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
Islamic State AUMF. The White House is expected to send Congress a draft proposal for the use of military force against the Islamic State by Wednesday, more than six months after the first U.S. strikes against ISIS targets. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong] Ahead of the debate over a new AUMF, the administration is “aggressively court[ing]” lawmakers to ensure that the draft measure gains the support of the Republican-controlled Congress. [Politico’s Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan]
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he is being informed about U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State. Assad said there had been no direct cooperation between the international coalition and Syria, but that third parties, including Iraq, were conveying information. [BBC]
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq has called on the U.S.-led coalition to be “more serious, more effective,” saying that the Iraqi government would be happy to receive any assistance which does not compromise the independence of the country, during an interview with the AP.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. The U.S. and coalition military forces carried out three airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria on Feb. 8. Separately, the U.S. and partner nations carried out a further six strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
UKRAINE and RUSSIA
President Obama has not yet made a decision on providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. Speaking yesterday at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the president indicated he would wait for the ongoing diplomatic efforts to play out before making a decision. [New York Times’ Michael D. Shear and Andrew Higgins]
Secretary of State John Kerry supports the supply of lethal aid to Ukraine; Kerry conveyed his position to lawmakers at a private reception in Germany, reports Josh Rogin. [Bloomberg View]
Top Democrats are pressing Obama to arm Ukrainian troops amid a “renewed sense of urgency” on Capitol Hill, as the conflict in eastern Ukraine escalates. [The Daily Beast’s Nancy A. Youssef and Tim Mak] Meanwhile, Sens. Rob Portman and Dick Durbin are launching a Senate Ukraine Caucus to bolster relations between the U.S. and Ukraine. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]
On the ground, Ukrainian forces reported some gains in the rebel-held east, while rebels said they had made advances around the railway hub of Debaltseve. [AP] Earlier today, Ukrainian troops launched an offensive near the port city of Mariupol. [Reuters] The fight for control of Mariupol may be the “next big battle” of the Ukraine conflict, reports Anna Nemtsova. [The Daily Beast]
The U.S. will not approve a further extension of the Iran talks unless a framework for a deal is in place, President Obama said yesterday, an announcement likely geared to step up pressure on Tehran to reach a comprehensive agreement. [Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee and Byron Tau]
If nuclear negotiations with Iran succeed—on the terms being discussed currently—the Obama administration may effectively be “underwriting a new era of global nuclear proliferation,” warns the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
The Israeli prime minister is determined to go ahead with his congressional address on Iran’s nuclear program next month. Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that this was “not a political issue or a party issue,” but “an existential issue” for Israel. Meanwhile, President Obama also addressed the issue, stating that “very real differences” exist between him and Netanyahu over the nuclear negotiations. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]
Boko Haram carried out twin attacks in neighboring countries yesterday, bombing a border town in Niger and abducting a bus full of passengers in Cameroon. [Al Jazeera America]
Niger’s parliament unanimously authorized troop deployment to northern Nigeria, as part of the regional effort to counter the Nigeria-based militant group. [Reuters]
All Boko Haram camps will be destroyed by March 28, Nigeria’s national security adviser said yesterday, while pledging that the country’s election date will not be moved again. [Al Jazeera]
The White House is expected to announce a new unit falling under ODNI purview today that will enable the sharing of cyber threat data between the intelligence and civilian agencies. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]
The recent Sony hack could be used as a template for new cyberattacks triggered by mounting global conflicts, including the nuclear negotiations with Iran, a security research firm said yesterday. [NBC News’ Jon Schuppe]
The pre-trial hearing for the accused 9/11 plotters was abruptly halted yesterday after one defendant said an interpreter at the war court had previously worked at a CIA “black site.” [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]
China is playing an active role in Afghanistan’s peace talks with the Taliban, a move welcomed by the U.S., according to current and former officials. A former Taliban commander said that another delegation from the group would soon visit China for talks, which Russia would also attend. [Wall Street Journal’s Jeremy Page et al]
Tensions with Germany over NSA surveillance took a backseat at the meeting between the American and German leaders yesterday, with the focus having shifted to the pressing threats in Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria, reports Julian Hattem. [The Hill]
The CIA role in the killing of Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh was payback for the March 1984 Hezbollah abduction of CIA station chief William Buckley in Beiruit, writes Matthew Levitt. [Politico Magazine]
A questionnaire devised by the National Counterterrorism Center rates individuals at risk for extremism, as part of a wider strategy of countering radicalism within local communities, according to a document obtained by The Intercept, report Murtaza Hussain et al.
The Secret Service deputy director resigned yesterday, following pressure from Congress in the wake of a series of recent security lapses. [Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig]
Former CIA officer John C. Kiriakou has been released to home confinement following nearly two years in prison for leaking classified information to a reporter. [New York Times’ Scott Shane]
A 13-year-old boy killed in Yemen by a U.S. drone strike last month was interviewed by The Guardian last September; Chavala Madlena et al report on the drone program in Yemen.
Political talks in Yemen got off to a shaky start on Monday, with two parties withdrawing early in the day, citing threats from Houthi representatives. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland]
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