16 May 2016

Carter Details Cyber, Intel Strikes Against Daesh At NORTHCOM Ceremony

By COLIN CLARK
May 13, 2016 

PETERSEN AFB: As he welcomed America’s first female combatant commander,NORTHCOM‘s new leader Gen. Lori Robinson, Defense Secretary Ash Carter detailed publicly some of the cyber attacks against Daeshwhat his deputy called “cyber bombs” — that US forces have launched in recent months.

“We’re using these tools to deny the ability of ISIL leadership to command and finance their forces and control their populations; to identify and locate ISIL cyber actors; and to undermine the ability of ISIL recruiters to inspire or direct Homegrown Violent Extremists,” Carter told an audience of roughly 1,000 in a hangar here.

Carter made clear that the Obama administration is again applying the lessons learned from the Iraqi surge, when the combination of DNA, retinal scans, fingerprints and “pocket litter” — all fused into a giant database — played a crucial role in illuminating terrorist networks and eliminating them.

“For instance, when we collect fingerprints from IEDs, or personal information removed from terrorists, we include this information in DoD’s Biometrics Enabled Watchlist, which is then shared with relevant agencies across our government,” the Defense Secretary noted. This is aimed at disrupting “the flow of foreign fighters into and out of ISIL controlled territories.” And the Pentagon shares that “with other domestic departments that are the leads for screening and watchlisting.” On top of that, the US is also “fusing and sharing information and expertise across the Coalition to stem foreign fighter flows and help prevent attacks.”

WHEN YOUR HOMETOWN BECOMES A PERMANENT BATTLEFIELD

MAY 10, 2016
A ceasefire was supposed to end the conflict in Ukraine last year, but in one dangerous no-man’s land the war wages on, and the hardy souls stuck in the middle constantly find new ways to survive.

“Every night, they start shooting,” Evdokia says with a resigned golden-toothed smile. “This side, then that side. Back and forth. Sometimes in the morning, too. We try to go about our lives like normal, but there’s hardly anybody left.”

The 62-year-old babushka adjusts her green kerchief so it sits better on her round jowly face. She’s lived in the village of Kodema all her life. Part of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, Kodema lies in what’s known as “the gray zone,” a ten-to-fifteen-mile-wide, 150-mile-long strip of territory separating land controlled by the Ukrainian government on one side and by Russian-backed separatists on the other. The potholed road here cuts through an abandoned checkpoint, one that frequently changes hands between Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) troops and rebel fighters from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR).

Restructuring National Security Organizations and Decisionmaking

MAY 13, 2016

On May 12, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) released its long-anticipated proposals for reform of organizations and processes in the national security enterprise. The proposals come on top of earlier proposals by the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. The proposals are not entirely consistent. But even if just a few are enacted, they would change how government makes decisions about strategy, forces, budgets, operations, and the use of force. Here’s a quick look at the proposals, a table showing where the SASC, HASC, and Carter agree and disagree, and a look ahead at what might happen next. (Note: the SASC’s acquisition reform proposals are significant enough that they are covered in a companion Critical Questions.)

Q1: Why is the government now thinking about such large changes to organizations and decisionmaking?

A1: It’s been 30 years since the last major restructuring, the Goldwater-Nichols legislation of 1986, and many experts believe that the world has changed enough that another review is needed. In particular, the experience of 15 years at war have indicated weaknesses in both organizations and decisionmaking processes. Senator John McCain, chairman of the SASC, also has a personal interest in launching reforms before the 2016 elections change the political landscape.

To build intellectual capital, the SASC asked over 50 experts in the national security community to provide their views in a series of hearings last fall and into the winter. Their testimony covered a lot of ground, which CSIS analyzed in March. Although the experts identified a variety of shortfalls and weaknesses in the defense enterprise, no single common theme emerged. There were, however, widespread concerns about strategy formulation, interagency coordination, excessive overhead, and the structure of combatant commands (COCOMs).

15 May 2016

** The Ukrainian Hacker Who Became the FBI’s Best Weapon—And Worst Nightmare



ONE THURSDAY IN January 2001, Maksym Igor Popov, a 20-year-old Ukrainian man, walked nervously through the doors of the United States embassy in London. While Popov could have been mistaken for an exchange student applying for a visa, in truth he was a hacker, part of an Eastern European gang that had been raiding US companies and carrying out extortion and fraud. A wave of such attacks was portending a new kind of cold war, between the US and organized criminals in the former Soviet bloc, and Popov, baby-faced and pudgy, with glasses and a crew cut, was about to become the conflict’s first defector.

Four months of phone calls and two prior embassy visits had led Popov to this point. Now he met with an FBI assistant legal attaché to present his passport and make final arrangements. A short time later, he plowed through the wintry cold of Grosvenor Square to a hotel room the embassy had secured for him. He opened both his laptop and the hotel minibar and read his email while downing tiny bottles of whiskey until he passed out. The next day, January 19, 2001, Popov and an FBI escort boarded a TWA flight to the US.

Popov was nervous but excited. He’d left behind his parents and everything else familiar to him, but in the US he would be more than a dutiful son and student. Popov was also a wanted man involved in international intrigue, like a character in one of the cyberpunk novels he loved. Now he would reinvent himself by selling his computer security expertise to the government for a decent salary, then transition to an Internet startup and make himself wealthy.

*The Value of Special Operations Forces

BENNETT SEFTEL
MAY 12, 2016 

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) action that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The publicly acknowledged raid highlighted the prominent role special operations forces have played in the ongoing war against terror.

More recently, U.S. SOF have served on the front lines in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). Raids conducted by SOF in Iraq have resulted in the killing or capture of several leading ISIS figures, including finance minister Abu Sayyaf, second in command Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Mustafa al-Qaduli, and chemical weapons chief, Sleiman Daoud al-Afari. Such efforts, however, do not come without costs as demonstrated by the deaths of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Keating IV in Iraq last week and of U.S. Green Beret, Staff Sergeant Matthew McClintock, in Afghanistan in January.

On April 25th, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered an additional 250 SOF troops to Syria to help in the battle against ISIS, bringing the total number of Special Operations Forces in Syria to approximately 300. This comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s announcement of an additional 200 special operators sent to Iraq.

These troops are part of a larger deployment of SOF across the Middle East and Africa. In October, President Obama ordered 300 SOF troops to Cameroon to work with West African soldiers fighting Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group with ties to ISIS.

Can India Counter China’s Submarine Force? – Analysis

By Pushan Das*
MAY 13, 2016

Last week, India’s first conventional submarine in over a decade and a half — the INS Kalvari — finally began sea trials, amid reports of Indo-US cooperation in tracking Chinese submarine activity in the region. As sightings of Chinese submarines become more frequent in the Indian Ocean region, the Indian Navy is looking at innovative ways to gain an edge in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities. Can the Indian Navy effectively counter a modern Chinese submarine force, which is primarily optimized for regional anti-surface warfare missions near major sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean?

India’s expenditure on defence acquisition has remained largely static in real terms in recent years, resulting in constraints on not just the navy but the armed forces in general. The defence outlay for fiscal year 2016/17 was INR 2.49 trillion (USD 36.63 billion), but according to IHS Jane’s 360, this was counterbalanced by rising inflation, and weakening of the Indian rupee against the U.S. dollar over the past two years. Furthermore, the force posture and modernization agendas of the Indian armed forces under the continued broad influence of a “two-front war” construct have left the Indian Navy with a mere 16 percent of the defense budget (excluding defense pensions). This limits the navy’s capacity to address increasing diffusion of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN)’s capabilities in the region.

The commissioning of the INS Kalvari, first of six indigenously-built French Scorpene-class submarines, should be a shot in the arm for the navy’s ageing and dwindling submarine fleet. However, the submarine will be inducted sans its primary weapon: torpedoes. The navy plans to buy Black Shark torpedoes from a subsidiary of Italian defense big wig Finmeccanica. But the company is currently embroiled in a helicopter bribery scam in India that will create further delays in acquisition, leaving the weapons platforms ineffective for the near future. Given how long submarine building takes, the follow-on program for Project-75 I submarines is probably more than a decade away, considering the Ministry of Defence is yet to issue a Request for Proposal.

Winds Of Change In India’s States – Analysis


The five on-going state elections in India hint at a shift away from old established players who have failed to recognise the dreams of the youth. This is part of a global trend, from the Arab upheavals, to Hong Kong’s Umbrella protests, to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the U.S.

Five major state elections are on-going in India. West Bengal and Assam in the east, and Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in the south. These states are distinguished from their other counterparts in India by the presence of a strong regional culture that supercedes the national culture. They are dominated by regional political parties that supercede the presence of national political parties in their states. All are likely to see upheaval in their cozy existence – some more than others – come May 19 when election results are declared. This has implications for India as a country, and its foreign policy.

The most interesting states by far are West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Both are in the grip of two-party dominance for the last four decades or more. The single-party grip of the Left in Bengal has been loosened by the determination of Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, so now instead of one party, Bengal has two, but the street level tactics are not so different. Tamil Nadu has been ruled, in turn, by the Dravidian parties of the DMK run by Karunanidhi and his family, and AIDMK run by Jayalalithaa and her bureaucrats and cronies.

Why Pakistan Won't Go After Afghan Taliban

Ayesha Tanzeem
May 12, 2016 

Voice of America

Pakistan is hesitant to take action against the Afghan Taliban on its soil because of concerns the group will re-direct its violence against Pakistan and Afghan intelligence will support it, a senior Pakistani official said.

“We have to think twice before taking action. Anybody we take action against is immediately supported from the other side,” the official told VOA on the condition of anonymity. 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently demanded that Pakistan either take military action against Taliban commanders on its soil or arrest them and hand them over to Kabul. 

Hiding in Afghanistan

Pakistan has often complained that when it launched military operations in Swat and South Waziristan in 2009, militants belonging to Pakistani Taliban took shelter in Afghanistan and started using it as a base, with the help of Afghan intelligence, to carry out operations against Pakistan.

​​As recently as the start of the current operation in North Waziristan in 2014, the Pakistani official said, the Afghan government issued refugee cards to militants who escaped to the other side. 

Time to Put the Squeeze on Pakistan


MAY 12, 2016

Nearly 15 years after 9/11, the war in Afghanistan is raging and Pakistandeserves much of the blame. It remains a duplicitous and dangerous partner for the United States and Afghanistan, despite $33 billion in American aid and repeated attempts to reset relations on a more constructive course.

In coming weeks, Gen. John Nicholson Jr., the new American commander in Afghanistan, will present his assessment of the war. It’s likely to be bleak and may question the wisdom of President Obama’s goal of cutting the American force of 10,000 troops to 5,500 by the end of the year. The truth is, regardless of troop levels, the only hope for long-term peace is negotiations with some factions of the Taliban. The key to that is Pakistan.

Pakistan’s powerful army and intelligence services have for years given support to the Taliban and the Haqqani terrorist network and relied on them to protect Pakistani interests in Afghanistan and prevent India from increasing its influence there. Under American pressure, the Pakistan Army recently waged a military campaign against the Taliban in the ungoverned border region. But the Haqqanis still operate in relative safety in Pakistan. Some experts say the army has helped engineer the integration of the Haqqanis into the Taliban leadership.

Saudi Arabia's McKinsey reshuffle

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/markaz/posts/2016/05/11-saudi-arabia-cabinet-reshuffle-abdelghafar?cid=00900015020089101US0001-051201&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=%2AMideast%20Brief
May 11, 2016 
Saudi Arabians woke up over the weekend to a once-in-a-decade cabinet reshuffle. Octogenarian oil minister Ali al-Naimi, who has been in charge of the Kingdom’s energy policy since 1995, was replacedby Khaled al-Falih, who is to head the newly created Energy, Industry, and Natural Resources Ministry. Majed al-Qusaibi was named head of the newly created Commerce and Investment Ministry. Finally, Ahmed al-Kholifey was made governor of the Saudi Arabia’s Central Bank (SAMA). It may come as a surprise to many Saudis that the origin of this reshuffle—and indeed the Kingdom’s new economic direction—finds its impetus in a report by the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
A man with a plan

Saudi Arabia has been struggling to deal with the impact of lower oil prices. After years of recording budget surpluses, the government has seen its budgetary deficit grow to 15 percent of GDP. Lower oil prices—coupled with tensions with regional rival Iran over Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon—have put the Kingdom’s finances under pressure. Since oil prices began to plummet, Saudi Arabia’s ever-ambitious Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been spearheading an ambitious reform initiative that seeks to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil. 
Dubbed “Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030,” the prince says that the new economic blueprint will increase the role of the private sector from 40 percent to 60 percent, reduce unemployment from 11 percent to 7.6 percent, and grow non-oil income exponentially. This is to be financed by the partial privatization of the Kingdom’s oil behemoth, Aramco. 

Beijing Vows to Increase South China Sea Defenses, Calls U.S. ‘Greatest Threat’ in Region

May 11, 2016

People’s Liberation Army troops patrol an island in the South China Sea. PLA Photo

Chinese officials took a rhetorical hard line this week calling U.S. military actions in the South China Sea the “greatest threat” to stability in the region and vowed to increase its own military presence in the region, according to a Wednesday statement from the Chinese military.

“China will intensify sea and air patrol and enhance construction of defense capabilities in the area as needed, firmly safeguard national sovereignty and security and resolutely maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” read a Wednesday statement from the Ministry of National Defense.

The statement follows a Tuesday U.S. freedom of navigation operation in which a U.S. destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese controlled installation in the Spratly Island chain.

USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110) conducted an innocent passage past Fiery Cross Reef, a Chinese-controlled artificial island — also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam, according to the Pentagon.

How America Picks Its Next Move in the South China Sea

May 11, 2016

On May 10, 2016, the USS William P. Lawrence conducted the United States’ third recent South China Sea freedom of navigation operation (FONOP). Many in Washington had been expecting a FONOP for several weeks, because the last FONOP was over three months ago and a defense official previously committed to conduct two such operations per quarter. Reports suggested that a FONOP was rescheduled last month for unknown reasons, so an operation appeared overdue.

Nevertheless, the FONOP surprised many observers by targeting Fiery Cross Reef. Both of the previous FONOPs were conducted as innocent passages because they were directed against features that are entitled to territorial seas under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Thefirst FONOP was conducted near Subi Reef, which is below water at high tide, but is within twelve nautical miles of a feature that by its proximity provides Subi Reef with a territorial sea. The second FONOP was carried out near Triton Island, which is above water at high-tide and therefore merits its own territorial sea. As a result, U.S. Navy vessels had to transit “innocently” through these features’ territorial seas without maneuvering or conducting military operations.

China’s ‘Guam Killers’ Threaten U.S. Anchor Base in Pacific

MAY 11, 2016 

Advances in Chinese missile technology are putting the big American base, formerly a sanctuary, in range of attacks. 

Long-range Chinese missiles are becoming an increasingly acute threat to U.S. military forces on Guam, the island anchor of the American strategic position in the Pacific, according to a new report.

While the weapons probably don’t represent an immediate direct threat, continued advances in range and precision could put the still-expanding U.S. bases on Guam in China’s crosshairs in the event of a big conflict in Asia.

The report, prepared by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and released Tuesday, highlighted advances Beijing’s military has made in bolstering its ability to push U.S. forces farther away from Chinese shores. Those advances include new kinds of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as ships, subs, and bombers that can launch them. The weapons in the Chinese quiver, according to the report, can easily reach Guam, the western-most U.S. territory and home to a naval base, an air base, and regionwide fuel and ammunition depots.

“China’s commitment to continuing to modernize its strike capabilities indicates the risk will likely grow going forward,” the report noted.

China’s “Guam Killer” Missiles

Keith Johnson
May 12, 2016

China’s ‘Guam Killers’ Threaten U.S. Anchor Base in Pacific

Long-range Chinese missiles are becoming an increasingly acute threat to U.S. military forces on Guam, the island anchor of the American strategic position in the Pacific, according to a new report.

While the weapons probably don’t represent an immediate direct threat, continued advances in range and precision could put the still-expanding U.S. bases on Guam in China’s crosshairs in the event of a big conflict in Asia.

The report, prepared by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and released Tuesday, highlighted advances Beijing’s military has made in bolstering its ability to push U.S. forces farther away from Chinese shores. Those advances include new kinds of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as ships, subs, and bombers that can launch them. The weapons in the Chinese quiver, according to the report, can easily reach Guam, the western-most U.S. territory and home to a naval base, an air base, and regionwide fuel and ammunition depots.

“China’s commitment to continuing to modernize its strike capabilities indicates the risk will likely grow going forward,” the report noted.

Defense experts stress that rapidly improving Chinese strike capabilities pose a particular risk to the Guam garrison, which has been steadily expanded in recent years to give the U.S. military a stand-off base in the Pacific that would be less vulnerable than bases on Okinawa.

China Building Missiles That Are Targeted on Guam

Bill Gertz
May 12, 2016

China Building Missiles to Strike Guam

China is building up intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles that pose a growing threat to Guam, the strategic Pacific island that is central to the U.S. military pivot to Asia, according to a congressional report made public Tuesday.

Six different missiles capable of reaching Guam from China are deployed or in late stages of development, says the report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

They include the DF-26 intermediate-range missile that Beijing unveiled during a recent military parade, and dubbed the “Guam-killer,” that can be armed with both nuclear and conventional warheads.

“The DF-26 is China’s first conventionally-armed IRBM and first conventionally-armed ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam,” the report said, noting that its inclusion in a September 2015 military parade in Beijing “indicates it has likely been deployed as an operational weapon.”

The report put the risk of a Chinese attack on Guam as low.

The Concept Of Self-Defense In International Law And South China Sea – Analysis

By Mary Fides A. Quintos*
MAY 13, 2016

Explaining Chinese actions in the Woody Island in the Paracels, on February 17, 2016, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that the deployment of surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system is a limited but necessary national defense facility for the exercise of its rights to self-defense under international law.

The notion of self-defense arguably is highly subjective. Legal scholars contend that there is no precise guideline on the inherent right to self-defense in case of an armed attack under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Anticipatory self-defense as recognized in customary international law is the use of force even before an actual attack. It has a set of preconditions which include necessity and proportionality to the imminent threat, which can also be de- pendent on value judgment.1 A state arming itself could be in preparation for self-defense either in anticipation of or following an armed attack.

In the current situation in the South China Sea, there are states that are defending their right to freedom of navigation on one hand, and China defending its claimed territories on the other hand. When there is a mutual perception of threat, a common interpretation of the rights under international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is imperative.

IS THE ISLAMIC STATE TRYING TO DRAW TURKEY INTO SYRIA?

MAY 13, 2016

There is a due going on in Turkey’s southern province of Kilis. Since the beginning of the year, forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have fired katyusha rockets into KilisThe Turkish Armed Forces (Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri, TSK) have responded with artillery fire and airstrikes, reportedly killing at least 862 ISIL fighters this year. Still, rockets have landed in Kilis every day in May. According to a combination of data from Metin Gurcan and Aaron Stein, as of May 8, 21 people have been killed and at least 88 wounded on the Turkish side of the border this year. There is growing anger at the local and national government over the disruption to daily life. Simultaneously, ISIL released a statement that it will soon show the consequences for Turkish state actions in a video featuring a TSK soldier captured in July 2015. Both sides appear to be escalating their reactions, culminating on the night of May 8, with the Turkish military for the first time announcing it had conducted a ground incursion into Syria. According to the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak, 15 to 20 Turkish special forces units entered ISIL-controlled territory to target rocket launchers. The raid was followed by airstrikes from coalition forces and with the knowledge of the United States and Russia.

Why is ISIL picking a fight with Turkey? Does ISIL see its actions as a response to Turkish fire support to opposition forces fighting in northern Aleppo? Or are they a deliberate attempt to force an already strained Turkish military into a more involved and bloodier intervention in Syria? ISIL’s most recent propaganda directed at a Turkish audience may provide a clue to its strategic goals toward Turkey.

ISIL’s Propaganda on Turkey

What is the Arabic for democracy?

14th 2016

“THE REVOLUTION WAS for nothing. We changed one family of thieves for many families of thieves. This country depends on tourism. Now there are no tourists.” Such is the harsh judgment of one stallholder on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis, scene of many protests during the 2011 revolution.

On the face of it, Tunisia has made an admirable transition to democracy. Its political parties have kept the consensus for pluralism, contested two rounds of elections and abided by the result. But the economy has languished, and protests are simmering once more in the deprived interior of the country. To an extent, Tunisia has been unlucky. It is feeling the instability next door in Libya: migrant workers have lost their jobs there, while the all-important tourism industry has been ruined by repeated terrorist attacks. An attempt in March by Islamic State to seize the town of Ben Guerdane, close to the Libyan border, rattled the country. But the coalition is fractious. It is struggling to enact economic reforms. And the ruling party, Nidaa Tounes, has split after little more than a year in power. In part this is because of the return of a bad old habit: President Beji Caid Essebsi seems to be trying to install his son, Hafedh, as his political heir.

Still, Tunisia counts as success compared with the mess in other countries that cast off their leaders in 2011. For all the disappointment and sorrow in the years after the Arab uprisings, it is difficult to imagine the region reverting to the immobility of the decades before 2011. Authoritarianism is back, but many states are too weak and fragmented, and access to information too ubiquitous, for it to go unchallenged for long.

U.S. military operations in Iraq expand on paper, but not on the ground

May 12, 2016

Nearly a month after Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced plans to expand the U.S. military mission in Iraq, little additional combat power has reached the front lines outside Mosul where the Iraqi army has been slow to reclaim ground from well entrenched Islamic State militants.

Those plans, announced in April, authorized the deployment of several American "enablers," including more than 200 additional troops and the addition of combat advisers within the Iraqi army's combat brigades and battalions. They also included an offer of U.S. attack helicopters to provide close air support for Iraqi ground forces.

However, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq has declined slightly since then. American military advisers are not yet working at the brigade or battalion levels. And officials won't say whether any of the U.S. Army's AH-64 Apache helicopters in Iraq have been employed for combat operations.

The additional combat power was intended to boost the Iraqi army’s push toward Mosul, the Islamic State's stronghold in Iraq. But the Iraqis' effort, launched in March, has advanced very slowly. So far, they've seized only a few small villages near their base in Makhmur.

Iran's Unstoppable March Toward Dominance

May 12, 2016

In late June 2013 the Economist underscored the need for stripping Iran of its nuclear program “to stem the rise of Persian power.” A “nuclear Iran,” it asserted, would seriously challenge Western interests in the Middle East and endanger “Israel’s right to exist.” The magazine concluded: “When Persian power is on the rise, it is not the time to back away from the Middle East.” Arguing from the opposite angle, Hillary Mann Leverett, a former U.S. National Security Council official, wrote in March 2015: “In reality, Iran’s rise is not only normal, it is actually essential to a more stable region,” because America’s recent “imperial overstretch” to permanently create a pro-American regional order, and the post-1979 Faustian bargain involving Israel and Saudi Arabia to contain Iranian power, had failed.

President Obama has of late reckoned with this reality, after long denial by successive U.S. administrations since 1979. At the end of the second GCC-U.S. summit meeting in Saudi Arabia held on April 21–22, he delivered two important messages, among others, to the Gulf Arab leaders: that the United States had no interest in direct confrontation with Iran, and that the Gulf leaders should depend more on their military capacities to defend their countries. Implicit in Obama’s two messages was another significant message: the United States views Iran as a powerful actor in the Middle East, a reference to what he previously said in his interview with the Atlantic that the GCC should “share the neighborhood” with Iran, provoking sharp reactions from some of the Gulf allies.