Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Trump announces ‘snapback’ of sanctions on Iran | Uniformed personnel at Dem convention under investigation | Netanyahu calls reported F-35 deal ‘fake news’

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Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Ellen Mitchell, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: President Trump announced Wednesday evening that his administration would notify the United Nations of plans to restore “virtually” all sanctions on Iran.

“Today, I am directing the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to notify the U.N. security council that the United States intends to restore virtually all of the previously suspended United Nations sanctions on Iran,” Trump said during remarks at a press briefing. “It’s a snapback, not uncommon.”

The move comes after the U.N. security council rejected an effort by the United States to extend a weapons embargo on Iran last Friday. Trump told reporters Saturday that snapback sanctions could come as soon as this week. 

The timeline going forward: Shortly after Trump’s remarks, the State Department said that Pompeo would travel to the U.N. in New York City between Aug. 20 and 21 to notify the body that the United States would begin the process of restoring sanctions on Iran. 

“Thirty days after Secretary Pompeo’s notification, a range of U.N. sanctions will be restored, including the requirement that Iran suspend all enrichment-related activities. This will also extend the 13-year arms embargo on Iran,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said, calling the decision to not extend the arms embargo an “inexcusable failure.”

“Secretary Pompeo will also meet with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss Iran and other issues of shared concern,” Ortagus said. 

A reminder: Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear agreement brokered during the Obama administration, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May 2018. The move proved controversial and put the U.S. at odds with some of its closest allies. 

But the administration argues that despite leaving the deal it remains a party to the resolution that enshrined the JCPOA, the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, and retains the right to snapback sanctions if it believes Iran is violating the terms of the agreement. 

On Wednesday Trump for the umpteenth time derided the agreement as “disastrous,” blaming the previous administration for what he described as a “foreign policy failure.”

Little support likely: Yet a snapback of U.N. sanctions is unlikely to garner support from the majority of Security Council nations amid overwhelming opposition to the U.S.’s resolution to extend the arms embargo.

Only the Dominican Republic voted with the U.S. on extending the embargo while 11 nations abstained and two voted no. 

But White House moving forward: Despite a lack of support among U.N. Security Council member states, Pompeo said on Wednesday he expects the snapback portion of Resolution 2231 to be “fully enforced.” 

In a briefing with reporters, the secretary said that the sanctions will be a “fully valid, enforceable U.N. Security Council resolution” and “that they’ll be enforced just like every other U.N. Security Council resolution that is in place.”

Current fears: Supporters of the nuclear deal fear that the Trump administration’s push for a snapback on sanctions will completely dismantle the remaining elements of the JCPOA.

Following Trump’s announcement, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the move only raises the likelihood of conflict.

“Two years ago, many of us warned that by pulling out of a diplomatic deal that was working to curb Iran’s nuclear program, the Trump Administration would raise the risk of unnecessary war, make it harder to reach a nuclear deal with North Korea, and make us less safe. Predictably, these assessments have come true,” Kaine, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member said in a statement.

“The region is in further disarray and now due to the Trump Administration, we no longer have an Iran arms embargo and won’t have Iran nuclear constraints either. This administration’s reckless actions have threatened our diplomatic credibility, longstanding alliances, and national security.”


ARMY INVESTIGATING UNIFORMED PERSONNEL SHOWN DURING DNC: The Army is launching an investigation into the two uniformed personnel who were shown during the Democratic National Convention, the service said Wednesday.

During the second night of the convention, the soldiers appeared next to delegates from American Samoa during the state roll call, prompting questions about whether they violated military rules. The Department of Defense (DOD) forbids service members from appearing in uniform at political events. 

Military responds: The Army announced it will investigate the two service members, who are assigned to the 9th Mission Support Command, Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz confirmed to The Hill. 

“Wearing a uniform to a partisan political event like this is prohibited,” he said in a statement. “The Army follows the Department of Defense’s longstanding and well-defined policy regarding political campaigns and elections to avoid the perception of DOD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of any political candidate, campaign or cause.”

‘An oversight’: A Democratic convention official told The Hill earlier Wednesday that the service members’ appearance in uniform was “an oversight.”

“The composition of that shot was an oversight,” the official said. “Each state was asked to highlight issues and values that matter most and the American Samoa delegation wanted to highlight their commitment to military service when they filmed their segment.”

The Democratic Party’s 2020 platform, expected to be approved by leaders at the convention, commits that the party “will never use active duty soldiers as political props, and we will never send military forces to suppress Americans exercising their constitutional rights.”


NETANYAHU CALLS REPORTED US F-35 SALE TO UAE ‘FAKE NEWS’: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling reports that the United States is planning to sell F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates “fake news.”

Israeli media on Tuesday first reported the sale, which would be included in the agreement to normalize relations between Israel and the UAE. A so-called secret clause in the deal would reportedly allow the Gulf nation to buy billions of dollars in U.S. military equipment, including the F-35 and drones.

Sources told Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that UAE Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan allowed the agreement on the condition that the sale would happen.

A hard no from Israel: But Netanyahu said Israel would oppose such a deal, as the Israeli military must maintain superiority in the region.

The peace agreement “did not include Israel’s consent to any arms deal whatsoever between the United States and the UAE,” according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

“The U.S. made clear to Israel that it will always ensure to protect Israel’s qualitative edge.”

The White House keeps mum: Asked about reports of the sale on Wednesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the Trump administration won’t “confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”

A change in dealings: The United States since the 1970s does not sell Middle East countries advanced military equipment that could take away from Israel’s “qualitative edge.”

Israel is currently the only country in the region to possess the fifth-generation fighter.

However, after the formal U.S.-brokered peace agreement reached last week that made the UAE the first Arab nation to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a state since the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, the Trump administration has signaled that Abu Dhabi could gain unspecified new U.S. arms sales.

Washington is surprised: News of the potential weapons sale has reportedly taken Washington by surprise.

Two State Department officials that handle U.S. foreign arms sales told CNN that they were unaware of such a sale. And aides from relevant congressional committees said they have not been notified about such a deal.



President Trump will welcome Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to the White House to conclude a strategic dialogue launched in June to reconfigure U.S.-Iraq ties. 

The National Defense Industrial Association will hold a virtual forum on “Space Warfighting Industry” with Air Force Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of U.S. Space Force; Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.); Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.); and Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), at 9:30 a.m. 

The United States Institute of Peace will hold an online discussion with Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein and Iraqi Minister of Migration Faeq Jabro at 2 p.m. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden will accept the nomination for president at the final day of the Democratic National Convention, with speakers including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), beginning at 9 p.m.



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Tags Benjamin Netanyahu Chris Coons Cory Booker Cory Gardner Denny Heck Donald Trump Gavin Newsom Joe Biden Keisha Lance Bottoms Mike Pompeo Mike Turner Pete Buttigieg Tammy Baldwin Tammy Duckworth Tim Kaine
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