Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Intel treasure trove: FP obtains an ISIS laptop; Blair-Olson-Neumann: empower ambassadors; Russia presses Ukraine; Foley was waterboarded; VA: sorry for comparing vets to Oscar the Grouch.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Only in FP: Buried on a Dell laptop computer captured in Syria are lessons for making bubonic plague bombs and missives on using weapons of mass destruction. U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria, and whether the Obama administration will widen an air war there, will be driven by the intelligence it can capture on the ground, naturally. A husband-and-wife journalist team were given a laptop found in the Syrian province of Idlib that belonged to fighters from the Islamic State and the two wrote about what they found exclusively for Foreign Policy today. It's the kind of intelligence that is hard to come where intelligence collection is difficult, but it's the kind of information that may help inform U.S. policymakers as they assess the threat the group poses to the region and U.S.

The amazing story of Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa, writing from Turkey for FP: "Abu Ali, a commander of a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria, proudly shows a black laptop partly covered in dust. ‘We took it this year from an ISIS hideout,' he says.

"Abu Ali says the fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which have since rebranded themselves as the Islamic State, all fled before he and his men attacked the building. The attack occurred in January in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib, close to the border with Turkey, as part of a larger anti-ISIS offensive occurring at the time. ‘We found the laptop and the power cord in a room,' he continued, ‘I took it with me. But I have no clue if it still works or if it contains anything interesting.'

"As we switched on the Dell laptop, it indeed still worked. Nor was it password-protected. But then came a huge disappointment: After we clicked on ‘My Computer,' all the drives appeared empty.

"Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Upon closer inspection, the ISIS laptop wasn't empty at all: Buried in the ‘hidden files' section of the computer were 146 gigabytes of material, containing a total of 35,347 files in 2,367 folders. Abu Ali allowed us to copy all these files -- which included documents in French, English, and Arabic -- onto an external hard drive.

"The laptop's contents turn out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations -- and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State's deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another." Read the rest of this tale here.

As you were: President Barack Obama attempted to reverse the public narrative of White House thinking on expanding the air war in Iraq and Syria, appearing yesterday at the White House and essentially saying no decision was imminent with a rhetorical blow to pro-intervention warriors by conceding: "we don't have a strategy yet."

Obama urges calm in the face of two crises, the NYT's Peter Baker, here.

Kerrying water: John Kerry is the point man to drum up international support to fight the Islamic State. FP's Brannen, Lubold and Hudson: "Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his foreign counterparts to discuss confronting the Islamic State and U.S. efforts to support the Iraqi government while attending the NATO Summit in Wales, according to the State Department. Kerry's role at next week's summit, which starts Thursday, is part of the Obama administration's effort to build a coalition behind a broader campaign to take on the Islamic extremist group in Syria and Iraq.

"...For an administration that shuns militarily intervention, the support of allies, from European to Arab nations, is critical. Some experts believe that if President Barack Obama sends additional troops into that theater of war, a variety of special operations forces from a number of countries could marry up with forces already deployed there." More here.

Turnabout is fair play to ISIS: The group waterboarded Jim Foley and other American hostages. The news yesterday that American hostages, including journalist Foley, were waterboarded by the group calling itself the Islamic State is haunting in the way in which it brings past Washington policy overseas back home. The WaPo's Adam Goldman and Julie Tate: James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA's use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks... 'They knew exactly how it was done,' a person with direct knowledge of what happened to the hostages said of the Islamic State militants. The person, who discussed the hostages' experience on the condition of anonymity, said the captives were held in Raqqah, a city in north-central Syria." More here.

The U.S. identifies Americans fighting jihad. The NYT's Michael Schmidt and Eric Schmitt: American intelligence and law enforcement agencies have identified nearly a dozen Americans who have traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the militant group that the Obama administration says poses the greatest threat to the United States since Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. As ISIS has seized large expanses of territory in recent months, it has drawn more foreign men to Syria, requiring more American and European law enforcement resources in the attempt to stop the flow of fighters, senior American officials said. And as a result of the increasing numbers of men, ISIS is now recruiting foreign women as jihadist wives." More here.

Carrying out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria might be defensible on moral grounds. But is it legal? FP's Colum Lynch: "President Barack Obama made three things clear at a news conference on Thursday: A military strike on Islamic State fighters in Syria is not imminent; the commander in chief doesn't need Congress's permission to act; and if the United States strikes, it'll be in the nation's self-defense.

"It's that last point that may be the most important, as administration officials are grappling with a legal justification for launching airstrikes inside a country whose government hasn't explicitly given permission to do so." More here.

Newsweek's Jeff Stein adds to the thought bank on what a war against ISIS might look like, here.

Want to know the list of folks who attended the National Security Council meeting at the White House yesterday? Scroll all the way down.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report. We'll next see you Tuesday. 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.

If you love runners and veterans, click here to watch what racers did when they saw a 95-year-old veteran. Probably an old video, doesn't really matter.

Want security and stability around the world? Hand over the car keys to ambassadors and others assigned overseas so they are empowered to make decisions and coordinate policy in a way only they can. Denny Blair, Eric Olson and Ron Neumann make a new, forceful argument for changing the way Washington works, and not in a way you've heard before. In a new piece in the National Interest, the former DNI, former SOCOM commander and former ambassador in Algeria, Afghanistan and Bahrain, write together for the first time to make the case for why Washington must make dramatic changes to how and who implements policy, empowering diplomats and other U.S. personnel assigned overseas so they can make decisions that, the trio argue, will help create a long-term strategy for security and stability in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. But reform is a must, they write.

Few of the obvious lessons learned from recent years have actually been learned, Blair, Olson and Neumann argue in "Fixing Fragile States in The National Interest, just posted this week: "Continued complex political, economic and military operations will be needed for many years to deal with the continuing threat from Al Qaeda and its associated organizations, much of it stemming from fragile states with weak institutions, high rates of poverty and deep ethnic, religious or tribal divisions. Despite thirteen years of experience-and innumerable opportunities to learn lessons from both successes and mistakes-there have been few significant changes in our cumbersome, inefficient and ineffective approach to interagency operations in the field.

Build a better ambassador, they write. "We believe the time has come to look to a new, more effective operational model. For fragile states in which Al Qaeda is present, the United States should develop, select and support with strong staff a new type of ambassador with more authority to plan and direct complex operations across department and agency lines, and who will be accountable for their success or failure... Congress and the executive branch need to authorize field leaders to shift resources across agency lines to meet new threats. It is, in short, a time for change-change that upends our complacent and antiquated approach toward foreign societies and cultures."

The need for more Anne Pattersons: "...The leader of American in-country operations in a fragile state needs high-order managerial and leadership skills for complex program execution as well as a deep knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of other American organizations, especially military and intelligence. Some Foreign Service officers who became ambassadors have developed these skills. James Jeffrey, Anne Patterson and Ryan Crocker are among several in the recent past. However, although such training has been recommended, the Foreign Service is not geared toward producing such skills broadly. A qualification-and-selection process is needed for ambassadors to places like Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Mali, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq to identify candidates with the experience, knowledge and stature to direct an integrated, multiagency task force."

And, why can't more agencies be like the Pentagon? they ask. "...It is only the Department of Defense that has either the authority or the tradition of assigning personnel to difficult overseas assignments whether they volunteer or not. All other agencies rely on volunteers. The result has been chronic shortchanging of the nonmilitary billets in fragile states- short assignments for officers, or the use of contractors."
Their walk-off: " It's time to replace decades of failure with a new approach that protects American security by transforming fragile states into genuinely secure ones." Read the rest of their argument here.

Russia is said to press offensive in Ukraine but don't call it an "invasion." The WaPo's Annie Gowen and Anne Gearan, here.

Reuters this morning: "Pro-Moscow rebels fighting in Ukraine said on Friday they would comply with a request from the Kremlin and open up a 'humanitarian corridor' to allow the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops they have encircled. It was not clear how the government in Kiev would react to the offer, suggested first by Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the first word from the Ukrainian military was negative. It said in a statement that Putin's call showed only that 'these people (the separatists) are led and controlled directly from the Kremlin." More here.

How far will Putin go? FP's Elias Groll and Reid Standish: "...In the last two days, Russian troops have attempted to relieve pressure on their separatist allies in Donetsk and Luhansk by opening what amounts to a third front south of the two breakaway cities. On Wednesday, Ukrainian troops, who had been steadily advancing on separatist forces in the east, beat a hasty retreat from Novoazovsk, where they were routed by troops and armor streaming across the Russian border. Novoazovsk lies a mere 20 miles from the southeastern port city of Mariupol, a city of 500,000.

"Will Putin continue the advance past Mariupol, toward Crimea -- which he annexed in March -- and potentially all the way to the breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova? Or is this a mere tactic to ensure the survival of Putin's proxies in Donetsk and Luhansk?" More here.

Imran Khan's populist protest movement is on the verge of taking down Pakistan's corrupt, sclerotic government. How did such a lightweight get so far? Mosharraf Zaidi for FP: "...Today in Pakistan, there are two big questions: Is the military attempting to stage-manage Sharif's third exit? And is his political tormentor, the temperamental former cricket star Imran Khan (unrelated to Ayub Khan), the Army's choice as his replacement?" More here.

Who's Where When today - Tomorrow, Navy Sec. Ray Mabus cheers on Navy vs. Ohio State in Baltimore...

That military pilot was found in Virginia in that fatal crash a few days ago. The WaPo's Clarence Williams, here.

Stan McChrystal wades into midterm races, Martin Matishak for The Hill, here.

The VA regrets using "Oscar the Grouch" to depict dissatisfied veterans in a training guide. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Tricia Nadolney: "...The cranky Sesame Street character who lives in a garbage can was used in reference to veterans who will attend town-hall events Wednesday in Philadelphia...The spokeswoman from the Philadelphia VA benefits office - which will host the town halls Wednesday at noon and 6:30 p.m. - said in a statement that the agency regretted any misunderstanding caused by the slide show." More here.

The VA is looking for a few good men and women - nurses and doctors - to fix what ails it. The WaPo's Joe Davidson in the Federal Diary, here.

Mike Hagel's life in aviation landed him in the Pentagon before his brother Chuck. Casey Logan for Omaha.com: "From time to time, Mike Hagel likes to provide his older brother, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, with an important piece of Pentagon history.

The younger Hagel: "I have to remind him every once in a while that I was there before he was... I've had paintings in the Pentagon since 1990."

"Hagel, 64, is one of four artists featured in an exhibit, ‘History Takes Flight,' opening Saturday at the Strategic Air & Space Museum. The show presents more than 30 aviation-themed paintings and prints." More here.

Who attended the national security council meeting at the White House yesterday? Good question - here's the list: VP Joe Biden (via secure video); Sec. State John Kerry (via secure video); Sec. Defense Chuck Hagel (via secure video); AG Eric Holder; DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson (via secure video); WH COS Denis McDonough; National Security Advisor Susan Rice; U.S. Amb. to the U.N. Samantha Power (via secure video); WH Counsel Neil Eggleston; DNI Director James Clapper; CIA Director John Brennan; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey (via secure video); Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Winnefeld; National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen; U.S. Central Command Commander Lloyd Austin (via secure video); OMB Director Shaun Donovan;  Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken; Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco; Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Caroline Atkinson; Deputy Secretary of State William Burns; White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and Gulf Region Philip Gordon; Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs Katie Fallon; DAS of State for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk; U.S. Amb. to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft (via secure video); Executive Secretary and Chief of Staff of the National Security Council Suzanne George.

Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Easy to hard: the challenges of a Syria airstrike campaign; An Army two-star, demoted; A stealth invasion into Ukraine?; Military Times' Tobias Naegele resigns; and a bit more.

 

The Islamic State executes dozens of Syrian soldiers - Reuters this hour:  "Islamic State fighters have executed dozens of members of the Syrian army they took hostage after capturing an air base in the northeast of the country, a group monitoring the violence said on Thursday. Islamic State... stormed Tabqa air base on Sunday after days of clashes with the army and said it had captured and killed soldiers and officers in one of the fiercest confrontations yet between the two sides.

"The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict using sources on the ground, said the soldiers who were executed had been trying to escape from the airport when they were taken hostage by militant fighters of the Islamic State." More here.

A Syria airstrike mission has all kinds of challenges, and it's not clear the degree to which the Obama administration is ready to mount them. But if it did, it's likely it would hit the low-hanging fruit and go from there. FP's Lubold, Shane Harris and Kate Brannen: "If the Obama administration actually takes the fight to the Islamic State in Syria, it would likely do so in stages, hitting the easiest targets first and the most difficult ones later as it develops a richer picture of the battlefield, former intelligence and experts say.

Retired Air Force two-star Maj. Gen. Jim Poss, a career intelligence officer, to FP: "That's generally how an air war progresses."

"...Depending on when the ‘go-order' is issued, U.S. military personnel could quickly identify the ‘low-hanging fruit' targets -- armored vehicles, artillery, and other relatively easy to spot from the air hardware. The United States could establish a ‘no-drive' zone to prevent enemy forces from crossing the border into Iraq and armed aircraft could strike them once they were identified, Poss said.

"The next stage would require refined intelligence gathered from drone feeds taken over days or weeks and hit ammunition supply points and other such targets. The most difficult mission -- one that the White House may not have an appetite for -- would go after the Islamic State's leadership." More here.

Obama feels pressure to get an OK from Congress before ordering strikes inside Syria. But, unlike last year, the debate is more about whether he needs Congress, not if he should order strikes.  Defense News' John Bennett, here.

The NYT's editorial board this morning on airstrikes and the lack of a strategy: "... there are too many unanswered questions to make that decision now and there has been far too little public discussion for Mr. Obama to expect Americans to rally behind what could be another costly military commitment...No comprehensive strategy has been worked out. And, without that, it would be unwise to expand a mission that President Obama has acknowledged 'won't be easy, and it won't be quick.'" More here.

Wanna be smart today about the Islamic State operating in Syria? Then click here to read this AP explainer this morning.

Welcome to Thursday'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 the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

Remember when sexual assault was the issue du jour? The Army just demoted a two-star general for failing to pursue a sex assault claim in his command and announced it. Military Times' story: "Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison, former commander of U.S. Army Japan, will retire as a brigadier general, according to a news release from the Army. Army Secretary John McHugh directed that Harrison be retired at the lower rank, the release states.

"...Harrison was suspended from his duties in June by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and McHugh. The Army provided no details about the alleged sexual assault case. However, Stars and Stripes reported that a woman alleged in March that an officer in the command who was her supervisor sexually assaulted her and repeatedly subjected her to unwanted advances. The woman said she was removed from her job after other employees complained the officer shower her favoritism, Stars and Stripes reported." More here.

What the Fort Lee shooter Sgt. Paula Walker thought of the 2009 Fort Hood massacre. U.S. News & World Report's Paul Shinkman, here.

Search continues for pilot of military jet from Massachusetts that crashed in Virginia. The Boston Globe's Bryan Bender and Matt Rocheleau, here.

Read below about the news of Military Times' Tobias Naegele resigning.

Who's where when today - A bunch of folks, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, are headed to Tampa today to bid adieu to the outgoing commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, Bill McRaven, and welcome Lt. Gen. Joe Votel in as the new guy. McRaven, who oversaw the raid that killed bin Laden, is headed to the University of Texas. ... Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos also attends events in Tampa...

Tom A. Peter recounts the time he was captured while reporting in Syria and says that the life-threatening risk he took to get the facts weren't worth it. Read Peter's piece for TNR, here.

ICYMI - The New Yorker's George Packer on the importance of reporters like Jim Foley, and the perils of relying on punditry as a substitute, here.

Abdullah boycotts the Afghanistan vote audit. Bloomberg's Eltaf Najafizada, here.
Meantime,
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman arrived in Afghanistan on August 27 to work on the election. Full statement from State, here.

An Afghanistan Times editorial on the "alarming" brain drain there. Read it here.

Read our own story from this spring on the "diplomatic brain drain" in Afghanistan, here.

Meantime, Pakistan is on the brink, again. Shuja Nawaz for FP: "With thousands of young Pakistanis besieging their capital to demand the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan -- a key element in the United States' plan to withdraw from neighboring Afghanistan by the end of 2016 -- is slipping into political anarchy. Only one year after the country's first-ever democratic transfer of power, the elected government in Pakistan is at risk of another military takeover. Yet Washington is showing little sign that it is paying the situation the urgent attention it requires." More here.

The Islamic State is raking in the dough. The WSJ's Nour Malas and Maria Abi-Habib: "The Islamic State runs a self-sustaining economy across territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, pirating oil while exacting tribute from a population of at least eight million, Arab and Western officials said, making it one of the world's richest terror groups and an unprecedented threat.

"That illicit economy presents a new picture of Islamic State's financial underpinnings. The group was once thought to depend on funding from Arab Gulf donors and donations from the broader Muslim world. Now, Islamic State-the former branch of al Qaeda that has swallowed parts of Iraq and Syria-is a largely self-financed organization.

A Western counterterrorism official: "Can you prevent ISIS from taking assets? Not really, because they're sitting on a lot of assets already...So you must disrupt the network of trade. But if you disrupt trade in commodities like food, for example, then you risk starving thousands of civilians." More here.

A meeting about the Islamic State in Jeddah this week brought together unlikely allies. Al Monitor's Ali Hashem, here.

Iraq's ambassador offers a window into the new PM's worldview. FP's John Hudson: "The Iraqi government is poised for a significant overhaul following this month's nomination of Haider al-Abadi as the country's next prime minister. But at least one senior official won't have to worry about cleaning out his desk: Iraqi ambassador to the United States Lukman Faily.

Amb. Faily said Abadi's rise brings an opportunity for better relations with Washington: "He speaks English. He doesn't need a translator. He can tune into the D.C. frequency quite easily."

"...But those hoping for a dramatically different chief executive in Baghdad will likely be disappointed. Faily emphasized that the two Dawa Party members share a broadly similar worldview and cautioned against those depicting the political transition in stark terms. ‘He's also an Islamist by background. He will not have that much of a different vision than Maliki,' said Faily." More here.

The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General Lloyd Austin, now CENTCOM commander, met with Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad. John Lee for Iraq Business News: "...The two men were discussing the changing nature of US-Iraq security cooperation in the face of the ongoing offensive of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)." More here.

Iraqi forces are preparing to break ISIS's siege of Amerli. The Daily Star's story: "Iraq was massing forces Wednesday for an operation to break a two-month jihadist siege of the Shiite Turkmen town of Amerli, amid growing fears for residents short of food and water...According to a civilian volunteer commander, thousands of Shiite militiamen from groups including Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organization are gathering in the Tuz Khurmatu area of Salahuddin province, just north of Amerli, in preparation for a battle to break the siege." More here.

The many ways to map the Islamic ‘State' by the Atlantic's Kathy Gilsinan, here.

A stealth invasion of Ukraine? Reuters this hour: "Ukraine accused Russia on Thursday of bringing troops into the southeast of the country in support of pro-Moscow separatist rebels. Ukraine's security and defense council said the border town of Novoazovsk and other parts of Ukraine's south-east had fallen under the control of Russian forces who together with rebels were staging a counter-offensive... President Petro Poroshenko, in a statement explaining his decision to cancel a visit to Turkey, said: 'Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine.'" More here.

Finally, with new Russian troops in Ukraine, NATO offers a plan to counter Putin. David Francis for FP: "NATO response to Russia's latest incursion into Ukrainian territory came into focus on Tuesday -- and its forceful. Russian tanks, troops and artillery reportedly crossed into a previously unbreached border of eastern Ukraine Tuesday, opening a third front near the city of Novoazovsk and leading Ukrainian forces into a chaotic retreat. Western officials told the New York Times they fear Russia is carving out a landbridge to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed earlier this year.

"NATO answered by announcing it would deploy troops to new bases in Eastern Europe, the first time soldiers serving under the NATO banner have been sent to a former Soviet bloc nation. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the move is a direct response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Rasmussen to European newspapers: "We will adopt what we call a readiness action plan with the aim to be able to act swiftly in this completely new security environment in Europe...We have something already called the NATO response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed. Now it's our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very high readiness." More here.

There will never be peace in the Holy Land until Hamas is totally disarmed. Israel's FM Avigdor Liberman for FP: "...The circumstances in Gaza must be changed radically. Israel fully supports a broad international effort to provide all the necessary means to rebuild the civilian infrastructure and economy in Gaza, provided there is a concerted parallel effort to prevent Hamas from rearming itself with weapons systems and rebuilding its terrorist infrastructure. Hamas cannot be allowed to rebuild its military force and prevent the essential international aid being directed to the Palestinian residents. Ultimately, the best guarantee for rebuilding Gaza and developing its economy will be demilitarization.

"As long as Hamas remains armed, its weapons represent the strongest and most violent veto of peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike." More here.

Bibi is under attack from the right for his truce deal with Hamas. Ha'aretz's Jonathan Lis, here.

FP's Siobhán O'Grady on the Rubble Bucket Challenge, Gaza's version of the ice bucket, here.

For Der Spiegel, Markus Becker reports from Tel Aviv on the close link between Israel's government and defense industry: "...G-Nius is a textbook example of the way technology is created in Israel. The company's headquarters are located in the High-Tech Park development in the city of Yokneam in northeastern Israel, surrounded by numerous other technology firms. It's a joint venture of the space and electronics firm Elbit Systems and the state-owed aviation and defense company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It also has excellent ties with the military." More here.

As Egypt and the UAE launch airstrikes on Tripoli, a cadre of politicians, militia leaders, and businessmen with links to both countries hopes to take advantage of a popular swell against Libya's Islamists. Mary Fitzgerald in Tripoli for FP, here.

The U.S. still needs Saudi oil. Al-Awsat's Fatah Al-Rahman Youssef: "Saudi oil exports to the US will not be affected by the latter's recent push to increase domestic oil production, the official spokesman for the US Embassy in Riyadh told Asharq Al-Awsat. W. Johann Schmonsees denied that the recent boom in the US production of shale oil would affect Saudi oil exports to the US, which he said is hoping to keep its share of Saudi oil exports-currently at 16 percent-unchanged despite recent moves to boost domestic oil production." More here.

Back to Washington...

Fair winds and following seas: Tobias Naegele, who hired us at Military Times five jobs ago and helped us begin to learn everything we needed to know about military journalism, and there was a lot, just announced he is resigning after more than 22 years in the biz. He had been promoted a year ago into the business side of the business, leaving journalism largely behind, and realized he missed it terribly. He has plans to return to those roots.

Even now, we miss that famous (or sometimes infamous) furrowed brow, the last-minute edits on a Friday afternoon that always made a story have more impact, and the mostly friendly arguments about that next week's "cover words." His email to colleagues yesterday morning reminded us of how much the act of journalism means to those of us who commit to it each day, why we may be miserable doing it and miserable not doing it, and how awesome, in the truest sense of the word, it is to have been given the opportunity to go to some incredible places and to have seen some life-altering things, all under his leadership. Under that leadership, we remember saying to ourselves with relative frequency: "very few people get to do what I'm doing right now." That's a feeling we still have.

Military Times' Jeff Schogol: "...Naegele, 52, spent more than 22 years with Gannett Government Media, formerly Army Times Publishing Co., where he groomed and mentored hundreds of journalists who covered the U.S. military and defense industry from the company's headquarters in Springfield, Virginia. For reporters and editors alike, no story was truly complete until Naegele signed his initials, 'TN,' on the page proof. He would find any weakness in a story and make sure what appeared in print was strong.

"...Naegele, vice president and general manager of Defense News, was not yet 30 years old when he joined the company as editor of Navy Times. He later was promoted to editor in chief of the entire newsroom. One of his proudest achievements in journalism was launching Marine Corps Times, he said. He is also proud of the newsroom's coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for which Gannett Government Media's parent company named him editor of the year in 2004.

"'When we invaded Iraq and the Pentagon set up an embedding system, we were able to lead and coordinate Gannett's participation in that," he said. "We had, I believe, 11 reporters, photographers and editors in theater. For a newsroom our size, that was about 10 percent. We were heavily forward deployed."

Naegele, on the biz: "I believe, more than ever, in the power of journalism - and the need for great journalism that makes a real difference in people's lives... There's an enormous amount of journalism today that is repetition of what already has been reported and gaggle reporting of the same press conferences. Great journalism goes out and finds news and information that people should know about but isn't in plain sight, and it shines a light on that. I want to be part of that." Military Times' full story here