Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Qatar played a role in release of journo; Pressure mounts on Obama; Islamic State takes over a base; Winnefeld takes off his uniform – for the ice bucket challenge; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

The pressure continues on the White House to do something about the Islamic State, but there is no sense of imminent action. On one hand, there is, among those who think the U.S. can't afford to ignore IS, a coalescing around the notion that a coalition of the willing could pummel the militant group, in both Syria and Iraq, with a combination of special operations forces from a variety of countries on the ground with a strategic airstrike campaign from above. On the other hand, there is deep unwillingness within the White House and its chief ally, Great Britain, to dramatically widen the scope of its current operations in Iraq and expand them in any way into Syria, where the militant group is based. The idea that President Barack Obama would take a major step toward war seems far off.

The WSJ's Colleen McCain Nelson and Adam Entous on Page One: "The leading options under consideration for strikes in Syria-if Mr. Obama decides to expand the fight-are narrow in scope, designed to prevent the Islamic State from carrying out any plots that threaten Americans and from resupplying its forces in neighboring Iraq. Officials played down prospects for a broad-based campaign to uproot and destroy Islamic State's vast fighting force in Syria.

"All options must be on the table for defeating Islamic State, including deploying U.S. ground troops in Syria if military commanders decide they are needed, said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on CNN's 'State of the Union.' 'We've got to win and stop these guys,' he said." Read the rest here.

Defense One's Gayle Lemmon of CFR on why Obama insiders are frustrated, here.

IS Militants snag an air base in Syria from the Assad regime and effectively take control of northern Syria's Raqqa Province, the NYT's Ben Hubbard, here.

The Nusra in Syria release American freelance writer Peter Theo Curtis after two years in captivity, McClatchy's Hannah Allam and Jonathan Landay, here.

The Qataris helped free him. The NYT's Rukmini Callimachi: "...Relatives of Mr. Curtis said in interviews that after numerous failed starts and after having received ransom demands ranging from $3 million to $25 million, his panicked family was introduced to the Qatari ambassador to the United Nations, after learning that Qatar had successfully won the release of Europeans kidnapped by Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen. As soon as Qatar became involved, the relatives said, they felt as if an avenue of communication had been opened, and they were able to send a proof-of-life question which only Mr. Curtis could have answered." More here.

A statement from the Curtis family, here.

But fears grow for another freelancer, American Steven Sotloff, who appeared in the video depicting the beheading of Jim Foley, Al Jazeera's William Roberts, here.

London's Sunday Times says that the UK has identified Foley's murderer. Mark Hookham, Richard Kerbaj and Marie Woolf for the Sunday Times: "MI5 and MI6 have identified the British fighter suspected of murdering the American journalist James Foley, senior government sources confirmed last night. The masked man with a London accent, who is said to be known to fellow fighters as ‘Jihadi John', was seen in the shocking video of Foley's death released by the Isis extremist army last week. While sources gave no details of the man they have identified, a key suspect is Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 23, who left his family's £1m home in Maida Vale, west London, last year. He recently tweeted a picture of himself holding up a severed head." More here.

Former captives called their captors by names of the Beatles. The NYT's Scott Shane: "...other hostages held by ISIS have said they began calling their British captors by the names of the Beatles, and the killer of Mr. Foley was known as 'John,' with others nicknamed 'Paul' and 'Ringo.'" More here.

There are twice as many British Muslims fighting for ISIS than there are in the U.K.'s armed forces. Madeline Grant and Damien Sharkov in Newsweek, here.

Meantime, Britain assigns a ‘security envoy' to the Kurdistan region. Rudaw's story, here.

Newt: Can Obama Handle ISIS? Newt Gingrich, writing for CNN, here.

Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka argue that American airpower and a band of special forces are essential to defeating ISIS - combined with a political and economic strategy. But also - time to give Qatar an ultimatum, they write: "... the time has come to confront the government of Qatar, which funds and arms ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups such as Hamas. The tiny Gulf potentate has never had to choose between membership in the civilized world or continuing its sponsorship of regional killers. The U.S. has the most leverage. We have alternatives to our Combined Air and Operations Center in Doha, the al Udeid air base, other bases and prepositioned materiel. We should tell Qatar to end its support for terrorism or we leave." Read the rest on the WSJ's op-ed page, here.

Five signs your "limited" Iraq intervention is spiraling out of control. CFR's Micah Zenko for FP: "...As America's recent intervention in Iraq gathers steam, the phrase and its implicit warnings have reemerged among policymakers and public commentators. Worryingly, though, it seems some top officials don't get it. As President Barack Obama noted on Tuesday: ‘Typically, what happens with mission creep is when we start deciding that we're the ones who have to do it all ourselves. And because of the excellence of our military that can work for a time. We learned that in Iraq.' This is a puzzling lesson to take away from Iraq: rather than preferring unilateralism, the Bush administration begged every country with deployable military forces to participate in the invasion and occupation." More here.

Why James Foley did not die in vain. Stephen Kinzer for Al Jazeera, here.

Slightly more on Iraq and Syria 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.

Pivoting: The Pentagon says one Chinese commander is responsible for a spate of air confrontations.  FP's Lubold: "A Chinese PLA wing commander has repeatedly harassed U.S. military aircraft in the South China Sea, most recently directing a Chinese jet fighter to do a Top Gun-like barrel roll that came dangerously close to an American patrol jet on a routine mission, the U.S. Defense Department confirmed on Friday, Aug. 22.

"An armed Chinese fighter jet conducted ‘a dangerous intercept' of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon submarine-hunting plane on a mission Aug. 19 in international waters near Hainan Island in the South China Sea, according to the Pentagon.

"In a series of risky maneuvers that mimicked the barrel rolls flown by the character Maverick, played by Tom Cruise, in the 1986 movie Top Gun, the Chinese fighter, known as a J-11, flew under the U.S. Navy jet, with one pass coming within 50 feet of the U.S. plane... the Pentagon [called] it one of the ‘most unsafe intercepts' since the downing of a Navy EP-3 in 2001 on Hainan Island.

"...One Defense Department official likened the two jets to a ‘school bus and a Ferrari,' with the People's Liberation Army's (PLA's) J-11 being the fast sports car doing circles around the lumbering Navy jet. But U.S. military officials say many Chinese fighter pilots are not necessarily well trained, making the incident particularly dangerous. It was unclear whether the American plane was armed. Even if it was, it is not designed to have any ‘air-to-air' capability to shoot down another plane."

"...That all instances apparently involve one commander from one unit means American officials believe there is a bigger problem with one individual inside the PLA. That PLA officer may find himself in hot water with Chinese officials -- or maybe he'll be rewarded. 'He'll either be fired, killed - or promoted,' quipped one Pentagon official." More here.

Ice cubed: Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was at the Nats game on Saturday out of uniform. He appeared on the Jumbotron at Nationals Park to take the ice bucket challenge, allowing vets to pour the requisite cold-water-and-ice bucket over his head, and then nominated, among others, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough for the much-hyped ALS fundraising effort. But Winnefeld observed the Pentagon's rules - he appeared in shorts and a T-shirt, not in uniform, to take the challenge. Military Times' Jeff Schogol reported on those rules last week here.

The Pentagon's James Swartout has moved on up. Swartout, who served as the public affairs bubba for then Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, begins his first day today two decks up inside the building - in the office of Under Secretary of the Air Force up and comer Eric Fanning as a senior aide.

From his former boss, Brent Colburn, who is Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, in an email to friends and colleagues Friday: "...[Swartout] has been a rock in this organization whose contributions will be felt well beyond the time he has spent here. Most of you have worked directly with James, so I don't have to tell you about the incredible work ethic, talent and attitude that he brings to every single assignment he tackles.  But more importantly, James is a true team player.  He leads by example and always puts his teammates first, and those skills are invaluable in the type of crisis oriented, high pressure, collaborative environment we work in every day."

The Army's second ever test of an Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) was expected early this morning.  Sobel: A sub-program of Conventional Prompt Global Strike, the Army's AHW is a non-nuclear weapon designed to strike distant targets within minutes.  While the Pentagon has not explicitly stated the potential missions that these weapons are being developed for, there is speculation that they could include kicking down the door of China's anti-access/area denial capacities and attacks on Iranian or North Korean ballistic missiles.  

James Action, a senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment, told Situation Report on Friday the three criteria of a successful test.  First, the rocket must be able to travel a distance of approximately 4,000 miles. Second, it must accurately strike the target.  And lastly, it must be able to maneuver cross-range. 

Action said that "accuracy is everything with this test." He explained: "One possibility is that [the missile] isn't armed with anything explosive.  They're just moving so fast that that they can destroy stuff by slamming into it.  But the accuracy requirements for that really are pretty tough." 

If the test is successful, there will likely be a push to move ahead with the program since the Chinese recently tested a hypersonic weapon. Action said that the next big step is "deciding how these weapons would be based."  The two options are putting them on a submarine, or building a land-based system, in which case Guam would be the most obvious location. Read James Action's comprehensive Carnegie report from last year here.

No let up in fighting in Gaza as Egypt presses on with truce efforts, Reuters this hour, here.

Netanyahu issues a warning to citizens in Gaza after Israel leveled an apartment building in Gaza. Reuters' Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller, here.

Israel fears that Hamas is tracking visits to the south by senior officials. Ha'aretz's Gili Cohen and Amos Harel, here.

Iran says it shot down an Israeli drone near Natanz. Reuters: "Iran said on Sunday it had shot down an Israeli spy drone that was heading for its Natanz nuclear enrichment site, Iranian media reported. ‘The downed aircraft was of the stealth, radar-evasive type and it intended to penetrate the off-limits nuclear area in Natanz ... but was targeted by a ground-to-air missile before it managed to enter the area,' state news agency ISNA said, citing a statement by Iran's Revolutionary Guards." More here.

Iran unveils new missiles and drones. AFP's story, here.

Kremlin-backed separatists humiliated the Ukrainian army in a parade in Donetsk yesterday. The Kiev Post's Helen Mukhina, here.

Warplanes attacked Tripoli this weekend. Reuters' Heba Al-Shibani: "...In recent weeks Libya has seen the worst fighting since the NATO-backed campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Renegade general Khalifa Haftar has declared war on Islamist-leaning forces, part of growing anarchy in the oil producer.

"His forces claimed responsibility for air raids on Tripoli on Saturday and last Monday, targeting a group called Operation Dawn. But this group, consisting mainly of fighters from Misrata, said on Saturday that it had captured Tripoli's main airport from a rival faction from Zintan in western Libya." More here.

The story of one Marine from Two Marines Moving and how he survived bankruptcy. The WaPo's Thomas Heath: "Nick Baucom was 23 and flat on his back in 2007 after his nascent home fixer-upper business in Memphis, Tenn., went bankrupt. 'I made a mistake and had bitten off too much,' said the former-Marine and Iraq War infantryman... Now 30 and running a growing Alexandria business called Two Marines Moving, the hard-charging veteran said he eventually made good on his debts and learned some important lessons about business. Baucom, who said he would rather go back to Iraq than go through another bankruptcy, lists his three takeaways thusly..." More here.


More on Iraq and Syria:

In the Middle East, Muslim leaders are denouncing ISIS. The AP's Sarah El Deeb in Cairo: "The top Islamic authority in Egypt, revered by many Muslims worldwide, launched an Internet-based campaign Sunday challenging an extremist group in Syria and Iraq by saying it should not be called an ‘Islamic State.'

"The campaign by the Dar el-Ifta, the top authority that advises Muslims on spiritual and life issues, adds to the war of words by Muslim leaders across the world targeting the Islamic State group.

"...The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam, previously said the extremists violate all Islamic principles and laws and described the group as a danger to Islam as a whole. Now, the Dar el-Ifta authority he oversees will suggest foreign media drop using ‘Islamic State' in favor of the ‘al-Qaida Separatists in Iraq and Syria,' or the acronym ‘QSIS,' said Ibrahim Negm, an adviser to the mufti." More here.

Bashar al-Assad is America's strange bedfellow, and the price is 190,000 dead Syrians. FP's Elias Groll: "With its decision to bomb Islamic State militants in Iraq and funnel aid to the fragile Iraqi government in Baghdad, the United States has found itself with a set of strange bedfellows. Russia has been giving outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fighter jets for use against the extremists. Tehran has ramped up its military assistance to Baghdad. And in the strangest of bedfellows, Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad has been carrying out a sustained series of airstrikes against Islamic State targets inside both Iraq and Syria, in some ways doing Washington's work for it." More here.

 

National Security

FP's Situation Report: Sharpening rhetoric about the IS, but no war plan yet; John Allen: do it "NOW;" GAO says Bergdahl swap illegal; DOD throws cold water on ice bucket challenge; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

The killing of American journalist Jim Foley has created a new momentum for tackling the Islamic State in Iraq - and Syria - in a more effective and comprehensive way, even if the White House is still grappling with what form that effort would take.  Gen. Marty Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, seemed to agree yesterday that the Islamic State represents a far more dangerous threat than al-Qaeda ever did - a sentiment long held by analysts and military experts, and an argument made by a number of prominent people recently. But even as President the administration's rhetoric seems to be setting the stage for a long haul in Iraq, it's not yet clear what President Barack Obama will agree to do to meet the threat. And now that Obama has said repeatedly that he won't put American "combat boots on the ground," he and his advisers will have to determine how to deepen a U.S. and coalition effort in Iraq and Syria that will mean doing just that without reversing himself on that point.

Many believe a focused effort doesn't have to mean putting several thousands of troops onto the battlefield, but it does mean inserting more specialized forces to ensure an expanded airstrike campaign is effective. But while that is happening in limited form now, the call to expand the effort is awaiting a presidential nod.

Also yesterday, Dempsey made clear that only attacks inside Syria - the origin of the Islamic State - can defeat the militants. "Can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border," Dempsey said yesterday.

FP's Kate Brannen: "U.S. military operations in Iraq may be limited for now, but the rhetoric in Washington is heating up. On Thursday, it boiled over at the Pentagon, where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel painted a new and more dangerous picture of the threat that the Islamic State poses to Americans and U.S. interests.

"The group ‘is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They're beyond just a terrorist group,' Hagel said in response to a question about whether the Islamic State posed a similar threat to the United States as al Qaeda did before Sept. 11, 2001.

"‘They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They're tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything that we've seen,' Hagel said, adding that ‘the sophistication of terrorism and ideology married with resources now poses a whole new dynamic and a new paradigm of threats to this country.'

"Hagel's comments added to the mismatch between the Obama administration's increasingly aggressive rhetoric and its current game plan for how to take on the group in Iraq and Syria, which so far involves limited airstrikes and some military assistance to the Kurdish and Iraqi forces fighting the militants. It has also requested from Congress $500 million to arm moderate rebel factions in Syria. But for now, the United States is not interested in an Iraqi offer to let U.S. fighter jets operate out of Iraqi air bases." More here.

Full transcript of the Hagel Dempsey presser yesterday, here.

ICYMI: John Allen backs Obama's airstrikes against ISIS but calls for an urgent American and international response and uses capital letters to do it.  Allen for Defense One, his BLUF: "...The president deserves great credit in attacking IS. It was the gravest of decisions for him. But a comprehensive American and international response now - NOW - is vital to the destruction of this threat. The execution of James Foley is an act we should not forgive nor should we forget, it embodies and brings home to us all what this group represents. The Islamic State is an entity beyond the pale of humanity and it must be eradicated. If we delay now, we will pay later." More here.

The Islamic State has conquered much of Iraq with the help of Saddam's cronies. Now the men America once discarded could help win the country back. FP's Shane Harris: "The Islamic State has conquered broad swaths of Iraq thanks to a surprising alliance with secular veterans of Saddam Hussein's military. But now that partnership is fraying -- giving Washington its first real opportunity to blunt the terrorist group's advance without relying solely on American airstrikes or ground troops.

"The group of ex-Hussein loyalists, known alternatively as the Naqshbandi Army or by the acronym JRTN -- the initials of its Arabic name -- helped the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, win some of its most important military victories, including its conquest of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. It has also given the terrorist army, which is composed largely of foreign fighters, a valuable dose of local political credibility in Iraq. JRTN, which was formed as a resistance group in 2006, is made up of former Baathist officials and retired military generals, and is led by the former vice president of Hussein's revolutionary council, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was once one of the most-wanted men in the country during the U.S. occupation." More here.

The incongruity of Obama's summer vacation and golf outings with the horrors of the Middle East fuel his critics, the NYT's Peter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, here.

Welcome to Friday'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 Islamic State will likely force the Pentagon to rethink its budgeting, Hagel said. Defense News' Marcus Weisgerber, quoting Hagel: "[Y]ou're constantly shaping a budget to assure that resources match the mission and the mission and the resources match the threat... [Y]ou're shifting [money] all the time on what you think is going to be required... "We've had to move assets over the last couple of months...to accomplish what we accomplished in Iraq. That costs money, that takes certain monies out of certain funds. So it's a constant, fluid process as you plan for these." More here.

Foley's brutal death at the hands of what British officials assume but have not yet confirmed was a British citizen is quietly creating a coalition of the willing, including some Arab states. The FT's editorial page on Britain's problem with jihadism:  "...David Cameron's government is right to check whether it is doing enough to counter Isis and its misguided supporters. One looming question is whether the UK should join the US in air strikes to prevent Isis forming a hardened caliphate. But whatever Mr Cameron decides, he will want to re-examine whether the UK has sufficient legal powers and resources to thwart violent Islamists at home." More here.

With crises brewing in Ukraine and the Middle East, the transatlantic alliance needs a shot of fresh energy. Jim Stavridis for FP on what should be on the table at the upcoming NATO summit in Wales, to include the "new relationship with Russia" and the need for European nations to spend more on defense, but also: "...The third agenda item is a strategy for the Levant and Near Middle East. The rise of the Islamic State and the ongoing crisis in Syria will ultimately send hundreds of trained jihadists first to Europe then to the United States." More here.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Alsheikh blasted Al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants as "enemy number one" of Islam. From the Saudi Gazette, here.

Why can't British intelligence prevent men like James Foley's killer from fighting in Iraq -- or coming home? Alex Massie for FP: "...Richard Barrett, formerly head of the MI6's counterterrorism operations, expressed confidence that Foley's murderer would be identified and dealt with -- one way or another - ‘sooner or later.' British intelligence officers are using voice-recognition technology to assist the quest to identify the man, but Barrett added that the sickening nature of these crimes means that the search for his identity will not be confined to the intelligence community.

"...But identifying ‘Jihadi John' and stopping him is a different matter. Military action against the Islamic State might suppress the threat the organization poses in the Middle East, but it could further radicalize other British Muslims who would interpret airstrikes against IS as another ‘war on Islam.' Gains in one arena might easily be offset by setbacks in another. Yet doing nothing is not an attractive option either." More here.

Foley's death re-energizes the debate over paying ransoms, the WSJ's Dion Nissenbaum, Jennifer Leitz and David Gauthier-Villars, here.

Reuters this morning: Iraqi and Kurdish forces try to recapture IS-held towns, here.

ICYMI - Why Hillary Clinton is gambling with her hawkish foreign policy posture. Nicholas Lemann for the New Yorker, here.

A year ago, a chemical weapons attack killed hundreds of my neighbors and friends. But the greatest tragedy is Obama's refusal to punish the murderer in Damascus. Qusai Zakarya for FP: "...I am a survivor of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons attacks of Aug. 21, 2013. One year ago today, my heart stopped for 30 minutes after I inhaled nerve gas launched by Assad regime forces on my hometown of Moadamiya, a suburb of Damascus. The scene outside my front porch that morning was like something from Judgment Day.

"But the worst sadness of my life did not come the day my friends died. It came three weeks later, watching a livestream of President Obama. I learned from that speech that the United States would make a deal with Russia to rid Syria of its chemical weapons, instead of striking at Assad for his atrocities. I had to translate this news into Arabic for my friends -- we cried harder than we had on Aug. 21, because we knew that Assad now had a green light to kill all the Syrians he wanted, so long as he did not use sarin gas." More here.

Baghdad cautions that unauthorized oil purchases could be funding IS. Al-Awsat's story: "...In a statement on Wednesday, Iraq's Oil Ministry said: ‘International purchasers [of crude oil] and other market participants should be aware that any oil exports made without the authorization of the Ministry of Oil may contain crude oil originating from fields under the control of [ISIS]. The only seller of Iraqi crude oil authorized by the Ministry of Oil is [Iraq's state-owned oil company] SOMO.'

"The statement urged buyers to ‘exercise caution' and to consider that any purchases of Iraqi crude made without the authorization of SOMO ‘may expose them to sanctions for contributing to the financing of terrorist activities.'
An informed source told Al-Awsat: "ISIS was indeed selling Iraqi crude from captured refineries and oilfields. He said the crude was being sold to Kurdish traders in the border regions straddling Iraq, Iran and Syria, and was being shipped to Pakistan where it was being sold ‘for less than half its original price.' He added that many oilfields and refineries in the country remained outside government control." More here.

The GAO says the Pentagon broke the law when it traded Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners. Military Times' Chuck Vinch: "The Defense Department broke the law when it transferred five Taliban detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar in exchange for former prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday.

"In a seven-page opinion, the GAO said a provision of the 2014 Defense Appropriations Act bars defense officials from using taxpayer funds to transfer any prisoner from Guantanamo unless the secretary of defense gives Congress at least 30 days' advance notice. The Pentagon made the transfer May 31. In response to the GAO legal opinion, defense officials acknowledged that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent written and telephonic notice to congressional leaders on May 31 and June 1 and 2." More here.

Who's where when today - Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work is in South Korea. He meets with Service Component Commander, Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Defense Ryota Takeda, participates in a joint presser with Vice Minister of Defense, meets with Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobuo Kishi, and attends a formal dinner hosted by VMOD...

Johns Hopkins University's Michael Vlahos on how Americans understand war, here.

Don't look now but Libya is falling apart.  FP's Siddhartha Mahanta, here.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is anointed Thailand's interim prime minister. The FT's Michael Peel in Bangkok: "General Prayuth Chan-ocha tightened his junta's grip on Thailand on Thursday, as the country's puppet parliament named him prime minister, three months after the May 22 coup. High quality global journalism requires investment. In a surreal session in Bangkok's once disputatious legislature, MPs handpicked by the military, including many serving officers, stood up one by one to confirm the putsch leader as their choice without debate or dissent.

"While Gen Prayuth has not been formally appointed and was not even present at the vote, it is widely expected he will take on the post as part of the junta's widening efforts to reshape Thailand's turbulent politics and stuttering economy." More here.

DoD throws cold water on the 'Ice Bucket Challenge.' Military Times' Jeff Schogol: "The Defense Department has declared war on the ALS "Ice Bucket Challenge," the Internet phenomenon in which people get doused with ice water to raise money to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

"Even former commander in chief President George W. Bush has accepted the challenge, but the DoD Office of General Counsel has issued an edict that current service members and Defense Department employees cannot have ice dumped on them while in uniform - including civilian uniforms.

"...Earlier this week, the Blue Angels posted video on their Facebook page of the team being drenched with bone-chilling ice and cold water, but the video appears to have been removed. And on Tuesday, the creator of the popular Terminal Lance comic, Maximilian Uriarte, called on Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos to take the challenge. So far, no word from the Amos camp." More here.