Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Kerry makes a pitch; Putin breathes new life into NATO; A nuanced approach to Iraq, Syria; Is a station chief to blame for Benghazi?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

John Kerry just made a pitch to allies on joining a coalition of the willing, and outlined the parameters of how the administration sees the war against the Islamic State unfolding. Secretary of State John Kerry, just now in Wales: "...Contrary to what you sort of heard in the politics of our country, the President is totally committed; there is a strategy that is clear, becoming more clear by the day.  And it really relies on a holistic approach to ISIL.  That is to say that we need to do kinetic, we need to attack them in ways that prevent them from taking over territory, that bolster the Iraqi security forces, others in the region who are prepared to take them on, without committing troops of our own, obviously.  I think that's a redline for everybody here, no boots on the ground...

"We need a major humanitarian component that needs to be coordinated with the economic component, which will be real, to help Iraq get on its feet.  We need a foreign fighter component. 

"In addition, we need an all-military aspect.  Some people will not be comfortable doing kinetic.  We understand that.  Or some people don't have the capacity to do kinetic.  But everybody can do something.  People can contribute either ammunition or weapons or technical know-how or intel capacity.  People can contribute advisors...We're building up our ISR platform and intel capacity.  We also are building up the kinetic capacity, and that will be a clear part of this. "

"We very much hope that people will be as declarative as some of our friends around the table have been in order to be clear about what they're willing to commit, because we must be able to have a plan together by the time we come to UNGA, we need to have this coalesce.  We need a clarity to the strategy, and a clarity to what everybody is going to undertake."

But the White House is taking a nuanced approach in Iraq and Syria when it comes to building a coalition - and it's only focused on Iraq for now. Many inside the Pentagon and elsewhere see Iraq and Syria as one "theater," but the White House is approaching the two countries as two different places when it comes to building a policy and a coalition. As it looks to garner international support, it's selling the idea that Iraq is the place to go after militants, even if the Islamic State's origins across the way in Syria. Limiting the pitch to Iraq may be an easier sell but it could back to bite the administration. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung on Page A-11:  "President Obama and his top national security officials are fanning out across the globe this week and next, seeking commitments to help the Iraqi government in its fight against Islamic State militants. Those expecting an international action plan against the Islamic State in neighboring Syria are likely to be disappointed.

"In recent days, the administration has spoken repeatedly of building a broad coalition to degrade and defeat the militant group that controls a borderless swath of both countries. Last week, Obama said he has requested options for military action against the Islamic State in Syria, giving rise to a widespread belief that U.S. airstrikes might be imminent.

"But the administration's primary goal in the upcoming consultations, senior administration officials said, is to organize expanded international military, diplomatic and other support for Iraq's new government and security services, enabling them to reverse gains made by the Sunni Muslim militant group and push its forces back toward Syria." Read the rest here.

The havoc wrought by the Islamic State extends far beyond Iraq and Syria. Aaron David Miller for FP: "..."Terror and terrorists have always constituted a significant threat to the any lasting Israeli-Palestinian deal. But these aren't your grandfather's terrorists. Unlike Hamas and Hezbollah, who reflect certain nationalist aspirations of Palestine and Lebanon and who have made certain tactical adjustments to deal with their state sponsors, IS ascribes to a more universal Salafi/Jihadi code which frees them from certain prohibitions like killing and torturing fellow Muslims, minorities and enslaving women." More here.

On Iraq and Syria, this is the time to 'think slow'. Former Army infantry officer Craig Whiteside in War on the Rocks - his BLUF: "The momentum for expanded airstrikes against the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria is increasing, if for no other reason than that the tool is readily available and has low risk for the United States. Unfortunately, the results of such a campaign will be extremely limited if they are not part and parcel of a policy that achieves a stable Iraq... This is the time to "think slow" and not just react out of anger for the Foley/Sotloff tragedies and other IS atrocities." Read the whole thing here.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to be one of our subscribers, we'd love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by sending us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

A new book about Benghazi, by commandos who were there, lays blame for the delay in reacting to the attack at the feet of the CIA station chief. The NYT's David Kirkpatrick: "Five commandos guarding the C.I.A. base in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012 say that the C.I.A. station chief stopped them from interceding in time to save the lives of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and an American technician during the attack on the diplomatic mission there.

"In a new book scheduled for release next week and obtained by The New York Times, the commandos say they protested repeatedly as the station chief ordered them to wait in their vehicles, fully armed, for 20 minutes while the attack on the diplomatic mission was unfolding less than a mile away. 'If you guys do not get here, we are going to die!" a diplomatic security agent then shouted to them over the radio, the commandos say in the book, and they left the base in defiance of the chief's continuing order to 'stand down.'

"The book, titled "13 Hours," is the first public account of the night's events by any of the American security personnel involved in the attack. The accusation that the station chief, referred to in the book only as "Bob," held back the rescue opens a new front in a fierce political battle over who is at fault for the American deaths. More here.

Full page ad in the WaPo today blares: "A Fox News Channel Exclusive: 13 Hours at Benghazi. Finally, the Real Story."

And in Ukraine - AP's Peter Leonard in Minsk, Belarus, this morning: The talks expected to bring a much-anticipated cease-fire to the fighting in eastern Ukraine have started in the Belarusian capital. Negotiators representing Ukraine, Russia, the pro-Russian rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe opened Friday in Minsk. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said earlier that he would sign a cease-fire if negotiators reach an agreement. The rebels say they are ready to declare a truce if an agreement can be reached on a political settlement for the mostly Russian-speaking region." More here.

World War III - Would Putin go there ?  Jeffrey Tayler for FP: "...Russia has also been purportedly breaching the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which prohibits Russia (and the United States) from possessing the sort of missiles that could be used against targets in Europe. If Barack Obama entered the White House hoping to reduce atomic weapons stockpiles and make the world a safer place, it looks like he will leave it with a Russia boasting a more lethal arsenal of nuclear weapons than at any time since the Cold War. But Putin would never actually use nuclear weapons, would he? The scientist and longtime Putin critic Andrei Piontkovsky, a former executive director of the Strategic Studies Center in Moscow a political commentator for the BBC World Service, believes he might." More here. 

Russia's aggression in Ukraine is making it easier for the bloated, aging alliance to pretend that it still matters. The NATO summit and Russian aggression has plenty a pundit and others reason to argue why the alliance is still important. But do allies want to pay for it? Stephen Walt for FP: "If I were really cynical, I'd suspect some bureaucrats at NATO headquarters in Brussels are secretly glad about the crisis in Ukraine. Why? Because it gives the aging alliance something to do. This motive may also explain why hawkish Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen seems eager to defend Ukraine right down to the last Ukrainian and why the NATO members that lie closest to Russia are both worried by recent events and pleased that the rest of the alliance is finally paying attention to their concerns." More here.

Putin gives new lift to why the world needs a NATO alliance. The Christian Science Monitor's Howard LaFranchi, here.

Only a strong NATO can stop Putin, and only America can rally NATO. Madeleine Albright for FP: "NATO's heads of state are beginning their summit in Wales -- what a doozy of a meeting this could and should be." More here.

The White House avoids the 'I' word on Ukraine. The NYT's Andrew Higgins on Page One: "Whether on the streets of Budapest in 1956, the mountains of Afghanistan in 1979 and again in 2001 or in the swampy forests of Grenada in 1983, invasions have tended to be noisy, unmistakable affairs that screamed their purpose from the start. After four months of conflict in eastern Ukraine, however, few have chosen to use the "I" word to define the slow-burning war fed by a steady flow of Russian weapons and soldiers across the border... Amid mounting evidence that Russia has sent tanks, artillery pieces and troops into eastern Ukraine, such terminological fudges highlight the success of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in blurring the conventional boundaries between war and peace." Read the rest here.

U.S. mulls more steps in response to Israel's land grab in the West Bank. Haaretz' Barak Ravid: "The Obama administration is considering taking further action regarding Israel's expropriation of 1,000 acres of West Bank land this week, on top of the condemnation Washington has already issued. 'Maybe our reaction will find expression in other ways,' a senior U.S. official told Haaretz, but declined to give details." More here.

An investigation reveals that a friendly fire airstrike that killed U.S. Special Forces was avoidable. The WaPo's Dan Lamothe: "A friendly fire incident in Afghanistan that killed U.S. Special Forces and other American soldiers, along with an Afghan soldier, was the result of poor communication, inadequate planning and several other mistakes, according to the results of a U.S. military investigation released Thursday. The June 9, 2014, airstrike marked one of the ugliest friendly fire incidents in more than 12 years of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. A B-1B Lancer bomber dropped its ordnance on five U.S. soldiers, including members of an elite Special Forces team." More here.

Was the commander of Western Regional Medical Command a screamer? Unclear, but the Army suspended the officer, and announced it yesterday. Military Times' Michelle Tan and Patricia Kime: "The commanding general of Western Regional Medical Command has been suspended pending "the outcome of an inquiry centered on the command climate of the organization," the Army announced Thursday. Brig. Gen. John Cho's suspension is effective Thursday, the Army said in a statement. The Army inspector general is conducting the inquiry. Cho was suspended by Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army surgeon general and commander of Army Medical Command. Horoho is slated to assign an interim commander while the suspension is in place, the Army said." More here.
Pitching an idea that may be an easier sell these days: Mitt Romney is in the op-ed pages of the WaPo with a byline under this hed: "The need for a mighty U.S. military." Romney: "... Some argue that the United States should simply withdraw its military strength from the world - get out of the Middle East, accept nuclear weapons in Iran and elsewhere, let China and Russia have their way with their neighbors and watch from the sidelines as jihadists storm on two or three continents. Do this, they contend, and the United States would be left alone.

"No, we would not. The history of the 20th century teaches that power-hungry tyrants ultimately feast on the appeasers - to use former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour's phrase, we would be paying the cannibals to eat us last. And in the meantime, our economy would be devastated by the disruption of trade routes, the turmoil in global markets and the tumult of conflict across the world. Global peace and stability are very much in our immediate national interest." More here.

Read AUSA's Gordon Sullivan's letter to Sen. Harry Reid about why sequestration must end. Sullivan's BLUF: "We don't have a year to fix what ails our national defense. We must stop sequestration now. We must cease downsizing now. We must rely on the elected, appointed and uniformed leaders of this nation to structure forces capable of ensuring our security. We have precious little time to show the world how good we are." Read the whole letter here.

Rick Russell's National Interest piece looks at where Obama's foreign policy has gone amid all the shiny objects. Read "A Troubling 'World Island' Grand Tour: A World on Fire," here.

Rep. Duncan Hunter for Defense One on why it's time to rescue US hostages: "The deaths of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff give good reason why the Islamic State group must be crushed. Though less apparent in these tragedies is what the U.S. government must do differently to support Americans in captivity-specifically those held in hostile territory.

"At this very moment, there are Americans in the custody of extremist organizations from Iraq and Syria, to Afghanistan and Pakistan. No different than what Foley and Sotloff experienced, these individuals are under constant threat and their lives are at risk every day.

"The U.S. does not pay ransoms and is unwilling to make concessions with terrorist organizations. There is sometimes an opportunity for a rescue mission, but not always. And when a rescue is not feasible or unsuccessful, there is a presumption that other options are generally within reach to bring these Americans home. That assumption is wrong." More here.

Military aid is expected to arrive in Kurdistan, marking a shift in German policy. Rudaw's Alexander Whitcomb: "Kurdistan Region - The first tranche of German military aid to Kurdish forces arrives in Erbil today, the first time the government is supplying military aid to a conflict zone since the Second World War.  An Antonov plane carrying the first round of supplies -- all non-lethal military goods - will travel from Leipzig to Baghdad for inspection, after which the cargo will arrive at Erbil International Airport. The German-made gear will include 4,000 helmets, anti ballistic goggles, and body armor, advanced communication equipment, metal detectors, mine sweepers, equipment for disarming improvised explosive devices, night vision goggles, and binoculars, along with military design tents, field kitchens, and medical kits." More here.

 

 

Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Putin drops a peace plan; NCTC's Matthew Olsen walks back the ISIS threat; Hagel directs a re-assessment of vets discharged – did they have PTSD?; Dawn Cutler becomes the first woman to be a CHINFO; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Fighting continues in Ukraine even as Putin releases a peace plan of sorts that says both sides should "end active offensive operations." Just as world leaders convene in Wales to discuss a range of issues that includes Russian aggression in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted a "Putin plan" that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had seemed to agree to in principle. Peace talks could begin tomorrow. But it might not be a great deal for Ukraine, where Russia could maintain an influential hand.

Reuters just minutes ago: "Ukraine's president heard words of support from Western leaders at a NATO summit on Thursday, but a Kremlin peace offer failed to halt fighting in the east where dramatic advances by pro-Russian rebels have tipped the balance of power against Kiev. The West believes a rebel advance since last week is the result of an assault by heavily armed Russian troops sent across the border, and has been scrambling to find a response to the biggest confrontation with Moscow since the Berlin Wall fell."

The NYT's Neil MacFarquhar: "... Mr. Putin's plan seemed to raise more questions than it answered. First, there was no mechanism for implementation. Second, just hours earlier, his own spokesman had repeated the Russian position, widely criticized as implausible, that Moscow could not negotiate a cease-fire because it was not a direct party to the conflict. Analysts suggested that Mr. Putin's strategy is to convince Kiev that it must negotiate, not fight, and to reinforce the idea that the overall outcome depended on Moscow." More here.

Here's a question: what if sanctions against Russia, central to the West's strategy in the crisis, are working, but Moscow doesn't really care? FP's Jamila Trindle: "The mere threat of additional Western sanctions against Moscow this week sent Russia's currency to new lows; it's down 12 percent this year. Inflation is expected to rise at least 1 percentage point. More than $100 billion in capital has already fled the country, by some estimates. Russia is feeling the Obama administration's intended financial pain. The only problem is that its faltering economy hasn't dissuaded President Vladimir Putin's Ukrainian ambitions.

Juan Zarate, a former senior Treasury Department official in George W. Bush's administration, to FP: "The West needs to realize that economic and financial measures imposed to date haven't been effective in deterring Putin's ambitions in Ukraine -- and that even a maximalist financial isolation campaign alone may not be enough to stop Russian adventurism." More here.

Meantime, four NATO warships, from the U.S., France, Canada and Spain, will reportedly enter the Black Sea in coming days. Russia's RT: "...USS Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, French Commandant Birot, Canadian HMCS Toronto, a Halifax-class frigate, and Spanish frigate Almirante Juan de Borbon will enter the Black Sea before September 7, the source told the Itar-Tass news agency. "[USS] Ross and [Commandant] Birot will pass through the Black Sea straits, September 3," he added, "Spanish and Canadian frigates will enter the waters of the Black Sea, September 6.

"At present there's only one NATO ship in the Black Sea - France's Dupuy de Lome, a surveillance ship designed to collect signals and communications from beyond enemy lines. According to the Itar-Tass source, the French vessel is expected to leave the Black Sea area on September 5."

France is backing off the idea of sending the Mistral (a ship) to Russia, citing the Ukraine crisis. The WaPo's Dan Lamothe: "French officials said Wednesday that they will not deliver the first Mistral-class amphibious warship that Russia had ordered from Paris as part of a $1.7 billion weapons sale, a strong rebuke after months of aggressive actions by Russia in eastern Ukraine." More here.

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.

The U.S.'s counterterrorism chief says that ISIS is not planning an attack on America. Ever since Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel talked about the Islamic State as posing an "imminent threat," there seems to be a concerted effort across the administration to walk back this idea that the wolf is at the door. Yesterday, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Director Matthew Olsen, said there is ‘no credible information' that the militants of the Islamic State, who have reigned terror on Iraq and Syria, are planning to attack the U.S. homeland. Although the group could pose a threat to the U.S. if left unchecked, any plot it tried launching today would be ‘limited in scope' and ‘nothing like a 9/11-scale attack,' FP's Shane Harris wrote.

Harris: "...Aside from ratcheting down the rhetoric, Olsen, whom Obama nominated to run the center in 2011, offered a needed degree of political cover for the president, who has been criticized for not addressing the Islamic State threat more aggressively. Even Dianne Feinsten, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Obama was ‘too cautious' last week when he said that the United States doesn't yet have a strategy for attacking the group in Syria, where his own military leaders agree the United States must strike if he wants to wipe out the Islamist group. By describing ISIS not as an imminent threat to the U.S., Olsen gave the president some breathing room to develop that strategy over time." More here.

Meantime, Hagel, speaking to CNN's Jim Sciutto in Rhode Island, helped defend Obama's stance on the Islamic State yesterday. Read "Hagel Backs Obama on ISIS Strategy," and watch the vid, here.

But did Hagel mis-speak about the number of Americans thought to be fighting with ISIS? CNN's Tom Cohen on Hagel's interview with Sciutto: "...At one point, Hagel misspoke about the number of Americans believed fighting with ISIS. The Pentagon later told Sciutto that Hagel's figure referred to the total number of Americans believed fighting in Syria with various groups, not just ISIS. About a dozen Americans are thought to be with ISIS."

From Wales, leaders vow not to be cowed by the Islamic State. AP's Julie Pace this morning: "Faced with a mounting militant threat in the Middle East, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron declared Thursday that their nations will 'not be cowed' by extremists who have killed two American journalists." More here.

The danger hits home: The story of a North Carolina man who hoped to join ISIS. From NBC News' Richard Engel in this exclusive: "Just a few weeks ago a Catholic-born, American man -- a former military school student, special forces aspirant, law enforcement officer and bodybuilder -- set off on a path far from any he'd envisioned for himself as a kid in North Carolina: on the other side of the world, in Lebanon, he was trying to figure out how to get into Syria and join ISIS, the most radical, bloodthirsty terrorist group of our times. Don Morgan, 44, said he was answering a higher calling." Full story here.

Confronting the three-headed monster: New defensive initiatives, in Asia and Europe and against Islamic extremists, are bound to upend President Obama's military budget plans and challenge his military doctrine. The NYT's David Sanger: "In vowing in Estonia on Wednesday to defend vulnerable NATO nations from Russia ‘for as long as necessary,' President Obama has now committed the United States to three major projections of its power: a ‘pivot' to Asia, a more muscular presence in Europe and a new battle against Islamic extremists that seems very likely to accelerate." More here.

The NJ's Ron Fournier on the summer of Obama's disconnect, here.

Who's where when - Chuck Hagel is in Wales... Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work gives keynote remarks at the Combined Federal Campaign kick-off ceremony at 11 a.m. at the Pentagon... Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey hosts a Facebook Town Hall at 2 p.m. at the Pentagon... Vice Director, Defense Information Systems Agency Maj. Gen. Alan Lynn delivers remarks at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Northern Virginia Chapter's 7th Annual Joint Warfighter Information Technology Day at 1:30 p.m. in Vienna, VA...

Dawn Cutler just became the first woman to become the Navy's CHINFO - that's the U.S. Navy Chief of Information. Cutler, now a Rear Admiral, held her promotion ceremony at the Women's Memorial at Arlington Cemetery. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert were there. Who is she? Click here.

Also today, another naval officer, Cmdr. Bill Speaks, is leaving the Pentagon's office of public affairs. Speaks, who covered the Central Command "area of operations" for the Pentagon's public affairs apparatus, is headed to Norfolk. Col. Steve Warren, who heads the Pentagon's media operations, on the Arabic-speaking Speaks: "He has been a key player on this team... he studies issues, he knows them intimately, and I have come to trust him... his public affairs instincts are keen and his dedication is unmatched."

DoD is willing to reconsider discharges of Vietnam vets with PTSD. Military Times' Andrew Tilghman: "The Defense Department has agreed to reconsider the bad-paper discharges for thousands of Vietnam-era veterans who may have suffered from combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder but were kicked out of the military in the era before that became a diagnosable condition.

"In a new rule announced Wednesday, the Pentagon said veterans from the Vietnam era and other past wars with other-than-honorable discharges will be given "liberal consideration" if they seek to correct their military records and provide some evidence of a PTSD diagnosis that existed at the time of their service." More here.

The U.S. delegation meets with the Iranians in Geneva today.  Who's going? Scroll below.

New in SitRep this morning for budget wonks: CSBA's Todd Harrison looks at the Pentagon's '15 budget with a fine-tooth comb. One of his conclusions? There's a lot of money hidden in the "supplemental funding" budget even as Afghanistan's costs drop. From the exec sum of his new report, to be released today: "...Of the $58.6 billion in the OCO supplemental request, $53.4 billion is for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. While this is a 38 percent reduction in real terms from the FY 2014 level of funding for Afghanistan, force levels in Afghanistan are planned to decline by 69 percent. If the request is enacted, the average cost per troop in Afghanistan will reach a record high in FY 2015 of $4.6 million per troop per year, compared to $2.3 million in FY 2014 and an average of $1.2 million for FY 2005 to FY 2013.

"The rise in the cost per service member can be attributed in part to Congress and DoD moving funding into the OCO budget that had previously been in the base budget. Because OCO funding does not count against the BCA budget caps, moving funding from base budget to OCO funding allows DoD and Congressional appropriators to fund additional programs and activities without offsetting cuts. While there are surely costs associated with the drawdown, these costs should not be significantly higher than the costs included in previous OCO budgets to build bases and transport the same troops and equipment to Afghanistan." CSBA will have a briefing for reporters, but anyone can watch the live stream, here.

Look for the report later here.

Also hot off the press this morning: A new CNA Corporation report examines the history of operations assessment. From the abstract: "...Over the past decade, CNA Corp. analysts have found themselves increasingly involved in operations assessment, as has the broader military operations research community. Yet, to our knowledge, there is no comprehensive account of the history of operations assessment. This paper aims to serve as a primer on the subject to provide context on how operations assessment has grown and developed over the past several decades." Find the report titled "Are We Winning: A Brief History of Military Operations Assessment," by Emily Mushen and Jonathan Schroden, here.

A few lines, buried deep in the 2015 appropriations bill, could be a nightmare for American detainees and the State Department. Richard Grenell and Jeremy Stern for FP: "...Unfortunately, Washington's latest attempt to aid Americans held in foreign countries will actually harm them. This month, the House will vote on a 2015 appropriations bill containing a provision, already approved by the Senate, called "Assistance for United States Citizens and Nationals Wrongly Detained Abroad" (AFDA). Buried in hundreds of pages of text and likely unread by those voting on it, AFDA is an attempt to centralize control over the detainee process. If ratified, it will sanction the federal government to subordinate some U.S. detainees to the interests of bureaucrats, politicians, and lobbyists, and restrict the efforts of families to lobby for their loved one's release." More here.

Neither the right nor the left is satisfied with the results of Israel's latest operation in Gaza - and Bibi is under attack.  Gregg Carlstrom reporting for FP in Tel Aviv, here.

Israel prepares for the possibility of local Islamic State cells. Ha'aretz's Gili Cohen, here.

Sotloff, Foley, and the doctors fighting Ebola are part of a vital breed of first responders demanded by a new global reality. FP's David Rothkopf: "In the wake of 9/11, the world developed a special appreciation for first responders, the men and women who ran toward danger when they saw it. They risked all to help others, and fittingly there was a surge of recognition for cops and firefighters and paramedics -- both those lost in the twisted metal of lower Manhattan and those who carried on in the same tradition.

"Neither James Foley nor Steven Sotloff wore a badge or a uniform. Nor did Mbalu Fonnie, Alex Moigboi, Alice Kovoma, Mohamed Fullah, or Sheik Umar Khan. But they embodied the first-responder spirit as truly and fully as any of those whose courage inspired us and whose sacrifices broke our hearts at the World Trade Center. For precisely that reason, out of genuine respect for them and their contribution to the world, it is essential we not make the same errors we did amid the anger and grief that marked the earliest days of what we once called the War on Terror." More here.

Did you know? Sotloff was also an Israeli citizen, by the NYT's Isabel Kershner, here.

A look at the work of Sotloff, who contributed to FP and Time amonth others, by The Atlantic's Uri Friedman, formerly of FP, here.

Ayman al-Zawahiri says his global armed group would "raise the flag of jihad" across the Indian subcontinent. Al Jazeera's story,  here.

More on Iraq, Syria, etc.

The UAE condemns ISIL's acts. From the UAE's The National: "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday night strongly condemned the atrocities and terrorist acts carried out by ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Ahead of Thursday's Nato summit in Wales, the ministry called on the international community to adopt a clear strategy for countering terrorist and extremist groups.

From the statement: "Our world is witnessing many serious challenges and amongst the greatest is terrorism... The UAE expresses its deepest concerns and strongest condemnation of terror acts and criminal practices of violent extremists...The UAE condemns the atrocities of the so-called ISIL, which aims to kill, terrorise and displace civilians, ransack property, and demolish historic and religious sites." More here.

What Homer's Iliad tells us about the Islamic State. Michael Vlahos for HuffPo, here.

U.S. troops are (probably) already in Iraq fighting ISIS. Marc Ambinder for the Week comments on Ford Sypher's dispatch for the Daily Beast, which reported on Tuesday that German and U.S. forces are on the ground in Iraq: "A spokesman for the Central Command denied this specifically. ‘There are no U.S. troops on the ground in or around Zumar,' he said. But Sypher's Kurdish sources told him that one team of U.S. Special Operations Forces and several teams of German Kommando are on the ground to help coordinate airstrikes. Whom to believe? Go with Sypher.

"Why? Recall the NATO bombing in Libya and repeated denials from U.S. officials that troops weren't on the ground, and would not be on the ground.

"But there were men and women employed and trained by the U.S. government inside Libya. They were engaged in paramilitary activities. They had guns. There were members of the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division (SAD) - about 40 of them. They worked with Libyan and ground-spotters from other NATO countries to help NATO fighters find their targets and help the CIA track high-value Libyan and foreign terrorists. These Americans were there on the legal authority of a covert action finding that President Obama signed, and then notified Congress about." More here.

A government order in Saudi Arabia makes it illegal for top brass to marry non-citizens.  Al-Rai's story, here.

The U.S. delegation meets with the Iranians in Geneva today.  Who's going? Here's the list: William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary of State; Wendy R. Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Mr. Jacob J. Sullivan, Senior Advisor; Ambassador Brooke D. Anderson, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs on Iran Negotiations; Mr. James Timbie, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; Mr. Paul Irwin, Director for Nonproliferation, National Security Council; Mr. Christopher Backemeyer, Director for Iran, National Security Council; Mr. Eytan Fisch, Assistant Director for Policy, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of Treasury; Ms. Julia Jacoby, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Department of State; Mr. Matan Chorev, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State, Department of State.