National Security

Did the French scuttle the deal? Kerry says no, Western diplos say yes; What do you say to a vet?; The Navy suspends clearances for two intel guys; Tom Cruise didn’t compare his hardships to those deployed to Afg after all; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The French signed off on the proposed deal with Iran, Kerry insists. "The French signed off on it, we signed off on it," Kerry told the AP, adding: "There was unity but Iran couldn't take it."

But Western diplomats tell a different story to FP's Colum Lynch and Yochi Dreazen: "Western and Iranian negotiators were putting the finishing touches on a far-reaching nuclear deal. Then, at virtually the last minute, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius joined in the talks. It didn't take long for the negotiations to unravel -- and for Fabius to publicly declare this round of the talks to be over. It wasn't the answer U.S., European or Iranian teams had been expecting. One Western official said Paris hadn't been particularly involved in the painstaking negotiations that had taken place in the run-up to this weekend's talks in Geneva. ‘The French were barely involved in this,' one Western diplomat said. ‘They didn't get looped in until a few days ago.' Yet the French response shouldn't have been a total surprise. The socialist government of French President François Hollande has adopted a muscular foreign policy that has put it to the right of the Obama administration on Libya, Mali, Syria and now Iran. Along the way, it has also become Israel's primary European ally and -- after the U.S. -- arguably its closest friend in the world." More here.

The Iranian deputy industry minister - shot dead. Reuters: "An unidentified attacker shot dead an Iranian deputy minister of industry in Tehran on Sunday, the state news agency IRNA reported, in what appeared the first reported killing of a senior central government official in years. Safdar Rahmat Abadi was shot in the head and chest as he got into his car in the east of the capital, IRNA said, quoting witnesses as saying the attack occurred at about 7:50 p.m. ‘Investigations show that two shots were fired from inside the vehicle,' the agency quoted a police official as saying." More here.

Earlier this fall, an alleged Iranian cyber commander was killed earlier; from The Telegraph, Oct. 2: "Mojtaba Ahmadi, who served as commander of the Cyber War Headquarters, was found dead in a wooded area near the town of Karaj, north-west of the capital, Tehran. Five Iranian nuclear scientists and the head of the country's ballistic missile programme have been killed since 2007. The regime has accused Israel's external intelligence agency, the Mossad, of carrying out these assassinations."

Welcome to Monday's Veterans Day edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up for Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend. Register free for Situation Report and other FP products here.

As always, if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold on the Tweeter machine.

Not sure what to say to a veteran today or any day? "You're welcome." Army veteran Chris Marvin explains in this WaPo op-ed:

"...Many civilians may genuinely wish to have played a larger role in America's recent conflicts - if only from the home front. In lieu of participation, they offer thanks. Society has normalized this practice, with the result that some Americans consider uttering thanks to be a fulfillment of their patriotic duties... This Veterans Day, on behalf of my fellow Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, I say to the country: There's no need to thank us. You're welcome for our service. But take a minute to talk with us. Ask us where we served, learn about what we did in the military and find out what's next in our lives." Marvin founded Got Your 6, described as a campaign to bridge the civilian military divide. Click for that here.

Chuck Hagel today, along with top DOD officials and POTUS and others will attend the 60th Annual National Veterans Day Observance ceremony at 11 am. at Arlington.

Transitions: This broke veteran is doing just fine, a former Marine writes. Ethan Rocke, writing on Business Insider: "After marking the second anniversary of my exit from military service a couple weeks ago, a Marine buddy asked me to write a short essay about successfully transitioning to civilian life. I was a bit surprised by the request because I don't exactly fit the American ideal of success, at least not by the most common measurement - personal wealth." More here.

Take a moment to say "whoa": At 107, Richard Overton is believed to be the oldest living veteran. The Houston Chronicle's Kolten Parker: "Richard Overton, believed to be the oldest living United States veteran at 107, accepted a box of cigars and a standing ovation Thursday with a humble demeanor and a beaming smile. More than 100 people packed a conference room at the Stephen F. Austin building in downtown Austin to attend a pre-Veterans Day ceremony in Austin honoring Overton and Ken Wallingford, who spent 10 months in a tiger cage as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. "I've gotten so many letters and so many thank yous and I enjoy every bit of it, but I'm still going to enjoy some more," said Overton, who is planning a visit with President Barack Obama [this] week in Washington, D.C." More here. Click bait: Watch Homeless veteran Jim Wolf, who served in the Army, be transformed from down and out street guy to looking like a CEO, here.

Boots to Business: How vets are getting trained up, as they say, to work in business: a program that includes MGM in Vegas has hired 40 vets so far. From the Review-Journal's Richard Lake: "...[Brian Tierney] joined the Reserves to get some income. He got married. Had another son and named him after the man who had been his mentor in the Marines and died after stepping on a land mine. He moved his family to California for more military training. Had a daughter. He did some coaching and some charity work, which is where everything changed. He went to MGM Springfield, a planned, $800 million resort and casino in Massachusetts, looking for a donation. He got to talking to the people there. His status as a war veteran came up. Someone mentioned a new program the company had just started, Boots to Business. MGM executive Michelle DiTondo started the program last year. She is, in effect, in charge of the company's 62,000 employees, including the 50,000 in Las Vegas. She is the company's vice president for human resources." More here.

How transition for veterans is helping the nursing shortage. Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg: "...So this Veterans Day, Arvizu, 38, is winding up his career with a Florida National Guard unit and getting ready to embark on a transition that's a sign of the times: Starting in January he will leave his day job and use the post-9/11 G.I. Bill to plunge into a new program at Florida International University - with a study plan to become a registered nurse in just one year. The program seeks to tap the talent that has come home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and help likely mostly male, battle-tested medics fine-tune their skills for civilian life. And help stem the national nursing shortage, too." Read the rest here.

Friday night dump: The Navy just benched two intel admirals over the corruption scandal that is rocking the service. FP's Dan Lamothe with a minor assist from Situation Report: "The U.S. Navy's widening scandal involving prostitutes, cash bribes and the fat-cat defense contractor who allegedly supplied them for sensitive military information just expanded to colossal proportions. The Navy announced Friday night that it has suspended access to classified information for two senior intelligence officers, effectively relieving them from duty. It's all part of the ongoing investigation into global defense Glenn Defense Marine Asia. And the Pentagon is warning that more officers are likely to be implicated in this scandal, the Navy's biggest in decades. Vice Adm. Ted Branch, pictured above, and Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless -- the service's director of naval intelligence and director of intelligence operations, respectively -- have not been charged with any crimes. But the suspension ‘was deemed prudent given the sensitive nature [of] their current duties and to protect and support the integrity of the investigative process,' said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Navy's top spokesman, in a statement." More here.

60 Minutes apologized for its Benghazi story last night. But the HuffPo's Michael Calderone says CBS should stop saying its sorry and start explaining - what happened. Calderone: "...Still, Sunday's brief acknowledgment didn't resemble a news program seriously trying to get to the bottom of how it got duped. Logan didn't address during the show how Davies came to be a source for "60 Minutes," the vetting process of his account, whether the FBI was contacted during the original reporting or after doubts were raised, and the connection between the television booking on Oct. 27 and publication by a CBS subsidiary on Oct. 29." More here.

Is this from the Department of Conspiracy Theories? We're not yet sure. But... Rolling Stone's Mike Hastings (of Stan McChrystal fame) wasn't killed - was he? New York magazine has this big piece on the question, here.

Does Tom Cruise think being a movie star is as tough if not tougher than serving in Afghanistan? Actually, no. The Atlantic Wire: "...TMZ first accused Cruise of comparing filming a movie to a tour in Afghanistan on Saturday. The quotes came from legal documents related to a $50 million libel suit against a publishing company over accusations Cruise abandoned his daughter Suri after his divorce from Katie Holmes. ‘That's what it feels like,' Cruise said, referring to the Afghanistan comparison. ‘And certainly on this last movie, it was brutal. It was brutal.' But we now know the truth behind this ridiculous rumor thanks to CNN's Jake Tapper. The accusations originate from a deposition in the libel suit." What Cruise really said in the exchange during the deposition:  "Now your counsel has publicly equated your absence from Suri for these extended periods of time as being analogous to someone fighting in Afghanistan," opposing counsel asks him. ‘Are you aware of that?' ‘I didn't hear the Afghanistan,' Cruise replies. ‘That's what it feels like and certainly on this last movie it was brutal. it was brutal.' ‘Do you believe that the situations are the same?' Cruise is asked. ‘Oh come on,' Cruise says, 'you know, we're making a movie.' More here.

 

 

 

National Security

FP’s Situation Report: Hagel backs Alexander, supports a debate; Mil housing allowance, on the table; A secret briefing for members; Another IG complaint against Amos; Honoring Robert Kelly in Section 60; and a bit more.

 

By Gordon Lubold

The White House and Secretary of State John Kerry may be keeping their distance from the embattled Director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander. But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, under whom the NSA resides, is standing by him, even as Hagel takes part in high-level talks that could undermine Alexander's legacy.

"Gen. Alexander's just done a phenomenal job," Hagel said in an interview with Situation Report in his E-Ring office. "He is one individual who is capable of doing that job the way he did it at a very difficult time, and he deserves great credit."

Hagel was referring, in part, to the unique way Alexander has done the job. The general serves as both the director of the NSA -- the government's largest intelligence agency -- and the head of U.S. Cyber Command, overseeing all the armed forces' computer defense and warfare units. Alexander is the first NSA chief to serve in that "dual-hatted" manner. But administration officials are reconsidering whether one person should have both jobs, prompted by concerns that Alexander has amassed too much power over both military and intelligence operations. Read the rest of our story, with a heavy assist from Shane Harris, here.

Really? As many as 25 NSA contractors, co-workers to Edward Snowden, may have unwittingly provided their passwords and log-in credentials to Snowden, allowing him access to volumes of data.

Reuters' Mark Hosenball and Warren Strobel: "...A handful of agency employees who gave their login details to Snowden were identified, questioned and removed from their assignments, said a source close to several U.S. government investigations into the damage caused by the leaks... Snowden may have persuaded... [them] to give him their logins and passwords by telling them they were needed for him to do his job as a computer systems administrator, a second source said." More here.

Jane Harman, writes in the WaPo today on Snowden. Her BLUF: "Technology confers awesome power on those who can harness it for good or bad. Fashioning smart policies that protect security and liberty is the way forward. We live in a ‘post-Snowden' age. Although his deeds were despicable, this public debate could yield real dividends." More here.

Red Herring Alert: Rosa Brooks on how the NSA debate isn't about privacy, it's about something else entirely, on FP, here.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up for Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. And if you like this whole thing, tell a friend. Register free for Situation Report and other FP products here. And as always, if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold on the Tweeter machine.

Hagel to Bahrain for the Manama Dialogue.  Hagel will travel to Bahrain to attend the conference of security ministers from Gulf states, in Manama, Dec. 6-7, Situation Report is told. It will be the first time a Defense Secretary will travel to the conference since the Arab Spring and since Bob Gates last attended it when he was in office.

Also First in Situation Report: House members will attend a classified briefing next Thursday Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. titled "Defense Cut Impacts on U.S. Military's Readiness to Respond to Global Events," an event hosted by Reps. Rob Wittman and Madeleine Bordallo, chair and ranking member of the HASC's Readiness Subcomm. Members will be briefed by Laura Junor, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Readiness and a briefer from the Pentagon's Joint Staff. From the House Armed Services Committee statement: "The briefing will focus on the current state of readiness... and the challenges presented by sequestration.  Briefers will also be prepared to discuss recent trends in service and unit-level readiness, prioritization of mission requirements, and levels of assumed risk within major war plans as a result of recent defense cuts."

The West and Iran close to a deal over nukes today, Michael Gordon in the NYT, here.

The Treasury Department is waging a war on Iran. FP's Yochi Dreazen: "...The daisy chain of punitive measures, diagrammed on an unclassified PowerPoint presentation, highlight a rarely-discussed aspect of Washington's decade-long assault on the Iranian economy. The Treasury Department has gone after dozens of state-owned enterprises like the Iranian central bank, but it hasn't stopped there. Treasury analysts have also spent years painstakingly identifying Iranian front companies around the world, from construction firms to insurance companies, and then lashing each of them with sanctions. The measures have robbed Tehran of billions of dollars of much-needed cash." More here.

Just one more site to check in Syria, Alan Cowell and Rick Gladstone in the NYT, here.

Pakistan Taliban picks a hardliner to replace Mehsud, BBC, here.

U.S. Navy moles helped Malaysian businessman bilk service, Craig Whitlock in the WaPo, here.

As VA backlog drops, Shinseki uses overtime sparingly, Steve Vogel in the WaPo, here.  

Army Undersec Joe Westphal picked as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ellen Knickmeyer in the WSJ, here.

As Republicans back Pentagon budget cuts, Dems lose their bargaining chip, Patrick O'Connor in the WSJ, here.

The beginning of the end of an era? A fundamental benefit for the military - housing allowance - gets a look. WSJ's Dawn Wotapka: "A housing allowance that military families receive could be targeted for cuts unless automatic spending reductions scheduled for coming years are rolled back. The automatic cuts, known as the sequester... has sparked concerns from military families that the basic allowance for housing could be among the many items that see a reduction. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in comments made over the summer, raised the possibility of ‘changing how the basic allowance for housing is calculated, so that individuals are asked to pay a little more of their own housing costs.' The Department of Defense declined to comment or elaborate." More here.

The Pentagon managed the first year of automatic budget cuts with a "short-term response" that may cost it more later, the GAO said. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio, who broke the story: "The Pentagon ‘was able to protect or minimize disruptions in certain key areas, such as maintaining support for ongoing operations and adhering to plans for major weapons systems acquisitions,' the watchdog agency said in a report released tonight on how Defense Department officials finessed, at least initially, their own worst-case scenarios on the cuts known as sequestration." More here.

At the Defense Intelligence Agency yesterday, four were inducted into the Patriots Memorial. DIA added four new names to the Memorial, which honors DIA employees who have died in service and commemorates their sacrifice on behalf of DIA. Four recognized: Sgt. Sherwood Baker, of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, Sgt. Don Clary of the Kansas ARNG, Sgt. Lawrence Roukey, of the U.S. Army Reserve and Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wisdom of the Kansas ARNG. Baker and Roukey were killed in April 2004 as members of an Iraq Survey Group mobile collection team; Clary and Wisdom were killed in November 2004 in Baghdad while serving as personal security detail that included the head of the ISG as well as several analysts from DIA. Three other DIA employees were honored with awards yesterday: Helen Allgeyer, Robert DeGross and Bruce Rossing. DIA's Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, at the ceremony, on the four: "...And I believe, what we see in those being recognized today, as well as those previously recognized [on the Patriots Memorial], is a common quality demonstrated in uncommon ways...and what each of these individuals stated so elegantly by their personal actions is that what counts most in life is what we do for others." More in the DIA story here.

Every Nov. 9, Marines, friends and families of Marines walk through Section 60 of Arlington and place flags to commemorate the fallen and celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday on Nov. 10. The group will also honor Robert Kelly, the son of Lt. Gen. John Kelly of Southern Command. The younger Kelly was killed Nov. 9, 2010 in Helmand Province in Afghanistan and is buried in Section 60.

John Kuehn guest writes on Ricks' Best Defense on the professional military education legacy of Ike Skelton, who passed away last week. "... In politics he had two overriding passions, the national security of the United States and the reform of the systems in place to provide for that security. It is the second passion I wish to address because Ike did not intend for his desires and passions vis-à-vis national security reform to diminish with his passing. But I and many others out there -- those who knew how fierce Ike was about implementing and protecting the reforms he helped legislate into law -- are concerned that with Ike gone, there is no similar politician in Washington ready to step up and continue the ‘good fight.' I hope I am wrong." More here.

Lindsey Graham - still holding. FP's John Hudson: "Last month, Senator Lindsey Graham vowed to block the confirmation of every Obama administration appointee because the administration was preventing Benghazi survivors from testifying before Congress. Now, three Benghazi witnesses are set to testify for the first time. Their lawyer says the administration never discouraged their testimony, but Graham's office says the holds aren't going anywhere. ‘Still have holds in place,' Graham's spokesman Kevin Bishop said. It's unclear what further actions might change Graham's calculus on the holds, but the South Carolina Republican maintains that the administration has prevented Benghazi witnesses from testifying before Congress, and until that changes, he'll continue to block the confirmation of top U.S. officials." More here.

A new IG complaint adds to Jim Amos' woes. FP's Dan Lamothe: "It has been a long year for Gen. James Amos, the top officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. In addition to facing massive budget cuts and an unpopular drawdown in forces, his service has been rocked by allegations that he and other senior members of his staff deliberately sought to wrongfully influence the disciplining of eight Marines implicated in an embarrassing war-zone video that showed scout snipers urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan."

The allegations just got worse. "A new complaint filed with the Pentagon's inspector general Tuesday accuses the commandant of an ‘unlawful act of reprisal' against a fellow top officer. The complaint, filed by the lawyer for one of the implicated Marines implicated, Capt. James Clement, accuses the commandant of instructing colonels and lower-ranking generals in the Corps to ‘push back' against the expert testimony of one of the expert witnesses in Clement's case. The witness isn't named, but the lawyer, John Dowd, confirmed for Foreign Policy that it is Gen. John Kelly, another Marine four-star officer who runs U.S. Southern Command." More here.

Speaking of Inspector Generals - USA Today's Jim Michaels reports that the Pentagon's IG said the U.S. command in Afghanistan has not adequately tracked nominations for medals and awards. Michaels: "The inspector general's office announced the finding in a letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who had raised concerns about delays in awarding former Army Capt. William Swenson the Medal of Honor. Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest decoration for valor, for heroism during a battle in 2009 in Afghanistan. He received the medal at the White House last month." More of the USA Today story, here. The letter the IG sent to Hunter provided to Situation Report, here.

Lattes, vets, spouses and jobs: Bob Gates helps Starbucks to announce a new jobs initiative. The company is building a "pipeline of talent" that is focused on vets and active duty spouses to support at least 10,000 hires in five years, Starbucks announced earlier this week. The company will open five "community stores" over the next five years in U.S. joint base locations to help fund local non-profit programs that support vets re-entering the workforce. That was announced Nov. 6, but what we didn't realize is the Gates' tie-in. Bob Gates, in a statement through Starbucks: "One of the most significant challenges our veterans face is a corporation's inability to understand and translate the skills of military service into a meaningful private sector role...Veterans and military spouses represent one of the most underutilized talent pools in our country and, without the proper career path, will continue to go untapped. Companies like Starbucks recognize this opportunity and are moving swiftly and aggressively to match the jobs they will create in the future with the talent returning to America over the next several years." Most important for vets, active duty mil and spouses on Veterans Day: A free tall brewed coffee at Starbucks.