bona fides as Secretary, he will seek to be more "hands on" than his predecessor, Leon Panetta. That means Carter, who had had a freer hand at the Pentagon under Panetta, will begin to see his role changed - though not diminished, senior defense officials say. Hagel will rely heavily on Carter's deep institutional knowledge of the building but at the same time seek to re-establish the Secretary's role as the one in charge.

Our story: "For Ash Carter, it was a commanding performance. With a view of the Rocky Mountains in the airy conference center of the Aspen Security Forum last month, the deputy secretary of defense astutely addressed some of the thorniest issues confronting the Pentagon: the budget, cyberwarfare and something the trained physicist knows well -- nuclear weapons. There was just one thing missing: Carter seemed to forget who he was. To some in the audience, it seemed like Carter, the Pentagon's Number Two, was talking as if he didn't know where exactly he was positioned on the Defense Department's org chart. And he never once mentioned his boss, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel -- the man with whom he had just competed for the job of Pentagon chief... Carter, said one senior defense official privately but who was reflecting the growing sentiment, needed to be more careful...

"Now Hagel has begun, gently, to recalibrate Carter's role to reflect the fact that Hagel is looking to be a more "hands-on" secretary. And while Hagel isn't limiting Carter's mission, he is in the middle of changing the dynamic in the E-Ring for his #2 to focus on the budget battles at home -- freeing Hagel up to manage the conflicts overseas. But Hagel must tread carefully. Carter is uniquely qualified in the deputy slot. And he has the president's backing.

A senior defense official: "There is a sense of major budgetary uncertainty, and that the deputy needs to be a hands-on manager. Ash Carter is not driving policy for the department... Hagel views that as his purview."

Hagel issued a statement to FP on Carter: "Hagel said that Carter is a ‘trusted, experienced and respected leader' and that he relies upon Carter to help him make decisions on national security, the well-being of the military, and on a number of internal matters. ‘The American people are fortunate to have him as one of their most senior public servants.'"

And: "Informed by the Pentagon of this story, a steady stream of senior military officers and defense officials provided Foreign Policy with unsolicited input about the value Carter brings to the Defense Department's leadership. The statements and calls came from luminaries of the security establishment such as former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, and former Congresswoman Jane Harman. All of them expressed their extremely, deeply, profoundly positive views about this ‘most talented' (Panetta) ‘universally respected' (Dempsey) man with an ‘intellect, leadership, and ability to get things done' (Harman). Another was Winnefeld, who volunteered his analysis of the different leadership styles of Panetta and Hagel -- and how Carter figured into both. ‘Panetta's style was that of big Italian family... Hagel's style is that of an independent Midwesterner,' Winnefeld wrote in an e-mail. For both men, Carter has been ‘an extremely good partner, incredibly hard working, collegial, inclusive and stunningly effective.'"

Read the rest here.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us and we'll stick you on. If you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. Follow us @glubold.

American allies are undercutting the U.S. over Egypt. The WSJ's Adam Entous, Charles Levinson and Ellen Knickmeyer: "The U.S.'s closest Middle East allies are undercutting American policy in Egypt, encouraging the military to confront the Muslim Brotherhood rather than reconcile, U.S. and Arab officials said. The parallel efforts by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have blunted U.S. influence with Egypt's military leadership and underscored how the chaos there has pulled Israel into ever-closer alignment with those Gulf states, officials said. A senior Israeli official called the anti-Muslim Brotherhood nations 'the axis of reason.'" Read the rest here.

Strange bedfellows: AIPAC and Egypt. The Cable's John Hudson: "As pressure mounts on Washington to cut off U.S. military aid to Egypt, Cairo has found an awkward ally in the form of AIPAC, the influential pro-Israel lobby firm that is actively pushing for continued U.S. aid to Egypt. Long considered an incentive for Cairo to maintain peaceful ties with Israel, America's $1.3 billion package in annual U.S. military assistance to Egypt has come under global criticism as Egypt's military continues its bloody crackdown against anti-government protesters with U.S.-funded tanks and tear gas.  AIPAC, which was credited with helping kill an amendment to cut Egyptian aid in July, is now operating behind the scenes in private meetings with lawmakers to keep alive Cairo's funding, congressional aides from both political parties said.  A Congressional aide to Hudson: "They made and continue to make their views known on this issue... But on an issue like aid to an Arab country, my experience with They feel strongly about keeping the aid flowing." Read the rest here.

Hagel, on American influence in Egypt, during the Pentagon presser yesterday: "Our ability to influence the outcome in Egypt is limited.  It's up to the Egyptian people.  And they are a large, great, sovereign nation.  And it will be their responsibility to sort -- to sort this out.  All nations are limited in their influence in another nation's internal issues.  I don't think the United States is without influence, but that has to be a collaborative effort focused on what the Egyptian people want, supporting the Egyptian people."

Former WH-er  Steven Simon, writing in the NYT under the headline, "America Has no Leverage in Egypt:" "Egypt has entered a dark tunnel, and it is difficult to say when, and in what condition, it will emerge. Many Americans, in the meantime, are outraged that the Obama administration has not exerted its supposed leverage, in the form of military aid, to pressure the Egyptian army to restore a democratic form of government. But it is time for some realism about that leverage. A yearly sum of $1.3 billion may seem persuasive, but this money has always been intended to secure foreign policy outcomes, not domestic political arrangements that the United States favors. (The State Department has announced that it will put "on hold" $250 million in civilian economic aid to Egypt; the annual military aid expenditure will remain untouched.) Simon's piece, here.

NYT Editorial Board today: False choices on Egypt. "A surprising number of world leaders and foreign policy experts have effectively acquiesced in the continued brutality of Egypt's generals, arguing that support for the military is the only way to restore stability in the Arab world's most populous state and limit wider regional turmoil. But this is just one of several false choices misinforming the debate and one that is certain to ensure more unrest, not less..." Read the rest here.

The U.S. and Chinese militaries agreed to work together. Hagel and Chinese Defense Chief Gen. Chang Wanquan met yesterday for a number of meetings about U.S.-Chinese mil-to-mil relations. They talked cybersecurity, domain issues and the Asian pivot. They agreed to a series of new engagements between both militaries, a cyber working group and Hagel was invited to visit China next year.

"The U.S. officials said they were heartened by their Chinese counterparts' openness toward concrete steps to improve cooperation between the two countries, including exchanges between the two defense departments' planning staffs, as well as increased cooperation on humanitarian and counter-piracy exercises," wrote the WSJ's Julian Barnes.

At the Pentagon presser after it was re-scheduled from 10:45 until noon, and then beginning at 12:30, Wanquan, on the Pivot: "It's always the Chinese position to welcome the U.S. to play a constructive role in the Asia Pacific.  And we also noted the U.S. statement many times, that the U.S. rebalancing strategy is a comprehensive one, incorporating areas such as economics and social and also including military. It is also worth to be noted that certain Asia Pacific nations have noted that the military aspect has been highlighted in this comprehensive strategy, including to strengthen the military deployment in the region, enhancing the U.S. alignments in this region by conducting military cooperations and military -- joint military exercises. We also noticed that the frequency and intensity of such kind of joint military exercises are increasing upon the recent time.  From certain degree, this kind of intensified military activities further complicated the situation in the region. China is a peace-loving nation.  And we hope that this strategy does not target a specific country in the region."

Wanquan's Five Points for the new, working model between the two countries, based on President Xi's summary of no confrontation, no antagonism and mutual respect "towards win-win cooperation."

Wanquan: "Firstly, it is a relationship in which both sides respect the other side.  It is not a relationship dominated by either side alone...Secondly, it is a relationship of cooperation and win-win... Thirdly, it's a relationship of mutual trust...Fourthly, it is a relationship featuring exchanges and cooperation in many areas...Finally, it is a relationship of openness and inclusiveness."

Fave line from Wanquan: "We believe as a new model of military relationship in accordance with the new model of bilateral relations, there are some is and some isn't in this concept."

But were the questions from the Chinese side planted? Unclear. But in the press room yesterday, each time Wanquan spoke, appearing to read his own answers from a briefing book, one of the two translators essentially read the same statement from beside the podiums, suggesting the answers to the questions asked, at least by the Chinese side, had been thoroughly prepared in advance. When Hagel spoke, on the other hand, the translator scribbled notes the entire time, as Hagel was clearly speaking extemporaneously.  

 

 

Situation Report

Hagel and China today; Mubarak to be released?; It was us the whole time! CIA admits to Iranian coup; Meet the Marine major taking on Corps leadership; Why there is so much fog over sarin in Syria; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Germany's Bild: al-Qaida plotting attacks on Europe's high-speed rail network. AFP:"The extremist group could plant explosives on trains and tunnels or sabotage tracks and electrical cabling, said Bild, Europe's most widely read daily. Bild said the information came from the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States, which had listened in to a conference call involving top Al-Qaeda operatives.

The attacks on Europe's rail network was a "central topic" of this call, Bild said. Authorities in Germany have responded to the threat with discrete measures such as deploying plain-clothed police officers at key stations and on main routes, according to the daily."

 

Hagel hosts the Chinese defense minister today. Gen. Chang Wanquan's visit to the Pentagon this morning is the first such visit between he and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. While it might be overshawdowned slightly by the deepening crisis in Egypt, there will be a number of high-profile issues discussed, including missile defense and cyber security, and Hagel will have to articulate the intentions behind the administration's pivot to Asia. The defense minister was expected to arrive at the Pentagon's River Entrance this morning at 9 a.m.; there will be a joint presser at 10:45. Watch it live here.

The AP's Bob Burns: "Among the positive signs cited by U.S. officials are U.S.-China naval cooperation in anti-piracy exercises and China's acceptance of a U.S. invitation to participate in next year's Rim of the Pacific military exercise, the region's largest naval exercise. Hagel has accepted China's invitation to visit Beijing next year. Defense officials attribute the current upswing in U.S.-China military relations in part to the U.S. and Chinese presidents' summit in California in June, which was an attempt to set a positive tone despite Washington's growing anxiety about Chinese cybertheft. Chinese officials have dubbed the summit a new starting point for relations." Read the rest of the AP story here.

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us and we'll stick you on. If you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. Follow us @glubold.

Will Mubarak be released? The NYT: "The judicial authorities in Egypt have ordered the release of former President Hosni Mubarak, who has been detained on a variety of charges since his ouster in 2011, according to state media and security officials on Monday. It remained possible, however, that the authorities would find other ways to keep him in detention and his release did not appear imminent."

Egypt and the U.S. are on a "collision course." WSJ: Egypt's military-led government said it was "reviewing" its strategic relationships with the U.S. and other Western governments critical of its crackdown on Islamists, deepening the divide between the Obama administration and Cairo.Amid expectations of more violence in coming days, the death toll rose on Sunday as dozens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed in Cairo in what the government described as a prison-break attempt. The Islamist movement's leaders called for continued defiance against Egypt's generals, despite signs that their supporters were becoming limited in their ability to take to the streets."Full story here.

John McCain on American influence in the Arab world, on CNN yesterday: "We have no credibility. We do have influence, but when you don't use that influence, then you do not have that influence."

Congress split on aid to Egypt. "Democratic leaders have generally supported the president's approach. But on Sunday, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said he would end aid to Egypt. Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress and is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. ‘I would cut off aid but engage in intense diplomacy in Egypt and in the region to try to say, look, we will restore aid when you stop the bloodshed in the street and set up a path towards democracy that you were on before,' Ellison said. ‘In my mind, there's no way to say that this was not a coup. It is. We should say so. And then follow our own law, which says we cannot fund the coup leaders.'" AP, here.

Rosa Brooks on all the ways in which the U.S. has "lost the moral high ground" when it comes to Egypt. Brooks writing on FP: "There was our initial namby-pamby response to the popular uprising against Hosni Mubarak in early 2011: We made vague noises about the virtues of democracy, but we dithered over calling for Mubarak to step down, because we're Dictators R Us -- Mubarak might have been a bastard, but he was our bastard. After Mubarak's ouster, we continued to sit on our hands as Egypt's interim military government grew ever more repressive in the run-up to elections. When the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsy won the presidency in the summer of 2012 and began rapidly consolidating power, we remained dithery, coupling the occasional pious call for increased political freedom with expressions of faint support for the entirely unlovable Morsy and faint distaste for the burgeoning secular protest movement."

Everyone knows chemical weapons are being used in Syria. But "as long as they keep body count low, we won't do anything." That's an American intelligence officer tells FP's Noah Shachtman and Colum Lynch. One possible reason why: the Syrian regime has been clever at disguising its chemical attacks. "U.S. analysts speculate that Assad's military has been using an atypical mix of chemical arms, so-called 'riot control agents,' and conventional munitions on the battlefield. In December, one former chemist for the Syrian regime told Al Jazeera that this blending of weapons was done, in part, to create a confusing blend of symptoms -- and mask their source. "Traditionally, militaries launch chemical attacks separately from ordinary ones. Not so in Syria. In a single bombing run near Aleppo last May, for instance, U.S. intelligence believes that a single Syrian warplane dropped bombs loaded with tear gas, sarin, and conventional explosives. "'When we first started hearing about this, we didn't understand. Why one sarin bomb in the middle of a major bombardment?' asks one U.S. intelligence official. 'We think it's strange, but whatever the Syrians have been doing, it's been very effective,' the official adds. After all, the government appears, for now, to be winning the war." Read it here.

Sixty years ago today, the U.S. and U.K. backed a coup in Iran -- a move that has "haunted its orchestrators" for years. Now, finally, the CIA admits its role, writes Malcolm Byrne, on FP. "Published here today... is a brief excerpt from The Battle for Iran, an internal report prepared in the mid-1970s by an in-house CIA historian.... this new version formally make[s] public, for the first time that we know of, the fact of the agency's participation: ‘[T]he military coup that overthrew Mosadeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy,' the history reads. "Why the CIA finally chose to own up to its role is as unclear as some of the reasons it has held onto this information for so long... But U.S. government classifiers, especially in the intelligence community, often have a different view on these matters. They worry that disclosing 'sources and methods' -- even for operations decades in the past and involving age-old methods like propaganda -- might help an adversary. They insist there is a world of difference between what becomes publicly known unofficially (through leaks, for example) and what the government formally acknowledges. (Somehow those presidential admissions of American involvement seem not to have counted.)." Read the rest here.

Meet the Marine major who is standing up to the Corps' top generals. Marine Corps Times is out with a 4,000-word cover story today on the man who is taking the Corps leadership to task. Maj. James Weirick raised concerns with the Pentagon's Inspector General over the case of the Marines accused of urinating on the bodies of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan in July 2011. The story helps to provide a better understanding of the concerns the Marine major has with against top officers over their handling of the Marine scout sniper case, even if Marine officials dispute some of the conclusions drawn from Marine Corps Times reporting of the story. MCT's Dan Lamothe: "[Weirick] had seen enough. In March, after months of observing how the Marine Corps was prosecuting eight Marines implicated in war-zone controversy, he sent a six-page complaint to the Pentagon's investigative agency alleging a variety of malfeasance by the service's top general and his senior advisers. The major, a staff judge advocate in Quantico, Va., assigned to the cases, urged the Defense Department inspector general to investigate how the Corps was handling its cases stemming from a video showing four scout snipers urinating on dead insurgents in Afghanistan. He alleges Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, or others working on his behalf, sought to ensure harsh punishment for the Marines facing charges and suppress evidence. Weircik, in a statement, about the Marines accused of urinating on the bodies of Taliban fighters:  "I can say that Marines are expected to act in a manner befitting the title we have earned, which includes acting in an ethical manner at all times... These Marines, despite what they were accused of, fought and nearly died in defense of the Constitution. I could not allow these Marines to be deprived of rights they are guaranteed by the document they swore to defend." Read the rest here.