News Roundup and Notes: June 25, 2014

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Iraq

In the latest developments in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has rejected calls for a national unity government to help counter the ISIS-led Sunni insurgency, stating that such calls represented a “coup against the constitution and an attempt to end the democratic experience” [BBC]. Instead, Maliki called on “all political forces to reconcile” in the face of a “fierce terrorist onslaught.”

Earlier today, militants attacked one of Iraq’s largest air bases, known as “Camp Anaconda” under U.S. occupation [Reuters’ Raheem Salman].

Ninety U.S. military advisers have arrived in Baghdad, where they will join 40 U.S. troops to assist the Iraqi military [American Forces Press Service’ Nick Simeone].

U.S. special operations veterans have told The Daily Beast (Jacob Siegel) that the small force being sent to Iraq has been given “an impossible mission,” but that the troops could contribute by using U.S. intelligence assets to co-ordinate air strikes or ground offensives.

A senior U.S. intelligence official has said that ISIS still poses “a legitimate threat to Baghdad” and warned that “[a]s long as the support of these Sunni elements holds, [ISIS] looks well-positioned to keep the territory it has captured, absent a major counteroffensive” [McClatchy DC’s James Rosen and Jonathan S. Landay].

Asharq Al-Awsat (Dalshad Al-Dalwi) reports that the highest Sunni authority in Iraq, Grand Mufti Rafi Al-Rifa’i, has described the events in Iraq as a “popular revolution,” arguing that the central government is exaggerating the presence of ISIS.

According to a senior U.S. intelligence official, the military capabilities of ISIS “have dramatically improved as the group has gained access to advanced weapons from Syrian and Iraqi bases­ they have overrun” [Washington Post’s Greg Miller].

Syrian government planes have carried out airstrikes in western Iraq, killing at least 50 people, in what appears to be a further expansion of the Middle East crisis [Wall Street Journal’s Ali A. Nabhan and Matt Bradley; Washington Post’s Karen De Young et al.].

The advance of ISIS in Iraq has revived a debate in the administration over its policy toward Syria, with some officials arguing that the developments in Syria and Iraq are part of a “single problem” [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum and Julian E. Barnes].

The Hill’s Mike Lillis reports that House Democrats are concerned about committing to military efforts in Iraq without new justification from the Obama administration, according to House Democratic Caucus chairman Rep. Xavier Becerra.

Writing in the Washington Post, Sen. Tim Kaine makes a case for why Obama needs congressional authorization for U.S. military action in Iraq.

The Economist explores the reasons for the failure of the Iraqi army, noting that the “politicisation of Iraq’s security forces undermined their fighting ability.”

The New York Times (Ben Hubbard and Ceylan Yeginsu) reports that many in Turkey blame the Turkish government for facilitating the rise of ISIS.

The UN has confirmed that more than 1,000 people have been killed in the two weeks since ISIS and its allies gained territory in Iraq, and stressed that the figures represented “a minimum” [UN News Centre].

Surveillance, privacy, & technology

A federal judge in Oregon has rejected a challenge to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act brought by Mohamed Mohamud, who argued that he was only informed about the use of internet surveillance against him after he was convicted last year of attempting to bomb a 2010 Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland [New York Times’ Charlie Savage; Politico’s Josh Gerstein].

No-fly list

Also in Oregon, a federal judge has ruled  that the process surrounding the federal government’s “no-fly list” is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown ruled that the procedures available to no-fly designates who wished to clear their names were “wholly ineffective” and fell short of the “elementary and fundamental requirement of due process” [The Hill’s Mario Trujillo; Wall Street Journal’s Joe Millman].

Ukraine

Eleven Ukrainian servicemen have been killed as pro-Russian separatists shot down a helicopter and attacked a checkpoint near Sloviansk, breaking a temporary ceasefire between the rival sides [Kyiv Post’s Christopher J. Miller].

Russian lawmakers have voted to revoke a resolution granting President Vladimir Putin the right to order a military intervention in Ukraine, which a senior lawmaker said should be viewed as a measure to facilitate the peace efforts in Ukraine [Reuters].

However, BBC reports that in light of the latest fighting in eastern Ukraine, Western leaders have warned of new sanctions against Russia if efforts are not made to stabilize the region.

And Peter Baker [New York Times] reports on the Obama administration’s plans to escalate Russian sanctions, but notes that they are likely to face resistance from European allies.

Pakistan

Gunmen attacked a Pakistan International Airlines plane as it was landing in northern Pakistan last night, killing a woman and injuring two flight stewards [Reuters’ Jibran Ahmed].

Fahim Zaman [Dawn] questions whether the Pakistani military’s operation in North Waziristan is “targeting the right enemy” in the wake of the Karachi airport attacks.

The UN Refugee Agency reports that the North Waziristan operation has displaced more than 400,000 people and that the number continues to rise.

Other developments

House Speaker John A. Boehner has told Republican lawmakers that he plans to announce within days whether the House will file a lawsuit against President Obama to challenge his use of executive actions, according to sources [Roll Call’s Daniel Newhauser].

The Senate Judiciary Committee has unveiled major reforms to the Freedom of Information Act, aimed at increasing transparency and making it more difficult for government agencies to withhold information from the public [Al Jazeera America’s Jason Leopold].

Brett Max Kaufman [ACLU] notes the five takeaways from the newly released Department of Justice OLC memo that authorized the killing of U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi.

The Pentagon announced the nomination of Army Gen. John Campbell to command U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The Washington Post editorial board criticizes the administration’s policies in Egypt, arguing that “[h]aving embraced Egypt’s new autocrats, Secretary of State John F. Kerry ought at least to stop acting surprised when they behave like autocrats.” In a separate development, four small bomb blasts wounded at least five people in Cairo earlier today [Reuters].

A new report from the ACLU covers the “excessive militarization of American policing.”

The New York Times (David E. Sanger) reports that even if a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran is reached by July 20, “it will be without any real understanding of how close Iran has come to cracking the technologies of building a nuclear warhead.” This is largely due to the absence at the talks of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who has been identified as the driving force behind Iran’s nuclear program.

Dozens of Palestinian prisoners have ended their mass two-month-old hunger strike to protest against Israel’s use of administrative detention, after securing a “modest” deal from the Israeli government [Al Jazeera].

Boko Haram militants have reportedly abducted a further 60 women and girls from a village in northeastern Nigeria [CNN’s Aminu Abubakr].

The Wall Street Journal (Jeremy Page and Ned Levin) reports on how social media and the internet are being employed to boost support for terrorism among China’s Uighur minority.

Voting for a new national parliament is under way in Libya, amid continuing violence in several parts of the country [Al Jazeera].

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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