More Military Funds May Go to Wall; Soleimani Justifications Shift Again; Moscow’s Influence Ops; Stopping Drone Friendly Fire; and a Bit More.

 In China, Iran, Egypt, GDI, Defense, Air, Information, France

The White House wants to divert more DoD funds for the Wall. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion is plan­ning to divert an addi­tion­al $7.2 bil­lion in Pentagon funds for the border wall with Mexico — or enough to com­plete 880 miles of new bar­ri­ers by 2022, the Washington Post report­ed Monday. 

That’s enough money to buy three Navy destroy­ers, or seven of the Navy’s next frigates, or two Virginia-class sub­marines, or nearly three squadrons of F‑35s, as cal­cu­lat­ed by Defense News’ David Larter, a former cruis­er sailor who has this week’s Surface Navy Association con­fer­ence on his mind.

Injunction lifted: The move came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that work funded by an ear­li­er diver­sion of $3.6 bil­lion in mil­i­tary fund­ing could pro­ceed despite legal chal­lenges that are under­way. Read on, here.

Meanwhile, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to shift its pro­fessed jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for killing Gen. Qassem Soleimani. After repeat­ed­ly saying that the Iranian com­man­der posed “an immi­nent threat,” admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials on Monday said:


From Defense One

When Both Sides Have Drones, How Do You Know Which Ones to Kill? // Patrick Tucker: The U.S. Army recent­ly tested a system that helps defend­ers wipe the skies of just the unfriend­ly aerial robots.

The US Wants to Intimidate China with Hypersonics, Once It Solves the Physics // Patrick Tucker: The U.S. is press­ing ahead with new mis­siles, but ques­tions remain about engi­neer­ing, tac­tics, and even geopol­i­tics.

The Global Race for Big National-Security Ideas Is On // Amy Zegart, The Atlantic: The United States faces gen­uine­ly new chal­lenges — but tries to under­stand them using out­mod­ed the­o­ries from a bygone era.

On Iran, It’s Time to Return to Containment // Mario Loyola, The Atlantic: Trump has traded Obama-era appease­ment for incon­sis­tent con­fronta­tion. What’s needed is a strat­e­gy of con­tain­ment, backed by clear and cred­i­ble deter­rence.

Russia’s ‘Data Localization’ Efforts May Guide Other Governments // Samuel Bendett and Justin Sherman: Moscow’s efforts to keep data on home soil inter­est other author­i­tar­i­an states — and even some lib­er­al democ­ra­cies.

Welcome to this Tuesday edi­tion of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already sub­scribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1969, 28 American sailors died in a fire aboard USS Enterprise, the third and last of the U.S. Navy’s major car­ri­er fires of the 1960s.


Russian hack­ers have been attack­ing Burisma, “the Ukrainian gas com­pa­ny on whose board Hunter Biden served,” the New York Times‘ Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg report­ed Monday evening. And the hack­ing oper­a­tion appears to have begun “in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeach­ment was dom­i­nat­ing the news in the United States.”
A secu­ri­ty firm called Area 1 uncov­ered the hack­ing efforts on New Year’s Eve, which they detailed in a report (PDF) pub­lished Monday. Area 1’s inves­ti­ga­tors uncov­ered a “phish­ing cam­paign tar­get­ing the email cre­den­tials of employ­ees at Burisma Holdings, its sub­sidiaries and part­ners.” The attacks sent email recip­i­ents to fake login pages, which isn’t a ter­ri­bly new or sophis­ti­cat­ed attack vector — but is nonethe­less a method that snags three out of ten inter­net users.
Lest there be any ambi­gu­i­ty, the report’s authors write, “The cam­paign against the Ukranian oil & gas com­pa­ny was launched by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army or GRU.” 
“You can see this attack really is start­ing to par­al­lel with what we saw in 2016,” Oren Falkowitz, Area 1’s chief exec­u­tive, told Reuters. “Our report doesn’t make any claims as to what the intent of the hack­ers were, what they might have been look­ing for, what they are going to do with their suc­cess. We just point out that this is a cam­paign that’s going on,” he told AP.

Influence ops watch: Where Beijing and Moscow align. “Russian state-con­trolled broad­cast­er RT aired a con­tentious doc­u­men­tary in English last month that accused the U.S. of direct­ing and fund­ing Hong Kong’s pro-democ­ra­cy protests,” the Wall Street Journal reports today.
Why this mat­ters: “Beijing-friend­ly con­tent on RT and other Russian for­eign-lan­guage news out­lets under­scores efforts by the gov­ern­ments and state media of China and Russia to foster coop­er­a­tion in what Moscow sees as an infor­ma­tion war against the U.S. Relations between Moscow and Beijing have blos­somed as both coun­tries’ ties with Washington have wilted.” Read on behind the pay­wall, here

Negotiators for Libya’s two war­ring sides failed to reach a cease­fire on Monday during a seven-hour round of talks bro­kered by Turkey and Russia. “Fayez Sarraj, the head of Libya’s U.N.-recognized gov­ern­ment in Tripoli… signed the draft before depart­ing,” AP reports from Moscow. But Sarraj’s rival, Gen. Khalifa Hifter/Haftar “request­ed more time to con­sid­er it and then left Moscow with­out sign­ing the doc­u­ment.”
Said Turkey’s President Erdogan: “The coup-plot­ting Hifter first said ‘yes’ but then fled Moscow. We have com­plet­ed our duty, the rest is the duty of Mr. Putin and his team.” Erdogan later promised a mil­i­tary response if Haftar doesn’t agree to a cease­fire soon, Reuters reports today from Ankara. “It is our duty to pro­tect our kin in Libya,” Erdogan said.
Reminder of the sides in this con­flict: 

  • Sarraj has the sup­port of the U.S.(h/t Ragip Soylu), the UN and — more mil­i­tar­i­ly lately — Turkey; 
  • Haftar has the back­ing of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Russian mer­ce­nar­ies. 

Replied Russia’s defense min­istry in a state­ment on Monday: “Marshal Hifter had a pos­i­tive view of the final state­ment, but request­ed two days to dis­cuss the doc­u­ment with the tribal lead­ers before sign­ing it.”
Next up: Germany will host nego­ti­a­tions in Berlin on Sunday, AP reports sep­a­rate­ly today. “Officials from the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, United Arab Emirates, Turkey as well as sev­er­al African and Arab coun­tries are also invit­ed.” Tiny bit more, here.

France hosted the lead­ers of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania for a summit to bol­ster coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions in West Africa, AP report­ed Monday from the south­west­ern French com­mune of Pau. 
What to know out of this: “African lead­ers said they want France’s mil­i­tary pres­ence on their ground and called for more inter­na­tion­al sup­port,” AP writes. “They also expressed their grat­i­tude toward the ‘cru­cial help’ of the United States amid fears [New York Times] it may reduce its troops across the African con­ti­nent.”
Related: “Niger said the death toll from an attack by Islamic extrem­ists last week on its mil­i­tary rose to at least 89,” AP writes, “making it the most deadly attack of its kind in years in the coun­try.” 
Next: “A sim­i­lar summit will be held in June in Mauritania to asses the results.” Read on, here

Britain, Germany, and France have for­mal­ly trig­gered a dis­pute mech­a­nism over the nuclear deal with Iran “after [Tehran] took a fur­ther step back from its com­mit­ments,” Reuters, AP and the BBC report today. 
Triggering the mech­a­nism is a “risky gambit,” says Ali Vaez of the Iran-watch­ing International Crisis Group. Read his thread, but here’s the bottom line: The three coun­tries’ move “might pro­voke a crisis that they claim they are trying to pre­vent unless the time and space cre­at­ed by intense diplo­mat­ic engage­ment is used to pro­vide Iran with some eco­nom­ic reprieve as means of return­ing it into JCPOA com­pli­ance.”

And final­ly today: Japan sent two sur­veil­lance planes to the Middle East on an intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing mis­sion, IHS Janes report­ed Monday.
Involved: “two P‑3C Orion mar­itime patrol air­craft… to carry out intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing oper­a­tions in the region aimed at help­ing ensure the safety of ves­sels con­duct­ing com­mer­cial oper­a­tions with Japan.”
The air­craft will stage out of Japan’s base in Djibouti and “are expect­ed to begin their 11-month-long mis­sion on 20 January while the war­ship will begin oper­a­tions in the region in mid-February.” A bit more, here.

Source: Defense One

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