News Roundup and Notes: May 13, 2014

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

Syria

The Daily Beast (Josh Rogin) reports that Secretary of State John Kerry told Syrian opposition leaders in a private meeting last week that the international community “wasted a year” by failing to coordinate their efforts on providing the opposition with aid and weapons. In a separate interview, the Free Syrian Army’s military leader, Brig. Gen. Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir told The Daily Beast that “the United States is the one that can decide when this war ends.” Bashir expressed hope that the administration would provide the opposition with anti-aircraft missiles, which would remove the need for a no-fly zone.

Human Rights Watch reports that there is strong evidence suggesting that the Syrian regime “dropped barrel bombs embedded with cylinders of chlorine gas” on three towns last month.

Surveillance, Privacy, & Technology

The Guardian has an extract from Glenn Greenwald’s new book, “No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the N.S.A., and the U.S. Surveillance State.” Just Security’s David Cole reviews the book in the Washington Post. And in a negative review, The Economist finds that the book is “remarkably one-sided.”

Charlie Savage [New York Times] reports that Greenwald’s book exposes wider details of NSA spying on UN envoys, including in relation to the UN Security Council’s 2010 vote to impose new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Meanwhile, new NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers promised greater transparency at a cybersecurity summit yesterday, while also defending his agency’s surveillance programs [Reuters’ Joseph Menn and Warren Strobel]. Rogers said, “The dialogue to date that we have had for much of the last nine months or so from my perspective, I wish was a little bit broader, had a little more context to it, and was a little bit more balanced.”

The European Court of Justice has ruled that under existing EU data protection laws, Google must delete “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” data from its search results when requested by a member of the public, in a ruling that backs the “right to be forgotten” [The Guardian’s Alan Travis and Charles Arthur].

Ukraine

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is in Kiev in an attempt to negotiate a diplomatic solution, said that Ukraine’s presidential vote this month will play a “crucial role” in resolving the crisis [BBC]

Separatist leaders in Ukraine’s Donetsk region have asked to join Russia, going beyond the self-rule question asked in the referendum [Wall Street Journal’s Paul Sonne and Philip Shishkin]. Russia avoided a complete recognition of the referendum results and remained silent on Donetsk’s request, instead using the results to call for a negotiated settlement [New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar]. And the Washington Post (Simon Denyer et al.) reports that the pro-Russian rebels’ proclaimed victory in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions is raising concerns about the possibility of an all-out civil war.

The New York Timed editorial board argues that “the gathering rumble of violence accompanying the [weekend’s referendum] is serious and is driving the Ukrainian crisis in a direction that before long no one — not President Vladimir Putin of Russia, not authorities in Kiev, not the West — will be able to control.”

The EU has added 13 people and two businesses to its sanctions list over Ukraine, but will not implement tougher sanctions before the May 25 presidential vote [Associated Press].

Iran

Talks between the “P5+1” countries and Iran on a final nuclear deal are set to resume in Vienna, among growing optimism that the deal can be achieved by the July 20 deadline, according to officials involved in the negotiations [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman].

The New York Times (David E. Sanger and Steven Erlanger) reports that as negotiators begin to draft the text this week, they will finally tackle “a crucial sticking point to a permanent agreement — the size and shape of the nuclear fuel production capability that Iran will be permitted to retain.”

The Washington Post (Jason Rezaian) covers how critics of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are expressing concern that his administration is making nuclear concessions that undermine the country’s interests.

Bret Stephens [Wall Street Journal] argues that Iran “doesn’t want a deal” and covers why the nuclear negotiations are bound to fail, amounting to “[s]trike three for John Kerry’s diplomacy.”

In a separate development, Iran claims to have replicated a U.S. drone that it captured in 2011, the loss of which the White House had blamed on a technical problem at the time [AFP].

Benghazi

Speaker John Boehner has said that a boycott of the House Benghazi select committee by the Democrats “will not impede the investigation,” but admitted it would require the committee members “to have to adhere to a higher standard if they don’t participate” [The Hill’s Russell Berman].

Democrats have rejected Sen. Ted Cruz’s proposal for the Senate to join the House in its investigation into Benghazi [Politico’s Burgess Everett].

And former acting CIA director Michael Morell has expressed his support for the new investigation, stating that “there are still questions about my own personal role and I want to clear that up” [Politico’s Josh Gerstein].

Israel-Palestine

Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in London this week for the first time since the failure of the U.S.-brokered Middle East peace talks  [The Hill’s Justin Sink].

EU foreign ministers are attempting to pressure both sides into resuming peace negotiations, using “a combination of threats and incentives,” reports the Wall Street Journal (Naftali Bendavid).

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, former President Jimmy Carter explains how a new united Palestinian government “may provide an opportunity for a new round of peace talks, permitting Israel finally to live in peace with its neighbors.”

Afghanistan

Tim Craig [Washington Post] covers how Pakistan is “crack[ing] down on Afghan immigrants,” out of fear that U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan will lead to chaos along its borders.

The UK’s defense select committee has asked the government to set up an inquiry into “lessons learned” from the war in Afghanistan, after troops withdraw from the country at the end of this year [BBC’s Justin Parkinson]. UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has promised to “look strategically across the campaign” after the end of the mission.

Other developments

Administration officials have said the U.S. is carrying out surveillance flights over Nigeria as part of its search for hundreds of abducted schoolgirls and is debating the use of drones in the region to reinforce its search efforts [Washington Post’s Anne Gearan and Ernesto Londoño].

The Wall Street Journal (Ellen Knickmeyer) reports that the failed abduction of the two U.S. officials in Yemen last month “lacked most hallmarks of an al Qaeda attack,” and instead, point toward an increased number of kidnapping attempts by tribesmen and criminals. Meanwhile, the New York Times (Saeed Al Batati and David D. Kirkpatrick) covers how al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is stepping up its video propaganda efforts in Yemen.

Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reports that the price for building a new prison at Guantánamo Bay has increased by $20 million, as it now includes special meeting rooms and a clinic for former CIA captives, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

The Secret Service has asked the DHS’s inspector general to investigate allegations that senior agency officials diverted agents responsible for patrolling the White House to provide protection to the then-director Mark Sullivan’s friend [The Hill’s Justin Sink].

In the third day of testimony as part of his New York terror trial, Abu Hamza al-Masri alleged that he was merely the mouthpiece of rebel troops who were plotting to overthrow the Yemeni president, but played no role in the 1998 kidnapping of tourists [The Guardian’s Karen McVeigh].

Fighting in South Sudan between opposing sides continued yesterday, despite the signing of the U.S.-brokered cease-fire agreement to bring an end to hostilities [Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Bariyo].

The Washington Post editorial board covers how Beijing’s most recent “power play in the South China Sea” has been met with “U.S. inaction” and argues that China will “continue to act unilaterally in the region until it meets concerted resistance, whether diplomatic or military.”

Chad has decided to close its borders with the Central African Republic (CAR), until the inter-communal violence in the CAR is brought to an end [Al Jazeera].

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).