News Roundup and Notes: October 10, 2013

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.

Egypt

In a press statement by a department spokesperson yesterday, the State Department announced it will be withholding significant military and economic aid to Egypt. While stating that the U.S. will continue to work with the interim government and support counter-terrorism efforts as well as health and education benefits for the population, the State Department announced that:

We will, however, continue to hold the delivery of certain large-scale military systems and cash assistance to the government pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections.

The Hill (Carlo Muñoz) and Politico (Josh Gerstein) have more on the story. A senior official has stated that this is “not meant to be permanent” and that the situation will be “continually reviewed” [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and Mark Landler]. The Wall Street Journal (Charles Levinson and Julian Barnes) reports that regional allies, including Israel, fear a shift in the U.S. military commitment to the Middle East following this decision.

Josh Rogin writes that the Obama administration’s partial aid suspension is “unlikely to influence Egypt” [Daily Beast]. According to some lawmakers and experts, the decision, which comes “too late,” is the “latest example of its muddled and incoherent policy.”

Meanwhile, Mohamed Morsi’s trial date has been set for November 4, when he will face charges of committing and inciting violence [CNN].

Libya

The Guardian (Chris Stephen) reports that Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has now been released, following his kidnapping by unknown gunmen earlier this morning. The Libyan government has denied claims that Zeidan faced an arrest warrant. The media is providing different accounts of who the perpetrators might be. AFP, Al Jazeera and the New York Times (David D. Kirkpatrick and Gerry Mullany) all have slightly different reports, including some speculation that the kidnapping was in retaliation for Zeidan’s alleged consent to the U.S. raid over the weekend. Live updates on today’s developments can be found at The Guardian.

A senior U.S. official has told CNN that the Libyan government has provided “tacit approval” for a U.S. mission to capture suspects involved in last year’s terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi (Security Clearance’s Barbara Starr).

Al-Shabaab

The Guardian (Abdalle Ahmed et al.) reports on how the U.S. raid in Somalia on al-Shabaab went wrong, including the local backlash since the raid.

The Wall Street Journal (Nicholas Bariyo and Heidi Vogt) covers a Tanzania raid earlier this week that has led to the arrest of 11 suspects linked to al-Shabaab. According to the regional police, the suspects were carrying DVDs loaded with al-Shabaab training manuals as well as assault rifles. And the New York Times (Nicholas Kulish and Josh Kron) reports on al-Shabaab’s growing “foothold among Kenyans” that has created an “increasingly sophisticated network of trained jihadists.”

Meanwhile, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has requested the ICC to conduct his trial via video link in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Nairobi [Al Jazeera].

Government shutdown

In a statement released yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that under an agreement with a private charity, the Fisher House Foundation, death benefit payments would be reinstated. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little also made an announcement through Twitter:

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire (Julian E. Barnes and Jared A. Favole) and NBC News (Tony Dokoupil et al.) have more on this “unusual agreement.”

In a separate move, the House passed a bill yesterday (425-0) to enable the Pentagon to make death benefit payments [Politico’s Juana Summers]. The bill will now go to the Senate.

Surveillance

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), author of the USA Patriot Act, has stated that he plans to introduce his bill, aimed at restricting the powers of the NSA, in the “next few days” [The Hill’s Brendan Sasso and Kate Tummarello].

A U.S. District Court Judge has upheld the ODNI’s withholding of 21 documents, rejecting a FOIA request submitted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center regarding “guidelines describing how the National Counterterrorism Center retrieves and safeguards information from other federal agencies” [McClatchy DC’s Michael Doyle].

The Washington Post (Ellen Nakashima) covers how the NSA Director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander is attempting to regain the trust of the industry to work together on combating cyber-threats.

Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports that a U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco has refused the Department of Justice’s request to halt a lawsuit challenging the NSA’s collection of phone records due to the government shutdown.

The Guardian (Nicholas Watt et al.) covers the growing debate on surveillance in the U.K., after a spokesperson for Prime Minister David Cameron endorsed MI5 Chief, Andrew Parker’s criticisms of the leaks as benefiting potential terrorists.

Iran

Al Jazeera America (Michael Pizzi) reports that ahead of next week’s negotiations, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani has suggested that Iran might be willing to negotiate away parts of its surplus uranium stockpile.

According to an exclusive report from DEBKAfile, President Obama has notified Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the U.S. will soon start easing economic sanctions against Iran, and that this would apply to “non-significant” yet “substantial” sanctions.

Syria

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’s Director-General, Ahmet Üzümcü has “urged all parties in Syria to be cooperative and to contribute positively to this mission,” stating that “some temporary ceasefires” will allow the experts to reach the target [UN News Centre]. Üzümcü also said that the Syrian authorities have been cooperative so far. The Washington Post (Michael Birnbaum) and New York Times (Nick Cumming-Bruce) have more on the story.

The Wall Street Journal (Adam Entous And Joe Parkinson) covers how Turkey’s powerful spy chief, Hakan Fidan has been causing the U.S. concern by plotting Turkey’s “own course on Syria,” including an aggressive international arming effort to assist the Syrian opposition.

Other developments

The Financial Times’ Geoff Dyer covers how drones and their manufactures “have become a central fixture of what critics still dub the ‘military-industrial complex’” in the U.S.

The Obama administration has signed a deal with Vietnam to sell the country nuclear fuel and technology, aimed at strengthening “U.S. ties to Asia’s growing economies as China increasingly asserts itself in the region” [Wall Street Journal’s Jared Favole and Jay Solomon].

Fox News (Jennifer Griffin) reports on the latest details on Sunday’s attack in Afghanistan that left 4 U.S. soldiers dead. Thirteen other service members were also seriously injured.

The deputy commander of the U.S. nuclear forces, Vice Adm. Tim Giardina has been relieved of duty due to allegations that he used counterfeit chips at an Iowa casino, according to the U.S. Navy [AP’s Robert Burns].

The Wall Street Journal (Toko Sekiguchi and Abhrajit Gangopadhyay) covers how security issues “still overshadow” trade relations at the ASEAN summit, with the U.S., Japan and the Philippines advocating for a rule of law approach toward resolving China’s territorial disputes.

The U.K. has deployed its last major force to Helmand in southern Afghanistan [BBC]. The main task for the troops is to pack equipment and prepare for next year’s pull-out.

The New York Times’ (Rick Gladstone) covers how UN peacekeeping forces are facing scrutiny on two fronts. In addition to the cholera lawsuit regarding Haiti, covered in yesterday’s News Roundup, Transparency International – an organization that monitors corruption in security and other sectors – released a report criticizing UN peacekeeping. The report said that preventive practices were nearly non-existent, and called for specific training on how to address corruption.

In an interview with the BBC’s Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, the Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has stated he is willing to participate in “serious talks” with the government, but that his organization would continue to target “America and its friends.” And yesterday, the Taliban publicly disputed claims made by the Pakistani government that the authorities had released the organization’s senior leader, in a move likely to stall peace talks [New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg and Declan Walsh].

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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