News Roundup and Notes: April 7, 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

The UN Security Council has demanded humanitarian access to the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus, which has seen intense clashes between Palestinian fighters and Islamic State militants. One UN official described the situation in the camp as “beyond inhumane.” [UN News CentreAP’s Bassem Mroue]

The mass graves of as many as 1,700 Iraqi soldiers have been found at Tikrit; the suspected massacre took place at the hands of the Islamic State last June. Government forensic teams have begun to excavate the gravesites following the city’s liberation from the militant group. [BBC]

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the “liberation of Tikrit” as “very encouraging” during an interview with Der Spiegel last week.

Islamist militants have released some 300 Kurdish men in the north of Syria after they were taken captive on Sunday evening, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters]

A fourth Brooklyn man has been charged with raising money for an Islamic State plot, and was added to a revised indictment in federal court. [Al Jazeera America]

YEMEN

Fierce fighting in Aden has left more than 140 people dead in 24 hours as rebels fight for control of the city’s port. [Al Jazeera]  Southern Yemeni militias backed by Saudi-led coalition strikes attacked Houthi fighters in several provinces on Monday, pushing back the rebels from some of their positions. [Reuters’ Mohammed Mukhashaf]

The Saudi-led coalition bombed a military base in central Yemen today, targeting Houthi fighters and their allies in control of the base; a report from the Houthi-run defense ministry said two students at a nearby school were killed in the strike. [Reuters]

Saudi Arabia has asked Pakistan to join the offensive against the Houthisrequesting the provision of aircraft, warships and troops, Pakistan’s defense minister told Parliament on Monday. [New York Times’ Salman Masood and Kareem Fahim] Dawn’s Mateen Haider has live updates on the joint parliamentary session discussing Pakistan’s involvement in the Saudi-led offensive. 

AQAP has seized a Yemeni army base in the southeastern city of Mukalla, a Yemeni official said last week. [AAAJ]  AQAP has taken advantage of the power vacuum and chaos in Yemen to rebuild its strength following years of U.S. drone strikes against its leadership. [Washington Post’s Greg Miller]

Fighting in Yemen has deepened the humanitarian situation in the country, with many civilians in Aden running out of clean water and food supplies. [Wall Street Journal’s Maria Abi-Habib]

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz provided new details of the nuclear agreement yesterday—as part of the administration’s lobbying efforts—noting that no one country could veto the reinstatement of Iran sanctions if Tehran fails to comply with the terms of the deal. [Politico’s Sarah Wheaton]

The Senate will review the framework deal “more thoroughly … and respond legislatively,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged on Monday. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney] Sen. Chuck Schumer, next in line for Senate Democratic leader, has expressed support for legislation that would allow congressional review of a deal with Iran, which may prompt other Democrats to back the bill. [Politico’s Burgess Everett] And Sen. Bob Corker, who is seeking bipartisan support for his Iran bill, is emerging as the “key player” in securing an Iran deal, report Ashley Parker and Peter Baker. [New York Times]

Saudi Arabia has welcomed the interim deal with Iran, issuing a statement that expresses hope that a final accord will lead to a “Middle East and the Arabian Gulf region free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.” [Reuters]

It would be a “fundamental misjudgment” to predicate a nuclear deal on Iran’s recognition of Israel, President Obama said on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” in response to the Israeli leader’s call last week for such commitment from Iran.

A senior Israeli minister warned that the military option against Iran is “still on the table.” However, Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, said his government would focus on persuading world powers in the coming months to strengthen the terms of a final deal. [AP’s Alon Bernstein] Isabel Kershner and David E. Sanger note that Steinitz’s list of precise details that should be included in any final accord “mark[s] a change in direction” for the Netanyahu government. [New York Times]

External groups, including scientists and diplomats, are endorsing the Iran agreement, report Nahal Toosi and David Nather. [Politico] 

The U.S.-Iran cyberwar is likely to continue despite the agreement reached last week, according to experts and officials. [The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris]

Obama’s “aggressive lobbying campaign” for the preliminary deal “risks weakening [America’s] negotiating position” with Iran, writes the Washington Post editorial board.

The agreement with Iran fails the “first test of verification—mutual agreement and clarity” as to what constitutes the deal, warns Bret Stephens in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

The Economist comments on the “view from Tehran,” with most Iranians optimistic about an end to international sanctions and new ties with the West.

SURVEILLANCE 

John Oliver interviewed Edward Snowden in Moscow. The “Last Week Tonight” host pushed Snowden on whether he had read all of the documents he leaked to journalists, a question the former NSA agent avoided answering. [The Guardian’s Alan Yuhas]  Glenn Greenwald comments on the point made by Oliver that many Americans do not know who Snowden is, arguing that this illustrates little about surveillance but more about the “full-scale political disengagement of a substantial chunk of the American population.” [The Intercept]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Palestinians want a UN Security Council resolution with a timetable for ending Israeli occupation, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said on Monday. [AP’s Edith M. Lederer]

The Israeli military’s control over the West Bank has recently been “fraught with contradictions.” Isabel Kershner provides further details, noting that both sides in the conflict have an interest in avoiding a fresh outburst of violence. [New York Times]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Kenya’s airforce conducted strikes against al-Shabaab positions in Somalia, destroying two camps, in the first significant response to the group’s massacre at a Kenyan university last week; the militant group denied that its camps were hit. [Reuters’ Drazen Jorgic and Edith Honan]

The administration is weighing the establishment of a “fusion cell” to respond to hostage situations overseas, which will involve intelligence, law enforcement and other officials—one of the many proposals being considered as part of the review of hostage policies. [Washington Post’s Adam Goldman]

The 9/11 war court judge has cancelled hearings planned for later this month at Guantanamo Bay, the third war court hearing in a row to be cancelled. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

President Obama said he would act swiftly to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring states once he receives a State Department recommendation on whether he should do so. [Reuters]

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou said that the rendition of Canadian citizen Maher Arar was objected to by several people inside the agency, who had warned against pursuing the “wrong guy.” [The Canadian Press’ Alexander Panetta]

Lithuanian prosecutors have restarted an investigation into allegations that security officials assisted the CIA to run a black site in the country used to interrogate suspected terrorists. [Reuters’ Andrius Sytas and Christian Lowe]

Many security experts do not support Obama’s proposals to amend the federal antihacking law, reports Fahmida Rashid. [Christian Science Monitor]

The State Department has authorized Pakistan’s request to buy up to $1 billion in U.S.-made military equipment, a sale which will need final approval from Congress. [Wall Street Journal’s Doug Cameron]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter will visit Japan and South Korea this week in an effort to shift focus back to Asia, even as the volatile crises in the Middle East continue to require U.S. attention. [AP’s Robert Burns]

The Supreme Court has requested the government to consider terrorism-related civil judgments against Iran, which have awarded almost $2 billion in frozen Iranian banking assets to American terrorism victims or their family members. [Wall Street Journal’s Brent Kendall]

Moscow is attempting to disrupt the “fragile Western unity” over the Ukraine conflict, with President Vladimir Putin targeting the EU’s “weakest links” in an effort to bring an end to sanctions, reports Andrew Higgins. [New York Times]

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security