News Roundup and Notes: July 1, 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 and Syria

After considerable speculation over how Iraqi lawmakers would address the country’s crisis, the Iraqi parliament has postponed its first session until next week due to a lack of quorum [CNN’s Holly Yan and Chelsea J. Carter].

The New York Times (Rod Nordland) reports that “in an improbable twist of fate,” Ahmad Chalabi, who was first backed by the Bush administration as a potential Iraqi leader, is now being considered as a serious candidate for prime minister.

Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, has told the BBC that he intends to hold a referendum on independence within months, stating that the country is already “effectively partitioned.”

President Obama has directed the deployment of an additional 200 U.S. personnel to reinforce security at the American Embassy and other U.S. facilities in Baghdad [American Forces Press Service]. In a letter to Congress, Obama said the force is “equipped for combat” and would remain in the country “until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed” [The Hill’s Kristina Wong].

Ben Hubbard [New York Times] notes that the rise of ISIS threatens al Qaeda’s status as “the flagship movement of violent extremism,” and questions whether ISIS is likely to survive.

European governments have approached Internet and social media companies to close the accounts of Islamist militants, which are being used as a recruitment and propaganda tool, in an effort to limit the threat posed by European citizens joining the civil war in Syria [Wall Street Journal‘s Maarten Van Tartwijk].

Surveillance, privacy, & technology

The Washington Post (Ellen Nakashima and Barton Gellman) reports on a 2010 legal certification—approved by the FISC—that indicates that the NSA has broad authority to intercept not merely the communications of its overseas targets, but also any communications about its targets. The top-secret documents, provided by Edward Snowden, list 193 countries, as well as institutions such as the World Bank and the EU, that would be of legitimate interest for U.S. intelligence.

In response to questioning from Sen. Ron Wyden, the ODNI defended its ability to intercept foreign communications for information about U.S. persons, who were “reasonably believed to be outside of the U.S. at the time of collection” [The Hill’s Kate Tummarello]. According to the letter, the NSA used U.S. selectors to search for content 198 times and to search for metadata around 9,500 times last year.

Ukraine

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko decided to end the ceasefire with rebels in the country’s east, vowing to “attack” the militants and “liberate our land,” despite efforts by France and Germany to broker an end to the fighting [Kyiv Post; Los Angeles Times’ Carol J. Williams].

Hours after the ceasefire ended, Ukrainian troops re-launched the military operation in the east, where four civilians were reportedly killed this morning in the town of Kramatorsk, while rebels opened fire on Ukrainian planes at the Donetsk airport [BBC; Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum].

Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, said that Russia’s actions in Europe highlight the need for additional presence on the continent “in order to conduct quality training and readiness activities with all of our allies and partners” [American Forces Press Service’s Claudette Roulo].

Pakistan 

Pakistan’s military has launched a major ground offensive against militants in North Waziristan, starting with a “house-to-house search” for terrorist leaders [Washington Post’s Tim Craig].

High-level Pakistani officials have stressed that the ongoing military operation has no foreign involvement and that it should not be linked with external drone attacks [Dawn’s Zahir Shah Sherazi and Mateen Haider].

Declan Walsh [New York Times] notes that North Waziristan has long been considered a “slow-burning embarrassment” to the Pakistani military, the tribal area having been used as a sanctuary and training center for the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda and Afghan insurgents. 

Other developments

French bank BNP Paribas has agreed to plead guilty and to pay $8.9 billion for illegally processing financial transactions for countries subject to U.S. economic sanctions, including Iran, Sudan and Cuba [Justice Department; Reuters’ Joseph Ax et al.].

A federal appeals court has reversed the district court’s dismissal of the Abu Ghraib torture lawsuit, holding that the plaintiffs’ claims against private military contractors under the Alien Tort Statute are not foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum [Al Jazeera America].

Lawyers for suspected 9/11 architect, Ammar al-Baluchi, have requested the disclosure of evidence relating to his alleged torture in CIA custody, days after military judge Army Colonel James Pohl reaffirmed his order for CIA documentation in the separate war-crimes trial of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman].

Secretary of State John Kerry, writing in the Washington Post, argues that “time is running out” on the Iran nuclear negotiations, and calls on Iran to “choose wisely” to secure a comprehensive nuclear deal, which Kerry notes is “still possible.”

Haaretz (Yair Ettinger et al.) reports that hours after the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers were found in the West Bank, Israel launched a significant air strike against 34 targets in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas is responsible for the killings and will pay, while Hamas said “[n]o Palestinian group … has taken responsibility for the action, and thus the Israeli version can’t be trusted.”

The Washington Post editorial board writes that in order to “prevent political chaos in Kabul,” Western officials need to “insist on a credible process for auditing the vote count and investigating claims of fraud.”

Nigerian security forces have reportedly arrested a businessman suspected of leading the Boko Haram intelligence cell, who was allegedly involved in the abduction of the hundreds of schoolgirls [Naij News]. The BBC reports that the defense ministry said that it had also arrested women from the intelligence cell.

Al Jazeera reports that two police officers were killed in Cairo when three bombs exploded near Egypt’s presidential palace yesterday, on the anniversary of the mass protests that led to the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. According to Reuters (Maggie Fick), the militant group Ajnad Misr, or Soldiers of Egypt, claimed responsibility for the blasts.

The New York Times (Pascale Bonnefoy) reports that a Chilean court has ruled that U.S. intelligence services played a crucial role in setting up the murders of two American citizens in 1973, having provided the Chilean military with the information leading to their deaths.

A UN Security Council committee has sanctioned the Ugandan Islamist group, the Allied Democratic Forces, for recruitment and use of child soldiers, killing, maiming and sexually abusing women and children, and attacks on UN peacekeepers [Reuters’ Michelle Nichols].

North Korea has said that it is charging two American tourists, currently detained in the country, with carrying out what it called “hostile acts” [Washington Post’s William Wan]. 

In a significant policy shift, Japan has ended the ban that has prevented its military from fighting abroad since 1945, in a move that has disgruntled China [Reuters’ Linda Sieg And Kiyoshi Takenaka].

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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