News Roundup and Notes: June 26, 2014

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Iraq

Secretary of State John Kerry is attempting to persuade Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan to assist with the U.S. strategy of breaking up the alliance between Sunni tribes and the radical militant group, ISIS [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon et al.].

The Iraqi presidency has called a parliamentary session on July 1, while ISIS-led Sunni fighters seized control of a town an hour away from Baghdad [Reuters’ Isra’ Al-Rubei’i and Oliver Holmes]. Iraqi security officials said that the militants were also advancing toward the second largest dam in Iraq, the Haditha Dam, raising fears of damage and flooding [New York Times’ Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland].

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki confirmed today that Syrian warplanes had bombed Sunni militants in Iraq [Agencies]. The White House warned Syria against such military action, with Press Secretary Josh Earnest stating that “the Assad regime and the terrible violence that they perpetrated against their own people … allowed [ISIS] to thrive in the first place” [The Hill’s Jusin Sink].

Iraq’s Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, has called for a national emergency government, despite Maliki’s rejection of any such proposal yesterday [Al Jazeera]. Sadr said the government “must fulfill the legitimate demands of the moderate Sunnis and stop excluding them because they have been marginalized.”

The Associated Press reports that since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011, a security-conscious CIA has been unable to gather the necessary intelligence, according to current and former officials. However, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers has maintained that the rise of ISIS was “not an intelligence failure, [but] a policy failure” [The Hill’s Kristina Wong].

Mark Perry [Al Jazeera America] reports on the “clear” voices of military officers, who would only support a decision to re-engage in Iraq if it takes into account “a budget that has placed military preparedness under the knife.”

NPR (Dina Temple-Raston) covers the “much more fundamental war waging behind the scenes” between al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahri and ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the outcome of which could “fundamentally change the face of terrorism.”

The New York Times (Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt) reports that Iran is flying surveillance drones over Iraq and supplying Iraqi troops with significant military supplies, according to American officials. The crisis in Iraq has reportedly ignited a debate among Iranian policy makers and others over whether Tehran should be supporting two states—Syria and Iraq—torn by war [Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi].

Mark Leonard [Reuters] argues that with declining U.S. influence, Iran and Saudi Arabia “may just have to get along,” including in relation to the Iraq crisis.

Jamie Dettmer [The Daily Beast] notes that Lebanon may be the next target for ISIS militants, in order to pressure the Shia movement, Hezbollah into withdrawing forces from neighboring Syria.

And the New York Times (Matt Apuzzo) covers the testimony of an Iraqi witness at the U.S. trial of the former Blackwater guards accused of killing civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

Surveillance, privacy, & technology

In Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the police require warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest, protecting Americans’ privacy rights in the digital age [New York Times’ Adam Liptak; Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin; Washington Post’s Robert Barnes].

Josh Gerstein [Politico] considers how the decision is likely to “give a boost” to legal challenges to the NSA’s bulk metadata program.

The New York Times editorial board welcomes the ruling, which “reaffirmed the essence of the Fourth Amendment,” but notes that “[j]udges nearly always grant warrant requests, and as the chief justice pointed out, it is easier than ever to get one quickly today, thanks to the same technologies that gave rise to the cellphone.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that the Supreme Court “wisely” recognized” that “the genius of the [Constitution] is that its core protections are abiding and universal.”

The Washington Post editorial board, similarly welcomes the decision and considers that “the justices may have more to say about legal protections for cloud-based information, another place where analogies to old legal norms may prove inadequate.”

In a separate development, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the administration is seeking to provide EU citizens with the right to seek redress in U.S. courts in relation to the mishandling of personal data transferred to the U.S. for law enforcement purposes. The announcement was part of the negotiations on the EU-U.S. Data Protection and Privacy Agreement. The Guardian (Ewen MacAskill) has more details.

Meanwhile, the NSA said that it has “no documents indicating that Mr. Snowden contacted agency officials to raise concerns about NSA programs,” in response to a FOIA request from journalist Jason Leopold [The Hill’s Julian Hattem].

John Boehner’s lawsuit

In a memo to Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner announced his plans to move forward with a lawsuit against President Obama for misusing executive powers, but said that the lawsuit was not about impeachment [Politico’s Lauren French]. While the move has been dismissed by Democrats as “a political stunt” [The Hill’s Russell Berman], the Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that the lawsuit gives the courts “a chance to weigh in on whether Mr. Obama, or his successors, can exercise such imperial powers.”

Ukraine

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany called for an extension of the ceasefire between Ukrainian and pro-Russian rebel troops beyond Friday, although separatist leaders claimed that the peace process had collapsed [New York Times’ Andrew Roth and David M. Herszenhorn].

Secretary of State John Kerry said today that Russia must call on separatists in Ukraine to disarm within “the next hours” [Reuters]. And speaking at the NATO headquarters yesterday, Kerry said that the U.S. and its European allies “are compelled to continue to prepare greater costs, including tough economic sanctions, with the hopes that they will not have to be used,” but noted that the decision is “dependent on the choices” made by Russia [Washington Post’s Anne Gearan and Michael Birnbaum].

However, several business groups in the U.S. are opposing the unilateral imposition of new sanctions against Russia, arguing that this would harm American business and cost jobs [Financial Times’ Richard McGregor].

NATO has agreed on a package of support measures to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities, while calling on Russia to stop the flow of weapons and fighters across to Ukraine and to facilitate the implementation of Kiev’s peace plan.

Afghanistan

A NATO service member has been killed in an attack in southern Afghanistan [Associated Press].

The Wall Street Journal (Nathan Hodge and Habib Khan Totakhil) reports that the Taliban has launched a major offensive in the Helmand province, in an effort to seize territory from government troops.

NATO and ISAF foreign ministers met with Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Ershad Ahmadi yesterday to finalize plans for the NATO-led post-2014 mission in Afghanistan.

Other developments

Military judge Col. James L. Pohl has ruled that the government must still reveal to defense counsel details of the CIA’s detention and interrogation of suspected USS Cole Bomber, al Nashiri, although prosecutors may be allowed to  protect the identities of some agents [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg].

Jason Leopold [Al Jazeera America] covers how a former CIA officer was turned into a scapegoat following an attempt to make Congress investigate the rendition and torture of a CIA detainee.

The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two leaders of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and designated its charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, as a “front organization” [New York Times’ Declan Walsh].

The Stimson Center’s Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy has released its report on the current and future use and oversight of unmanned aerial vehicles. Steve Vladeck highlights the report’s recommendations at Just Security.

The New York Times (Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt) notes the questions being raised by the decision to bring Libyan captive Ahmed Abu Khattala to Washington, D.C., particularly in relation to “the logistics of holding a [terrorism] trial here and the experience of prosecutors to bring such a case.”

A bomb blast at a popular shopping mall in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, has killed at least 21 people [Naij].

Militant group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for an attack on a hotel in a town in central Somalia [Reuters’ Feisal Omar And Abdi Sheikh].

The latest suicide attack in Lebanon targeted a hotel in central Beiruit, as the crisis in Syria continues to spill over into the country [Al Jazeera].

Reuters covers a suicide bombing at an army base in the Yemeni city of Seiyun earlier today, killing two soldiers, while Yemeni soldiers battled suspected al-Qaeda militants at the city’s airport.

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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