Welcome back to SitRep! This is what it says on this day: Proxy wars heat up between the USA and Iran, the Taliban continue their rapid advance throughout Afghanistan, and Biden Pentagon nominees Hearings to confirm the Senate.
If you would like to receive the status report in your inbox every Thursday, please register here.
President Joe Biden may be nearly done with the US military engagement in Afghanistan that has spanned two decades, but another nearby war zone where US troops have been stationed for almost as long threatens to become a major thorn in the side of the White House: Iraq.
The dispute between US forces in the war-torn country and Iran-backed militias first heated up in 2019 when the Trump administration reinstated expired sanctions after withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran. Now it only seems to get worse, despite the fact that US military leaders have long insisted that the United States restored deterrence.
Incoming fire. The US embassy in Baghdad came under rocket fire early Thursday, less than 10 days after Biden launched a second round of US attacks on drone staging areas for militias on the Iraq-Syria border. And just hours earlier, two US soldiers were injured when more than a dozen missiles attacked Ain al-Asad Air Force Base, the largest military facility in the country, where US troops were housed.
It seemed more strikes appeared on Thursday. US troops were left with minor injuries, including concussions. In total, US troops in Iraq and Syria have been attacked with rockets at least four times since Biden’s precision defensive strikes.
Hit hard, hit first. No mercy. Biden government officials have insisted that the United States react harshly to Iranian threats. The Washington Post reported last week that the government will lower the threshold to respond to Iranian missile attacks, possibly in an effort to restore deterrence.
“Iran needs to know that it cannot hide behind its deputies, especially if they hurt Americans, as they recently did,” said Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East and now an analyst with ABC News .
War weary. But it is not clear how long this back and forth can go on even if the Americans are not killed. Experts said Foreign policy that the United States surprised the Iranian-backed militias with strikes. But Iraqis have long been frustrated with their country becoming a proxy battlefield for the US-Iran shadow war.
Iraqi officials told Reuters on Wednesday that the stock exchanges “unprecedentedâ€œ, And Baghdad has already held a non-binding vote to evict US forces after former President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike in January 2020 that killed Iranian Quds unit chief Qassem Suleimani.
â€œIt’s already very intense. The strikes aren’t killing people, but they could easily do it if they want to, â€said Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. â€œThe missile defense works quite well in silence. But what we haven’t seen are determined efforts to kill Americans. ”
Endgame. Some Iranian-affiliated leaders in Iraq have suggested that if the United States stopped returning fire, the talk could end. But the ongoing standoff over the deputy makes the prospect of a return to the nuclear deal with Iran, an attempt already under bipartisan fire on Capitol Hill, even more difficult.
“They’re probably trying to get the Biden administration to take you on the chin,” Knights said. “They can’t take a good punch right now and that will likely keep attacking them.”
New kids in the block. The Senate Armed Forces Committee will hear in a confirmation hearing on Tuesday of five of Biden’s nominees for top jobs at the Pentagon, headed by Carlos Del Toro, the election of the Commander in Chief as the civil leader of the Navy.
Former California MP Gil Cisneros, the administration-elected Under-Secretary of State for Personnel and Preparedness, will appear alongside the designated Assistant Auditor Kathleen Miller, Candidate for civilian work in the army Michael Connor, and Mara Karlinawho would be tasked with leading the team that will write the upcoming National Defense Strategy 2022.
The U.S. Ambassador to India during the Trump Administration, Kenneth Juster, joins the Council on Foreign Relations as a Distinguished Fellow.
US diplomat George Kent (Do you remember him from the first impeachment trial against Trump? He drank a lot water.) will travel to Ukraine to temporarily serve as chargÃ© d’affaires at the US Embassy Kiev Post reported.
Can Europe be nice with a post-Trump America? Take part in an upcoming virtual event! Biden has been warmly welcomed by European leaders since he took office, but how long will the honeymoon last as differences arise between the United States and the European Union on major foreign policy issues?
Tag your calendars: Attend a Zoom event on July 26th at 11 a.m. to give subscribers a glimpse of the key sticking points between the White House and European capitals. And we’ll also have new nuggets and upcoming stories to share from our reporters’ notebooks.
What we’re watching this week.
What’s next for the Taliban? Two decades, thousands of lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars later, the Taliban got the momentum in Afghanistan. How far can they go into Afghanistan? Who are the main actors leading the Taliban into this new era? Will you give up some of your extremist views if you try to polish your international image?
We deeply immersed This week’s story explores these questions and examines how the group remains united for the time being in the face of the victory, but that may not last as tensions simmered between different Taliban factions. (And shouting out to SitRep reader Ann, who piqued our interest in following this story after asking about it at our last SitRep live event.)
JEDI cloud tricks. What’s a billion dollar defense deal without a little drama? The Pentagon announced this week that it abandoned a massive $ 10 billion cloud computing contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) after its decision to grant Microsoft the contract resulted in litigation with Amazon Web Services alleged that Trump interfered in the award process.
Don’t fret, oh poor marginalized defense companies: the Pentagon said it would consider both Amazon and Microsoft for future contracts.
Unholy swamp. After seven years of civil war that fueled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the conflict in Yemen shows no sign of weakening, despite repeated statements by UN negotiators that the warring parties are ready to talk. Read this shipment by Samy Magdy of The Associated Press in Marib City, an epicenter in the stalemate between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemeni armed forces.
July 11th: G-20 officials meet in Venice for a conference on climate change.
July 14th: Former Vice President Mike Pence enters address on US policy in the Indo-Pacific at the Heritage Foundation.
15th of July: Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Biden in Washington.
Retired. Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson attempted an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin just before accusing the US National Security Agency (NSA) of spying on him to get him out of the air. Axios Reports. Carlson’s allegations against the NSA – which remain baseless – were refuted in a rare statement by the secret service last month.