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Politics: Overnight Defense: Biden nominating first female Army secretary | Israel gets tough on Iran amid nuclear talks | Army's top enlisted soldier 'very proud' of officer pepper sprayed by police

Overnight Defense: Iran talks set up balancing act for Biden | Pentagon on alert amid Russian saber rattling | Lawmakers urge Pentagon to be pickier about commanders' requests for more troops

  Overnight Defense: Iran talks set up balancing act for Biden | Pentagon on alert amid Russian saber rattling | Lawmakers urge Pentagon to be pickier about commanders' requests for more troops Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, 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: All eyes are on Vienna this week as the United States and Iran participate in indirect talks to revive the flagging nuclear deal.The talks, in which the United States and Iran will meet separately with the other signatories of the deal, are slated to start Tuesday.Over the weekend, The Hill's Laura Kelly took a look at how the talks set up a delicate balance for the Biden administration.

Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, 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.

a woman in glasses looking at the camera: Then-Defense Undersecretary for Policy Christine Wormuth testifies at a House Armed Services Full Committee hearing in 2015 © Getty Images Then-Defense Undersecretary for Policy Christine Wormuth testifies at a House Armed Services Full Committee hearing in 2015

THE TOPLINE: President Biden has chosen an Army secretary nominee -- and she would be the first woman in the job.

Biden will nominate Christine Wormuth, a former top Pentagon official, the White House announced Monday.

"Christine is a true patriot with a dedicated career in service to America and our nation's security," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. "I have no doubt that, if confirmed, she will lead our soldiers and represent their families with honor and integrity as the secretary of the Army."

Derek Chauvin trial, COVID-19 vaccine side effects, FLOTUS agenda: 5 things to know Wednesday

  Derek Chauvin trial, COVID-19 vaccine side effects, FLOTUS agenda: 5 things to know Wednesday The Derek Chauvin trial will continue with more expert testimony, a study on COVID-19 vaccine side effects is out and more news to start your Wednesday.Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

About her: Wormuth most recently served as the head of Biden's Pentagon transition team, a role she took over after Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks stepped aside to focus on her own confirmation process.

Wormuth is also currently the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp.

She last worked at the Pentagon during the Obama administration. From 2014 to 2016, she served as under secretary of Defense for policy, considered to be the department's third most-powerful civilian job.

Before that, she was deputy under secretary of Defense for strategy, plans and force development from 2012 to 2014, a job that saw her lead the department's 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review. And from 2010 to 2012, she served on the National Security Council directing defense policy and strategy.

China demands Biden cave to Iran after US urges Beijing to be 'partner' in nuclear talks

  China demands Biden cave to Iran after US urges Beijing to be 'partner' in nuclear talks A senior Chinese diplomat endorsed Iran’s negotiating position during a high-stakes meeting about the rehabilitation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, even as President Joe Biden hopes Beijing will be a “partner” in these negotiations. © Provided by Washington Examiner “This is a question involving the fundamental principle of rights and wrongs. As a victim, Iran's legitimate requirement should, in the first place, be affirmed and catered for,” Chinese Ambassador Wang Qun, the top Chinese diplomat to the United Nations in Vienna, told state media. “In order to break the current impasse, it is imperative that the U.S.

Other nominees: In addition to Wormuth, the White House announced Biden will nominate former Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.) to be under secretary of Defense for personnel and readiness and Susanna Blume to be director of the Pentagon's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office.

Cisneros, a Navy veteran, served in the House for one term before losing reelection last year to Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.).

The White House statement on his nomination highlights his work on the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees, including participating in discussions on the status of Latinos in the Army after the death of Vanessa Guillen.

Blume currently serves as the acting director of CAPE. Before that, she was a senior fellow and director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security.

Congressional support: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) hailed Wormuth's "historic nomination."

Iran 'Will Definitely Respond' to Attack on Its Ship, Suspects U.S., Israel

  Iran 'Will Definitely Respond' to Attack on Its Ship, Suspects U.S., Israel The unclaimed attack comes as the U.S. and Iran appeared closer to nuclear deal negotiations for the first time since former President Donald Trump left the exit, sparking a wave of unrest in the Middle East and surrounding seas.Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesperson for the Iranian armed forces, told Russia's state-run Sputnik news outlet that Iranian authorities were still investigating the reported limpet mine attack that struck the cargo ship MV Saviz, a vessel linked to the country's elite Revolutionary Guard. Once the source of the attack is established, retribution would follow, he said.

"Christine Wormuth has dedicated her distinguished career to public service and safeguarding the nation," Reed said in a statement. "She brings experience, expertise, and strategic vision to this new role, having served in senior level positions throughout the Department of Defense and the NSC."

In a separate statement, Reed also congratulated Cisneros, Blume and three other nominees the White House announced earlier this month and said the committee would hold confirmation hearings "once we get their official paperwork."

THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF THE NATANZ NUCLEAR FACILITY

Back-to-back mysterious attacks on an Iranian nuclear facility and a critical military ship in the Red Sea are raising concern that Israel is undertaking a kinetic campaign of sabotage against Tehran as the Biden administration works to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Jerusalem has neither confirmed nor denied its role in any attack, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated stark warnings that his country would not hesitate to eliminate Iranian threats.

U.S. warns Iran it won’t lift all Trump-era sanctions to return to nuclear deal

  U.S. warns Iran it won’t lift all Trump-era sanctions to return to nuclear deal Indirect talks between the United States and Iran on restoring the 2015 deal are expected to resume next week.A senior State Department official clarified the United States position on sanctions at the end of a week in which Tehran and Washington held indirect talks in Vienna about returning to the 2015 agreement. The U.S. official‘s comments followed a tweet from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who said all Trump-era sanctions needed to be lifted before Iran would return to compliance with the deal.

"I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel," Netanyahu said Monday, ahead of a meeting with Austin in Jerusalem. "And Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran's aggression and terrorism."

What happened: Iran is blaming Israel for an attack at its Natanz nuclear facility that damaged centrifuges.

Israeli media is also widely reporting that Israel's Mossad spy agency targeted the facility with a cyberattack, citing unnamed sources. Israel is one of the most advanced nations in the world in terms of cybersecurity capabilities.

The incident came a day after Iran unveiled new, advanced centrifuges installed after a similarly mysterious fire at the facility last year that was also suspected to have been caused by Israel.

Timing: U.S. and Iranian officials are holding indirect talks for the second week in Vienna to establish a roadmap of "mutual compliance" for both parties to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name for the nuclear agreement negotiated under former President Obama.

The attack came one week after an Iranian ship stationed in the Red Sea suffered damage from a mine placed on its hull. The New York Times reported that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps assigned blame to Israel for the attack, and an American official told the paper that Israel had warned the U.S. it carried out the operation.

Pentagon chief declares 'ironclad' US commitment to Israel

  Pentagon chief declares 'ironclad' US commitment to Israel TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday declared an “enduring and ironclad” American commitment to Israel, reinforcing support at a tense time in Israeli politics and amid questions about the Biden administration's efforts to revive nuclear negotiations with Israel's archenemy, Iran. Austin's first talks in Israel since he became Pentagon chief in January come as the United States seeks to leverage Middle East diplomatic progress made by the Trump administration, which brokered a deal normalizing relations between Israel and several Arab states.

US distances itself: The incident at Natanz also came as Austin was arriving in Israel for his first visit since becoming Defense secretary, raising questions about what, if anything, the United States knew about the plan ahead of time. Austin told reporters Monday he was aware of reports but had nothing to add.

"In terms of our efforts to engage Iran in diplomacy on the JCPOA, those efforts will continue, and I'm very obviously supportive of the president's efforts to negotiate a way ahead there," Austin said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted Monday the United States was "was not involved in any manner" in the attack, saying she had "nothing to add on speculation about the causes or the impacts."

ARMY'S TOP SOLDIER PRAISES OFFICER PEPPER SPRAYED BY POLICE

The Army's senior enlisted soldier spoke out Monday in support of Caron Nazario, the Black and Latino Army second lieutenant who was pepper sprayed during a traffic stop in Virginia last year.

"Like many of you, I was concerned by the video of LT Nazario's traffic stop in December," Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston tweeted Monday. "He represented himself and our Army well through his calm, professional response to the situation - I'm very proud of him."

Grinston added that while he can't comment on ongoing litigation, he has "been assured" Nazario "is receiving the support from his leadership he needs during this time."

"Situations like this are what I want Soldiers to discuss," Grinston continued. "This is the reality that some of our Soldiers still face. As a Leader, you should know that and be willing to have conversations about how events like this impact your teams."

Attack on Iranian nuclear facility complicates Biden's diplomatic outreach to Tehran, experts say

  Attack on Iranian nuclear facility complicates Biden's diplomatic outreach to Tehran, experts say While White House press secretary Jen Psaki denied Monday any U.S. involvement in a Sunday explosion that damaged an Iranian nuclear facility, the incident may complicate the Biden administration’s efforts to bring Tehran’s government back to the negotiating table. “The next rounds of nuclear talks were always going to be tough, but they just got tougher,” Eric Brewer, deputy director and senior fellow with the Project on Nuclear Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in an email to Yahoo News. © Provided by Yahoo! News President Biden meets with bipartisan group of members of Congress.

Earlier: Nazario's story rose to national prominence over the weekend after news outlets reported on a lawsuit he recently filed against two officers from the Windsor, Va., Police Department and published body camera footage of the December traffic stop.

The footage shows the officers drawing their guns on Nazario, who was wearing a camouflage Army uniform, while shouting at him to get out of the car after he pulled over in a gas station.

Nazario repeatedly asked "what's going on?" One of the officers, Joe Gutierrez, responded, "what's going on is you're fixing to ride the lightning, son," an apparent reference to execution by electric chair.

When Nazario told the officers that he's "honestly afraid to get out," Gutierrez replied, "yeah, you should be!"

The footage also shows Gutierrez repeatedly pepper spraying Nazario.

Gutierrez fired: After the story broke and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) directed state police to conduct an independent investigation into the incident, the Windsor Police Department announced it fired Gutierrez.

In a statement Sunday night, the Windsor Police Department said it conducted an investigation into Gutierrez's use of force and determined that department policy "was not followed."

"At the conclusion of this investigation, it was determined that Windsor Police Department policy was not followed," the department wrote in a statement.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) will speak about "The Future of Defense Spending: Strategic Choices and Hard Tradeoffs" at 9 a.m. at a virtual event hosted by the Reagan Foundation. https://bit.ly/3dVFXi9

Gen. Stephen Lyons, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, and Gen. Tod Wolters, commander U.S. European Command, will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/3t92ApM

Doing business with Iran will help Central Asia stabilize the region

  Doing business with Iran will help Central Asia stabilize the region The U.S. can always strongarm the smaller states to shun Iran, but it should instead explicitly signal that it favors stability.Iran is paying attention to Central Asia, and its diplomats have visited the five states in recent months as part of its "Look East" policy. In April 2021, Iran and Tajikistan agreed to promote military cooperation.

The Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee will hold a hearing on Defense Department innovation and research at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/3g4Uj2t

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Pentagon insists vaccine rollout a success despite spotty data

-- The Hill: Biden to nominate former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar

-- The Hill: G-7 urges Russia to stop 'provocations' on Ukraine

-- The Hill: Blinken, NATO chief discuss 'immediate need' for Russia to cease 'aggressive' military buildup

-- The Hill: Opinion: White House budget plan is bad news for national defense goals

-- The Hill: Opinion: Biden's pragmatic play on North Korea

-- Army Times: Army didn't prosecute NCO accused of rape. So he did it again. And again

-- Washington Post: Pentagon leaders have opposed plans overhauling the military system for trying sexual assault for years. Has the time come for change?

-- Huffington Post: The military says it's confronting extremism. A prominent white nationalist just finished boot camp.

-- Task and Purpose: Hey, UFOs that keep buzzing Navy ships: Are you from China?

Doing business with Iran will help Central Asia stabilize the region .
The U.S. can always strongarm the smaller states to shun Iran, but it should instead explicitly signal that it favors stability.Iran is paying attention to Central Asia, and its diplomats have visited the five states in recent months as part of its "Look East" policy. In April 2021, Iran and Tajikistan agreed to promote military cooperation.

See also