News Roundup and Notes: April 6, 2015

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

ISIS has taken control of 90 percent of a Palestinian refugee camp that is home to 18,000 civilians just outside of Damascus. [Reuters‘ Oliver Holmes] Sam Dagher reports that fighting is continuing between ISIS militants, Assad’s forces, and Palestinians in the camp. [Wall Street Journal]

Officers from Saddam Hussein’s disbanded Iraqi army are secretly running ISIS, according to this article by the Washington Post’s Liz Sly. “The Iraqi officers are in command, and they make the tactics and the battle plans,” a former ISIS fighter tells sly.

Since its recapture last week, Tikrit has been the scene of significant violence and looting, including on the part of pro-government Shi’ite paramilitary fighters who were seen dragging a corpse through the streets behind their car. [Reuters] Nancy A. Youssef discusses the rising concerns that the prominence of the Shi’ite militias will complicate Iraq’s future. [The Daily Beast]

Members of ISIS can be seen destroying an archaeological site in ancient city of Hatra with sledgehammers and shooting assault rifles at pieces of art in a recently released video. [Associated Press‘ Vivian Salama]

Friday marked five years since Wikileaks released Collateral Murder, a video showing a US airstrike killing two Reuters journalists in Iraq. The video prompted widespread criticism of tactics used by American forces in Iraq, put the whistleblowing website and its founder Julian Assange firmly in the public sphere, and led to the arrest of Chelsea Manning for leaking the footage along with thousands of other pieces of classified information.

YEMEN

Houthi rebels have freed more than 300 prisoners in Dhale, Yemen as the rebels continue to try to take control of the southern city. [Wall Street Journal

Power and aid deliveries are in short supply in the Yemeni city of Aden, as fighting between Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed forces continues on the outskirts of the crucial port, one of the last holdouts for forces loyal to Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. [Reuters]

Saudi Arabia views itself has having a “special role as guardian” of both Yemen and the wider Arabian Peninsula, which is influencing the country’s campaign in Yemen, writes Brian Murphy. [Washington Post]

Russia and the International Committee of the Red Cross appealed for a pause in hostilities over the weekend to allow for urgent humanitarian aid deliveries and the evacuation of civilians after 10 days of Saudi-led air strikes and battles that have left more than 500 people dead. [Reuters]

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) says that “Congress has a rightful role to play” in the Iran nuclear deal, just as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to consider legislation that would give Congress the power to approve or reject the deal’s lifting of sanctions on Iran. [Politico‘s Jeremy Herb]

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) thinks President Obama “is a flawed negotiator” and that he believes there is “a better deal” available with Iran. [The Hill‘s Mark Hensch]

President Obama responded to critics of last week’s tentative deal, calling it a once in a lifetime opportunity that be will more effective in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons than any other option. [The Guardian.]

“The outline is tougher and more specific than many skeptics thought it would be,” writes E.J. Dionne, Jr., in a weekend op-ed. [Washington Post]

AL SHABAAB ATTACK IN KENYA 

The Kenyan government has launched airstrikes against Al Shabaab camps inside Somalia in response to last week’s attack by the group that killed nearly 150 students at Garissa Unversity.  The strikes hit targets on the border between Kenya and Somalia. Their effectiveness is difficult to measure, according to The Guardian.

Meanwhile, Al Shabaab has said that last week’s attack in Garissa was a retaliation for Kenyan military actions against the group in Somalia. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said his country would respond to future attacks “in the fiercest way possible.” [Associated Press‘ Christopher Torchia and tom Odula] Andrew Harding reports on the complexities faced by ethnic Somalis living in Kenya. [BBC]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

National security issues are dominating the early Republican 2016 presidential candidate discussions, writes Alexander Bolton. [The Hill]

Watching videos of ISIS atrocities all day is taking a mental toll on American intelligence analysts.  Shane Harris looks at efforts US spy agencies are taking to deal with the psychological impact of watching “a nightmarish gallery of prisoner beheadings, attacks on U.S. military forces, and sexual abuse of children.” [Daily Beast]

A woman in Philadelphia was arrested and charged with attempting to provide support to ISIS by planning to travel to join the organization [Reuters] Dan Frosch, Nathan Koppel, and Tamara Audi write about the recent trend of jihadist groups recruiting American women to join them. [Wall Street Journal]

Two teenagers in the U.K. are being held on suspicion of terrorism offenses; one is a 14 year old boy, while the other is a 16 year old girl. [BBC]

Recent surveys show that men in American special operations forces do not believe that women can handle the demands of those jobs. They also fear that the Defense Department will lower standards to integrate women into special operations roles. Lolita C. Baldor reports. [Associated Press]

The Afghan Taliban has published a biography of Mullah Mohammed Omar to mark his 19th year as supreme leader of the group. [BBC]

Lawmakers are rushing to pass a cybersecurity bill before what is expected to be a divisive debate over reauthorizing the NSA’s surveillance programs begins. [The Hill‘s Cory Bennett]

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About the Author(s)

Megan Graham

Former Assistant Managing Editor and Security, Privacy, and Technology Fellow at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@meganmcgraham).

John Reed

Managing Editor of Just Security (2014-18). Follow him on Twitter (@ReedJustSec).