UN SANCTIONS MET WITH DEFIANCE: It wasn’t long after the United Nations Security Council slapped the toughest sanctions yet on North Korea that the rogue regime was in full bluster mode, rejecting the sanctions and threatening the U.S. with the “greatest pain” it has ever experienced. “My delegation condemns in the strongest terms and categorically rejects the latest illegal and unlawful U.N. Security Council resolution,” Pyongyang’s ambassador, Han Tae Song, told the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, according to Reuters. Han warned that North Korea is “ready to use a form of ultimate means,” and said the “forthcoming measures” will inflict on the U.S. “the greatest pain it ever experienced in its history.”
After a series of negotiations behind closed doors, the U.N agreed last night to compromise sanctions that includes a ban on North Korea's textile exports and a reduction of the regime's ability to import oil. That's short of the outright oil embargo and a total freeze of dictator Kim Jong Un's assets that the U.S. side originally sought.
“We don’t take pleasure in further strengthening sanctions today. We are not looking for war. The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return. If it agrees to stop its nuclear program, it can reclaim its future. If it proves it can live in peace, the world will live in peace with it,” said Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “On the other hand, if North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure.”
Haley spent last week pushing for the tougher sanctions package, but Russia and China dug in against the more punishing provisions — oil embargo and asset freeze — threatening to derail the proposal. So the U.S. and other allies were forced to water down the final language to avoid a veto. Still, Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft called the package “a very significant set of additional sanctions.”
The compromise leaves room to further tighten the economic noose around Pyongyang if Kim continues to thumb his nose at the international community. “The North Korean regime has demonstrated that it will not act on its own to end its nuclear program. The civilized world must do what the regime refuses to do. We must stop its march toward a nuclear arsenal with the ability to deliver it anywhere in the world. We must do that by cutting off the fuel and the funding that supports it,” Haley said last night.
WHAT IT DOES: UN Security Council Resolution 2375 will ban more than 90 percent of North Korea’s publicly reported exports. It bars the regime from making money from the 93,000 North Korean citizens it sends overseas to work, and then taxes heavily. New maritime authorities aim to curb the smuggling of coal and other prohibited materials around the world by ship. The U.S. estimates that the sanctions, if fully implemented, would starve the regime of about $1.3 billion in annual revenues.
GETTING INSIDE KIM’S HEAD: CIA Director Mike Pompeo, speaking on Fox last night, said the big challenge for the intelligence community is not so much figuring out what Kim can do, it’s figuring out what he will do. “The intent has just proven an incredibly difficult intelligence problem,” Pompeo told Fox’s Bret Baier. “We think we have an understanding. We think Kim Jong Un wants these weapons for protecting his regime and then ultimately the reunification of the peninsula. But there is still a lot that the intelligence community needs to learn.”
Of all the problems in the world, Pompeo says the North Korean nuclear threat is the one that keeps him up at night. “I worry first and foremost about the threat from North Korea in the sense that we have a place that's now on the cusp of having a capacity we'd hoped they would never have with a leader who makes decisions at the very least, in a very, very tight circle in which we have limited access,” Pompeo said.
MYTH OF THE DISENGAGED PRESIDENT: Pompeo says that all of the misleading media narratives out there these says, the one that rankles him is the idea that President Trump doesn’t bother with intelligence briefings, and doesn’t particularly like the intel community. “My team knows it's completely different,” Pompeo said. “The CIA director nearly every day is in the White House, sharing with the president the truth as best we know it straight up. The president is attentive. He listens. I think we have a schedule for about 25 minutes; it usually goes well over that.” And Pompeo says you can tell from Trump’s questions that he’s paying close attention. “He'll say, Pompeo, I think that's not what you told me three weeks ago.”
Good Tuesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre), National Security Writer Travis J. Tritten (@travis_tritten) and Senior Editor David Brown (@dave_brown24). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter @dailyondefense.
HAPPENING TODAY: The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln is on station off Florida's east coast with 27 helicopters to begin search-and-rescue missions, as thousands remain unaccounted for in the hardest hit areas. That includes the Florida Keys, where a lack of cell phone service and other communications outages have made it hard for friends and families to ascertain the whereabout and status of their relatives and loved ones. The amphibious assault ships USS Iwo Jima and USS New York arrive today. They are basically smaller helicopter aircraft carriers that also have medical facilities on board. That should bring to 80 the number of helicopters offshore available for rescue work. Florida Gov. Rick Scott flew over the Keys yesterday to survey the destruction. “It’s devastating,” he said grimly.
At the White House yesterday, Thomas Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, called the U.S. military support to local authorities “the best integrated, full-scale response effort in our nation's history.” Whether it’s the best ever may be a debatable point, but the mobilization of military assets is noticeably more muscular than what followed the flooding in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. “We've assembled two of the most powerful naval relief flotillas in recent memory, a total of nine large ships,” Bossert said. And he noted the naval response was particularly needed in the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where they’re helping American citizens who were on non-U.S. islands.
HAPPENING ALL WEEK: The Senate voted last night 89-3 to begin debate on the National Defense Authorization Act this week, along with some 300 amendments that have been added. On the floor of the Senate, Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer pledged bipartisan cooperation to get the defense bill done. “As usual, there are hundreds of amendments already filed, and a whole lot of tough issues to consider,” Schumer said. “We Democrats want to work in a constructive and productive manner to process as many amendments as possible and work through even the most difficult of issues.” Schumer praised what he called the “excellent working relationship” between Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain and ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, and expressed the hope that the two will “build a strong manager’s package” acceptable to both sides.
THE PAUL STALL: Not so fast. Shortly after the vote, Sen. Rand Paul announced he’ll object to all procedural motions and amendments as the Senate votes unless his amendment ending authority for military action in Iraq and Afghanistan is taken up. “Tonight, the Senate is attempting to move forward with the Defense Bill,” Paul tweeted last night. “I am seeking an amendment to end the AUMF in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Paul’s amendment would revoke authority for the use of military force against terrorist targets passed in response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and used as justification for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have insisted they provide adequate legal justification to engage in military operations against a variety of terrorist groups, but Paul wants a new AUMF tailored to the wars of today. “I will object to all procedural motions and amendments unless and until my amendment is made in order and we vote on these wars,” Paul tweeted.
TRANSGENDER BAN UNDER FIRE: A bipartisan pair of senators has fired the opening shots in what will be an effort in Congress to tie Trump’s hands as the Pentagon studies how to implement his ban on transgender troops in the U.S. military. Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Susan Collins have introduced an amendment that would prevent the military from kicking out transgender members based on gender identity alone. The senators plan to introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
TRUMP’s 9/11 VOW: The president, speaking yesterday to families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks at the Pentagon, vowed to continue to relentlessly pursue and destroy what he called the enemies of all civilized people. “These are horrible, horrible enemies, enemies like we've never seen before,” Trump said at the Pentagon 9/11 observance. “But we're ensuring that they never again have a safe haven to launch attacks against our country. We are making plain to these savage killers that there is no dark corner beyond our reach, no sanctuary beyond our grasp, and nowhere to hide anywhere on this very large Earth.”
9/11 JUSTICE DELAYED: Sixteen years after the attacks, five of the accused terrorists are still awaiting trial and are still being held in detention at the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba, and a trial still isn't expected until at least 2019. Some of the families of the victims in the attacks of that day say they don't expect to see a trial completed in their lifetimes.
The five men on trial were arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003, and for some periods were held in undisclosed CIA detention facilities. Among them is Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the attacks. The remarkable circumstances of the crime, the detention of the accused, and other issues such as the death penalty and waterboarding have all combined to make advancement of a trial extremely slow and tedious.
HAMZA BIN LADEN, HEIR APPARENT: A recent article in CTC Sentinel, a publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, asserts that one of Obama bin Laden's surviving sons is emerging as al Qaeda’s “leader in waiting.” The article is a fascinating read, and begins with this abstract:
“Hamza bin Ladin was among his father’s favorite sons, and he has always been among the most consistently fervent of his siblings in his support for violent jihad. Now in his late 20s, Hamza is being prepared for a leadership role in the organization his father founded. As a member of the bin Ladin dynasty, Hamza is likely to be perceived favorably by the jihadi rank-and-file. With the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ apparently on the verge of collapse, Hamza is now the figure best placed to reunify the global jihadi movement.
POMPEO’S WARNING: In that Fox interview, Pompeo said the days are numbered for the remaining leaders of al Qaeda, as the terrorist group continues to weaken in the 16 years since 9/11. "Hunting the senior leaders has always been important," said Fox News host Bret Baier. "Is there a hunt on the way for bin Laden's son?"
"Oh yes, sir," Pompeo replied. "Daily?" Baier asked. "Daily, every day," Pompeo said. "My team even as we sit here is working diligently to find them and bring them to justice." "Any positive signs?" Baier asked. "If I were them, I would count my days," Pompeo responded.
FIVE US TROOPS WOUNDED: Five American troops were wounded, along with a Georgian soldier and some Afghan civilians, yesterday in Afghanistan. A suicide attacker targeted their convoy near the village of Qal'eh-ye Musa Bala in Parwan province, with a vehicle laden with explosives. The patrol was part of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support mission. No condition of the wounded U.S. troops was given, but a statement from the U.S. military indicated their injuries were not life-threatening.
FISA REAUTH: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is urging Congress to "promptly" reauthorize a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also signed the letter, addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
In the letter, addressed Sept. 7 but made public on Monday, Sessions and Coats say Congress must "promptly reauthorize, in clean and permanent form" Section 702 of FISA.
MORE NOMINATIONS: The White House sent 10 nominations to the Senate yesterday, including James Geurts to be an assistant secretary of the Navy, to replace Sean Stackley.
FORMER NAT SEC OFFICIAL TO HILL: Derek Harvey, a former National Security Council official, who was booted from his position in July, is scheduled to join the staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Harvey was the NSC's senior director for the Middle East, but was removed by national security adviser H.R. McMaster. During his time with the NSC, he was known for having a "hawkish" outlook concerning Iran and was also viewed as a friend of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to a published report.
TODAY’S VISITING DEFENSE MINISTERS: At 11 a.m., Defense Secretary Jim Mattis welcomes Portugal’s Defense Minister José Alberto Azeredo Lopes to the Pentagon, and then at 2:30 p.m., Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan does the honors as the Minister of Defense for Bosnia and Herzegovina Marina Pendes arrives at the Pentagon for talks.
WELL ACTUALLY: Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, raised eyebrows yesterday during his White House briefing when he said an “Air Force carrier” was deployed as part of relief efforts after Hurricane Irma. Twitter reactions were swift and merciless, and you can see them here, here, here and here.
Bossert also asserted that the deployment of the carrier Abraham Lincoln for hurricane relief operations was a first. Numerous examples of previous deployments abound, including the USS George Washington’s deployment to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew last year, USS Harry S. Truman to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Lincoln to Indonesia for tsunami relief in 2005.
Some on social media suggested it was petty to get caught up in minor inaccuracies, when the real point is that hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans are so desperately in need of help. And there is no question that the U.S. military, along with state, local officials, private relief agencies, and just plain old neighbors helping neighbors are doing some heavy lifting to aid the afflicted.
FOR THE RECORD: Here is the latest on the military’s relief efforts off Florida and in the Caribbean, per the Defense Department:
Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico:
- About 4,600 service members are supporting relief operations.
- USS Kearsarge, USS Oak Hill, USS Wasp and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are conducting relief operations. The SS Wright leaves Philadelphia today to support.
- U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command are coordinating the movement of British Royal Marines to Antigua and Turks & Caicos Islands.
- U.S. Transportation Command is moving Army medical support capability to St. Thomas to establish temporary medical facilities there.
- Army Corps of Engineers power restoration teams, debris removal experts, temporary roofing teams, and port survey personnel are assessing support requirements.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency shipped 28 of 31 Defense Logistics Agency-provided generators.
- About 10,400 service members are supporting relief operations.
- USS Abraham Lincoln is positioned off Florida's east coast with 27 helicopters. USS Iwo Jima and USS New York arrive today.
- Search-and-rescue resources from Moody, Davis-Monthan, Nellis Air Force Bases, and Fort Campbell are prepared to support operations. Naval Air Station Key West is unusable. Air Force North is evaluating basing options.
- The Army has 33 of 100 requested High Water Trucks en route from Fort Bragg, N.C.
- Army Corps of Engineers power teams, debris removal teams, temporary roofing teams and port survey personnel are in place in Florida and Georgia. The Corps is working closely with the Coast Guard to reopen ports.
- Defense Logistics Agency is coordinating shipment of fuel and meals to bases in South Carolina and Georgia.
AP: Oil will keep flowing, but UN sanctions hit Pyongyang hard
New York Times: Merkel suggests Germany should join North Korea talks
Defense One: Searching for $1 Billion: Inside the Pentagon’s Struggle to Match Trump’s Air Force One Boast
Wall Street Journal: U.S. deploys drone to Philippines in fight against militants
Defense News: U.S. Senate panel bucks Trump to back Foreign Military Financing
Reuters: Trump to weigh more aggressive U.S. strategy on Iran
Foreign Policy: From the war on al Qaeda to a humanitarian catastrophe: How the U.S. got dragged into Yemen
Washington Post: White House says its military response to Irma is unprecedented, but there’s a history of similar operations
Stars and Stripes: S. Korea rejects idea of re-deploying U.S. nuclear weapons on peninsula
War on the Rocks: Trump and counter-terrorism, sixteen years after 9/11
USA Today: Making ‘The Vietnam War’: Documenting destruction
DefenseTech: Retired but still flying, the F-117 Nighthawk may soon fade to black
TUESDAY | SEPT. 12
7:15 a.m. 1700 Army Navy Dr. Washington, D.C. chapter defense leaders forum with Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. ndia.org
10 a.m. 2172 Rayburn. Pressuring North Korea with sanctions, diplomacy and information with Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state, and Marshall Billingslea, assistant treasury secretary. foreignaffairs.house.gov
10:30 a.m. 1025 Connecticut Ave. NW. Suite 200. Michael Kofman and Peter Zwack will discuss Russia’s Zapad-2017 military exercises, which will take place Sept. 14-20. cftni.org
12:30 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. The state of security in Africa with retired Gen. Carter Ham, former commander of U.S. Africa Command. cfr.org
5:30 p.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW. How cyber, robots and space weapons change the rules for war with John Yoo, former deputy assistant attorney general. Aei.org
6:00 p.m. 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson participates in a panel discussion ("The New American Space Age") with Politico at the Willard Hotel.
WEDNESDAY | SEPT. 13
9 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The United States, the Soviet Union, and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty of 1966-1968. wilsoncenter.org
9 a.m. 1152 15th St. NW. A conversation with Rep. Adam Smith on Russia, the military and emerging threats. cnas.org
9:30 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Asia disaster response and cybersecurity in a time of rising challenges and constrained resources. wilsoncenter.org
10 a.m. House Visitor Center 210. Sixteen years after 9/11: Assessing suspicious activity reporting efforts. homeland.house.gov
10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Liberal democracy as the path to greater security with Brookings President Strobe Talbott. brookings.edu
10 a.m. 2172 Rayburn. Joint subcommittee hearing on the president’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request for Afghanistan and Pakistan with Alice G. Wells, acting assistant secretary of state. foreignaffairs.house.gov
11 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. A book discussion on James Reston, Jr.’s “A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory and the Fight for a Vietnam War Memorial.” wilsoncenter.org
11 a.m. 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Intellectuals and a century of political hero worship from Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez. cato.org
12 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. How political neglect is choking American seapower and what to do about it with Seth Cropsey, former deputy undersecretary of the Navy. heritage.org
2 p.m. 2200 Rayburn. The malicious influence of state and criminal actors in the Venezuela crisis. foreignaffairs.house.gov
3:30 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Why Iraq and Libya failed to build nuclear weapons. wilsoncenter.org
THURSDAY | SEPT. 14
10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Cyber warfare in the maritime domain with Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare. csis.org
10 a.m. 419 Dirksen. U.S. policy options to support democracy in Venezuela with Marshall Billingslea, assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing. foreign.senate.gov
10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. The USS Baltimore incident of 1891 and how history informs present problems. csis.org
12 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Exposing and countering Iran. atlanticcouncil.org
5 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Global threats, global perspectives and America’s role in the world. atlanticcouncil.org
FRIDAY | SEPT. 15
9:15 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Europe and the U.S.: The old order faces a new world with Victoria Nuland, former assistant secretary of state. brookings.edu
9:30 a.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. Voices from Japan and visions for Japan’s future defense posture. stimson.org
10 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. A united front? U.S.-Japan relations at a time of uncertainty. wilsoncenter.org
MONDAY | SEPT. 18
2 p.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. The impact of the Trump administration on U.S.-Taiwan relations. stimson.org
3 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. U.S. policy toward Lebanon and what comes next. heritage.org
4 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. China's Arctic and Antarctic ambitions. wilsoncenter.org
TUESDAY | SEPT. 19
2 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. U.S.-Canadian defense industrial cooperation with Frank Kendall, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, and Martin Zablocki, CEO of Canadian Commercial Corporation. csis.org