Overnight Defense

OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Showdown averted in Yemen?

THE TOPLINE: A Saudi Arabian-led coalition Tuesday ended its bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen, just as a showdown between the U.S.-backed coalition and Iran appeared imminent. 

The Decisive Storm campaign achieved its military goals and a new operation, known as Restoring Hope, will focuse on finding a political resolution to the conflict in Yemen, according to a report on Saudi state television. 

“We welcome their announcement of reaching their prescribed goal and will continue to work with the coalition and legitimate government of Yemen,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Roger M. Cabiness II said in an email. 

{mosads}In addition to brokering a deal to restore Yemen’s government, the next phase of the operation will include security and counterterrorism operations, according to media reports.

The U.S. had been providing intelligence and logistical support to the bombing campaign designed to defeat the Iranian-backed Shia rebels, who drove the Yemeni government from the capital in January.

The U.S. Navy on Monday also sent an aircraft carrier to Yemen as an Iranian flotilla, possibly carrying weapons for the Houthis, headed to the country.

The conflict in Yemen has posed challenges to U.S. interests in the Middle East and for the Obama administration as it seeks to finalize a historic nuclear agreement with Iran.

Yemen’s government was a key ally in fighting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the group has made major gains amid the chaos.

WORK ON DEFENSE BILL BEGINS: A pair of House Armed Services Committee subpanels on Tuesday began the process of crafting the annual defense policy bill.

The Emerging Threat and Capabilities and Readiness subcommittees released their portions of the fiscal 2016 national defense authorization act (NDAA).

Readiness tossed out an administration proposal to conduct a new round of base closures. However, members instructed the Defense Department to conduct an assessment of “excess capacity” to better understand where exactly the agency believes operations can be streamlined.

Meanwhile, the Emerging Threat and Capabilities panel directed the DOD and other agencies to conduct a number of assessments to determine cyber vulnerabilities across the U.S. weapons inventory.

Both sections of the annual defense policy blueprint will be marked up Wednesday. The remaining four subpanels will also release their portions of the bill with lawmakers set to take them up on Thursday.

Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) will publish his “chairman’s mark” of the NDAA on April 27, followed by a full committee markup April 29.

GRAHAM LAYS OUT IRAN REDLINES: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday laid out his “foundational principles” for any final deal on Iran’s nuclear program, including certifying the nation no longer supports terrorism.

“I have long warned about the dangers posed by the Iranian nuclear program and why any deal should dismantle the Iranians’ ability to ever produce a nuclear weapon,” Graham, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, said in a statement.

Graham said that if restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program are going to be lifted, President Obama must be able to certify that Iran no longer qualifies as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The administration has rejected the notion that Iran’s support of terrorism should be included as part of the nuclear deal.

Under a final deal, Graham said, Iran should not be allowed to have more enrichment capacity than what is needed to power its commercial reactor, and should close previously secret nuclear sites and disclose any military aspects of its nuclear program.

He also added that inspections should be allowed at any time and that sanctions relief should be incremental and dependent on Iran complying with the agreement.

Graham added that any final deal must also include a clear process for reimposing sanctions if Iran violates the terms, a ban on Iran’s research and development of advanced centrifuges, and the removal of Iran’s highly enriched uranium from the country.

Negotiators have until June 30 to reach a final deal.

MCAIN, CRUZ FIGHT OVER? Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sought to end his latest dustup with Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) by requesting the panel look into allowing troops to carry concealed firearms on military bases.

“There is great concern that Department of Defense policies which prevent service members from carrying weapons on military installations place an undue restriction on their second amendment rights and detract from their security,” Cruz wrote.

The request could bring to a close the latest fight between the 2016 presidential contender and McCain.

Last weekend, Cruz told a group of gun-owners in New Hampshire that he had been “pressing” McCain for a hearing about the issue, a claim the chairman laughed off.

Tuesday morning, Cruz said he may have “misspoken” about his lobbying efforts.

For his part, McCain also seemed ready to move on.

Cruz “issued a statement saying that he had not contacted me. I consider it over — correcting his mistake. I value him as a friend. He is a friend of mine and I value his leadership and participation on Armed Services,” the Arizona lawmaker told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

– Senators mull response to China’s moves in disputed islands

– Lawmakers ramp up push for Pentagon audit

– Jeb Bush praises Obama over NSA spying

– Obama official slams two GOP spending bills

– Obama giving ‘amnesty’ to torturers, human rights group claims

 

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

Tags Defense bill Iran John McCain Saudi Arabia Ted Cruz Yemen

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