National Security

FP's Situation Report: Groundwork begins for Syria airstrikes; Are Libyan airstrikes really a surprise?; The Forgotten wars of the Obama administration; The loaded meaning of a Ferrari in Beijing; 1997 calling; and a bit more.

 

After a civil war that's lasted three years and has contributed to the rise of Sunni militants known as the Islamic State, the White House is laying the groundwork for airstrikes in Syria. Driven by the graphic images of beheaded American journalist Jim Foley, the White House has decided it can ignore no more the militants operating with relative immunity inside Syria who have "metastasized" into Iraq. But with little intelligence from Syria, the U.S. will begin soon flying drones over that country to assess targets. When and if the airstrikes do come, the Pentagon will have the "target packages" it needs to conduct them. It's a big step for an administration which has been loath to commit to combatting the Islamic State, but it could still take weeks before it has the intelligence it needs to begin a mission there.

The WSJ's Adam Entous, Julian Barnes and Dion Nissenbaum:  "...The decision amounts to an acknowledgment that U.S. intelligence-collection efforts must be expanded to provide a better picture of the threat posed by the group calling itself the Islamic State, which holds large swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory. It is also one of the first tangible signs that the Obama administration may be preparing for military operations in Syria against the group, which is also known as ISIS.

"The U.S. military's Central Command, which oversees American operations in the region, requested more surveillance aircraft, including drones, to gather more intelligence on potential Islamic State targets, and officials said they could start flying missions over eastern Syria shortly.

A senior U.S. official, to the WSJ: "The Pentagon is preparing to conduct reconnaissance flights over Syria... There is no decision yet to do strikes, but in order to help make that decision, you want to get as much situational awareness as possible." Read the rest of that story here.

Syria's Assad, of course, won't like it. The NYT's Ben Hubbard in Baghdad: " Syria's foreign minister said Monday that his government was ready to cooperate with international efforts to fight the extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But in a nod to the possibility of expanded American airstrikes, he warned that any action inside Syria without the government's approval would be considered 'aggression.'" More here.

More on the British rapper who reportedly beheaded James Foley by FP's Elias Groll, here.

More on Iraq and Syria, including FP's Aaron David Miller on why airstrikes in Syria won't solve the problem, below.

Meantime, as violence in Libya becomes more concerning, U.S. officials say that Egypt and the U.A.E. have secretly carried out airstrikes in Libya. American officials acknowledged yesterday that the two countries were quietly conducting an airstike campaign in Libya and that the mission had taken the U.S. by surprise. The NYT's David Kirkpatrick and Eric Schmitt: "...The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington or seeking its consent, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied the operation to American diplomats, the officials said.

One American official: "We don't see this as constructive at all." More here.

But Jim Stavridis, the former NATO commander who oversaw the Libyan airstrike campaign in 2011 said to SitRep this morning: "This is a good development from a US perspective."

And of course the U.S. knew about airstrikes on Libya. FP's Harris, Hudson and Lubold: "Two airstrikes in the past week on Islamist militias fighting for control of Tripoli, Libya, are raising questions about who was behind the attacks and whether the United States knew about or condoned them. On Saturday, Aug. 23, Agence France-Presse reported that Islamist militants in Libya pointed the finger at Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Egyptian military quickly denied any involvement. On Monday, the New York Times reported that American officials confirmed that the Egyptians and Emiratis had launched the strikes, but said they'd caught the United States by surprise.

"That claim seemed incredible, though, in light of the presence in the region of the U.S. military, which would have certainly detected a series of airstrikes. ‘With as many Aegis-class ships as the U.S. Navy has in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean, there is no possible way the UAE could pull this off without the U.S. knowing it,' said Christopher Harmer, a former Navy officer and an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. Harmer said that he had no information about U.S. involvement, ‘but the U.S. government knows who bombed what,' he said." More here.

And there's another hotspot this morning - in Ukraine. The WaPo's Annie Gowen and Karoun Demirjian with a developing story: "Ukraine said Tuesday its forces detained a group of Russian paratroopers who crossed the border into eastern Ukraine, and the U.S. ambassador to Kiev warned of a possible "Russian-directed counteroffensive" by pro-Moscow separatists, raising tensions between the two countries ahead of a planned meeting between their presidents at a regional summit.

"In a briefing Tuesday, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the Ukrainian army detained 10 Russian paratroopers in the Donetsk region, scene of some of the heaviest fighting with separatist rebels in the east. The spokesman said the Russians were detained with their documents and weapons and had provided statements." More here.

Meantime, John Allen is quietly putting the band back together for peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. There may now be room for the two sides to come together as unbelievable as that may seem. John Allen arrived for a surprise visit late Monday. Times of Israel: "As fighting between Israel and Gaza persisted for a 50th day Tuesday, retired US general John Allen was set to meet with Israeli officials Tuesday to discuss the possible renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians once the Gaza operation ends... He was previously involved in drawing up a US plan for security arrangements in the Jordan Valley reportedly rejected by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority." More here.

Reuters this hour: Israeli airstrikes target high-rises in Gaza, here.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report, where we have no plans to move our headquarters to Canada. 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, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

Forgotten wars: Military missions begin, then move to the background, as new crises break. FP's Kate Brannen puts the missing Nigerian schoolgirls, the hunt for Joseph Kony, destroying Syria's chemical weapons, NATO air policing and Afghanistan back under the spotlight: "In this crisis-heavy summer, once high-priority missions are quickly falling off the public's -- and sometimes the national security establishment's -- radar. Even the biggest of U.S. military missions --Afghanistan, where roughly 29,000 U.S. troops are deployed -- seems to be on Washington's back burner compared with Ukraine and the threat of the Islamic State. But the commanders running these operations, as well as the personnel carrying them out, certainly haven't forgotten." More here.

After a two-week vacation, POTUS is back in the White House, and dealing with crises like he never left. The AP's Jim Kuhnhenn: "...For Obama, it's the overseas trouble spots in Iraq and Syria and along Ukraine's eastern border that present the president with his most immediate challenge - pushing U.S. allies beyond their comfort level to confront Russia and the Islamic State militants. " More here.

So far, a watchdog office inside the VA can't substantiate claims that delays in care led to 40 veterans dying in Phoenix. The NYT's Richard Oppel: "...The allegations of deaths created a national scandal that eventually led to the ouster of the previous secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki. Outrage over the manipulation of waiting list data in Phoenix and other veterans medical centers also led to passage by Congress of a $15 billion plan to improve access to medical providers. The director of the Phoenix hospital, Sharon Helman, has been placed on leave and the department has begun the process of firing her.

"A report by the department's office of inspector general is expected to be released this week that will describe findings from its investigation into Phoenix. Officials from the inspector general's office have declined to comment on what the report will say." Read the rest here.

Yesterday we used the word "bubba" in an item about James Swartout leaving one job at the Pentagon for another. Then we got a "mean-mail" from Col. Steve Warren, who runs media operations at the Pentagon, taking issue with our line: "Swartout, who served as the public affairs bubba for then Deputy Secretary..."

Warren, to SitRep: "Public affairs bubba? Who says that? 1997 called. They want their slang back." Point taken, kinda-sorta.

Situation Report corrects - Our report yesterday on the Army's Advanced Hypersonic Weapon test inadvertently added an "i" to James Acton's name.  Sounds like a stage name! But our sincere apologies for the error.

Meantime, Defense News' Aaron Mehta reported yesterday that the AHW test failed four seconds after taking off; read that here.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby will appear at the podium today at the Pentagon.

Today in Afghanistan, Gen. J.C. Campbell takes over for Gen. Joe Dunford in a change of command ceremony in Kabul. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey is there today for the ceremony. Dunford will return to Washington and relieve Gen. Jim Amos as commandant of the Marine Corps sometime in October.

The BLUF of the NYT editorial today on Afghanistan: "...The best available solution is for Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani to cooperate fully with the ballot audit, accept the results (which were never going to be fraud-free, given the immaturity of the democratic system) and quickly form a functioning government that reflects the country's diversity. If they manage to do that, there might be some hope that they could, in time, restore voter trust and put Afghanistan on the path to a real democracy." More here.

ICYMI (we did): Time for a woman in the Pentagon? (read: Michele Flournoy is tan, ready and rested). Rosa Brooks, writing in WSJ, here.

Pivoting: Meantime, the U.S. tries to reassure Japan and other allies about its commitment to Asia with a sub. Anna Fifield in Japan: " The whole idea of the U.S. Navy's stealthy, fast-attack nuclear submarines is that they can go undetected, but when the USS Hawaii docked here, its commanders went out of their way to draw attention to the $2 billion vessel.

"Its patched-up black tower looming out of the harbor's waters, the Virginia-class nuclear sub showed up to reassure the uneasy Japanese that American power is still on their side, and still a force to be reckoned with. 'The Hawaii represents the best submarine in the world,' said Rear Adm. Stuart Munsch, who is in charge of all American submarines between the International Date Line and the Red Sea. 'We're bringing our best out here to our most important region.'" More here.

For FP, Brookings' Daniel Byman offers an endgame in Gaza: "...If Hamas cannot be fully defeated, and if isolating it politically and economically makes it more likely to lash out, then the Israeli goal should be to use deterrence as part of a broader strategy to transform Hamas. Because Hamas cares about governing Gaza as well as defeating Israel, it should be given a stark choice: If it ends its own violence and launches a full crackdown on other militant groups in Gaza, the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza will be eased." More here.

Are we blind to an "enduring reality of war" in Gaza? Michael Vlahos asks the question for War on the Rocks, here.

And don't forget about Iran's ballistic missile program. Behnam Ben Taleblu for War on the Rocks, here.

About that metaphor: Yesterday, we ran our own piece about the Chinese jet fighter that was dangerously intercepting an American "sub-hunter" plane near Hainan Island. In our attempt to explain the difference between a Chinese J-11 and an American P-8 Poseidon, we quoted a defense official who described the two planes as a "Ferrari and a school bus." Well... who knew that "Ferrari" is a loaded term in China? FP's own David Wertime explains this fascinating thing after Chinese media reacted to the metaphor used in the FP story: "An Aug. 25 Chinese-langugae editorial on the website of People's Daily, widely regarded as a Communist Party mouthpiece, imputes a dark motivation to the simile. The piece quotes someone named Wang Zhiming complaining that the turn of phrase "has an ulterior motive, is inappropriate," and contains "severe insinuations and misrepresentations." Wang, whose occupation or identity is not revealed in the article, complains that a school bus is intended to protect children, while Ferraris are strongly redolent of tuhao, a derogatory term for China's nouveau riche. (Wang adds that the airman's maneuver was "very normal" and that a safe distance remained between the two planes.)"

"It's highly unlikely that the U.S. defense official had a firm enough grasp of the Chinese zeitgeist to intend the simile as an insult. But even accounting for the likelihood that state media was grasping for umbrage, it's true that the word Ferrari is highly loaded in China, a country with a grim recent history of deadly crashes involving the expensive Italian cars." More here.

Speaking of that story about the Japanese fighter jet intercepting the American plane... In that story, we also quoted a defense official as having "quipped," something we deeply now regret.  Here is the line we used: "'He'll either be fired, killed, or promoted,' quipped one Pentagon official," referring to the Chinese commander responsible for a series of such intercepts. But yesterday, we were contacted by that defense official, who took issue with our use of the word "quip." We'll indulge the official and agree that the defense official "retorted" instead.

Our original story, "Call Sign Rogue: Pentagon Says One Chinese Commander Responsible for Spate of Air Confrontations,' here.

Reminds us of the time the WaPo issued a correction after a Navy official objected to use of the word "thickset" to describe him - he liked muscular. Read that one here.

More on Iraq and Syria:

ISIL brings Saudi Arabia and Iran closer. Gulf News' Jumana Al Tamimi: "In the first direct talks between the two countries in some years, Iranian deputy foreign minister Hussain Amir Abdollahian is flying to Riyadh on Tuesday for talks on regional issues, including the war against the terrorist organisation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Iraq and Syria, political experts said. ‘I think it is a very important visit,' said Khalid Al Maeena, a veteran Saudi commentator and editor-at-large of Saudi Gazette." More here.

The U.S. flew 1,500 air sorties in Iraq against Islamic State. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio, here.

Five reasons why an expanded mission to strike James Foley's killers in Syria won't work - and why it's going to happen anyway. The Wilson Center's Aaron David Miller for FP: "...Presidents -- like the rest of us -- need their own internal explanations when making tough and risky decisions, particularly when they have avoided them in the past. And there's simply no better or more credible way to convince yourself you're doing the right thing than the argument you are protecting America. In that context, carrying out airstrikes or deploying limited special operators across what is a nonexistent border between Iraq and Syria should be no problem.

"Unfortunately, there is no short-term answer to the Islamic State in either Iraq or Syria. A few bombs -- or a few hundred -- might save innocent lives and kill a few jihadists, but it's not going to do much beyond that. A long-term strategy of arming, training, equipping, marshaling allies, addressing Iraq's political dysfunction, well ... is long-term." More here.

Will the Gulf lose Qatar? Al-Awsat editor-in-chief Salman Aldossary, here.

For DER SPIEGEL, Christoph Reuter and Jacob Russell report on a Turkmen city in northern Iraq that has been under siege by the Islamic State, here.

 

 

 

 

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.