News Roundup and Notes: June 23, 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.


Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Baghdad, where he is meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as well as both Shiite and Sunni leaders [BBC; CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter and Holly Yan]. Meanwhile, Sunni ISIS fighters have continued to expand their control across northwestern Iraq. Over the weekend, ISIS-led rebels captured key border crossings to Syria and Jordan as well as the strategically important Tal Afar airport.

President Obama told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell that ISIS poses a “medium- and long-term threat” to the U.S. because of its extreme ideology, but noted that it is “just one of a number of organizations that [the U.S. has] to stay focused on.” Secretary of State Kerry warned that ISIS poses a threat “to all of the countries in the region.” And Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein said there would be threats to the U.S. if the crisis in Iraq is not contained [CNN’s “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley].

The Wall Street Journal (Adam Entous et al.) reports on a secret plan authorized by President Obama last year to aid Iraqi troops in their battle against Sunni extremists. However, according to current and former officials, the plan involved a small number of U.S. specialists and very few aircraft.

CNN reports on a propaganda video posted by ISIS in English in an effort to recruit Western youth.

Jay Solomon [Wall Street Journal] covers the Middle East’s ethnic, tribal and sectarian divisions facing John Kerry as he attempts to boost support to counter the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country is “strongly opposed” to U.S. intervention in Iraq and accused the U.S. of “seeking an Iraq under its hegemony and ruled by its stooges” [Reuters’ Kamal Namaa].

ABC News (Martha Raddatz) reports that the Iraqi military has run out of Hellfire missiles and only has two modified Cessna aircrafts to assist in the battle against ISIS, as the insurgents shot down three helicopters and damaged other weaponry.

The Washington Post (Loveday Morris and Karen DeYoung) covers the “psychological collapse” facing the Iraqi military, following the desertions and military losses, forcing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to rely on volunteers. The New York Times (Alissa J. Rubin and Michael R. Gordon) similarly reports that the Iraqi military is unlikely to turn the tide, with a quarter of the force “combat ineffective,” according to the assessment of Western officials.

Jamie Dettmer [The Daily Beast] reports on the “civil war rematch” in Iraq, where extreme clerics are wielding influence while moderates are being ignored in “a climate of seething, confrontational sectarianism.”

Surveillance, privacy, & technology

The Justice Department and ODNI announced in a joint statement on Friday that the government’s request for a 90-day reauthorization of the Section 215 telephony metadata program has been approved by the FISC.

The Hill (Kate Tummarello) reports that last week’s amendments in the House aimed at limiting NSA surveillance have been welcomed by privacy advocates and some lawmakers, who say the votes “will change the trajectory” of the surveillance reform debate.

The New York Times editorial board comments on the mass surveillance program in the UK, and argues that the courts in Europe should ensure government officials “meet a high burden of proof before they get access to private communications.”


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko set out his 14-point peace plan in a televised address on Saturday [Kyiv Post]. Russian President Vladimir Putin backed Ukraine’s cease-fire plans and called on all sides “to halt any military activities and sit down at the negotiating table” [Associated Press’ David McHugh]. However, Reuters reports that fighting has re-started between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists, placing a strain on the ceasefire declared by Poroshenko.

Bloomberg News (Kateryna Choursina and Daria Marchak) reports that even as Putin voiced support for the peace plan, Moscow put more than 65,000 Russian troops on combat alert.

Neil MacFarquhar [New York Times] notes that according to officials, analysts and diplomats, Putin “finds himself treading a narrow path between conflicting goals” in Ukraine.


The Washington Post editorial board criticizes the “illogic of President Obama’s reluctance to help the moderate opposition in [Syria],” and notes that the Syrian Free Army lacks the weapons to counter the Syrian regime and the jihadist rebels.

Al Jazeera reports that ISIS is now using U.S.-made military vehicles, seized in Iraq, to battle its rivals in Syria.

Sen. Rand Paul told CNN’s “State of the Union” (Candy Crowley) that the U.S. has been indirectly arming ISIS because it has been arming the group’s allies in Syria.

The Israeli military struck nine targets in Syria earlier today, in response to a missile attack from Syria on Sunday, which killed an Israeli boy [The Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Lappin].

Human Rights Watch reports that rebel groups in Syria are using children as young as 15 to join the battle, occasionally recruiting them under the pretense of offering education.

A former UK intelligence chief has warned that the security services will not be able to monitor all of those who return to the UK after fighting in Syria, as reports suggest there could be up to 500 Britons engaged in the civil war [BBC].


Speaking in Cairo on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry signaled renewed support for Egypt’s new military-backed government. Kerry said he is confident that the “full amount of aid” will be restored to Egypt and that “the Apaches will come and that they will come very, very soon.” The New York Times (David D. Kirkpatrick and Michael R. Gordon), Wall Street Journal (Jay Solomon), and Washington Post (Anne Gearan and Abigail Hauslohner) provide more details.

Meanwhile, CNN (Ian Lee) reports that an Egyptian court has upheld the death sentences against Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and 182 others.

And earlier today, an Egyptian court sentenced two Al Jazeera journalists to seven years in jail, and the third to 10 years, on charges including assisting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Other developments

Craig Whitlock [Washington Post] reports that more than 400 U.S. military drones have crashed in accidents—for reasons including mechanical failures, human error, and bad weather—in war zones since 2001, highlighting the potential risks of opening up American skies to drone traffic. In a second report, Whitlock notes that 47 military drones have crashed in the U.S. between 20o1 and 2013.

Sixteen news organizations have sought public access to the videotapes that recorded the force-feeding of Guantánamo detainee Mohammed Abu Wa’el Dhiab [Miami Herald].

The Wall Street Journal (Laurence Norman) reports that the P5+1 negotiating teams arrived at a working document on a possible comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran at last week’s talks in Vienna, although the main issues remained unresolved. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to warn against a nuclear deal, arguing it would be a “monumental mistake” [NBC News’ “Meet the Press” with David Gregory].

A Polish news magazine said that according to a secret recording, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski appears to be telling a member of parliament that “the Polish-US alliance isn’t worth anything” and is “downright harmful, because it creates a false sense of security” [Reuters].

Pakistan has called on the Afghan government to extradite the leader of the Pakistani Taliban group, Mullah Fazlullah, who is suspected to be hiding in Afghanistan [Khaama Press].

Haaretz (Amos Harel) notes that the Israeli West Bank operation to find the kidnapped Israeli students is likely to move away from its present form and toward intelligence gathering, due to fears of mounting clashes and an increase in Palestinian casualties.

Reuters (Anna Yukhananov and Warren Strobel) reports on the “collateral victims” of U.S. sanctions, such as those with common names who are mistaken for foreign militants, as well as the burden on the financial industry in scanning the sanctions list.

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has increased pressure on the country’s chief election officer, releasing phone recordings that allegedly reveal the officer arranging the rigging of the runoff election [Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov].

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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