The latest on the US-Iran crisis
Soldiers deploying overseas with the 82nd Airborne Division will not be allowed to bring personal cellphones or any electronic devices that could reveal their locations due to what the Army calls "operational security,” according to division spokesperson Lt. Col. Michael Burns.
Burns acknowledged the decision is unusual given that many troops routinely deployed already do have personal electronic devices and can even purchase them overseas. The decision, he said, was made in part because the elements of the 82nd that are deploying are part of a rapid response forces and it's not clear where they may eventually be sent.
“We are not going to put our soldiers at risk,” he said.
Burns said the division is trying to keep families fully informed about the deployment and that phone centers would be established for soldiers to make calls eventually.
"This is not the normal kind of deployment. The decision 100% an operational security and force protection measure," said Maj. Gen. James Mingus, the commanding general.
The European Foreign Affairs Council will hold a special meeting on Friday as tensions skyrocket in Iraq and Iran following the killing of Iranian military commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell announced today.
The EU is “deeply concerned” by Iran’s declaration it will no longer respect the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said today.
Von der Leyen said EU countries “have to convince Iran that it’s also in its own interest” to return to the nuclear deal.
“After the devastation wrought by Da’esh [ISIS], Iraq is developing well and its people deserve to see the continuation of progress towards reconstruction and greater stability,” von der Leyen said in a statement.
House members will also receive a briefing about Iran on Wednesday afternoon, although a specific time has not been established yet, a House Democratic aide said.
Senators are also set to receive a briefing from key administration officials on Wednesday, as CNN reported earlier today.
Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will speak about Iran at 3 p.m. ET on the Senate floor, according to an aide.
Chevron has evacuated all of its American oil workers from the Kurdistan region in the northern part of Iraq following last week’s US airstrike in Baghdad.
Chevron, America’s No. 2 oil company, said in a statement today that as a “precautionary measure” its expatriate employees and contractors have left the region “for the time being.”
“The safety of our people and facilities is Chevron’s top priority globally,” a Chevron spokesperson told CNN.
Local staff are overseeing Chevron’s ongoing operations in the Kurdistan region, the company said.
The Chevron evacuation comes after the Iraqi oil ministry said Friday that “a number of” Americans working in southern Iraq were leaving the country after the United States urged its citizens to immediately depart due to soaring tensions.
When State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus was asked today in an interview with CNN about President Trump's suggestion that cultural centers could be targeted by the US in response to Iranian retaliation, Ortagus said that the Administration "will do anything within our power to protect American citizens."
"I think what President Trump and Secretary Pompeo and the President's National Security Team will do, what we have said, we will do anything within our power to protect American citizens, to protect American lives and we consistently told the Iranian regime any attack that on Americans, any attack that will put Americans in harm's way, whether it's from the militias we saw in Iraq or whether it's regime itself would not go unaccounted for. So, we will defend ourselves, we will defend our allies, we will defend our people and do anything that's obviously legally possible for us to do so."
What this is all about: In a tweet Saturday night, Trump said that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, the United States has targeted 52 Iranian sites — a reference to the number of Americans taken hostage in the 1979 revolution — "some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture," he wrote.
However, an attack on a cultural site would violate several international treaties and would likely be considered a war crime.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called today for Europe to play a role in keeping Iraq stable and unified in light of the killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
“Our interest is that Iraq's stability & unity do not fall prey to the latest escalation. Will speak immediately with the Iraqi Government following the parliament's resolution. Will respect all decisions,” the German Foreign Office tweeted.
The ministry’s full statement warned of the “dangerous escalation in conflict between the United States and Iran,” and said Europe’s “paramount interest is that Iraq’s stability and unity do not fall prey to the latest escalation.”
Read the statement:
The United States has briefed European allies on the reasons for the killing of Iran general Qasem Soleimani, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said today.
“The US provided a rationale behind the action against Soleimani,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference after a NATO meeting in Brussels. The alliance received briefings from the government and the Pentagon.
Stoltenberg wouldn’t share any details about the reason, but said NATO “values and appreciates the briefing.”
During today's briefing, all allies also agreed “Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon” and all countries called for restraint and de-escalation, Stoltenberg said.
“A new conflict will not be in anyone’s interest,” he said. Stoltenberg did not respond to questions on whether any European allies asked the US for restraint.
The Secretary General said allies also expressed “a strong support for the fight against ISIS and training missions in Iraq.” He confirmed NATO is suspending its operations in the country “for the time being,” due to security concerns. Stoltenberg said the “situation is in close review” and he’s in contact with Iraqi authorities.
The Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense, Eric Chewning, is resigning at the end of January. In a statement, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said Chewning “will be leaving the department at the end of January to return to the private sector.”
Chewning became the chief of staff to then-acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan in last January.
Here's part of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper's statement:
"I'm grateful for Eric's professionalism, judgment, and leadership over the last seven months as I moved into the Secretary of Defense role ... In an incredibly demanding job, Eric has been a source of calm and tireless work. He will be missed by all. We wish him all the best upon his return to the private sector."
The announcement of the resignation was expected, but it comes as tensions with Iran are mounting.