Iran denies drone was downed, offers inspections to end sanctions – Washington Examiner
IRAN’S DENIAL: Iran is denying the U.S. account of an encounter between a U.S. warship and an Iranian drone near the Strait of Hormuz, insisting all of its surveillance drones have returned safely to base. Yesterday President Trump announced that the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer “took defensive action” and “immediately destroyed” the drone, which he said came too close for comfort.
The drone, he said, “closed into a very, very near distance, approximately 1,000 yards, ignoring multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew,” Trump said. “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters.”
PENTAGON’S QUALIFIED ACCOUNT: A statement issued by Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman used more careful language, which stopped short of claiming the drone was shot down or destroyed. “A fixed wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range,” Hoffman said. “The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”
The statement would seem to indicate that the ship may have used electronic countermeasures to force the drone to back off.
“DELUSIONAL AND GROUNDLESS’: Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi mocked the accusation, and a spokesman for the Iranian military called the U.S. version of events “delusional and groundless,” according to CNN.
“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” Araghchi tweeted. “ I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS by mistake!”
IRAN OFFERS INSPECTIONS: Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif says Iran is willing to commit to intrusive inspections to assure the world that Tehran is not developing nuclear weapons, in return for sanctions relief that would have to be ratified by Congress.
Speaking to reporters at the Iranian mission to the United Nations, and again in an interview with NPR that aired this morning, Zarif said Iran is ready to commit to monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But Iran is not willing to renegotiate the 2015 agreement that Trump has trashed as “the worst deal ever,” likening it to “buying a horse twice.”
MORE SANCTIONS: Meanwhile, the State Department has announced the designation of 12 entities and individuals based in Iran, Belgium, and China as “proliferators of weapons of mass destruction or delivery systems.”
“As part of our maximum pressure campaign, the U.S. sanctioned a global network of companies and agents that procured materials for Iran’s nuclear program,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted yesterday. “The world’s leading sponsor of terrorism should not be enriching uranium.”
RAND PAUL’S DIPLOMATIC MISSION: Trump pleaded ignorance yesterday about a Politico report that he has signed off on idea pitched by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to serve as a back-channel emissary to meet with Zarif while he is in the U.S.
“I don’t know anything about that other than I have spoken to Senator Paul, and Senator Paul’s somebody I have a very good relationship with, and I would listen to him. But I didn’t appoint him, no,” Trump said. “I respect Senator Paul, and if he had some ideas, I’d listen.”
In an appearance on Fox, Paul avoided saying if he’d been given a secret diplomatic mission by the president, but he did say the time is ripe for diplomacy.
“I think there is a possible opening that Iran would sign an agreement saying that they won’t develop a nuclear weapon ever. That would be a huge breakthrough,” Paul told Fox’s Neil Cavuto. “I think President Trump is one of the few people who actually could get that deal. And he will get it because he’s strong and he’s showing maximum pressure. But he’s also willing to talk.”
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HAPPENING TODAY: Acting Secretary of Defense Richard Spencer is heading to the Texas border town of McAllen today to meet with service members currently deployed in support of the Southwest border security mission. On Wednesday, the Pentagon announcement of the deployment of an additional 2,100 troops to provide aerial surveillance and logistical support operations on the border.
ALSO TODAY: Pompeo attends the Second Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“On the road again, headed to meet with partners across the Western Hemisphere. Strong and enduring relationships in the region are more imperative than ever to counter critical threats and create a more prosperous and democratic hemisphere,” Pompeo tweeted ahead of his five-day trip, which includes stops in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Mexico City, Mexico; San Salvador, El Salvador; and ends in Orlando, Fla, where on Monday he will deliver the keynote address at the 2019 National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
HEADED TO THE FINISH LINE: The Senate Armed Services Committee has favorably reported out the nominations of both Army Secretary Mark Esper to be defense secretary and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to be joint chiefs chairman.
The full Senate could vote at any time to confirm the nominations, which both appear headed for easy approval.
IT’S OFFICIAL: Acting Secretary of Defense Spencer announced yesterday that his suggestion for the next Chief of Naval Operations has been accepted by the president, who has formally nominated Vice Adm. Michael Gilday to replace Adm. William Moran, who was previously confirmed, but forced to step aside over questions about his judgment.
Gilday, who is currently the director of the Joint Staff, would get a fourth star, if confirmed by the Senate. He previously served as commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and the 10th U.S. fleet. Gilday has commanded several ships throughout his career, and was head of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and Carrier Strike Group 8.
TURKEY’S FUTURE IN NATO: The decision by Turkey to defy the U.S. and give up its role in the F-35 program in favor of Russian air defenses has prompted some to suggest Turkey is no longer a reliable NATO ally, and perhaps should be expelled from the alliance.
Setting aside that there is no process for kicking a nation of NATO, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg dismissed that idea that Turkey’s status is in any jeopardy. “The role of Turkey in NATO is much broader than F-35 or S-400,” Stoltenberg told NBC’s Courtney Kube at the Aspen Security Forum Monday night.
“There’s a disagreement on the issue of S-400, that’s correct,” he said. “And I think that my responsibility is partly to try to help to solve the issue, but as long as that issue is not solved, we need to minimize the negative consequences.”
STORM CLOUDS OVER JEDI CONTRACT: As is increasingly obvious, the fastest way to get around the byzantine bureaucracy in Washington is to catch the ear of the president. Just ask Kim Kardashian West.
Trump revealed yesterday that he’s been getting an earful from companies who complain the fix is in for Amazon to win a $10 billion sole source contract to consolidate the Pentagon’s cloud computing called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI.
“I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon. They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid,” Trump said at an appearance with Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “And we’re looking at it every seriously. It’s a very big contract, one of the biggest ever given.”
“I will be asking them to look at it very closely,” Trump said, because the complaining he said is coming “from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM. Great companies are complaining about it.”
McCHRYSTAL’S PICK: The struggling Democratic presidential campaign of Rep. Seth Moulton has picked up the endorsement of former U.S. Afghanistan commander retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
“Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran who served four combat tours in Iraq, failed to qualify for the first Democratic presidential primary debates in June or the upcoming debates on July 30 and 31.,” writes the Washington Examiner’s Emily Larsen. “He barely registers in most presidential primary polls and raised $1.2 million from his late April campaign launch through the end of June, one of the smallest second-quarter hauls in the crowded primary field.”
McChrystal, you may recall, resigned in 2010 following a Rolling Stone profile in which unnamed aides were quoted disparaged Vice President Joe Biden and other civilian officials.
McCONNELL GETS MARINE CHALLENGER: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who was just named America’s most unpopular senator — will be challenged by a farmer and retired Marine lieutenant colonel next year.
Democrat Mike Broihier is the third challenger to announce a bid to unseat McConnell in what is expected to be a hotly-contested U.S. Senate race in 2020.
Broihier made his announcement in a campaign video, saying McConnell has “refined the art of obstruction” and “weaponized the filibuster to his own political purposes.”
“We deserve a U.S. senator who sees beyond the labels, who actually cares about us, who listens to us, who sees us and respects us as individuals,” Broihier says in the video. “Mitch McConnell doesn’t.”
Washington Examiner: Can Turkey be trusted with U.S. nukes?
Wall Street Journal: U.S. Navy Ships Patrol Tense Strait
Reuters: Allies play hard to get on U.S. proposal to protect oil shipping lanes
AP: Turkey Calls On U.S. To Reverse Decision On F-35 Exclusion
Breaking Defense: Adm. Davidson: China Assaults International Order
Bloomberg: The U.S. Fears A Cambodia Resort May Become A Chinese Naval Base
Washington Examiner: Pentagon cybersecurity contractor charged with threatening to murder a member of Congress
Defense Daily: Esper, Milley Highlight Importance Of Arctic, Need For Navy To Operate In Region
Stars and Stripes: Pentagon Reconsiders Plan To Relocate Key U.S. Intelligence Hub Within Britain
Washington Examiner: Divers find last US warship sunk by German sub in World War II
USNI News: New Commandant Berger Sheds 38-Amphib Requirement In Quest To Modernize USMC For High-End Fight
Adweek: The US Army Will Eliminate the Majority of Its Internal Marketing Department
FRIDAY | JULY 19
8:30 a.m. 300 First St. S.E. AFA Mitchell Institute Space Breakfast Series Space, with Brig. Gen. DeAnna Burt, Director of Operations and Communications, Headquarters, Air Force Space Command. www.mitchellaerospacepower.org
12:30 p.m. EDT/10:30 a.m MDT Aspen, Colo. Aspen Security Forum discussion: “Technology and National Security: A New Era of Innovation,” with Mike Brown, director, Defense Innovation Unit; John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security; Edward Screven, chief corporate architect, Oracle; and Kara Swisher, Co-Founder, Recode. Full agenda at aspensecurityforum.org/agenda. Watch live video at aspensecurityforum.org/media/live-video.
1:45 p.m.EDT/11:45 a.m. MDT Aspen, Colo. Aspen Security Forum discussion: “Assessing Trump’s Foreign Policy, with Susan Rice, former assistant to the president for national security affairs, and NBC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell. Full agenda at aspensecurityforum.org/agenda. Watch live video at aspensecurityforum.org/media/live-video.
3:30 p.m.EDT/1:30 p.m MDT Aspen, Colo. Aspen Security Forum discussion: “A Conversation with the Defense Intelligence Agency Director,” with Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Jim Sciutto, CNN chief national security correspondent. Full agenda at aspensecurityforum.org/agenda. Watch live video at aspensecurityforum.org/media/live-video.
4:15 p.m. EDT/2:15 p.m. MDT Aspen, Colo. Aspen Security Forum discussion: “Is Peace Possible in the Forever War?” with Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, and Nick Schifrin, foreign affairs and defense correspondent, PBS NewsHour. Full agenda at aspensecurityforum.org/agenda. Watch live video at aspensecurityforum.org/media/live-video.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s something we do together. The weapons are owned by the United States, but the planes are owned by different European allies … So the air-launched nuclear component of our nuclear deterrent is really a joint effort by many allies .. and will be also part of the deterrence we have after the potential demise of INF Treaty.”
NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum about forward-deployed gravity bombs, which he argues will continue to deter Russia even without the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty