News Roundup and Notes: June 12, 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. 

Iraq

Rebels from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)—who have extended their control over Tikrit, birthplace of Saddam Hussein, as well as other northern towns—continue to advance toward Baghdad [Reuters’ Ahmed Rasheed and Isabel Coles]. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurds have seized control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk, as government troops abandoned their posts in the country’s north.

Senior officials said that Iraq has privately requested the U.S. to consider conducting airstrikes against ISIS [Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes]. However, according to Iraqi and American officials, the administration has so far declined the request [New York Times’ Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt].

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice emphasized that the U.S. “has been fast to provide necessary support to the people and government of Iraq under our Strategic Framework Agreement,” and pledged that the administration will work together with the Iraqi army “to roll back aggression and counter the threat” posed by ISIS.

Officials in Baghdad conceded that ISIS has gained control of Mosul’s central bank reserve, seizing around $420 million, making the group the world’s richest terrorist organization [International Business Times’ Jack Moore; Los Angeles Times’ Nabih Bulos].

Militants also raided the Turkish consulate in Mosul, according to the New York Times (Ceylan Yeginsu), holding the consul general and staff hostage. Another group of thirty-one Turkish drivers were also seized. In response, Turkey called an emergency NATO meeting to discuss the security situation, and promised retaliation if any Turkish citizen is harmed [Al Jazeera; Reuters].

The Iraqi parliament is scheduled to meet today to vote on a state of emergency, which would grant Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki broader latitude to combat the violence [Deutsche Welle].

Hugh Tomlinson [The Times] reports that Iran has sent a unit of elite troops to Iraq to strengthen the efforts of the Iraqi military to counter the advance of ISIS militants.

The Wall Street Journal (Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes) covers how the U.S. has been caught off guard by the rapidly unfolding crisis in Iraq. According to current and former officials, the U.S. has limited options for helping Iraq because the ISIS threat is entrenched and because the U.S. has refrained from investing in moderate allies on the Syrian side of the border.

According to the International Organization for Migration, over 500,000 have fled their homes, many eastward towards Kurdistan, fearing increasing violence after the takeover of Mosul [BBC].

The Washington Post Editorial Board covers the “mounting danger” in the Middle East, and notes that the situation in Iraq demonstrates the need for “a [U.S.] strategy that goes beyond the slogan of ‘ending war responsibly.’”

The Guardian Editorial Board accuses Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of shortsightedness, and “years of narrow sectarian rule,” and argues that the fall of Mosul “may lead to full scale civil war in Iraq.”

Drone strikes

Dawn (Zahir Shah Sherazi) reports on two separate U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region of North Waziristan, marking the first U.S. strikes in the country in 2014. Six suspected militants, including four Uzbeks and two members of the Pakistani Taliban, were reportedly killed in the first attack. The second strike killed at least 10 suspected militants. Ryan Goodman will have a post on the drone strikes at Just Security later today.

Prior to the strikes, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan announced it fought alongside the Pakistani Taliban during Sunday’s attack on the Karachi International Airport [BBC].

Surveillance, privacy, & technology

In United States v. Quartavious Davis, the Eleventh Circuit rejected the law enforcement practice of tracking suspects’ physical location using cell phone tower data without a warrant [The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima]. Check out Just Security’s Jennifer Granick’s post for an analysis of the decision.

American prisoner exchange

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel insisted that the administration made the “right decision” for the right reasons to exchange five Taliban leaders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]. While Hagel defended the President’s decision as lawful and in the best interest of the country, he conceded the administration “could have done a better job of keeping [Congress] informed” [CNN’s Ed Payne and Tom Cohen].

House members remained unsatisfied with Hagel’s defense [The Hill’s Kristina Wong; Politico’s Jeremy Herb]. Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon said the panel would conduct a “full investigation” into the decision, while ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Smith argued that the administration failed to follow the law on the prisoner exchange.

Reuters reports that the recently freed Taliban leaders have told visitors that they are likely to attempt to remain in Qatar beyond the agreed one-year travel ban, according to sources.

Military officials revealed that Bergdahl was given an “administrative discharge” four weeks into his training with the U.S. Coast Guard in 2006, raising further questions as to whether he should have been authorized to enlist two years later [New York Times’ Richard Oppel and Eric Schmitt].

Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post raises questions about Bergdahl’s emotional difficulties and fragility, drawing on journal entries and private messages sent before his disappearance.

Ukraine

In a meeting with the secretary general of the OSCE, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged sending humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine [Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum]. While Lavrov did not provide further details, this is Moscow’s first public acknowledgement of an official relationship with the pro-Russian separatists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of bringing the gas talks to a “dead end,” by dismissing Moscow’s proposed discount as “Russian traps” [Reuters’ Barbara Lewis and Alexei Anishchuk]. The deadline for payment set by Russia has now been pushed back to June 16, as EU-brokered talks continue in Brussels [Kyiv Post’s Isaac Webb].

And Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signaled his willingness to negotiate with opponents in the country’s east if pro-Russian separatists agreed to lay down their arms [Reuters’ Timothy Heritage].

Other developments

The Washington Post (Anne Gearan) reports that U.S. and Iranian negotiators failed to break impasse in the nuclear talks, ahead of the negotiations between Iran and the “P5+1” group on a comprehensive nuclear deal. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif outlined Iran’s view on the “myth of breakout” on Twitter:

White House Counsel Neil Eggleston has concluded that the disclosure of the CIA Station Chief’s identity in Afghanistan, during President Obama’s trip last month, was made “inadvertently” [The Hill’s Amie Parnes]. White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said that no action was taken against officials.

Politico (Josh Gerstein) reports on a coalition of over 70 news organizations and press freedom groups that is urging the Senate to promptly pass a law allowing journalists to protect their sources. This push follows the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear a petition on the issue from New York Times reporter James Risen last week.

Israel has decided to move ahead with the construction of only 381 of its planned 1,800 homes in West Bank settlements, following pressure from Western European diplomats, reports Haaretz (Barak Ravid).

Heavy fighting resumes on the Rwanda-Democratic Republic of Congo border in the provincial capital Goma, with each country accusing the other of crossing into their territory [Al Jazeera].

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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