OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Coalition launches largest effort against ISIS

THE TOPLINE: The U.S. and allied nations launched the single largest coalition effort against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) this week.

About 15 coalition aircraft conducted 45 airstrikes near Sinjar and Zumar between Dec. 15-17, in an attempt to clear the terrorist group's fighters from the northwestern Iraqi cities.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We, along with our partner nations, have undertaken numerous airstrikes in the vicinity of Sinjar to push back against [ISIS] elements and their ability to continue attacks against communities in the area," said Gary Boucher, a U.S. spokesman for the international task force. 

The U.S. and coalition partners first began conducting airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops in the area in August, to break ISIS's siege of Sinjar Mountain, where thousands of members of the Yezidi minority sect had fled.

"Yezidi contacts have reported that these strikes have been effective in helping them to maintain control of the mountain," Boucher said.  

While more airstrikes have been carried out during prior operations, the latest effort involved the largest number of coalition partners, he added.

The operation conducted in support of Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces in the region destroyed about 50 ISIS targets.

 

DEFENSE LOBBY TO CONGRESS: 'START LISTENING': Voters want higher defense spending in the face of new global threats, according to a survey from an aerospace and defense industry group.

"On behalf the aerospace and defense industry, I'd make one simple request -- please start listening," said Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association on Wednesday.

Blakey's group released a survey finding that 69 percent of registered voters support more government defense spending than is currently allowed under the 2011 Budget Control Act. 

Blakey cited an increasingly aggressive Russia and the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as two global threats that justify higher defense spending. 

"Looking at the world's dangers through either rose-colored glasses of some who would be naive isolationists, or looking at them under the green eye shade of a fiscal ideologue -- neither works," she said.

 

PELOSI SKEWERS COBURN OVER SUICIDE BILL: House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMoulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction Conservatives push Trump tariff relief over payroll tax cuts Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE (D-Calif.) didn't shy away from blaming Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.) for stopping legislation designed to help prevent veteran suicides.

The House passed the legislation, named after a Marine veteran named Clay Hunt who took his own life, by voice vote last week.

But on Monday night, the retiring Coburn objected when senators tried to pass it by unanimous consent. He charged that the bill wouldn't hold the Veterans Affairs Department accountable.

"Our veterans have cried out to our nation to act to help them. But this week, Senator Tom Coburn decided that our veterans are not worthy of our help," Pelosi said in a fiery statement.

"History will not remember kindly the man who spent his final days in the Senate denying our veterans the help they desperately need," she said.

Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), the bill's sponsor, said this week that he plans to reintroduce the measure "immediately" after the new Congress starts in January.

 

GOOGLE vs. NSA? Google has started to prep for battle next year with the National Security Agency.

The Internet company has been one of the most outspoken critics of the spy agency and is redoubling its efforts, after a reform bill failed in the Senate in November

Last month, legislation that would have ended the NSA’s ability to collect and search Americans' phone records, among other provisions, failed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

The vote was a blow to tech companies who claim that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaks about the spy agency cost them the consumer's trust, and for civil liberties advocates who argue the agency's programs violate privacy rights. 

"At the end of 2014, surveillance reform came very close to passing in the U.S. Congress," Google said on a new "Take Action" page to spur its supporters ahead of next year’s battle. "The voices of Take Action helped get us this far."

The fight over the NSA is set to return to Capitol Hill early next year as the legal provision authorizing the phone records program is due to expire on June 1.

"In June of 2015, we have a huge chance to protect Americans from mass surveillance when a key part of the USA Patriot Act is set to expire," Google said.

"That means we need to be ready to take action this coming year."

 

VET GROUP LAUNCHES VIDEO SERIES: The conservative Concerned Veterans for America is launching its "Leading from Behind" series on Thursday to highlight what the group sees as the failures of the Obama administration. 

The first video in the series will focus on the instability in Libya, and the administration's policy there. 

"Future case studies will focus on how the 'reset' with Russia led to the dire situation in Ukraine, how Obama’s failure to negotiate a [Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq and back up his empty 'red line' threats in Syria led directly to the rise of ISIS as well as the 'pivot to Asia' that turned out to be just a head-fake," the group said in a press release. 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

-- In historic shift, Obama moves to normalize relations with Cuba

-- 'Warthog' used to carry out ISIS strikes

-- Levin bill would ease troop deployment against ISIS

-- Obama move causes logjam

-- Poll: Majority supports ending sequestration

 

Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Martin Matishak, mmatishak@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill, @kristina_wong, @martinmatishak