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.
Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) vow to march on to Baghdad and other pivotal cities after gaining control of the north of Iraq, according to an audio recording of ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani [NBC News’ Cassandra Vinograd, Fox News’ Lisa Daftari].
Iranian security officials say that they have deployed forces to help Iraq fight the ISIS militants. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Forces have reportedly been deployed to protect Baghdad and holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf [Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassini, Ali Nabhan, and Tamer El-Ghobashy]. Sources have also claimed that Iraqi troops have regained control of most of Tikrit with the aid of Iranian forces [Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassini].
In a live address on state television, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that the predominantly Shia Muslim Iran will combat the “violence and terrorism” of Sunni armed groups in neighboring Iraq. While no explicit plans were discussed, Rouhani said he would convene a meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Thursday to discuss the developments in Iraq [Al Jazeera].
In the meantime, Kurdish fighters have seized control of the strategic northern oil city of Kirkuk, which they have long claimed as their capital, amidst the mayhem [New York Times’ Tim Arango, Suadad Al-Salhy, and Rick Gladstone, The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn].
Primer Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has called for a state of emergency on Tuesday, but a vote by the Iraqi Council of Representatives has been postponed as politicians are split over whether to grant Al-Maliki additional authority. The Kurdistan Alliance, a coalition of two leading Kurdish parties, argues that declaring a state of emergency would “undermine the country’s democratic system” [Asharq Al-Awsat].
President Obama and his administration signaled their preparation to re-engage militarily in Iraq, weighing possible options of intervention which could include airstrikes [Wall Street Journal’s Carol Lee, Jay Solomon, and Adam Entous, New York Times’ Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt, Guardian’s Martin Chulov and Dan Roberts]. However, the administration has ruled out the option of deploying American ground troops in Iraq [Politico’s Jennifer Epstein].
It has been revealed that the U.S. has been secretly flying drones in Iraq to collect intelligence on insurgents since last year [Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous and Julian Barnes]. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has refuted claims by the ISIS that its militants have captured American-made weapons from Iraq’s military [Politico’s Philip Ewing].
The White House press secretary said that the crisis in Iraq will not alter plans to withdraw military troops from Afghanistan [The Hill’s Justin Sink].
Senator John McCain argues that Obama’s entire national security team should resign, calling the deteriorating situation in Iraq “a colossal failure of American security policy” [The Hill’s Martin Matishak and Alexander Bolton, Politico’s Jeremy Herb and Burgess Everett].
The Hill’s Martin Matishak surveys various courses of action called for by lawmakers in response to the situation in Iraq.
Lt. Gen. (ret’d) Ricardo Sanchez, former top commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, remarked that the growing crisis in Iraq is not surprising given the “lack of focus on reconciliation and ensuring that a quality military was built with the capacity to defend the nation.” He said the U.S. has an obvious responsibility to build up the governing system that is being left behind [Fox News’ Cristina Corbin].
The State Department announced on Thursday that it would provide $12.8 million in humanitarian aid to displaced Iraqis affected by the current conflict [The Hill’s Rebecca Shabad].
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attributes the Iraqi crisis to the total failure of the Iraq War, saying Russia “warned long ago that the adventurism the Americans and the British started [in Iraq] would not end well” [Washington Post’s Adam Taylor, New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar].
Robert Fisk [The Independent] draws parallels between the situations in Iraq and Syria, adding that ISIS “has been bankrolled by Saudi Arabia.”
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arseny Avakov has accused Russia of allowing tanks and heavy artillery to cross over the Ukrainian border [Financial Times, Deutsche Welle]. Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko called the situation “unacceptable” [Reuters]. Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry has denied the claim, calling it “another fake piece of information” [BBC].
Russia has announced plans to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council outlining a road map to peace in Ukraine. [Deutsche Welle].
Alec Luhn [The Guardian] reports that the humanitarian crisis is worsening in eastern Ukraine due to ongoing fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian militia, with tens of thousands fleeing the rebel capital of Slavyansk.
Late yesterday, a car bomb reportedly exploded outside the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk [Associated Press’s Marko Drobnjakovic].
Surveillance, Privacy, Technology
Federal Communications Commision (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler has unveiled a new approach to ensure communication networks are protected from foreign hackers and other cybersecurity threats [Wall Street Journal’s Gauthan Nagesh, The Hill’s Julian Hattem].
A Romanian citizen, known as hacker “Guccifer,” has been indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury on charges of data theft from emails and social media accounts of politicians, including the family of George W. Bush. The Department of Justice has refused to comment on whether it would seek extradition [Reuters’ Jim Finkle].
American Prisoner Exchange
According to the Pentagon, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has left Ramstein Air Base in Germany to return to the U.S., where he will begin treatment at a military medical facility in San Antonio, Texas [New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Eric Schmitt, Wall Street Journal’s Julian Barnes].
The Daily Beast (Kimberly Dozier) releases two letters written by Sgt. Bergdahl during his captivity, which explain part of his reasons for leaving the base and urging the U.S. government to reserve judgment about his disappearance.
An autopsy of one of the two Palestinian teenagers killed by Israeli forces last month has reportedly identified wounds consistent with live ammunition, despite previous denials from the Israeli military [The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont]. The teenagers had been participating in a demonstration when they were killed. ICYMI, earlier this week, Human Rights Watch released a report that claims to verify that live ammunition was used on the demonstration. Sarah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director, calls the willful killing of civilians “a war crime.”
Palestianian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah says the newly formed unity government lacks power in Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip [New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner].
Drones & Targeted Killing
The Wall Street Journal (Qasim Nauman and Safdar Dawar) reports that the American drone strikes in Pakistan on Wednesday killed Haji Gul, a senior Haqqani field commander and top militant.
The Pakistani foreign ministry condemns Wednesday’s drone strikes as a violation of sovereignty saying the strikes have a “negative impact on the government’s effort to bring peace and stability” to the region [Dawn’s Mateen Haider]. At the same time, two top Pakistani government officials have said that Islamabad gave the U.S. “express approval” for the strikes [Reuters’ Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Haji Mujtaba]. Check out Ryan Goodman’s post on Just Security on the implications of these renewed drone strikes.
Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Mike Rogers, the respective chairs of the Senate and House intelligence committees, have indicated their conditional support for arming a small group of specially trained Syrian rebels with shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons [Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous].
A letter from President Obama to Congress reveals the U.S has repatriated a dozen detainees from a small U.S. military prison in Afghanistan, including a Frenchman, a Kuwaiti, and ten Pakistani prisoners [Reuters’ Missy Ryan].
BBC reports that the UK will increase military and educational aid to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram.
A suicide attack at a UN camp in northern Mali killed four Chadian peacekeepers and wounded ten others, raising concerns about the possible return of armed rebels to the region [Al Jazeera America].
The ICC has announced plans to try Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of the Ivory Coast, for crimes against humanity related to months of violence following his electoral defeat in 2010 [France24].
Afghanistan is at risk of being blacklisted by the international financial agency the Financial Action Task Force for the country’s failure to pass anti-money-laundering legislation, as previously recommended by the IMF [Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Hodge and Yaroslav Trofimov, The New Yorker’s Matthieu Aikins].
Chinese and Japanese governments exchanged accusations of airborne brinkmanship over the East China Sea. In a strongly worded statement, Beijing threatened further action but without providing elaboration [New York Times’ Chris Buckley, South China Morning Post’s Minnie Chan].
The UK Court of Appeals overturned an attempt by prosecutors to hold the criminal trials of two defendants accused of terror-related crimes entirely in secret [The Guardian‘s Owen Bowcott]. Also see the post by Thomas Earnest on Just Security for a quick analysis of the decision.
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