Russian surveillance planes and Chinese bombers flew through Japanese and South Korea airspace prompting both countries to scramble their jets in response. South Korea fired 360 warning shots at the intruding planes.
The Senate voted 90-8 to confirm Mark Esper as Secretary of Defense. The U.S. has been without a permanent Secretary of Defense since James Mattis stepped down from the role in January.
Trump says that Turkey will not be getting F-35 fighter jets. Turkey’s purchase of Russian anti-air missile systems put the F-35 deal in jeopardy, as the linking of the jet and the missile system would have compromised the jet’s security.
The battle to win the Pentagon’s “war cloud” contract is heating up among tech companies. The computing system is estimated to be worth $10B and would store vast amounts of classified data, using artificial intelligence to better improve U.S. defense and its war fighting capabilities.
Army recruitment numbers are down as the number of eligible recruits continues to decrease. Obesity is believed to be the main disqualifying factor for recruits.
“Trump’s negotiating style has dug a deep hole for him that he will have trouble climbing out of. Trump tears up agreements he does not like and seeks new ones. He threatens and bullies to strengthen his negotiating position. He then tries to reconcile and diffuse the crisis he has created by engaging in high-wire negotiations. Finally, he hypes whatever modest deal emerges as his own stellar victory. This may work on occasion in real estate deals, and it might even have succeeded with Mexico. It is not working well with China or North Korea. And it certainly is not working so far with Iran.”
Iran says it stands ready to shoot down another U.S. military drone if the current standoff between the two countries can’t be resolved through diplomacy. Separately, Iran hinted Monday that it’s open to talks with Washington—but with strict conditions.
Possibly throwing Donald Trump’s Iran plans into disarray, House Democrats voted to pass a $1 trillion appropriations bill, which includes a repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force — Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against AUMF in 2001, added the repeal last month. However, no Republicans voted for the bill and it appears unlikely it will get past the Senate.
“At best, should the U.S. go to war against Iran, it will be able to muster the diplomatic and perhaps military support of four countries: the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. Otherwise, the rest of the world has been completely put off by the Trump administration’s unilateralism, belligerent nationalism, its decision to leave the nuclear agreement without a compelling cause, and actions that are clearly aimed at provoking a military confrontation with Iran. A war with Iran without significant international support, and perceived to be America’s fault, would leave the U.S. isolated and bearing full responsibility. More than likely, this kind of unilateralism would hand Russia and China—and Iran—an enormous propaganda advantage and weaken U.S. leverage in the days after.”
As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations. President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.
“But while Trump appreciates Cabinet members who do not check his erratic impulses, America’s national security is not served by having yes-men or yes-women in senior positions of responsibility. Note that the crisis, which is drawing the United States and Iran to the brink of hostilities, did not start in earnest until after [Gen. James] Mattis had left the Pentagon. Mattis had been a brake on Trump; [Patrick] Shanahan was an enabler.”
Acting Defense Sec. Patrick Shanahan has been relieved of his duties and will be replaced with a new nominee. The FBI has been probing a violent domestic incident that occurred in 2010 between Shanahan and his then-wife as part of a background investigation ahead of his confirmation hearing. President Trump said today he would replace Shanahan as acting secretary.
The U.S. will send 1,000 additional U.S. forces and more military resources to the Middle East amid tensions with Iran, the Pentagon announced Monday. Shortly before the announcement the Pentagon released a detailed set of photos that it said showed Iranian boats removing a mine from one of two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman on June 13. The U.S. attributes the attack to Iran. Tehran has vigorously denied the charge.
A U.S. drone found and tracked Iranian boats before the latest attack on two oil tankers. One of the boats attempted to down the drone by firing a surface-to-air missile, but missed.
Sailors on the USS Bainbridge are reporting that they found an unexploded limpet charge on the hull of one of the attacked oil tankers. The attack occurred about 25 miles off the coast of Iran.
The U.S. Navy’s 2nd Fleet is currently leading a large-scale exercise in the Baltics, called BALTOPS. This training exercise, seen as a message to Russia, involves 18 countries, 8,000 troops, and 50 ships.
Wary of Russia, Poland is doing its best to woo President Trump into agreeing to building a U.S. base in Poland. Negotiations on the base are still ongoing, but the U.S. is expected to send another 1,000 troops to Poland within the next few months.
As Turkey moves full steam ahead on purchasing Russia’s S-400 missile systems, the U.S. continues to wind down Turkish involvement in the F-35 jet program. Besides moving production of some of the jet’s components outside of Turkey, the U.S. Air Force is suspending training for 26 Turkish pilots on the F-35 jet.
Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander over the Middle East, believes that the threat from Iran is “imminent”. Just last month, the Trump administration ordered an aircraft carrier strike group and several B-52 bombers to be deployed to the region to combat any threat from Iran.
President Trump in an interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan said he’s “making up for” not serving in the U.S. military by providing billions of dollars of funding for the Pentagon. Explaining his lack of service in Vietnam, he said, “I thought it was a terrible war. I thought it was very far away, and at that time nobody ever heard of the country. Today they’re doing very well. Nobody heard of Vietnam — so many people dying, [people asked] what is happening over there? So I was never a fan.”
The Trump administration authorized the sharing of nuclear power information with Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October. Sen. Tim Kaine said the first approval—called an 810 authorization, which allows for the transfer of technology or information related to nuclear activity overseas—was granted by the Department of Energy on October 18, 16 days after Khashoggi was killed, and another was given on February 18.
“At a time when democracy has been under assault in Europe, Trump has sided with anti-democratic leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban over our genuine democratic friends such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. At the same time, Trump has been largely uncritical of authoritarian leaders such as North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, China’s Xi Jingping, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. In effect, Trump has taken a carefully calibrated, bipartisan, and effective policy pursued by all our presidents (to embrace our allies and thwart our adversaries) and turned it on its head.”
While flying over the Mediterranean Sea, above international waters, a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon plane was intercepted three times by a Russian fighter. The U.S. Navy claims that on the second pass, the Russian fighter acted dangerously, making a high speed pass in front of the U.S. Navy plane.
“McCain has continued to best Trump in the nine months since his death as one man, with the passing of time, seems more and more a giant and the other…not. So, yeah, I agree with Trump’s chief of staff. There’s no way that young staffer should be fired or even disciplined. ‘We think it’s much ado about nothing,’ Mulvaney said on Fox News on Sunday. Oh, it’s much ado about something. But it’s not about a low-level staffer simply carrying out what he believes are the wishes of a president who has signaled what he wants with every postmortem dig at a dead man, every sign of disrespect, every egotistical outburst.”
The USS Abraham Lincoln strike group and a few B-52 bombers remain in the Gulf region as tension between the U.S. and Iran continues. A B-52 bomber and some aircraft from the strike group conducted an exercise together, simulating their response, should tensions with Iran escalate.
While in Switzerland speaking on Iran, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo said “We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif responded saying that such talks are “not very likely.”
Israel struck Syrian artillery and aerial defenses in retaliation for rockets that were launched at Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Syrian media reports that 3 Syrian soldiers were killed in the airstrikes.
Turkey made a deal with Russia to buy its S-400 missile system and insists that it will not back out of the deal. As the date to finalize the deal approaches, concerns over the consequences of the decision leave many high-level officials worried, and these worries have even reached as high as President Erdogan himself. Turkey has a lot to lose with this purchase, but through its words and the humiliation of going back on what one said, Turkey has backed itself into a tight corner.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan noted at a press conference in Singapore that China’s militarization efforts in the South China Sea are “excessive” for protecting Chinese interests. To demonstrate that international law and boundaries will be upheld, the U.S. regularly sails warships in international waters off the Chinese coast.
Naval officers were so concerned about hurting the commander-in-chief’s delicate fee-fees during his visit to Japan last weekend that they took steps to ensure that a warship named for a key Trump rival, the late Sen. John McCain, was kept out of his view. A U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official’s emailed instructions ahead of the visit included this directive: “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight.” Worse, officers with USS John McCain insignia on their uniforms were turned away from Trump’s address.
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) watches over U.S. and Canadian airspace with powerful radars and is the United States’ first line of defense when it comes to airborne threats. NORAD is preparing to ramp up its surveillance activities in an effort to protect North America from any threats.
There are a number of reasons Americans don’t quite know what to believe about Iran—some purely political, others historical. But in any case, it doesn’t help matters that the American public rarely hears from the Pentagon anymore. Spokespeople haven’t given on-camera briefings in a year, and concerns are growing that the U.S. could end up in a military confrontation without the Trump administration ever having to publicly defend it.
National Security Adviser John Bolton has said “naval mines almost certainly from Iran” were to blame for the attack on Saudi Arabian oil tankers off the eastern coast of the UAE on May 12 that has caused heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Iran has fiercely denied the attack, countering that Bolton has always had anti-Iran leanings. Now the Joint Chiefs of Staff have jumped in to bolster Bolton’s claims.
The decision to deploy an aircraft carrier strike force and B-52 bombers to the Middle East was decided on by U.S. military leaders after intelligence was relayed of Iran preparing a campaign of attacks. Defense Secretary Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, both agree in the assessment of the intelligence and on the decision to send more military resources to the region.
What a week. First, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed that Jared Kushner, whom Donald Trump has tasked with solving the Middle East’s problems, is clueless. Then we found out Trump may declare an emergency to clear arms sales to Saudi Arabia over congressional opposition. Now, 1,500 additional U.S. troops will be deployed amid rising tensions with Iran. What could go wrong?
A provision in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s new defense policy bill would make it tougher for President Trump to pull the U.S. out of NATO, sending a strong sign of bipartisan support for the alliance. The $750 billion bill, which passed the committee on Wednesday, includes language to bar funding for a year for a withdrawal from Europe, if the U.S. initiates an exit from NATO. The provision seems designed to hem in Trump, whose commitment to NATO is questionable.
Barrett previously served in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations and would be taking over for Secretary Heather Wilson. While not having served in the Air Force, Barrett is a trained astronaut and pilot.
The U.S. scrambled four F-22 fighter jets to intercept four Russian bombers and two Russian fighters which got close to U.S. airspace. While intercepts like this occur regularly, it is uncommon to see six Russian planes flying near U.S. airspace
Fox News isn’t just Donald Trump’s favorite news network, it’s apparently an unofficial policy adviser as well. Over the weekend, reports indicated that the president is preparing to pardon several U.S. servicemen involved in high-profile cases of gunning down civilians or killing detainees. Turns out, the decision comes as a result of a months-long lobbying campaign by “Fox & Friends” co-host Pete Hegseth.
“While these pardons reportedly being considered by the president would be ‘legal,’ they are also immoral and anathema to military discipline, unit cohesion, and our forces’ professionalism. If applied as reported, the pardons would damage the way the U.S. military is perceived by our allies and partners around the world and give credence and reinforcement to our enemies. They would cause even more damage to civil-military relations in our republic and send a very bad message to all those who serve.”