National Security

FP's Situation Report: Congress funds Iron Dome big time; Amos steps into the breach; In Vienna, progress but still work to be done; A legendary Marine major, outted; No-fly for the F-35; and a bit more.


Congress ups Israel's Iron Dome funding. Iron Dome, the anti-missile system that is seen as so successful at preventing Hamas' rocket attacks from being effective that it is credited, in part, for having kept Israeli troops from mounting a ground invasion of Gaza, is getting major new funding from Congress. The infusion of cash will radically bolster the program even if can't guarantee peace in the region - even in the short term. FP's Kate Brannen: "...The additional money for Iron Dome cleared one of its final hurdles Tuesday, when a key Senate appropriations subcommittee unanimously voted to double the Pentagon's $175 million request for fiscal year 2015. The full committee will consider the defense appropriations bill on Thursday. Meanwhile, three other panels have already signed off on the funding expansion, making it all but certain the additional money will be provided. Iron Dome has received $720 million in American funding since 2011, when the United States became directly involved in the program."

"...Israel is reporting that Iron Dome has had a 90 percent success rate, though it has only been used against 27 percent of the Hamas rockets. Because of the high cost of each interceptor -- which the Washington Post pegs at roughly $20,000 a piece -- Israel only uses the system when its radars indicate that a rocket seems likely to hit a populated area. The Hamas rockets are thought to cost less than $800 each.

"The system isn't perfect -- on Tuesday, a rocket attack caused the first Israeli death since the eight-day military confrontation began -- but it has kept Tel Aviv and other major cities from being hit by Hamas. Israeli airstrikes on targets in Gaza, by contrast, have killed close to 200 Palestinians." More here.

And despite Iron Dome's success, Israel is pondering if a ground invasion is now necessary. Reuters' Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams this hour: "Israel urged the evacuation on Wednesday of several Gaza Strip areas where more than 100,000 people live, threatening ground operations after briefly holding fire under an Egyptian truce proposal that failed to stop Palestinian rocket salvoes. Authorised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet to escalate an eight-day-old offensive, the military said it had sent out evacuation warnings in northeastern Gaza." More here.

The International Crisis Group urges Israel to break the violent impasse by changing its policy toward Hamas in a new report. Israel must recognize how much its own stability depends on the stability of Gaza, the new report argues. The report assesses that a return to the "destructive status quo" is the most likely outcome in Gaza.  But, there is an opportunity to pursue a more sustainable cessation of violence.  The report recommends that Israel allow the reconciliation agreement signed in April by Hamas and the PLO a chance to work.  The argument goes that if reconciliation is implemented, it offers the best chance of alleviating Gaza's misery and therefore reducing Hamas's incentives to fight.

Ofer Zalzberg, Senior Analyst for Israel/Palestine, told Situation Report's Sobel yesterday: "The report frames the structural reasons that led to the fighting: even before the kidnappings, the stage had been set by Hamas's inability to pay salaries and the water, energy and sanitation crisis in the Gaza Strip.  Within this context, quiet-for-quiet cannot work since Hamas will continue to pry open Gaza.  Merely ending violence is insufficient for lasting calm."

Nathan Thrall, Middle East Senior Analyst, added: "The biggest challenge in resolving this crisis is that there is no mediator both Israel and Hamas feel they can trust. The souring of relations between Egypt and Hamas since Sisi took power in July 2013 is the root cause of Hamas's isolation and Gaza's dire economic predicament. Egypt doesn't want to give concessions to Hamas in order to stop the fighting, and Hamas doesn't trust that any commitments Egypt makes will be honored."

Hamas' rejection of the cease-fire deal was a foregone conclusion. Ha'aretz's Amira Hass, here.

Why Israel is winning this war. CFR's Elliott Abrams for the Weekly Standard, here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to be one of our subscribers, we'd love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by sending us a note at and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, you, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

As the Pentagon ponders an assessment of Iraqi security forces that now sits on the desks of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, there is some progress on the political front in Baghdad, even if the heavy lift that still needs to occur has yet to begin.

Iraq's parliament broke two weeks of political deadlock, electing a speaker, and taking a major first step toward forming a new government. Still on the to-do list? Find a new prime minister. The WaPo's Abigail Hoslohner: "...The election of a new speaker appeared to bring Iraq one step closer to forming a government led by someone other than Nouri al-Maliki, the controversial prime minister. Widespread opposition to Maliki, a Shiite Arab, among Iraq's Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities, as well as some Shiite lawmakers, has been the main reason for the deadlock. 'There is no chance for Maliki,' Jawad al-Jubouri, a spokesman for the Shiite al-Ahrar party, said Tuesday night. 'All of the political blocs and the [Shiite] religious authority are telling him to leave.'" More here.

Into the (political) breach: Outgoing Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos says that the chaos in Iraq shows the costs of withdrawal. FP's Kate Brannen: "Stepping into an intensifying political debate, the head of the Marine Corps said the United States doesn't have the luxury of isolationism and said Iraq's deterioration may have been prevented if Washington had maintained a larger U.S. presence there. The comments from Gen. James Amos, the outgoing commandant of the Marine Corps., come amid sharp divides over who bears responsibility for the takeover of much of Iraq by Islamist militants and whether the United States should pull back from its leadership role on the world stage." More here.

The WaPo's summer intern just outted Marine Maj. Doug Zembiec, killed in Iraq in 2007, who was really working for the CIA at the time. Read that Page Oner by former Marine-turned-journo Thomas Gibbons-Neff, here.

And, in Afghanistan: A huge bomb goes off in a marketplace, killing as many as 42 in Paktika province. The BBC this hour, here.

Meantime: so are there positive developments coming out of the nuclear talks in Vienna - or not? We suggested yesterday that what Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had agreed to in principle - to freeze its ability to produce nuclear fuel - was a positive sign in the nuclear talks even if the U.S. wasn't yet getting near what it wanted. Still, Zarif's public comments indicated there was some new traction. A scan of the headlines this morning suggest there are still differences between the U.S. and Iran - and over how today's stories frame the issue.

The WaPo's Anne Gearan: " The Obama administration is reassessing whether a nuclear deal with Iran is possible despite wide differences over key issues and may seek to postpone a deadline looming Sunday to either complete an agreement or walk away from the landmark effort." More here.

The WSJ's Laurence Norman's lede: "Nuclear talks between Iran and six powers were set to extend past the July 20 target date as Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif cited significant progress Tuesday, while saying much work remains." More here.

The NYT's Michael Gordon and David Sanger: "... Mr. Kerry said that 'very real gaps' remained, but his tone - and his acknowledgment that Iran had complied with all of its commitments under a temporary agreement that took effect in January - left little doubt he wanted to extend the talks by weeks or months."

"...American officials are concerned about several major elements of Mr. Zarif's proposal. While it would essentially freeze Iran's capacity to produce enriched uranium for several years, Iran would be free to keep up research and development of highly sophisticated centrifuges, and put them in place after the agreement would expire. Mr. Zarif wants a short agreement of three to seven years. The United States and its allies insist on limitations on Iran for at least a decade, preferably longer." More here.

A light bulb moment: The NYTs gets an idea to rethink the military from Foreign Policy. From the NYT's "Room for Debate": "An article in Foreign Policy magazine argued that if we 'were starting fresh,' today's United States armed forces would look very different. It's an interesting thought, so Room for Debate asked other experts: What would the U.S. military look like if we could start from scratch?" With input from John Nagl, Todd Harrison, Tom Donnelly, Caitlin Talmadge and Kori Schake, here.

Here is Foreign Policy's "Control-Alt-Delete" piece on "Resetting America's Military" by Shawn Brimley and Peter Scharre, with a series of engaging, charts, graphs and other nifty-isms, from last month, here.

The F-35 won't go to Farnborough. Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby, yesterday: "I can confirm that the Department of Defense in concert with our partners in the U.K. has decided not to send Marine Corps and U.K. F-35B aircraft across the Atlantic to participate in the Farnborough air show. This decision was reached after a consultation with senior leaders and airworthiness authorities, despite the decision by airworthiness authorities to clear the aircraft to return to flight -- to limited flight." Read the transcript here.

Who's Where When today - Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. go to Capitol Hill to provide testimony at a HASC hearing about the budget/overseas contingency operations.

Also today, the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) and Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE) will host an event on Capitol Hill, "Geopolitical Flashpoints in Oil Producing Countries: Implications for U.S. National and Energy Security." Reps. Gene Green (D-TX) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) will deliver remarks on energy security around the globe. They will be followed by a panel that includes Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and John Hannah, Former National Security Advisor to the Vice President. Steve Mufson of The Washington Post will moderate the discussion.

Does this story mean Hagel Chief of Staff Mark Lippert has a longer wait? Lippert, nominated to be the next top diplomat in Seoul, is awaiting confirmation, but there's no sign it's happening anytime soon. There's a NYT story today on the logjam of ambassador confirmations that focuses initially on U.S. ambassadors awaiting confirmation to African countries - just weeks before the big African summit in D.C. - but the issue applies to other ambassador noms, as well. Read the NYT's Andrew Siddons' piece here.

That bit is an excuse to put FP in re-run: here's our story from last week about how the White House might be bungling the historic African summit in early August. Read Lubold's story here.

Speaking of which, we got a note from a friend to Situation Report yesterday noting that Congress was holding a hearing today that is an example of how the U.S. sends the wrong signal to African countries: "Not to belabor a point, but one really can't make this stuff up! Two weeks before the start of the US-Africa Leaders Summit, instead of a hearing about trade with the continent, renewing the [African Growth and Opportunity Act], or other such, the House holds a hearing on the 'growing crisis of African orphans'"...

That 2 p.m. hearing today is the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations on orphans. Deets here.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's return to active duty raised a couple quick questions at yesterday's Pentagon presser - namely: are there any restrictions on him as the Army continues investigating the circumstances under which he disappeared from a combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan in 2009, leading to his capture by the Taliban?

Reporter question: "Are there any restrictions on his movements, given the ongoing investigation?

Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. Kirby: "No. I mean, he's an active-duty Army soldier. And just like any active-duty Army soldier, he's free to leave base. He's -- I mean, he's not under any particular restrictions. And I would remind you -- I mean, he's not been charged with anything."

Read the Onion's "Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Recaptured By Taliban After Wandering Off Texas Base," here.

Hackers, shooters, and storms threaten the U.S. power grid, a study says. FP's Shane Harris: "The United States' electrical grid is vulnerable to disruptive attacks by computer hackers that could shut off power to vital sectors of the economy and key public utilities, giving potential adversaries a new way of hitting the United States, according to a new study by a Washington think tank. The report by the nonpartisan Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill consider legislation that would beef up cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure like the power grid while also encouraging the government and private sector to share more information about cyberthreats and thwarted attacks. That legislation has been in the works for years but has been blocked by business interests that see mandatory security standards as an improper attempt by Washington to dictate how companies manage privately owned facilities in industries ranging from telecommunications to the financial and transportation sectors." More here.

On the WSJ op-ed page today, Patrick Cronin and Richard Fontaine argue in favor of a broader American security relationship with Vietnam, including arms sales, in light of growing Chinese assertiveness: "...How should the U.S. respond to China's coercive efforts in an effective and measured way? One answer lies in relations with Vietnam. Vietnam's capacity to resist creeping assertions of sovereignty is outmatched by Beijing's superior might. While Washington and Hanoi have taken modest steps to normalize military relations through joint exercises and strategic dialogue, the U.S. should take additional steps to bolster Vietnam's ability to defend itself. Most importantly, the U.S. should lift the existing ban on lethal arms sales to Vietnam." More here.

Also today, there's a big House hearing on Capitol Hill about the unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike program. Ahead of the hearing, Rep. Randy Forbes argues in National Interest that UCLASS and Naval projection go hand-in-hand: "...I believe the future air wing must comprise a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft that provide extended-range operations, persistence, stealth, payload, and electronic warfare. Central to this mix is the Navy's unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) system." More here.

Deets on the Subcomm hearing today at 2, here.

A Canadian killed in battle becomes a pitchman for Syrian jihadis. The NYT's Michael Schmidt: "Shortly after the video begins, a man in his 20s dressed in camouflage appears on screen and begins a recruitment speech. His pitch is fairly straightforward: Come join the fight - you don't need to be a radical to be a jihadi. He says he was just a normal teenager growing up in Canada, fishing and watching hockey, before he left it all for the battlefields of Syria... But while the young man in the video, Andre Poulin, cast himself as just a typical Canadian, the authorities there say he lived a far different life from the one he described.

"...The video is believed to be one of the first pieces of media in which the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - or ISIS, the group that controls large parts of both countries - used an English-speaking North American to try to lure others to fight on its side. It was distributed recently by a propaganda arm of ISIS, known for having one of the slickest and most aggressive media operations in the Islamic world, according to experts who track jihadist materials." More here.

Meanwhile, Libyan jihadists in Syria and Iraq returning home to fight Haftar. Al-Awsat's Abdul Sattar Hatita: "Libyan jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq are returning home to fight the breakaway militia led by Khalifa Haftar, who has recently emerged as a serious threat to the country's Islamists, security and military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. The revelation came after former Libyan officials expressed fears of an expected Islamist onslaught in a bid to take over the capital, Tripoli.

A security source said: "Islamists have decided to bring the Libyan jihadists they had sent to Syria and Iraq in order to control Tripoli on [Thursday], particularly after they lost in the parliamentary elections." More here.

Assad is settling in for a third term. He was sworn in just today. AP, here.

The West should worry about a campaign that makes an autocratic regime with revisionist intent more effective. Joseph Bosco for the Diplomat: "Clean, transparent government is a basic tenet of Western political liberalism, so we are naturally inclined to support government reform efforts elsewhere. But in the case of the People's Republic of China, should we be rooting for Xi Jinping's version of an anti-corruption campaign to succeed, or to fail, in its intended purposes? Or should we hope it succeeds spectacularly in ways not intended by Communist Party leaders, as glastnost and perestroika did under Mikhail Gorbachev? Xi's campaign is designed to accomplish multiple Party objectives, none of which necessarily serve Western interests in regional peace and stability." More here.





Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: A nuclear deal with Iran?; The F-35 flies once again; Why Hamas is being made stronger; Waldhauser hires Weirick; Hagel speechwriter Freedman gets hitched; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Ahead of the July 20 deadline, the Iranians outline a deal they could accept. There was one potentially bright sign this morning in a sea of foreign policy gloom. Iran has signaled that it would accept a deal to freeze its ability to produce nuclear fuel as long as it is treated like other countries with peaceful nuclear programs. The deal would not include everything the Americans want but it was a potential reversal of a narrative about the nuclear talks in Iran that could give some lift to the Obama administration when it needs some and also a sign that diplomacy can work - sometimes. The NYT's David Sanger from Vienna: "...The proposal, which Iran said was conveyed to the United States and five other world powers during closed-door negotiating sessions in Vienna, would effectively extend a limited series of concessions Iran made last November as part of a temporary deal to get negotiations started on a permanent accord. In return, Iran wants step-by-step relief from sanctions that have substantially weakened its economy.

"...But while American officials said [Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif] was now showing a flexibility they had not seen before, his proposal does not address, in its current form, the most central American concern. Because the proposal would leave centrifuges spinning in place, Iran would retain what is known as a 'breakout capability' to race for a bomb if it ever decided to produce one. Mr. Zarif contended that other elements of his plan would lengthen that period to over a year, which Secretary of State John Kerry has said is a minimum. American officials are doubtful."

"Such arguments are a reminder that this negotiation is taking place on at least two levels: a political discussion that is focused on whether two countries that have been implacable adversaries for more than 30 years can finally reimagine their relationship in the broadest terms, and a technical discussion that is both mind-boggling in its complexity and mired in distrust." More here.

Still, Congress still isn't in love with any plan for a nuclear deal and may make what to the administration would be unrealistic demands. FP's John Hudson: "... In a letter obtained by Foreign Policy, Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, demand that any deal allow international inspectors to probe Iranian facilities for ‘at least 20 years.' It also says the inspections ‘must be intrusive,' with the International Atomic Energy Agency gaining ‘access to any and all facilities, persons or documentation' necessary to determine Iran's compliance with the deal." More here.

Meantime, Qatar cut an arms deal with the Pentagon to counter the threat from Iran. AFP's Dan De Luce: Qatar plans to buy US Patriot missile batteries and Apache attack helicopters in an arms deal worth about $11 billion, senior Pentagon officials said Monday. The sale would provide Qatar with roughly ten radars and 34 launchers for Patriot systems designed to knock out incoming missiles, as well as 24 Apache helicopters and Javelin anti-tank missiles... The weapons deal was the biggest for the United States in 2014 and came as Qatar weighs proposals in a fighter jet competition, with US aerospace firm Boeing vying against British and French defense companies. More here.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to be one of our subscribers, we'd love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by sending us a note at and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, you, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

So the F-35 is back up, FYI, but no word yet on whether it will go to Farnborough. After days of go/no-go speculation, the Joint Strike Fighter is flying once again, kinda proving that no matter what happens, that bird is gonna fly. Reuters this hour: "U.S. military officials have approved a limited flight clearance for the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets that mandates engine inspections and certain flight restrictions, while an investigation continues into a massive engine failure that grounded the entire fleet, the Pentagon said on Tuesday." More here.

Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby, in a statement: "This is a limited flight clearance that includes an engine inspection regimen and a restricted flight envelope which will remain in effect until the root cause of the June 23 engine mishap is identified and corrected. We remain hopeful that the F-35 can make an appearance at the Farnborough airshow. This information is an encouraging step, but no final decision has been made at this time."

Read FP's Kate Brannen's story on the "$399 Billion Plane to Nowhere" and why Congress keeps this thing going, here.

Speaking of weapons, Raytheon is to resume its warhead production, Sandy Winnefeld says. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio reported that the company "will resume production of warheads for the Pentagon's ground-based missile defense system by July 31 after the first successful interception of a dummy incoming missile since 2008, according to [Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnefeld.]" More here.

Who's Where When today - Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work provides testimony at a House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee closed hearing about the budget/overseas contingency operations... Marine Corps Gen. Jim Amos participates in a conversation at Brookings' Center for  21st Century Security and Intelligence at 10 a.m... Pentagon Presssec Rear Adm. John Kirby is expected to brief reporters this afternoon...

Work's testimony today will be a critical opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to debate President Obama's $5 billion counter-terrorism funding proposal - the one that would help pay the $500 million for training and advising a moderate Syrian opposition and other initiatives. But there will be considerable discussion over whether it's enough money to do the job, and if handing the Obama administration the money gives the White House too much latitude to do what they want. Afghanistan, and Iraq, will naturally come up, too, as the administration scrambles to defend its foreign policy and the funding to implement it.

News flash! Most of the world isn't that in to spying. FP's Shane Harris: "...The poll...conducted by the Pew Research Center, found huge opposition to the U.S. government monitoring the emails and phone calls of people in their own countries. Overall, 81 percent of respondents said it was 'unacceptable' for the U.S. to monitor citizens of their countries, and 73 percent said it was unacceptable to spy on their leaders." More here.

Reading Pincus: An oversight board says NSA data mining puts citizens' privacy at risk but sees no abuse, here.

Hagel chief speechwriter Jacob Freedman got married this weekend. To Alice Pennington, now known as "Mrs. Freedman," according to the NYT on Sunday who said she is the lead teacher for the prekindergarten autism class at Seaton Elementary School in Washington. The couple is headed to Italy and Greece. We're told that all the speeches - including the one from the Rabbi who officiated - noted how difficult it is to be a speechwriter - who knew? - and that guests were asked to post Instagrams with the hashtag "Freedman&wife". Best man? Jacob's younger brother Andy. Maid of honor? Her younger sister, Hadley.

Check out the rest of the NYT item on it from Sunday that we missed picking up yesterday - with a photo credit from the Pentagon's Carl Woog, the happy couple's unofficial shooter, here.

Iraqis like anyone but Maliki. As northern Iraq turns into the Wild West, some Iraqis say they don't have a problem with life under Sunni militants - or the Kurdish pesh merga. Dividing Iraq up Joe Biden-like may or may not be practical. But some don't think there is any going back to the old Iraq. The WaPo's Jason Motlaugh in Topzawa, Iraq: "Up until a month ago, Baraq Taqan Ali split his time between two homes and two wives in what was a unified Iraq. Now, when the 55-year-old used-car dealer makes his weekly trip, he traverses the turf of two warring factions, neither of them loyal to Baghdad. His village is occupied by Sunni militants of the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State; his other home is in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, under the control of Kurdish soldiers known as pesh merga. Ali swears that both are preferable to the Shiite-dominated central government that has excluded and persecuted Sunni Arabs like him. If Nouri al-Maliki stays, 'Iraq will break into 1,000 pieces,' he said, referring to the embattled prime minister of Iraq, a Shiite Muslim. " More here.

A portrait of two Iraqis who worked for the U.S. and who now are in danger; George Packer for the New Yorker, here.

Gen. Hiftar was betrayed by Gaddafi, was approached by the CIA, moved to the USA, and now says he'll purge Libya of jihadists. Really? Bel Trew for the Daily Beast, here.

And as we noted yesterday, Bergdahl is back in the Army. But there are a few new details that floated out yesterday as an investigation continues to look into the circumstances in which he left his small outpost in Afghanistan in June 2009. The WSJ's Felicia Schwartz and Julian Barnes: "Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is returning to regular duty, the U.S. Army said Monday, and has been assigned to a base in Texas following completion of a 'reintegration process' after five years as a Taliban captive. Sgt. Bergdahl will serve as a noncommissioned officer in the administrative headquarters of Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, where ‘he will essentially be doing a desk job,' said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. Sgt. Bergdahl will live in noncommissioned officer quarters, said Army North spokesman Don Manuszewski. Typically, these facilities are occupied by two people, with two bedrooms connected by a shared bathroom. Mr. Manuszewski said the Army wasn't releasing details on whether Sgt. Bergdahl had a roommate." More here.

Bergdahl hasn't yet met with his parents, at least as of this weekend. When the public began refocusing on the Bergdahl story the day he was released, May 31, the appearance of Bergdahl's parents at the now-infamous news conference with Obama in the Rose Garden hinted at a close-knit family aching to see each other after Bowe Bergdahl's captivity of nearly five years. But Bergdahl has not yet seen his parents, Situation Report is told. One would have expected that as part of Bergdahl's reintegration process, Robert and Jani Bergdahl would have travelled to Germany where Bergdahl was brought immediately after he was picked up along the Afghanistan border - or, at the very least, while he was undergoing care in Texas. But for whatever reason, there was no rush to reunite.

Israel accepts the Egyptian proposal for a truce, but Hamas rejects it and continues to fire rockets. The AP's Karin Laub and Peter Enav in Gaza City: "Hamas rejected an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel on Tuesday, moments after the Israeli Cabinet accepted the plan, throwing into disarray international efforts to end a week of fighting that has killed 192 Palestinians and exposed millions of Israelis to Hamas rocket fire. A senior Israeli government official warned that Israel would strike Gaza even harder if Hamas does not accept the truce.

"...The Egyptian cease-fire offer, which was presented late Monday, called for a halt of hostilities as of Tuesday morning, followed by negotiations on easing the closure of Gaza's borders - a closure that has been enforced by both Israel and Egypt to varying degrees since Hamas seized the territory in 2007." More here.

Experts and insiders say that Israel's military offensive will only further radicalize the Palestinian population -- and alienate frustrated friends in the United States. Mark Perry reports for FP on why Hamas is being made stronger: "...It's not hard to see why Hamas is thought to be on the ropes. In the wake of the June 12 kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) cracked down hard on the Palestinian Islamist movement in the West Bank, arresting more than 300 of its operatives and scooping up its arms caches in the territory.

"The IDF has now turned its attention to Gaza, launching Operation Protective Edge and striking more than 1,300 sites -- at the cost of over 160 Palestinian lives. Even before the current outbreak in violence, Hamas's political position looked weakened. The removal of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in a coup last summer cost Hamas an important international patron, and the new military regime in Cairo has aggressively attempted to close the tunnels connecting the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip, which are Hamas's lifeline to the outside world. Even the creation of a new unity government with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party seemed to signal a sidelining of the Islamist group in favor of traditional PLO leadership." More of that bit, here.

Yesterday, the Israelis shot down a Hamas drone, but Israeli defense officials says that Hamas still has more drones up its sleeve. Ha'aretz's Gili Cohen, here.

Hezbollah suffers casualties in the fight to root out rebels. Rakan al-Fakih for the Daily Star (Lebanon), here. 

Kurds are entering Syria from Turkey to fight Islamists. Reuters' Tom Perry and Seyhmus Cakan: "A new offensive by al Qaeda offshoot the Islamic State on Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria has triggered a regional call for arms from the Kurds, and Turkish Kurds are coming to their aid. The war in Syria has already drawn in an array of regional players and the regional Kurdish involvement complicates an increasingly fragmented scene across Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic state took control of large areas last month. The hardline Sunni militants launched a new push towards the Syrian city of Ain al-Arab about two weeks ago using weaponry seized from Iraq including new missiles and U.S.-made armored Humvee vehicles, Syrian Kurdish officials say." More here.

An Obama phone call to Abdullah Abdullah prevented chaos in Afghanistan.  Secretary of State John Kerry's role in brokering a deal between the warring candidates in Afghanistan was seen as a positive development and one that could set the tone for U.S. engagement going forward. But Obama played a role, too. The NYT's Carlotta Gall and Matthew Rosenberg: "It was the Germans who uttered the first alarm that a potentially deadly power struggle might be brewing, after weeks of Western officials' staying on the sidelines as the Afghan election crisis deepened. Just over a week ago, they threatened to withdraw funding and training troops from Afghanistan if a powerful regional governor declared a breakaway government led by the presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah.

"... But as Western officials scrambled to respond, what was not being said aloud was that the Abdullah camp's threats had already gone beyond talk to a plan of action...What followed was as tumultuous a six-day stretch for Afghanistan as any since the American invasion in 2001..." According to an Abdullah aide "... and others it was a call from President Obama to Mr. Abdullah just after dawn last Tuesday that helped stop a headlong rush into a disastrous power struggle. Mr. Obama warned Mr. Abdullah not to even consider seizing power and to keep calm over the three days until Secretary of State John Kerry could get to Kabul." More here.

The loser in the Afghan election will have a seat at the table in the new government. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung, here.

An editorial from the English language Outlook Afghanistan: "Electoral Deadlock; Handle with Care Now": "The news of the breakdown of the political deadlock resulting from the visit of John Kerry has been warmly welcomed by all and it also made very pleasant effects on people and economy. Soon after the news, people and especially the traders and investors had a sigh of relief as it has paved way for the overall hope from the economy and the country. It was the reason why, the dollar price sharply declined and this decrease is still in progress. The decision of the political forerunners to count all the ballots has been welcomed by international community and termed it a historic moment for the country, paving its way towards democratic stability and economic prosperity." More here.

How do the problems in Iraq affect Afghanistan? We won't know for awhile if the disintegration of security across northern Iraq - which was largely predicted by military and intelligence officials when the U.S. pulled completely out of Iraq - could affect the Obama administration's plans for Afghanistan, where the number of troops will drop altogether by 2016. The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin on how things look a little differently in Afghanistan in the wake of Iraq, here.

Remember Marine Maj. James Weirick, who filed the complaint against Commandant Gen. Jim Amos? Just got a new job - in Norfolk - thanks to Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser. Long story, but an interesting development. Read the WaPo's Dan Lamothe's bit here.

Responsibility to protect the bad guys: A man who devoted his life to preventing atrocities is now defending a government that commits them. FP's Colum Lynch: "Francis Mading Deng, a South Sudanese diplomat, scholar, and writer, built a reputation over the past 35 years as one of the world's leading champions of humanity's most forsaken, a pivotal figure in the modern anti-atrocities movement, and, until three years ago, the United Nations' point man for the prevention of genocide.

"But today, Deng's legacy is at risk of being tarnished as his own country has devolved into the kind of mass ethnic cleansing that he had devoted much of his life to preventing. As South Sudan's first ambassador to the United Nations, Deng, 76, now finds himself in the position of representing, and defending, a government that stands accused by the United Nations of committing mass atrocities." More here.

The South Sudan crisis and the risk to up to four million people is worsening during the rainy season. Al Jazeera's Simona Foltyn, here.

Could Obama's forpol get any worse? The WaPo's Dana Milbank's lede: "President Obama has described his foreign-policy doctrine as an attempt to hit singles, doubles and the occasional home run. But at this stage of the game, it looks as though he has popped out, grounded into a double play and been hit by a pitch." More here.

Time's eight weirdest ways people use a drone, here.