News Roundup and Notes: July 31, 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.

Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA report

A White House document on the classified Senate report on the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation and detention practices was accidently emailed to an Associated Press reporter this week. The document, which contains the State Department’s proposed talking points on the report, reveals that some U.S. ambassadors who were told about the CIA’s methods at “black sites” in their respective countries were instructed not to inform their superiors at the State Department.

Israel-Palestine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to complete the destruction of tunnels from Gaza into Israel, stating: “We are determined to complete this mission, with or without a ceasefire” [Reuters]. The Israeli military said it has called up an additional 16,000 reservists, raising the total number of reservists to 86,000 [Haaretz]. The death toll in Gaza now nears 1,400 and the Israeli toll stands at 59.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack on the UN school in Gaza—covered in yesterday’s Roundup—as “shameful,” calling for “accountability and justice” and adding that “all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause.” The UNRWA Commissioner described the attack as a “serious violation of international law” by Israeli forces. He added that Israel had been informed of the precise location of the school seventeen times. Israel said it will investigate the shelling and apologize if the IDF was responsible for the attack [BBC].

The Associated Press reports that the White House has put forward a tougher front in condemning the deadly attack on the UN school, the strong but “carefully worded language” reflecting “growing White House irritation with Israel.” Meanwhile, Reuters (Phil Stewart) has learned that the United States allowed Israel access to a local U.S. stockpile of arms in the past week, according to a U.S. defense official.

The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. said yesterday that criticisms of Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to broker a ceasefire came from the press and not from Prime Minister Netanyahu [The Hill’s Rebecca Shabad]. A purported transcript of a tense phone call between President Obama and Netanyahu, released Tuesday by Israel’s Channel 1 News, is a fabrication, according to the National Security Council and U.S. and Israeli officials. A State Department spokesperson further described the transcript as “complete crap.”

David D. Kirkpatrick [New York Times] explores the changed attitudes of Arab states to the conflict, suggesting that Arab leaders now view Hamas as worse than Israel, and are responding with what an expert described as “deafening” silence.

Patrick Kingsley [The Guardian] discusses Egypt’s position in the current conflict, highlighting the likelihood that the country’s “hardened stance” has led to the “bolstering of the Gaza blockade and the collapse of talks.”

Asa Fitch [Wall Street Journal] discusses the strong presence of the UN Agency, UNRWA, in the Gaza Strip, commenting that it provides “many services in Gaza that are usually the province of governments.”

And Anthony Faiola [Washington Post] notes the resurfacing of anti-Jewish slogans in Germany, as pro-Palestinian rallies spark discomfort in a country where such chants are “like disturbing ghosts of the past.”

Russia and Ukraine

Yesterday, the G7 leaders outlined their “coordinated sanctions on Russia,” while warning Moscow of further costs if it did not “choose the path of de-escalation.” The leaders also expressed regret that the “tragic downing” of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 did not mark a “watershed in this conflict” nor result in a change of course from Russia.

Ukraine welcomed the expanded sanctions against Russia [New York Times’ Andrew Roth and Neil Macfarquhar], while Moscow officials condemned the latest move from the U.S. and the EU [Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian]. The Russian Foreign Ministry questioned the utility of the sanctions, stating:

“When Brussels starts a transition to a ‘third wave’ of sanctions, it affects the economic situation in the European Union no less than in Russia.”

Russia also denied allegations that it violated an arms control treaty with the U.S. by testing cruise missiles, instead accusing Washington of using “megaphone diplomacy” to gain political advantage during the Ukraine crisis [New York Times’ Neil Macfarquhar].

U.S. diplomats are seeking support from Asian powers, including China and Japan, on the sanctions imposed this week, in an attempt to increase international pressure on Moscow [Wall Street Journal’s Chun Han Wong and Rob Taylor].

Current and former U.S. officials and sanctions experts believe that tougher penalties will be required to change Russia’s moves in eastern Ukraine, based on the recent use of financial sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Syria, reports the Wall Street Journal (Jay Solomon and Marcus Walker).

The Washington Post’s editorial board welcomes the “joint action against Russia after months of haggling and hesi­ta­tion,” but warns that the “West must prepare for a wounded Putin to become even more aggressive.”

Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin has endorsed the provision of “certain types” of lethal equipment to the Ukrainian military, indicating this would include weapons that “are not the most provocative, but which are defensive” [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]. However, President Obama ruled out providing arms to Ukraine earlier this week, stating that “[t]he issue, at this point, is not the Ukrainian capacity to outfight the separatists.”

Ukraine’s army has reportedly retaken a town outside the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, although international monitors continue to be blocked from accessing the MH17 crash site due to fighting in the area [Al Jazeera].

Lukas I. Alpert [Wall Street Journal] notes that if the pro-Russian rebels choose not to leave Donetsk, the Ukrainian military may “face a serious dilemma” of whether to resort to urban warfare for which it is not militarily equipped.

Iraq and Syria

The Washington Post (Loveday Morris) reports that support for the Islamic State in Mosul has sharply decreased following the militant group’s destruction of the city’s ancient shrines in recent weeks, sparking the first glimpses of resistance in the newly formed militant group, the Mosul Battalions.

The American suicide bomber, responsible for an attack in northern Syria in May, reportedly returned to the U.S. for several months before leaving for Syria for the last time [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti].

A top UN relief official warned yesterday of the continuing “flagrant” violations of international law in Syria [UN News Centre].

Libya

The New York Times (Kareem Fahim) reports that residents of the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi staged protests against Islamist militias yesterday, “in a burst of public fury” following the seizure of a local special forces base on Tuesday.

The Associated Press writes that up to 6,000 people per day are fleeing Libya across the border into Tunisia to escape the escalating hostilities in the country, according to the Tunisian foreign minister.

Growing turmoil in Libya is threatening the country’s “democratic rebirth,” with many Western states withdrawing their diplomatic presence in the country, reports the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung.

Christopher Stephens [Politico Magazine] considers “Libya’s descent into hell (again),” suggesting that “with the economy moribund, the only growth industry has been militias.”

Other Developments

President Obama will meet with senior congressional leaders later today to discuss national security and foreign policy, including the situation in the Middle East, Ukraine and Russia, as well as nuclear talks with Iran [Politico’s John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman].

Derek Chollet, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said he will be leaving the Pentagon in January [Foreign Policy’s Kate Brannen].

Joseph Marks [Politico] reports on Microsoft’s appeal, to be heard by a federal district court in New York today, against a government warrant compelling the company to turn over customer information stored in data centers outside the U.S.

In an op-ed for Afghanistan’s TOLOnews, Secretary of State John Kerry said that “the time for politics is over.” Kerry appealed to both candidates in the disputed presidential election to work together, “whoever wins,” and cautioned that “there is no time to waste.”

Mike Brunker [NBC News] investigates whether the Afghan government will be capable of combatting the Taliban once the U.S. completely withdraws its military presence at the end of 2016.

A female suicide bomber blew herself up at a school in the northern Nigerian city of Kano yesterday, killing at least six people, according to the government. Boko Haram is suspected of being responsible for the attack, the fourth in the area this week [Reuters].

The Wall Street Journal (Annabel Symington) reports that an increase in kidnappings of influential figures in Pakistan is due to a growing factionalization of the Pakistani Taliban, according to security officials.

If you want to receive your news directly to your inbox, sign up here for the Just Security Early Edition. For the latest information from Just Security, follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and join the conversation on Facebook. To submit news articles and notes for inclusion in our daily post, please email us at news@justsecurity.org. Don’t forget to visit The Pipeline for a preview of upcoming events and blog posts on U.S. national security. 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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