National Security

FP's Situation Report: Why "Lady Al-Qaeda" is so wanted; American jihadi killed in Syria; CENTCOM's airstrikes, analyzed; Farewell to a fighting diplomat (Joe Dunford); Bobby Zarate to Kirk's office; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Meet "Lady Al-Qaeda," the woman every militant wants the U.S. to free. Aafia Siddiqui has been a "perennial bargaining chip" for terrorists and Islamic militants who have made the woman's release from a federal prison in Texas a condition for freeing a number of American and European prisoners over the years. FP's Shane Harris tells you all about her: "Two years ago, a group of senior U.S. national security officials received a tantalizing proposal from officials in Pakistan. If the United States would release a Pakistani woman serving a lengthy prison sentence in Texas for attempted murder, Islamabad would try to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been missing since 2009 and was thought to be held in Pakistan by Taliban forces.

"According to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the proposal, President Barack Obama's national security advisors swiftly rejected the offer. To free the prisoner, Aafia Siddiqui, who's linked to al Qaeda and was convicted in 2010 of attempting to kill Americans in Afghanistan, would violate the administration's policy of not granting concessions to terrorist groups, the officials concluded. It would also put a potentially dangerous fighter back on the street. Siddiqui, 42, who's known in counterterrorism circles as ‘Lady al Qaeda,' has been linked to 9/11 ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and was once on the FBI's most-wanted terrorists list.

"...Although U.S. officials never seriously considered trading Siddiqui, she has been a perennial bargaining chip for terrorists and Islamist militants who've made her release a condition for freeing a number of American and European prisoners over the years. The militants had repeatedly threatened to execute Bergdahl if Siddiqui wasn't set free. And the Islamic State terrorists who murdered American journalist James Foley last week had demanded Siddiqui's release to spare his life." More here.

An American fighting with Islamic State is confirmed dead in Syria. The number of U.S. and European-passport holding citizens thought to be fighting in Syria and elsewhere has numbered in the several hundreds. This has gripped the Obama administration as it ponders what to do next in the region. But the news that one of them was killed fighting underscores the threat to the U.S. homeland. Al Jazeera's story: "An American citizen was killed during the weekend while fighting for the Islamic State insurgent group in Syria, U.S. officials confirmed on Tuesday in response to an NBC News report. It was one of the first confirmed deaths of an American in the Al-Qaeda-inspired radical group that has taken over large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

"...Sources with the Free Syrian Army, a U.S.-backed moderate rebel faction, told NBC they found an American passport on a corpse following a battle with the Islamic State. The report said the passport, as well as the body's distinctive neck tattoo, identified Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, of San Diego, California." More here.

Meantime, Israel and Hamas agree to an open-ended cease-fire. This is the first time in weeks that such an agreement has been reached with open-ended terms, even if Hamas isn't happy. The WSJ's Joshua Mitnick in Tel Aviv and Asa Fitch in Gaza City: "Israel and Hamas agreed to their first open-ended cease-fire after seven weeks of military confrontation and will resume truce talks in Cairo in the coming days. Though nine previous cease-fires have come and gone since Israel's offensive against Hamas began on July 8, the latest deal was greeted in Gaza City with celebratory gunfire, street celebrations and honking car horns.

"The agreement was reached just hours after Israeli warplanes destroyed one high-rise building in Gaza City and severely damaged another, marking a shift in tactics that observers said escalated pressure on Hamas. Across the border in southern Israel, the mood was subdued as last-minute rocket fire ahead of the 7 p.m. truce killed two people in a border kibbutz and wounded several others." More here.

What's in the Egyptian-brokered plan to end the fighting in Gaza? Reuters' Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Luke Baker offer a breakdown, here.

John Kerry's statement on the ceasefire yesterday afternoon, here.

FP's Rothkopf talks with former U.S. Special Envoy Martin Indyk about Israel's new allies, the Gaza blowup, and why Washington shrugged when the peace process collapsed. Indyk tells Rothkopf that the fundamentals of the U.S.-Israeli relationship are solid, but that Israelis shouldn't lose sight of why Israel needs America: "...You know, I think there's a great deal of tolerance and patience in Washington that comes from a basic commitment to the relationship. I think John Kerry has a perfect voting record on Israel -- 30 years in the Senate, 100 percent support -- that comes not because AIPAC told him to do it but because he has a fundamental understanding of the importance of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship." More here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to be one of our subscribers, we'd love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by sending us a note at 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 hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

It's official in SitRep: Mary Legere and Stephen Fogarty aren't in the running for those intel jobs in the U.S. military. Foreign Policy (and SitRep) had reported first some weeks ago that the White House was going to pass on nominating Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, currently the Army's G-2, or top intelligence official, to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency. Maj. Gen. Stephen Fogarty was expected to replace her as the G-2. Now, neither officer will be nominated for those jobs, as a senior Pentagon official informed a member of Congress.

"Thank you for your ... letter regarding your concerns on the suitability of Lieutenant General Mary A. Legere and Major General Stephen G. Fogarty for positions of importance and responsibility," wrote the Pentagon's personnel chief, Jessica Wright, to Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr., the California Republican wrote July 9. "In the case of each of these officers, the Secretary of the Army has requested both nominations be withdrawn because of the lengthy review process."

FP's story, with Shane Harris and Lubold, June 27, here.

Read the letter from the Pentagon to Duncan Hunter, here.

Back to Iraq: Here's everything the U.S. military has hit with airstrikes in Iraq. The WaPo's Dan Lamothe examines the patterns of the nearly 100 strikes the U.S. has conducted since August 8:

"Vehicles have been targeted in the majority of the strikes -?The very first airstrike took out a convoy of seven vehicles, and the military hasn't let up on similar targets since. Airstrikes have destroyed or damaged more than 85 vehicles, including 43 described either as ‘armed trucks' or ‘armed vehicles' and 19 more identified as Humvees.

"...A variety of stationary targets have been hit?- The military said it destroyed nine enemy fighting positions on Aug. 18, but it hasn't reported doing so since.

"...Weapons under fire?- The Islamic State has seized a variety of weapons from Iraqi forces during their assault across the northern and western regions of the country this year. Among the targets the U.S. military has hit: Mobile artillery (once), mortar systems (three times) and anti-aircraft artillery guns (once).
"...Most are near Mosul Dam?- Two-thirds of all airstrikes conducted by the U.S. in Iraq have occurred near the Mosul Dam, a strategic asset that the Iraqi military took back from the militants earlier this month." Full story here.

Overnight: Journalist Peter Theo Curtis, freed by the Nusra in Syria, returns home to Boston, AP, here.

But militants are holding another American, a woman, who was doing aid work and was captured last year. AP, here.

It looks like the Obama administration has found its grand strategy after all: "step back, criticize others who step forward, and laud our own moral superiority for doing nothing."  Kori Schake for FP: "...America is not incapable of devising and executing grand strategy. But the Obama administration evidently is." More here.

The U.S. is mobilizing its allies to widen the assault on ISIS. The NYT's Helene Cooper and Mark Lander: "...As Mr. Obama considered new strikes, the White House began its diplomatic campaign to enlist allies and neighbors in the region to increase their support for Syria's moderate opposition and, in some cases, to provide support for possible American military operations. The countries likely to be enlisted include Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, officials said.

"The officials, who asked not be named discussing sensitive internal deliberations, said they expected that Britain and Australia would be willing to join the United States in an air campaign. The officials said they also wanted help from Turkey, which has military bases that could be used to support an effort in Syria." More here.

Foreign Policy Initiative's Bobby Zarate now works in Republican Mark Kirk's office in the Senate. Zarate, a former House staffer, started in Kirk's office this week as national security adviser. "I've very much enjoyed my 3+ years at the Foreign Policy Initiative, and I look forward to working with you in my new capacity," he wrote to friends and colleagues in an email a few days ago.

Situation Report corrects - Yesterday in an item referring to a story about the Chinese jet fighter's intercepts of an American Navy jet earlier this month, we inadvertently referred to the PLA's fighter as "Japanese" in the same sentence. Of course we meant Chinese. But you shouldn't have to figure that out on your own - apologies for the confusion and the early morning brain cramp.

Parts of the Arab press are claiming that Washington invented ISIS - and the proof is in Hillary Clinton's memoir. The NYT's Robert Mackey: "...According to the theory, which appears to have started in Egypt and spread rapidly across the region, ISIS was created by the United States as part of a plot orchestrated by the former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton to replace the region's autocratic rulers with more pliant Islamist allies. The evidence cited to back up this claim sounds unimpeachable: passages from Mrs. Clinton's new memoir in which she describes how a plan to bolster the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was foiled at the last moment when the Egyptian military seized power on July 5, 2013, and deployed submarines and fighter jets to block an American invasion.

"If that plot sounds like the stuff of fiction, that's because it is. The passages described by supporters of the Egyptian military on Facebook as quotes from Mrs. Clinton's memoir were entirely fabricated and do not appear anywhere in the text of her book, ‘Hard Choices.'" More here.

USC journalism professor Philip Seib writes on where exactly the intelligence community should focus its efforts in tracking groups like ISIS. Read it on HuffPo, here.

ICYMI - What Baghdad and Detroit have in common. Maj. Jaron S. Wharton, a former White House Fellow and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, for ARMY Magazine, here.

An editorial in Lebanon's Daily Star blasts Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem's comments on fighting terror, here.

The Islamic State was born from a warped theory of war. Faisal Al Yafai for the National (in the UAE), here.

Did you know Joe Dunford never wore his combat boots when he visited Karzai? The Economist profiles Dunford, the ISAF commander, as he leaves Kabul and returns to Washington to become the Corps' top Marine. The Economist in "Farewell to a Fighting Diplomat": "Each time the commander of the foreign forces in Afghanistan, an American general named Joseph Dunford, visited the country's presidential palace he first made a quick dash to the wardrobe. He went to switch out his camouflage fatigues and combat boots and into his full-dress uniform, pressed and creased down to the buffed shoes.

"It was a tactic that did not go unnoticed. Palace insiders, rightly or wrongly, had long believed they were being treated like a doormat in their own country. The same people were quick to note and appreciate the 'special sharp suit' that Mr Dunford wore to greet President Hamid Karzai. Mr Dunford says he made the decision to do so out of respect for the highest office in the land."

Dunford to the Economist: "When I go visit my own president that's the uniform I wear, so it was natural for me to wear the same uniform when I see the president of Afghanistan." More here.

Afghan presidential candidate Ghani pulls observers from election audit, Reuters this hour, here.

Abdullah Abdullah walks out. The NYT's Rod Nordland: "One of the two presidential candidates in Afghanistan's hotly disputed election pulled out of an internationally supervised audit of the results on Wednesday. Aides to Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, walked out of the Independent Election Commission's headquarters here after a series of technical demands about the audit, made by his campaign aides on Tuesday, went unmet.

"United Nations officials supervising the process then asked Mr. Abdullah's opponent, Ashraf Ghani, to also withdraw from the audit so it could continue with only international and independent observers present, giving neither campaign an unfair advantage.

Awkward: Putin and Poroshenko meet amid Ukrainian claim that Russian paratroopers had entered the country. The WaPo's Karoun Demirjian and Annie Gowen: "Ten Russian paratroopers captured on Ukrainian territory made for an awkward summit Tuesday evening between the presidents of the two nations. Hopes for a breakthrough at the meeting between Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin of Russia already had dimmed, but when Ukraine announced early in the day that it had seized the Russian soldiers in the Donetsk region - and had video evidence - it led to what the summit host called a 'difficult' discussion." ...Afterward, Putin said he had told Poroshenko that Kiev must take the initiative in working out a peace agreement with pro-?Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine." More here.

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili says we've seen Putin's show before, and Ukraine must stand strong: Saakashvili, writing in FP: "...Putin knows that Poroshenko is likely not in a position to yield to this pressure and accept his ‘peace plan' in Minsk. So the Kremlin has its own follow-up scheme on standby -- blame everything on the unconstructive stance of the Ukrainians and attack them with the full extent of Russian force. Once again, this was what happened in Georgia after we rejected the unacceptable conditions put forward by Moscow.

"The only way forward -- even if it is complicated and costly -- is to stand firm at Ukraine's side and help pursue a decisive victory. For that, the Europeans need to stop trying to tie Poroshenko's hands and undermining Ukrainian morale. They also need to be ready to impose additional sanctions against the Russians and provide more economic assistance to Kiev." More here.

With the U.S. winding down its European footprint, and both the UK and France overstretched, NATO's future depends on Germany. Emily Cadei for OZY, here.

Former US Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker tells FP how NATO can defeat the Putin doctrine in Ukraine and Eastern Europe: Read David Francis' story for FP, here.

Back to Israel: Former Palestinian negotiator Ghaith al Omari and former deputy U.S. Mideast peace envoy Mara Rudman write for the Hill on opportunities in rebuilding Gaza:  "...The United States has the resources, skills, and interests at stake to lead.  But leading does not mean monopolizing. We are more likely to succeed working alongside partners from Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Europe and other stakeholders, and with Palestinians and Israelis on the ground. Regional dynamics now provide more willing players who share U.S. interests. If the United States fails to step up, others will fill the void and reap the political benefits." More here.

The psychology behind Israel's Gaza war and the truce that followed. Yael S. Aronoff for FP: "Most people probably think of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a pugnacious hawk. In interviews with the media, his stern baritone insists on the dire threats to Israel's security.

"...This image of a combative Netanyahu, however, is misleading. Operation Protective Edge, as this summer's Israeli military venture was deemed, goes against everything that typically makes Netanyahu who he is. Far from the public image, Bibi is innately cautious and risk-averse. Those characteristics, combined with his conservative Likud ideology, are most important in understanding how the stage was set for the current conflict." More here.

Obama announces veterans mental health efforts, but most aren't new. Military Times' Patricia Kime: "In his speech before the American Legion on Tuesday, President Obama touted new initiatives intended to improve mental health treatment and support for service members and veterans. But many of the 19 ‘new executive actions' aren't as novel as presented; just over a quarter represent fresh efforts while the remaining either have been in the works for months or were introduced by Congress and now have White House support. Since 2009, Obama has pledged to make veterans issues a top priority. He has increased the VA budget by more than $50 billion in the past five years and promised to ‘dramatically improve services' for mental health treatment." More here.

 

 

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.