Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Rexon Ryu is Hagel's new chief of staff; AQAP endorses IS in Yemen; How the IS governs like a state; a Saudi is robbed of his suitcase with $355,000 in it; @oopsy at CSIS; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Exclusive in SitRep: Chuck Hagel has selected Rexon Ryu to be his new Chief of Staff. Ryu, who up until now has served as the deputy to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Samantha Power, was a Hagel aide from Hagel's days in the Senate. He will begin working in Hagel's front office at the Pentagon later this week, Situation Report has learned, and take over for real by Labor Day.

"The Bash Model." In picking Ryu, Hagel is selecting someone with whom he has a close bond, even if Ryu, who doesn't have Pentagon experience, will take some time to figure out where the coffee pot is. Ryu was one of three known candidates to replace Mark Lippert, Hagel's current chief of staff, who has been nominated to serve as the U.S. ambassador in South Korea. When Leon Panetta was Defense Secretary, he brought Jeremy Bash with him from the CIA to be his chief of staff. Bash didn't necessarily know the Pentagon well but knew his boss and his boss knew him. Bob Gates, on the other hand, chose Robert Rangel, someone he didn't necessarily know well but who knew the building. Hagel, who is on his third chief of staff in 18 months if you count Marcel Lettre, who served in an acting capacity early on, is clearly settling on someone he knows and trusts.

Who is Ryu? He's little known in Pentagon circles because he doesn't have any specific experience in the building even if he's considered to be very familiar with a lot of the abiding issues. Between 2009 and 2001, he served as director for Nonproliferation on the NSC at the White House, where he covered U.S. nonproliferation policy in Asia and the Middle East, with a particular focus on North Korea and Iran, according to his bio. He led the confirmation team for Susan Rice to be the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the 2008-2009 transition for Obama; and between 2005 and 2009, Ryu served as the deputy chief of staff and senior foreign policy advisor for Hagel.  Before that, he held various positions at State, including overseas experience in Cairo and Jerusalem, and also worked for then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Hagel, in an emailed statement to SitRep: "I am greatly looking forward to having Rexon Ryu back on my senior leadership team.  He is a proven talent when it comes to working with the interagency, Congress, and outside groups and he will be a tremendous asset to the Defense Department... [I] have long relied on his counsel and wise perspective on national security matters... Rexon is someone I've been interested in recruiting to the Pentagon and I am delighted to welcome him as my new Chief of Staff."

State Department's Deputy Secretary Bill Burns, to SitRep in an email: "Rexon is one of the smartest and most promising public servants of his generation. Rexon is remarkably versatile - with experience on the Hill, and at State, on the NSC staff and at USUN.  He has excellent policy judgment, and is universally respected for both his professional skill and personal decency."

The other candidates under consideration included Wendy Anderson and Elissa Slotkin. Anderson has become the chief of staff to Penny Pritzker at Commerce, as SitRep reported exclusively a couple weeks ago. And we're told that Slotkin is a leading candidate to replace Derek Chollet, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs, a key policy job in the building. SitRep reported July 31 that Chollet will be leaving the Pentagon in January.

Right seat, left seat - Lippert and Ryu will begin to transition as early as this week, with Lippert, who is expected to be moving to Habib House in Seoul to serve as the U.S. ambassador to South Korea. He has yet to be confirmed, but that confirmation is expected sometime this fall. Ryu has a previous set of relationships with a number of people in the building, however, including people like CAPE's Jamie Morin, Policy's Brian McKeon and the Pentagon Comptroller, Mike McCord.

What's going to be in Ryu's inbox? A senior defense official tells Situation Report that he'll be focused on a lot of the obvious "buckets" of issues - operational issues like the Islamic State, Ukraine, Syria and the South China Sea - as well as the budget and issues pertaining to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the electronic health records issue on which the Defense Department has been focused. But at the Pentagon and for Hagel, the Asia pivot is still key. "He wants to continue to play a leadership role in the pivot," a senior defense official told SitRep.

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 gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com 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.

AQAP just announced its support for ISIL. Al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, based heavily in Yemen, issued a statement yesterday indicating its support for ISIL, now known as the Islamic State, or IS. The statement, in part: "We announce solidarity with our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the crusade. Their blood and injuries are ours and we will surely support them," the statement read, according to a post in the Yemen Times. "We assert to the Islamic Nation [all Muslims worldwide] that we stand by the side of our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the American and Iranian conspiracy and their agents of the apostate Gulf rulers.

"...Based on our experience with drones, we advise our brothers in Iraq to be cautious about spies among them because they are a key factor in setting goals; be cautious about dealing with cell phones and internet networks; do not gather in large numbers or move in large convoys; spread in farms or hide under trees in the case of loud humming of warplanes; and dig sophisticated trenches because they reduce the impact of shelling." The Yemen Times' Ali Ibrahim Al-Moshki: "Many observers note that AQAP and ISIL are using similar tactics and are exchanging strategy and advice. More here.

From taxes to electricity to post offices, the Islamic State is quickly learning how to govern like a state. FP's Yochi Dreazen: "The Obama administration's escalating air war against the Islamic State is running up against a dispiriting new reality: The militants are becoming as good at governing territory as they are at conquering it, making it considerably harder to dislodge them from the broad swaths of Syria and Iraq that they now control.

"U.S. intelligence officials say the leaders of the Islamic State are adopting methods first pioneered by Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite militia, and are devoting considerable human and financial resources toward keeping essential services like electricity, water, and sewage functioning in their territory. In some areas, they even operate post offices.

David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency expert who spent several years working as a top aide to Gen. David Petraeus: "ISIS is the most dangerous terrorist group in the world because they combine the fighting capabilities of al Qaeda with the administrative capabilities of Hezbollah... It's clear that they have a state-building agenda and an understanding of the importance of effective governance." More here.

A 24-hour Gaza ceasefire is extended as talks continue in Cairo. The WSJ's Joshua Mitnick in Tel Aviv, Asa Fitch in Gaza City and Mohammed Najib in Ramallah: "Israel and the Palestinian factions, including the Gaza Strip's ruling Hamas movement, agreed Monday to prolong their crease-fire an extra 24 hours to pursue talks on a long-term truce and a broader deal for the conflict-ridden territory.

"...In announcing the extension, there were no indications from the negotiators whether the wide gaps between the two sides in the talks had narrowed and what, if anything, an additional 24 hours would accomplish. During the indirect negotiations, Israel and the Palestinians have sought publicly to portray the other as intransigent, and Mr. Risheq expressed pessimism that more talk would produce a durable accord." More here.

As Israel and the Palestinians struggle to reach yet another cease-fire, the mediators in Cairo are making the conflict worse -- and empowering radicals in the process.  Carnegie's Michele Dunne and Nathan Brown, here.

Iraq forces do battle to keep jihadists out of Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. Reuters' Ahmed Rasheed and Michael Georgy: "...Buoyed by an operation to recapture a strategic dam from the jihadists after two months of setbacks, Iraqi army units backed by Shi'ite militias fought their way towards the center of Tikrit, a city 130 km (80 miles) north of Baghdad which is a stronghold of the Sunni Muslim minority. 'Our forces are advancing from two directions with cover from army helicopters, mortar and artillery shelling the positions of the Islamic State fighters in and around the city,' an army major in the operations room told Reuters." More here.

Troops in Iraq rout Sunni militants from a key dam. The NYT's Helene Cooper, Mark Lander and Azam Ahmed: "Iraqi and Kurdish ground troops overran Sunni militants and reclaimed Iraq's largest dam on Monday, President Obama said, as American warplanes unleashed a barrage of bombs in an expansion of the limited goals laid out by the president in authorizing the military campaign in Iraq.

"Mr. Obama, who interrupted a family vacation on Martha's Vineyard to meet Monday with his national security team in Washington, maintained that the airstrikes around the Mosul Dam were within the constraints of what he initially characterized as a limited campaign meant to break the siege of stranded Yazidis on Mount Sinjar and protect American personnel, citizens and facilities in Iraq." More here.

A billionaire has been named in a suit against an anti-Iran group. The NYT's Matt Apuzzo: "A billionaire Wall Street commodities investor has been drawn into a court fight against one of the nation's most influential anti-Iran advocacy groups, a case in which the Obama administration has introduced a sense of intrigue by its recent claim that, somehow, the group possesses important government secrets." More here.

AP this morning: A new report warns of anti-aircraft weapons in Syria. AP's Stephen Braun: " Armed groups in Syria have an estimated several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that could easily be diverted to extremists and used to destroy low-flying commercial planes, according to a new report by a respected international research group. It cites the risk that the missiles could be smuggled out of Syria by terrorists. The report was released just hours after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice Monday to U.S. airlines banning all flights in Syrian airspace." More here.

Syria's most lethal chemical weapons are destroyed with little fanfare. FP's Kate Brannen: "Almost a year after a sarin gas attack killed more than 1,400 people outside Damascus, the U.S. Defense Department quietly announced Monday that Syria's most dangerous chemicals have been neutralized.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement: "While the international community's work to completely eliminate Syria's chemical weapons program is not yet finished, the secretary believes this is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved when diplomacy is backed by a willingness to use military force." More here.

And the WH's statement, here.

And believe it or not, Germany spies on its allies, too. David Francis for FP: "The revelation that Germany spies on Turkey, a NATO member, should dispel any notion that spying on allies violates the unwritten rules of international espionage, despite Berlin's numerous suggestions otherwise." More here.

How Germany spies on its friends. SPIEGEL's story: "...On Friday, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the BND -- even if apparently unintentionally -- had eavesdropped on a telephone conversation by then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The revelation made Merkel's dictum, ‘Spying among friends? That's unacceptable,' ring a bit hollow. Information obtained by SPIEGEL indicates that the affair goes beyond Clinton. Last year, it also drew in Clinton's successor, John Kerry, when he was mediating in the Middle East between the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Arab states. At the time, the recording of at least one Kerry conversation was apparently immediately deleted by the BND under orders." More here.

Julian Assange said yesterday that he's leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London "soon," raising suspicious that he might roll the dice in Sweden.  But it's highly doubtful that Sweden would extradite him.  FP's Elias Groll: "...Sweden's extradition agreement with the United States, signed in 1961 and updated in 1983, prohibits extradition on the basis of ‘a political offense' or ‘an offense connected with a political offense.' The agreement does not specify what constitutes a ‘political offense.' Whether the Swedish supreme court would rule to extradite Assange largely depends on what charges the secret U.S. grand jury brings against him." More here.

Who's Where When today - Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work is in Guam.  His schedule includes "windshield tours" of the flightline and Northramp Project there; THAAD tour; meetings with Gov. Calvo and Congresswoman Bordallo; Windshield tours of Port Authority of Guam; Apra Harbor Tour; a Troop Event; and a media engagement with local press... Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Marty Dempsey, will serve as the guest of honor today at an event recognizing 40 expectant military mothers with none other than Buddy the Cake Boss, at the Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J... Denny Blair, the retired admiral and now the chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation/US gives a speech today at Heritage on Asia at 2pm, event deets here.

@Ooopsy. Somebody in the tweet department at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington tweeted their mind yesterday in response to an Amnesty International tweet earlier yesterday but is now in the doghouse.

@AI: "US can't tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won't clean up its own human rights record."

@CSIS: @AI your work has saved far fewer lives than American intervention. So suck it."

The inevitable apology came just a bit later: "@CSIS Our sincerest apologies to @amnesty & our followers. Our last tweet was sent in error. We're reviewing internal policies for social media." See it here (on abumuquama/Andrew Exum's feed).

Rep. Duncan Hunter, in Defense News on sequester and the budget and the Army's need for Black Hawk and Apache engine upgrades. The California Republican's BLUF: "Even if sequestration is alleviated over the long term - and let's hope it is - the sound judgments on display within the Army and the other services must continue. Whether the budget is considered too large or too small, that should not take away from the military's duty to be smart as it prepares for the future." More here.

There's still a political impasse in Afghanistan. The NYT's Matthew Rosenberg: " A coterie of powerful Afghan government ministers and officials with strong ties to the security forces are threatening to seize power if an election impasse that has paralyzed the country is not resolved soon. Though it is unusual to telegraph plans for what could amount to a coup - though no one is calling it that - the officials all stressed that they hoped the mere threat of forming an interim government would persuade the country's rival presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, to make the compromises needed to end the crisis." Read the rest here.

Next door, in Pakistan, the military says it carried out fresh airstrikes near the Afghan border, killing 18 suspected terrorists. VOA: "...Tuesday's action focused on Khyber and North Waziristan tribal agencies where Pakistani Taliban and fugitive Afghan insurgents are entrenched." More here.

On the fifth day of protests, the Pakistan Army is putting troops in Islamabad on high alert. Reuters, in Dawn, here.

India cancels talks with Pakistan over tea invitation to Kashmiri separatists, in the WaPo's World View blog, here. 

The Economic Times in India: "Pakistan has made little genuine effort to improve relations with India," an analysis, here.

Despite being indicted last week, Rick Perry will headline an event titled "The Border Crisis and the New Politics of Immigration" at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday morning. Deets here.

Is Rick Perry's Bad Judgment Really a Crime? On the NYTs editorial page today, here.

It would appear that Vietnam clearly has a superior claim to the South China Sea islands, finds a new CNA Corporation report authored by Captain Raul "Pete" Pedrozo, USN, Judge Advocate Corps (ret.). The report is one of three released yesterday on U.S. policy options in the South China Sea. But the report concludes "The reality on the ground is that China has occupied the entire Paracel group for 40 years, and short of military action by Vietnam to recapture the archipelago, will never leave... Resolution of the dispute is likely in only four ways: judicial arbitration that all parties agree to undertake; all parties agree to freeze in place while tabling the issue of ultimate sovereignty in favor of a cooperative regime for resource exploitation and management; individual claimants reach an understanding with China ceding sovereignty claims in return for economic preference; or the use of force by the most powerful to expel rival claimants." More here.  Find CNA Corporation's analysis on Malaysia and Brunei here and Philippine claims in the South China Sea here.

Next time, leave home without it. NBC: "Armed robbers attacked a Saudi Arabian prince's convoy in Paris on Sunday night, allegedly seizing around 250,000 euros ($335,000) in cash and sensitive documents." More here.

 

Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Iraqis may have all but retaken the Mosul dam; The Guard deploys to Ferguson; Ukrainian forces claim they've snagged a key rebel town; Bob Work to Asia; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

As U.S. airstrikes in Iraq continue, Iraqis say they have wrested the Mosul dam back from Islamic State militants. The massive dam on the Tigris, captured by Islamic State militants weeks ago, had served, not only as a potent symbol of the militants' battlefield effectiveness as they charged across northern Iraq, but represented a real threat under IS control: blowing up the already fragile dam could send a 60-foot torrent roaring downriver. This morning, Kurdish forces say they have recaptured the dam from the IS. Way too soon (and probably inaccurate anyway) to say this is a turning point, but if the reports are true it would show at least a partial turning of the tide and be welcome news to American policymakers whose fingers are crossed that the U.S. bombing campaign, in conjunction with support to the Iraqis, is having an effect. The next 24 hours will reveal to what degree this is true - and what it means.

Reuters this morning: "...A Twitter account belonging to a media organization that supports the Islamic State said the dam was still under the group's full control. On Sunday, a Mosul dam engineer who has been in close contact with Islamic State militants holding the dam said they had been placing roadside bombs along roads leading in and out of the complex in anticipation of an assault." More here.

U.S. airstrikes help the Kurds gain against IS.  Meantime, after the revelation that the humanitarian crisis atop Mount Sinjar wasn't nearly as bad as feared, there had been some question what that would mean for the U.S. airstrike campaign in Iraq. But recent days have shown that there is no immediate plan to suspend airstrike operations, all in an attempt to help the peshmerga and Iraqi forces to reverse the situation against the IS. But the conflict in Iraq, as yet un-branded by the Obama administration, has brought strange bedfellows. The WSJ's Joe Parkinson: "U.S. jets, drones and bombers pounded Sunni insurgent positions on Sunday to ease the siege of the strategically vital Mosul Dam, as Washington and its Kurdish allies turned up pressure on the radical group Islamic State.

"...Hundreds of guerrillas linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, have this weekend fought in a broader Kurdish offensive against the insurgents under U.S. air cover. They joined the semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdish region's Peshmerga forces around the regional capital of Erbil and the Sinjar mountains, where thousands from the Yazidi religious minority have been trapped by the rapid advance of Islamic State fighters. It wasn't immediately clear whether PKK guerrillas were assisting in the Kurdish ground offensive launched Sunday in conjunction with U.S. air attacks to retake the Mosul Dam.

"...Last week, PKK commanders said they met U.S. advisers dropped on Mount Sinjar to assess the humanitarian crisis there and had ‘constructive discussions.' A U.S. defense official couldn't confirm whether the meeting took place and stressed in response to reports that the PKK was fighting alongside the Peshmerga that ‘it's hard to tell from Washington who's on the front line in a Kurdish-Iraqi fight.'" More here.

Interviews with witnesses show the Kurds, now getting weapons and air support from Washington, left the Yazidis defenseless earlier this month. Christine van den Toorn for the Daily Beast, here.

Obama needs to go to war with the Islamic State, or it will go to war with America. Washington Institute's Jim Jeffrey for FP: "...Well, another American war in Iraq is exactly what is going to happen, sooner or later. The president has already slowed the Islamic State's (IS) momentum with his strikes near Erbil, but it is not clear if this is a one-time response or the beginning of a campaign to first contain, then destroy the jihadist force. The sooner we begin such a campaign, the less complicated our involvement will be, the greater our chances of success, and the more likely IS's forces can be defeated before they tear apart the region completely -- and directly threaten America." More here.

Iraq must sort out its politics to have any hope of routing the Islamic State. The Economist's analysis, here.

China's strategic dilemma in the Middle East - and Iraq. The FT's Nick Buter, here.

Prowess: U.K.'s David Cameron argues for a protracted mission in Iraq, meaning months, even if it doesn't mean ground troops. Cameron: "Yes we should use all the assets we have - our diplomacy, our political relationships, our aid, the military prowess and expertise we have to help others - as part of a strategy to put pressure on Islamic State and make sure this terrorist organisation is properly addressed and it cannot cause mayhem on our own streets." The Guardian's Nicholas Watt, here.

A bit more on Iraq below.

Welcome to Monday'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 gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com 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.

The National Guard has been called up in Ferguson, Missouri. Reuters' Ellen Wulfhorst this morning: "Missouri's governor said on Monday he would send the National Guard into the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson to restore calm after authorities forcibly dispersed a crowd protesting last week's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by police. Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order deploying the U.S. state militia, saying demonstrators had thrown Molotov cocktails and shot at police as well as a civilian, a description of the night's events diverging widely from some eyewitness accounts." More here.

Bob Work is headed to Asia. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work left yesterday for swing through Asia, with stops across the Pacific. Today, he's in Hawaii, where he is visiting U.S. Pacific Command; he'll head to Guam, then South Korea, then Japan, and be back sometime about Aug. 24. More details to follow.

Staffers on a plane:  Kelly Magsamen, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia Pacific Security Affairs, Cara Abercrombie, principal director for East Asia, Luke Collin, Country Director for Japan, Matthew Squeri, Country Director for Korea, Paul Vosti, Director for Guam Policy, Greg Grant, special assistant and speechwriter, and Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson, public affairs officer.

The U.S. and South Korea begin a military drill - despite the threats from the North. AP: "... The beginning of the "Ulchi Freedom Guardian" exercise, which will last until August 29, came as Pope Francis led a mass for inter-reconciliation in Seoul at the end of the five-day trip to South Korea. Although largely played out on computers, the drill involves tens of thousands of South Korean and US soldiers and is aimed at testing combat readiness for a North Korean invasion." More here.

A source in Seoul tells Yonhap news agency that North Korea is launching a new model of tactical rockets. Yonhap: "North Korea has introduced and test-fired new tactical rockets that can pose a threat to South Korea's major military facilities, a military source here said Monday. 'The five short-range projectiles that North Korea fired off last week were found to be novel tactical missiles, according to our analysis jointly with the United States of the North's photo of the rockets,' said the source, asking not to be named." More here.

A defector from North Korea finds his voice - in rap. The WaPo's Anna Fifield in Seoul, here.

The top officer at the oldest American sub base in Groton is retiring. AP's Michael Melia: "...an admiral whose ties to Groton date back to his birth, may become the last flag officer to serve here as his submarine group is eliminated in a Navy streamlining. Rear Adm. Kenneth Perry, a career submarine officer with responsibility for all 23 U.S. attack submarines on the East Coast, is retiring Friday at the same ceremony where his Submarine Group 2 will be formally disestablished." More here.

Ukrainian forces claim to have captured a key rebel town. The NYT's Andrew Kramer: "The Ukrainian military on Sunday moved into the heart of the separatist hub of Luhansk for the first time, officials said, chipping at one of the cornerstones of the pro-Russia rebels' disintegrating virtual state.

"...The claim could not be independently confirmed, though a photograph of the flag and police station was circulating on social media, and the report was consistent with the progress of fighting there going into the weekend. Along with increased Ukrainian pressure on rebel positions in Donetsk, the army's move into Luhansk focused attention on the profound reversal of the separatists' fortunes since they declared independence in April. Interviews across eastern Ukraine portray a rapid breakdown in discipline in the rebel ranks. Many fighters have abandoned their uniforms in favor of civilian clothes, and three senior leaders have left the war zone in recent days." More here.

Putin is nakedly invading Ukraine... Writing for FP, Michael Weiss asks, "why won't anybody say anything?" Weiss's BLUF: "...So the foreigners have now retired (or been retired), just as Russia nakedly dispatches columns of armored vehicles into Ukraine, and stages a piece of pseudo-humanitarian theater to legitimate a more open form of warfare. This is win-win for Putin: If Ukraine declares war on Russia, he gets to ride in to save his faltering rebellion. If it doesn't, he keeps waging deniable "incursions" to send the rebels heavy machinery.

"There's a Russian chess term that explains what's happening: mnogohodovka. It means making multiple moves at once. As ever, Putin is counting on his enemies not realizing this, and being multiple moves behind him." More from Weiss on FP, here.

Sides in Gaza talks dig in as the end to the current ceasefire loom. AP: "Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Egypt-mediated Gaza truce talks hardened their positions Monday ahead of the expiration of a five-day cease-fire, though both sides appear reluctant to return to the deadly all-out fighting that has destroyed large parts of the densely-populated coastal strip.

"...The Gaza blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt since the Hamas militants took control of the strip in 2007, remains the main stumbling block. It has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people, restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports. A Palestinian negotiator, Qais Abdul Karim, told The Associated Press that on Sunday, Israel pressed for guarantees that Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza would be disarmed, while the Palestinians demanded an end to the blockade without preconditions." More here.

Former Al-Awsat editor-in-chief Tariq Alhomayed on Nasrallah's communication confusion: "In a long interview, published recently in two parts, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made striking efforts to polish his image. He talked about everything to an interviewer from the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar-whose affiliation to Hezbollah is such that the paper once dedicated a 1,600-word story just to the way he made his speeches or waved his finger. Speaking at length, Nasrallah tried to justify his own, his party's, and Iranian policies in the region. He tried to polish the image of the Assad regime and went as far as saying that the ideology of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had been taught in Gulf schools for many years." More here.

NATO-based nuclear weapons are an advantage in a dangerous world. Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley and Franklin Miller on the WaPo's op-ed page this morning: "When NATO's leaders gather in Wales in early September, they will address several issues critical to the alliance, including Russian adventurism in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, members' contribution to collective defense, the adequacy of individual national defense budgets and plans for supporting the people of Afghanistan. In the course of their deliberations on these issues, however, they also should reaffirm the value to the alliance of the continued presence of the modest number of U.S. nuclear bombs in Europe. We believe this is necessary because we are again hearing calls for the United States to unilaterally withdraw its small arsenal of forward- deployed nuclear bombs. Those arguments are shopworn, familiar - and wrong." More here.

The Obama doctrine: What's in, what's out? (hint, limited bombing raids are in, and so are stronger partnerships). Defense News' John Bennett and Paul McLeary: "...Out are the targeted armed drone strikes [Obama] launched in the hundreds during his first term to cripple al-Qaida's core leadership in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and take out top leaders of its splinter groups in Yemen and North Africa. Also out are the kinds of risky - but largely effective - special operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

"In are ‘limited' and ‘targeted' uses of American air power, like those Obama has green-lighted in northern Iraq to prevent the Islamic State from slaughtering minority populations. US Central Command's daily updates to journalists indicate American drones aren't taking out Islamic State commanders, but hitting small vehicles by the ones and twos.

"In are shipments of US-made weapons directly to indigenous forces to fight violent Islamic groups, such as Obama has sent to arm Iraq's Kurdish militia.

"Also in: Sending millions of dollars to American allies to fight al-Qaida splinter groups, work the US commander in chief is reluctant for his own troops to do. Obama on Aug. 11 approved $10 million in aid to Paris to assist 20,000 French troops in their counterterrorism operations in northern Africa." More here.

More on Iraq:

While covering the crisis on Mount Sinjar, the NYT veteran foreign correspondent Alissa Rubin was seriously injured in a helicopter crash. From her hospital bed in Istanbul, she dictated this account of what happened for Sunday's paper, here.

Kurdish militants are training hundreds of Yazidis to fight IS. Reuters' Youssef Boudlal: "Kurdish militants have trained hundreds of Yazidi volunteers at several camps inside Syria to fight Islamic State forces in Iraq, a member of the armed Kurdish YPG and a Reuters photographer who visited a training camp said on Sunday. The photographer spend Saturday at the training camp at the Serimli military base in Qamishli, northeastern Syria on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, where he saw 55 Yazidis being trained to fight the Islamic State. Dressed in green military fatigues, young and old men were taught how to use assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades by the Syrian Kurds, sweating in the 40 degree Celsius heat." More here.