News Roundup and Notes: May 16, 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.

Guantánamo 

A Department of Justice report to members of Congress on the legal implications of relocating Guantánamo detainees to the U.S. states that the current law would provide “robust protection of national security” [New York Times’ Charlie Savage]. Just Security’s Jennifer Daskal provides further details on the administration’s report.

A Yemeni Guantánamo detainee has told his attorneys that the detention center has adopted a “new strategy” in dealing with hunger strikers, thus manipulating the actual number of prisoners on hunger strike [Al Jazeera America’s Jason Leopold]. He also wrote that hunger strikers have been “divided into two groups,” with one group being “treated awfully.”

Senate torture report

Jason Leopold [Al Jazeera America] reports that according to Department of Justice court filings, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation methods will not be declassified until the summer. The government has stated that once the declassification review process is complete, the administration needs “sufficient time” before release to “undertake a number of security steps to protect the safety of U.S. personnel abroad.”

Syria

Speaking at the Friends of Syria’s “London 11” meeting yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the “raw data” suggests chlorine has been used in a “number of instances” during the Syrian war. He warned that if proven, it would “result in consequences,” but refused to “pin [his administration] down to a precise time, date, manner of action.” Kerry also emphasized that the U.S. is “open to the idea of providing aid through any means that will get to the people who need it.” The New York Times (Michael R. Gordon), Wall Street Journal (Jay Solomon) and Washington Post (Karen DeYoung) provide more details.

The Washington Post editorial board argues that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “is being allowed to disregard his chemical weapons commitment with impunity not because there’s nothing the United States can do but because Mr. Obama chooses to do nothing.”

The Economist explores the options open to the Obama administration to ease the Syrian crisis, while Bashar al-Assad “looks set to stay in power.”

According to Afghan and Western officials, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have been recruiting and training thousands of Afghan refugees to support the regime in the Syria war [Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi].

A car bomb near an opposition-held border crossing between Syria and Turkey killed at least 43 people yesterday [Al Jazeera America].

Ukraine

The West, including the U.S., has warned Russia not to interfere with Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election, or face broader sectoral sanctions [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Gregory L. White]. However, divisions remain between Washington and Brussels over the extent of possible measures. On a related note, Reuters (David Ljunggren and Euan Rocha) reports that Canada has failed to impose sanctions on two key targets in order to protect Canadian business interests, according to sources.

In a letter to European leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said it will only deliver natural gas to Ukraine next month if it provides payment in advance [Associated Press’ Vladimir Isachenkov].

The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reports that the U.S. has failed to respond for more than two months to “simple requests” from Ukraine in the aftermath of the takeover of Crimea, including requests for basics such as boots, uniforms, and spare tires.

Thousands of steelworkers in the eastern city of Mariupol took control over the streets from pro-Russian rebels yesterday, in a possible setback to the insurgency movement [New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer].

Iran

Reuters (Louis Charbonneau and Parisa Hafezi) reports that according to a new confidential UN report, Iran is unlawfully pursuing the development of ballistic missiles, which is complicating the nuclear negotiations with the “P5+1” countries.

The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) finds that Iran’s oil exports have declined for the second consecutive month, with levels closer to those permitted under the interim nuclear deal reached last November [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone].

The Wall Street Journal (Laurence Norman) reports that Western officials are concerned that delays in Iran’s dealings with the IAEA could undermine the broader negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Roger Cohen [New York Times] outlines the political and technical problems facing the nuclear talks, but suggests that reaching an agreement is not impossible, even if it requires the further six months provided for in the interim deal.

In a related development, Josh Rogin [The Daily Beast] reports that while former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is now taking credit for the Iran sanctions regime, “her department repeatedly opposed or tried to water down an array of sanctions measures that were pushed into law by Democrats and Republicans in Congress.”

Other developments

The State Department has acknowledged it could have acted sooner to designate Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization, while U.S. officials have questioned Nigeria’s ability to fight the extremist group [Associated Press’ Matthew Lee and Bradley Klapper].

The U.S. military has released 10 Pakistani detainees from Afghanistan’s Bagram Prison and has transferred them to Pakistani custody [Daily Times].

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote on President Obama’s judicial nominee, David Barron, which indicates Barron has enough support to win confirmation despite the concerns over his role in drafting the legal justification for the drone strike that killed American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen [The Hill’s Alexander Bolton]. However, Sen. Rand Paul issued a statement last evening, stating he will “not only oppose the nomination of David Barron, but will filibuster.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has issued a new subpoena requiring Secretary of State John Kerry to testify before his panel on the 2012 Benghazi attacks [Politico’s Lauren French]. And 37 Republican senators have urged Harry Reid to create a Senate select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks [The Hill’s Alexander Bolton].

The Washington Post (Greg Jaffe and Josh Hicks) covers VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki’s testimony at yesterday’s Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing. Shinseki said the allegations of delays and preventable deaths made him “mad as hell.” Meanwhile, the department’s inspector general is liaising with federal prosecutors, who are looking into whether any criminal violations occurred at the Phoenix medical facility, which is at the center of the allegations [New York Times’ Richard A. Oppel Jr.].

According to a Pentagon report on sexual harassment released yesterday, troops reported nearly 1,400 incidents of sexual harassment in 2013 [Stars and Stripes’ Chris Carroll].

Haaretz (Moti Bassok and Avi Bar-Eli) covers Israel’s “punitive actions” against Palestinian banks, as part of the government’s response to the reconciliation between former Palestinian rival groups, Fatah and Hamas. And the New York Times (Mark Landler) reports that President Obama, “stung by his second failed attempt to broker a peace deal,” wants the Israelis or Palestinians to come forward with their ideas on how to restart the process.

CNN (Jim Sciutto) and Reuters (Matt Spetalnick) report on the U.S.-China clash over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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