Strategic Intelligence Summary for 07 June 2018

Strategic Intelligence contains intelligence reporting on the state of global security and instability, geostrategic issues affecting the United States, pre-war indicators, and assessments on the current risk of war. This report is available each week for Intelligence subscribers.


In this Strategic Intelligence Summary: (4,759 words)

  • The Philippines could go to war over South China Sea claims: Official
  • U.S. Navy’s new ‘ship killer’ long-range missile test successful 
  • Russia developing 5th-gen sub with hypersonic missiles 
  • U.S. Marine Corps units will receive extra ‘surge force’ training for major war 
  • Pentagon in talks with Germany to deploy THAAD there 
  • Taiwan conducting war games simulating Chinese invasion 
  • Iran is continuing efforts to obtain WMD technology from German suppliers
  • And more…

In Focus: Lost in the flurry of news this week regarding U.S. and North Korean preparations for a historic summit between President Donald Trump and Leader Kim Jong-un was a visit to Pyongyang by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on 31 May. I was reading a story about who’s going to pay for Kim’s lavish hotel in Singapore, where the summit is currently scheduled for 12 June, when I noticed the story lead featured a photo of a beaming North Korean leader shaking hands with a smiling Lavrov. 

In recent weeks, we’ve covered historic meetings between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as well as Kim’s first meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping since Kim took over his country in 2011 — unusual for a North Korean leader to wait so long to essentially kiss the ring of his country’s primary benefactor. China, we’ve noted, is exceedingly interested in the outcome of Kim’s meetings with Trump. The U.S., of course, wants complete North Korean denuclearization, but Kim will want ironclad security guarantees (from the U.S. and China), the lifting of economic sanctions, and other measures aimed at bolstering his economy but also at keeping him in power.

But not much has been said about what Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to see happen on the Korean peninsula, which is why the meeting with Lavrov makes sense. Albeit much smaller than China’s, Russia does share a border with North Korea, so Putin shares some of the same concerns that Xi has regarding a Korean peninsula suddenly more open and less hostile to the West. For decades the two great powers in the region, who have had rocky relations of their own, have used North Korea and South Korea both as a means of tripping up the U.S. If a deal finally gets done to denuclearize the North, that will be one less geopolitical weapon Moscow and Beijing have in their diplomatic arsenal.

There’s much more. Welcome to this week’s Strategic Intelligence Summary and thank you for subscribing We welcome your feedback. — JD


Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?

PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints? (North Korea, China, Russia, Iran/Israel/Middle East)

PIR4: What activities are foreign intelligence services directing against the United States our allies?


PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

Philippines could go to war over South China Sea claims: Official

A Filipino aide to President Rodrigo Duterte has said his country could resort to war in order to uphold its rightful claims to territory in the South China Sea currently claimed and occupied by China. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon made the comments as Duterte’s administration pushed back against criticism its response to Chinese activities in the hotly contested waters had been weak. “Just the other night, the president said if my troops are hurt there, that could be my red line,” Esperon told reporters. ”Or, if our people are hurt there at Pag-asa Island. We are not saying we are going to war, but if they oppress us that may force our hand, because we will not allow ourselves to be oppressed.” Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the sea. In the past, Duterte has said specifically he would not go to war against China. [source]

Record numbers of illegal crossers still showing up at U.S.-Mexico border

U.S. Border Patrol agents continue to arrest a high number of illegal border crossers. The number topped 50,000 in May again for the third month in a row. DHS took 51,912 migrants into custody in May, more than three times the number detained in May 2017, a period when illegal immigration plunged following Donald Trump’s inauguration. It appears as though the administration’s tactics — beefing up border security, cracking down on employers and doing more interior enforcement — have yet to yield positive results. [source] Analyst comment: I have a tendency to believe the surge in numbers over last year — the first months of Trump’s presidency — are due in large part to the fecklessness of U.S. federal courts in upholding the Constitution and duly-passed immigration laws. The message potential illegal aliens are hearing from America is that despite the Trump’s grumblings and best efforts he is being prevented from actually enforcing immigration statutes. As such, illegal immigrants believe they have a better chance of being able to actually remain in the U.S. if they can just make it across the border to a sanctuary city (or state), considering it still takes years in most cases to get a hearing before an immigration judge (if they even show up for their court date).


PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries? 

Taiwan conducting war games simulating Chinese invasion

Taiwan’s military held large military exercises designed to thwart a Chinese invasion of the self-ruled island involving air, sea, and land forces. The live-fire “Han Kuang” (Han Glory) exercises began Monday as troops simulated surprise air and seaborne assaults as a way to reflect China’s increasing military capabilities. President Tsai Ing-wen, who refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of China, watched part of the exercises which involved at least 4,100 troops. Those drills simulated a Chinese bombardment of an airfield as well as an attack by airborne troops. Beijing has grown increasingly frustrated with the island’s warming relations with the U.S., with which it has a defense agreement. A provision in the annual defense spending bill currently before Congress would authorize the U.S. military to participate in Taiwanese exercises, including Han Kuang. [source]

U.S. Navy’s new ‘ship killer’ long-range missile test successful

Lockheed Martin successfully tested its newly developed Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM), the Navy’s answer to a growing problem that threatens its freedom of the seas. The test was conducted over the Sea Range of Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California. Two missiles, launched from a B-1B bomber, made their way through several waypoints and successfully hit a moving vessel. The missiles are a new generation of anti-ship weapons, offering longer ranges and better odds against improving air defense systems. The LRASM is designed to detect and destroy specific targets within groups of ships using its sensors, encrypted communications and a digital anti-jamming GPS. The missile can be launched from the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the B1-B Lancer, the F-35 Lightning II and from a vertical launch system on a Navy destroyer. It is designed to be used in battle against the surface ships of advanced foes, such as China or Russia. [source]

Russia developing 5th-gen sub with hypersonic missiles

Russia is reportedly working on a new class of nuclear-powered fifth-generation submarines with the first boat expected to be delivered to the Russian Navy by 2027, a source in the Russian defense industry says. The new sub class is designated the Husky and will likely be armed with 3M22 Zircon (NATO reporting name: SS-N-33) anti-ship hypersonic cruise missiles purportedly capable of traveling up to speeds of Mach 6 at an estimated maximum range of 270 nautical miles. Experimental and design work is scheduled to begin in 2023 with delivery of the first vessel expected by 2027. “Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missiles will become the main armament of the newest multipurpose submarine,” the source added. The Husky-class will reportedly come in three variants: a nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), a nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine (SSGN), and a new nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). All three variants are expected to share a common two-hull design as well as common sonar, power and propulsion systems. [source]

Russia, Vietnam holding naval drills in Pacific Ocean

Russia’s Pacific Fleet warships will hold joint drills with Vietnam’s navy. “During our stay in Cam Ranh, we are planning to hold drills under the Code of West Pacific Partnership. This is an agreement that gives the sailors of all the countries the possibilities to better understand each other at sea, stipulates the norms of behavior in disputable situations and unplanned encounters at sea. Such drills will be held on June 6 jointly with a guard ship of the 4th naval region of the Vietnamese Navy,” the commander of the Russian group of warships said. Russia’s largest international naval base was located at Cam Ranh Bay from 1979-2002. Russian warships now regularly make port calls there once again. [source]

U.S. Marine Corps units will receive extra ‘surge force’ training for major war

Some Marine units will be undertaking additional combat training as “surge” forces that would be quickly deployed in a great-power conflict. All Marines will have a role in a major war against an adversary like Russia or China but a “surge” force based in the U.S. is set to receive additional high-intensity training that Marine Expeditionary Units at sea will not. “You may see two different MAGTFs (Marine Air-Ground Task Forces) emerging, all with in the same Marine Corps,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, deputy commandant for plans, policies, and operations. One kind will be the traditional Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), the smallest type of MAGTF — basically a reinforced battalion with its own aircraft and logistics support — embarked on an Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) of (traditionally) three Navy ships. The other kind will consist of the surge force, and instead of being constantly at sea patrolling they will be ‘on call’ and conducting high-intensity combat training that includes facing large, complex forces. In the event of a great-power conflict, they will deploy on fleets of Navy ships — “perhaps 20 to 30 amphibs that are coming forward from CONUS (the continental United States) with the war-winning effort,” accompanied by other warships, Air Force squadrons, and Army brigades, Beaudreault said. [source]

Pentagon in talks with Germany to deploy THAAD

U.S. military officials have opened discussions with German counterparts to deploy a powerful Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system to the country as a means of boosting the continent’s air defenses. While the move would trigger new tensions with Russia, many in the Pentagon see it as a necessary defensive measure against sustained Russian pressure. The tentative proposal to send the THAAD system to Europe reportedly predates U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, and comes amid a broader push to strengthen Europe’s air and missile defenses. [source]

If U.S. denies F-35 to Turkey, Ankara will turn — again — to Russia

The Senate passed a defense spending bill recently that sought to prevent Turkey from getting the 100 F-35 stealth jets it ordered — so now Turkey may become the first buyer of Russia’s Su-57 “stealth” jet killer if the bill becomes law. The U.S. and Turkey have several ongoing diplomatic issues, including Turkey claiming that the US is harboring clerics that urged a 2016 coup and detaining US citizens, and the US is claiming Turkey is a hub of illicit terror financing. But it hasn’t helped that Ankara — a NATO member and supposed ally — is increasingly turning to Moscow for its military hardware. Turkey recently bought the Russian-made S-400 air defense system which reportedly was developed to target stealth aircraft. [source] Analyst comment: The problem the Pentagon faces if sales of the F-35 to Turkey go forward is that there could be possible transfers of technology to the Russians via Turkey that reveal the aircraft’s disadvantages regarding the S-400.


PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four? (North Korea, China, Russia, Iran/Israel/Middle East)

NATO-Russia:

– Aides to Presidents Trump and Putin are said to be working on a summit between the two leaders  at some point in the new future, though no date or meeting place has yet been determined. A senior administration official said that Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, has been in Washington to help arrange a meeting between the two. Any meeting would no doubt focus on several issues — Syria, Ukraine, and nuclear arms control, among others. This meeting would mark the third between both leaders, who held discussions on the sidelines of two international meetings in 2017—one at the Group of 20 summit in Germany last July and at a November summit in Vietnam. In April, Yuri Ushakov, a former Russian ambassador to the U.S. and now an aide to Mr. Putin, said Mr. Trump had invited Mr. Putin to Washington during a March 20 phone call. 

– Russia is keeping an eye on NATO’s Saber Strike 2018 exercises in the Baltics. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Moscow always closely tracks all NATO maneuvers, especially those drills that have a certain degree of proximity to our borders.” Saber Strike 2018 will be held through June 15 and involve about 3,000-strong personnel from 12 countries – Albania, the U.S., Denmark, Italy, Canada, Latvia, Great Britain, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and Germany.

– During the final two weeks of May, Moscow quietly shifted five naval vessels from the Caspian Flotilla to the Sea of Azov, a move the Russian authorities have cast as a step needed to defend against a Ukrainian attack on occupied Crimea. But both rising tensions with Kiev over shipping in the sea and through the Kerch Strait as well as the nature of the Russian ships that were redeployed instead suggest that this move is intended to give Moscow a new offensive capability. At a minimum, Kiev will need to expend additional resources to protect itself against this increased Russian naval presence in the Sea of Azov. But more seriously, Moscow could choose to exploit these additional military assets to try to seize more Ukrainian territory, including to finally secure a land bridge to Crimea. Noting that Putin invaded and annexed the Crimea in 2014 after the Sochi Olympics, some analysts believe Putin ordered the redeployment of the flotilla so he could launch an attack after the current World Cup games are concluded. And currently, the Ukrainian military does not have the assets in place to seriously contest Putin’s advances.

– An air defense formation in Crimea will get a battalion of Pantsir-S1 short-to medium-range surface-to-air missile systems, Commander of the 4th Air Force and Air Defense Army of Russia’s Southern Military District Victor Sevostyanov said. “All the surface-to-air missile regiments of the Air Force and Air Defense Army that are based in Crimea have been rearmed with Triumf missile complexes. The delivery of a Pantsir-S1 air defense missile battalion that makes an organic part of the formation is expected,” said Sevostyanov. The land-and sea-based Pantsir-S1 air defense missile/gun system is designed to defend civil and military facilities against all modern air attack weapons in any weather and electronic warfare environment day and night. The system can also defend facilities against ground and naval threats. Russia has already deployed S-400 Triumf air defense systems to Crimea. 

– More than 3,000 troops and 500 weapon systems will be involved in the Peace Mission 2018 counter-terror drills of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Chelyabinsk Region in the Urals in August, the press office of Russia’s Central Military District has announced. “The Peace Mission 2018 drills will involve more than 3,000 servicemen from the SCO member states and over 500 pieces of military hardware. The relevant accords were reached during the 3rd staff negotiations near Chelyabinsk among the military delegations of India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan,” the press office said.

In recent additions, I’ve discussed how the majority of European NATO nations are unprepared for great power war. Germany is one of the worst offenders because it is NATO-Europe’s richest member, but its overall readiness is appalling. This assessment has been reaffirmed by America’s newest ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, whose job it will be, in part, to convince Berlin to increase its defense spending. “NATO spending is one thing that the President told me directly that he wants me to accomplish. It is a very difficult issue, and is why I’m thinking very creatively about how we do it”, said Grenell, who is mindful that previous U.S. diplomats in Europe have failed to make any real progress on the issue. Of the major economies in NATO, just three — the U.S., Britain, and Poland — consistently meet the funding requirement of 2 percent of GDP (and Britain has been accused of using an accounting trick to meet its mandate). Grenell says German diplomats are “serious” about boosting defense spending and readiness. However, “That’s one thing that’s missing from the German diplomatic conversation — they right now don’t have behind them a credible threat of military action.”

SC: NATO, and specifically the Germans, are stuck between a rock and a hard place of their own making. On the one hand, German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeats that Europe can’t depend on the U.S. as a continental defender, and on the other hand she’s not addressing her military’s significant readiness and operational issues.

Additionally, it bears noting that the Pentagon is less than a month away from re-establishing the U.S. Navy’s Second Fleet, which had been disbanded under sequestration in 2011. According to a Pentagon spokesman, “NATO is refocusing on the Atlantic in recognition of the great power competition prompted by a resurgent Russia.” Approximately 60 percent of U.S. anti-submarine warfare units are deployed to the Pacific, keeping a watchful eye on China. This shift is causing problems for Pentagon planners because Russian submarines operating in the Atlantic could pose critical threats to logistics and deployments in support of European operations. Defense planners are concerned that Russian operations will become more aggressive in the Atlantic, which is why the Second Fleet, based out of Norfolk, Virginia, will be sailing again.

In the case of both the German military and the Navy’s Second Fleet, the old Russian saying bears repeating: Probe with bayonet. If you hit steel, stop. If you hit mush, push.

Middle East: 

– There’s another great power player in the Middle East: China. In recent days the revisionist Asian giant pledged to contribute to Russia’s support of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, one of many ways that Moscow and Beijing are shoring up their security ties. This is a developing story.

– For the first time, the Israeli navy will participate in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) as tensions with Iran remain high. The exercises, which will be held from 27 June to 2 August, involve the participation of 26 nations and 47 surface ships, five submarines, ground forces from 18 countries, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel. RIMPAC is the world’s largest international naval exercise. It will be led by the U.S. Navy’s 3rd Fleet off the coast of Hawaii and Southern California. The theme of RIMPAC 2018 is “Capable Adaptive Partners,” as the exercise seeks to increase multi-national cooperation and trust as well as enhance interoperability of forces. In addition to Israel, other first-time participants include Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Other countries participating in RIMPAC 2018 are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom. The exercises focus on a range of operations including coordinated disaster relief, maritime security operations, and control of the sea/complex warfighting. 

– This week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined “a way forward” following President Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), A.K.A. the “Iran nuclear deal.” In a presentation to a Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank, he discussed a roadmap to achieve a new security framework that counters the Iranian regime’s malign activities in the region, blocks their financing of terror, and addresses Iran’s proliferation of missiles and other advanced weapons systems that threaten peace and stability. He noted that the JCPOA had fatal flaws, including weak sunset provisions that only delayed the inevitable nuclear weapons capability of the Iranian regime. In highlighting the agreement’s many flaws, Pompeo said “the bet that the JCPOA would increase Middle East stability was a bad one for America, for Europe, for the Middle East, and indeed for the entire world. It is clear that the JCPOA has not ended Iran’s nuclear ambitions, nor did it deter its quest for a regional hegemony. Iran’s leaders saw the deal as the starting gun for the march across the Middle East.” He added: “America’s commitment to the Iran strategy President Trump laid down in October remains. It will now be executed outside of the JCPOA.” He reiterated Trump’s willingness to negotiate a new deal but the deal is not the objective — protecting the American people is, he said.

North Korea:

– Kim Jong-un sacked a number of top military leaders as he prepares for his historic summit with President Trump. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing an unnamed intelligence official, reported the changes. The question is: Why now? Some believe that it’s Kim’s latest move to shore up power ahead of historic changes for the country moving forward that are bringing certain uncertainties. Before he moves ahead, Kim looks to making himself more comfortable with those he’ll need to remain in power. “All these (promoted) guys are top Kim Jong Un guys,” said Michael Madden, author of the highly respected North Korea Leadership Watch blog. “All three of them have held very sensitive and high level positions under Kim Jong Un, they’re very loyal (to him), and all have experience interacting with foreign delegations.” Others speculate Kim got rid of the three because he believed they were in positions that would allow them to corruptly take advantage of new outside investment coming into the country.

– A new CIA assessment is tossing cold water on the planned summit. The report says that the U.S. intelligence community does not believe that Kim will surrender his nuclear weapons program. “Everybody knows they are not going to denuclearize,” said one intelligence official who read the report. What’s odd about the intelligence community assessment is that it says Kim may be willing — as a concession — to allow Western hamburger franchises to set up shop inside his country, because he knows Trump is a fan of such fare. The assessment says a more realistic objective would be for Trump to convince Kim to simply walk back recent developments in his weapons program. But Trump isn’t likely to go for that, given that he’s insisted on full denuclearization since before he took office. “If the North Koreans don’t agree in a joint statement that lays out denuclearization — that is, getting rid of their nuclear weapons, having them put under control by international elements — then I don’t think we are going to go very far,” Chris Hill, a former ambassador to South Korea, said.  

The meeting venue is set: President Trump and Kim will meet for their historic June 12 summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore.

South China Sea:

Defense Secretary James Mattis, speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference in Singapore last weekend, put China on notice regarding its continued militarization of islands in the South China Sea. His message was respectful but clear — blunt, even. He warned there could be “much larger consequences” in the future regarding Beijing’s moves to install weapons systems on islands in the sea. He didn’t specify what the consequences would be, but suffice to say the U.S. under Trump doesn’t appear willing to just cede control of the strategic seas to a revisionist power on the rise. Mattis’ warning came in response to a question following a speech in which he said “despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.” He added that his decision to disinvite the Chinese navy from annual RIMPAC exercises was “an initial response” to its increased militarization of the South China Sea. Mattis’ comments come amid a distinct rise in military activity by Beijing over the course of the last several months. In April, China landed a heavy H-6K strategic bomber on Woody Island, one of the areas under dispute. Earlier the Chinese placed surface-to-air and anti-ship cruise missiles and communication-jamming equipment on some islands. The U.S. response in May was to send a pair of U.S. warships — a destroyer and a cruiser — to within 12 nautical miles of those islands. China maintains those freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) are in and of themselves militarization of the South China Sea, but that response is a typical cover for Beijing. In addition, Mattis sought to reassure U.S. allies in the region that the Trump administration was doubling down on America’s commitment to them as a way of assuaging some nervousness after POTUS took the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. “America is true in both word and deed,” Mattis said. “America remains committed to maintaining the region’s security, stability and economic prosperity, a view that transcends America’s political transitions and will continue to enjoy Washington’s strong bipartisan support.” U.S. allies in the region have discussed increasing mutual assistance as a means of countering a rising China, even as the U.S. encourages India to partner with Japan, Australia, and Washington for the same purpose. As a signal of reassurance to allies, the U.S. recently changed its command covering Asia and the Pacific Ocean to the Indo-Pacific Command from the Pacific Command.

To that end, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told a press gaggle this week in response to questions about Chinese concerns and anguish over the FONOPs, “We’re going to continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations as allowed by international law and we’re going to continue to do the things that we’re doing. … It’s just a fact we have a lot of experience in the Second World War taking out small islands that are isolated. That’s a core competency of the U.S. military that we’ve done before. You shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact.” At the same time on the other side of the world, Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, told reporters in a briefing that Beijing has “indisputable” claims regarding islands its forces have built and inhabited. “We have noted that the US side has recently ignored the facts and hyped up the so-called ‘militarization of the South China Sea.’ We are firmly opposed to it. China has indisputable sovereignty over relevant islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters. It is the legitimate right of a sovereign state to build and deploy some necessary defense facilities on its own territory. No country has the right to make irresponsible remarks about this. We hope that the U.S. will bear in mind the overall situation, look far ahead, abandon zero-sum thinking, properly handle differences, and work hard to make mil-to-mil relations a stabilizing factor in China-U.S. relations.” McKenzie was also asked if the Pentagon is expecting China to escalate in its response to the FONOPs; “I couldn’t speculate as to what China’s actions in the future might or might not be,” he said. 


PIR4: What activities are foreign intelligence services directing against the United States our allies?

Iran is continuing efforts to obtain WMD technology from German suppliers

German intelligence officials say that Iran is still attempting to secure weapons of mass destruction technology in Germany. The intel agency of the German state Baden-Württemberg said in a new report that the Iranian regime sought during 2017 to obtain technology and scientific knowledge to produce weapons of mass destruction and advance its missile program. “Iran continued to undertake, as did Pakistan and Syria, efforts to obtain goods and know-how to be used for the development of weapons of mass destruction and to optimize corresponding missile-delivery systems,” said the intelligence document which was reviewed by Israeli media. Since signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the “Iran deal” — Tehran has repeatedly attempted to secure advanced technology for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, according to German intelligence. The Baden-Württemberg intelligence report was written before President Trump announced May 8 the U.S. would withdraw from the agreement. [source] Analyst comment: In the days before Trump made his announcement, American media reported that Obama Secretary of State and former U.S. Sen. John Kerry was engaged in secret, backchannel discussions with some of the same Iranian officials with whom he and Obama first negotiated the deal. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Kerry — and Obama — were not aware of this intelligence, if not this particular German intelligence report. That can only mean two things: Kerry is intentionally putting his own country at risk (active subversion) or he’s trying salvage the deal as a means of covering up something explosive and devastating both to him and to his former boss. 

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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