News Roundup and Notes: July 15, 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.

Israel-Palestine

Haaretz has live updates of developments in the region. The Israeli security cabinet has accepted a ceasefire offer put forward yesterday by Egypt. A mutual “de-escalation” of fighting was to begin at 9am local time, with attacks to cease within 12 hours of the ceasefire being accepted by both sides. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “If Hamas will not accept the cease-fire, we will intensify attacks against it.” Despite reports that Hamas has rejected the ceasefire proposal, a Facebook post by senior Hamas member Mousa Abu Marzook said that the group is “still in consultation and there has been no official position made by the [Hamas] movement regarding the Egyptian proposal.”

Reuters reports that Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel today after Israel agreed to the ceasefire proposal.

President Obama said that he is “encouraged” by the plan put forward by Egypt [The Hill’s Justin Sink]. And Secretary of State John Kerry is postponing his visit to the Middle East so as to give the Egyptian proposal time to sink in, according to senior U.S. officials [CNN’s Elise Labott].

Hamas has published a photo of a drone which it claims to have built [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner and Patrick J. Lyons]. Hamas militants said that two of their drones were armed for attack and another was intended for reconnaissance.

The Washington Post [Griff Witte and Ruth Eglash] discusses the Iron Dome and how it has changed the dynamic of the conflict with Hamas, including taking some of the pressure off Israel’s government to negotiate a peace agreement. While Yoav Fromer [Washington Post] suggests that the Iron Dome may in fact have done Israelis “more harm than good.”

Isabel Kershner [New York Times] writes on the details which have emerged surrounding the killing of an Arab teen two weeks ago, and the steps being taken by the Israeli authorities to investigate the murder.

On a different note, Zvi Bar’el [Haaretz] discusses why ISIS does not, and likely will not, pose a threat to Israel.

Surveillance, privacy, and technology

Der Spiegel reports that Berlin may be considering further measures against Washington in the wake of the latest accusations of U.S. spying on Germany. Full details of the two suspected U.S. spies are yet to emerge, but there is a possibility that there could be a “shocking connection” between the two.

The head of the German parliamentary inquiry into NSA surveillance said that his committee is considering using “a manual typewriter” to protect certain sensitive information [The Local].

Berlin’s former ambassador to the U.S., Klaus Scharioth, tells Deutsche Welle why the current dispute is the greatest challenge yet for ties between the two countries, and notes that the expulsion of the top CIA official was a “measured response.”

[Be sure to check out Just Security for our forthcoming post by the CIA’s former Chief of the European Division, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, “Beyond the US-German Case: Understanding the Espionage ‘Rules of the Game.’”]

Glenn Greenwald [The Intercept] reports on the covert tools developed by the U.K. spy agency, GCHQ, to plant false information on the internet and manipulate the results of online polls. Documented in files provided by Edward Snowden, the surveillance tools “constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception.”

A new survey from Pew Research finds global opposition to U.S. surveillance, with a corresponding decline in America’s reputation for protecting personal freedoms.

Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has outlined an “innovative proposal” that Iran could accept as a reasonable nuclear deal, as the deadline for a final agreement looms [New York Times’ David E. Sanger].

Laura Rozen [Al-Monitor] covers developments from yesterday’s negotiations in Vienna, where Secretary of State John Kerry held a day of “lengthy and productive” meetings with his Iranian counterpart, Zarif.

The White House has not ruled out the possibility of extending the deadline for the nuclear talks, with Kerry expected to recommend a “way forward” to the President following talks this week [The Hill’s Justin Sink].

Meanwhile, President Obama spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss separate efforts to curb nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, in an attempt to improve relations between the two governments and find common ground on security issues [Wall Street Journal’s Jeffrey Sparshott].

Syria

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to adopt a resolution authorizing the cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians, without prior approval of the Syrian government [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone; Wall Street Journal’s Joe Lauria]. Diplomats said Russia and China signed on to the resolution after the text dropped a threat to contemplate sanctions if Syria attempts to block the aid deliveries. The resolution will allow delivery through crossings in Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, all of which are outside the control of the Syrian government.

McClatchy DC (Roy Gutman and Mousab Alhamadee) reports that ISIS militants have seized almost all of Deir el Zour, the final town in eastern Syria not already under their control.

Sam Dagher [Wall Street Journal] notes that Lebanon-based Hezbollah is under a heavy strain amid the widening Syria war, with the movement recruiting more fighters in Syria to assist the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Iraq

Al Jazeera reports that according to security officials, the Iraqi forces have launched an operation to re-take the rebel-held city of Tikrit.

The Iraqi parliament is set to elect a speaker at its meeting today, aimed at breaking political deadlock over the creation of a new government [New York Times’ Alissa J. Rubin].

The Washington Post (Jason Motlagh) writes that many Iraqis living in the disputed region in the north of Iraq prefer the prospect of Kurdish rule.

Vali. R. Nasr [New York Times] argues in favor of American diplomacy, rather than military intervention, as the “main tool” that can assist Iraq in returning from the brink of calamity.

Russia and Ukraine

A Ukrainian military transport plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine yesterday [New York Times’ Sabrina Tavernise; Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Karoun Demirjian]. Ukraine’s Defense Minister said that the plane was flying too high for the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that the rebels are known to possess. Instead, Ukraine said that the plane “was downed by another, more powerful missile weapon that probably was used from the territory of the Russian Federation.”

Ukraine’s claim came as a NATO military official said that Russia has deployed 10,000 to 12,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, only a month after it had withdrawn the bulk of its forces from the region [Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid].

Reuters (Anthony Boadle) reports that a summit of the BRICS coalition of emerging market countries will refrain from criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine, according to Brazilian officials, which is likely to be viewed as a diplomatic victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Libya

CNN (Jomana Karadsheh and Holly Yan) has learned that one of the suspects in the 2012 Benghazi attacks, Faraj al-Shibli, has been found dead, according to a Libyan source and locals in the town of Marj.

At least 15 people have been killed in clashes in Tripoli and Benghazi since Sunday, with the heavy fighting prompting the United Nations to pull its staff out of the country [Reuters’ Hani Amara]. In a statement on their website, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya described the withdrawal as a “temporary measure … purely due to concerns for the safety and security of the staff.”

A number of rockets reportedly hit the airport in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, late Monday [Al Jazeera]. A government spokesperson said the attack destroyed up to 90 percent of the planes parked there.

Afghanistan

The Washington Post editorial board welcomes the recent agreement brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry in Afghanistan, writing that it has “created a real chance for a peaceful transition of power… rewarding the millions of citizens who turned out to vote and creating a government that could continue to attract Western support.” The New York Times editorial board similarly suggests that the compromise “pulled the country back from the risk of civil war,” praising it as “a rare success for American foreign policy.”

Kevin Sieff [Washington Post] reports on the shift in the Panjwai region of Afghanistan, an area which once functioned as the Taliban “heartland” but is now controlled by the Afghan forces.

A car bomb attack in a crowded market in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktika has killed at least 30 people, with the civilian death toll likely to rise [Al Jazeera].

Other Developments

Just Security’s Steve Vladeck offers “a quick and dirty summary” of the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Al-Bahlul v. United States.

U.S. export-control officials may be willing to ease some of the strict restrictions on the sale of American-made military drones overseas, according to a high-ranking State Department official [Wall Street Journal’s Andy Pasztor].

The U.S. has signed an $11 billion arms deal with Qatar, a move described by the Department of Defense as “underscor[ing] the strong partnership between the United States and Qatar in the area of security and defense.”

A new video made by Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram shows leader Abubakar Shekau demanding the release of detained militants in exchange for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the group two months ago [Associated Press].

The U.S. is pushing for the heavy sentencing of a Tunisian man accused of links to a failed plot to derail a Canada-U.S. passenger train [Reuters’ Nate Raymond].

A report from Australia’s Defence Department finds that while the U.S. will “continue to be the world’s strongest military power” in the Asia-Pacific region, China’s growing power will “inevitably influence” Australia’s military strategy [The Canberra Times’ Philip Dorling]. The Australian Army has also begun planning for high-tech combat in Asia’s populated mega-cities.

Andrew Browne [Wall Street Journal] writes that a significant majority in a number of Asian states fear the possibility of armed conflict with China, due to the country’s territorial ambitions.

Reuters (James Person) reports that North Korea has released photos of Kim Jong Un supervising a missile launch near the South Korean border earlier today.

Human Rights Watch reports that an Egyptian draft law seeking to regulate non-governmental organizations would threaten the independence of such groups.

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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