News Roundup and Notes: April 8, 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.

YEMEN

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit al-Anad airbase in southern Yemen overnight and targeted areas around the port city of Aden, according to local officials and residents. [Reuters]

The U.S. is expediting weapons deliveries to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and is also increasing intelligence sharing with the coalition, according to deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. [BBC]  The Obama administration’s decision to speed up the shipment indicates a “deepening involvement” in the offensive against the Houthi movement, report Kareem Fahim and Nick Cumming-Bruce. [New York Times]

Coalition forces, working with volunteer fighters loyal to President Hadi, have succeeded in forcing the withdrawal of Houthi fighters from areas in the south of the country, said the Saudi Defense Ministry spokesperson. [Asharq al-Awsat]

Pakistani parliamentarians argued against becoming involved in Yemen during a debate yesterday on a Saudi request to join the coalition. [Reuters] The parliamentary joint session to discuss involvement in Yemen has entered its third day. [Dawn]

Military advisers from Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards are believed to be embedded in the Houthi rebel force which has taken control of large amounts of territory in Yemen, according to Saudi Arabia, with the country’s ambassador to the U.S. suggesting that Iran is providing substantial military support to the militia. [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon] 

At least 560 people are thought to have been killed and 1,768 wounded, including many civilians, since fighting in Yemen intensified on March 19, according to the World Health Organization. And at least 74 children are thought to have been killed since the Saudi-led offensive began on March 26. [AP’s Ahmed Al-Haj]

IRAQ and SYRIA 

Two car bombs targeted two rebel bases to the north of Aleppo yesterday, killing and wounding dozens, according to two monitor groups. The compounds targeted belong to Islamic opposition groups and are strategically placed close to Turkey. [AP]

The next operation for Iraqi troops will be to retake Anbar province from the Islamic State, but how this can be accomplished is a “source of concern.” U.S. officials have expressed doubt over the involvement of Shi’ite militia forces in the operation into the Sunni-dominated area. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland]

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. Coalition forces conducted three airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on April 6. Separately, coalition military forces carried out a further 12 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

Ten people have been arrested in Spain on suspicion of links to jihadist activity and the Islamic State group, following some 13 raids in the Catalan region. [AP]

Intelligence Squared hosted a debate on the motion: “The President Has Exceeded His Constitutional Authority By Waging War Without Congressional Authorization.” The audio and a description of the participants are available here.  

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

The nuclear framework is gaining broad support among Iran’s hardliners, including senior officials, lawmakers, clerics, and Revolutionary Guards commanders. [New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink]

Basic elements of the agreement are “still in flux,” even as the White House steps up its lobbying efforts on the deal, report Michael R. Gordon and David E. Sanger. [New York Times]

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz details previously unpublished terms of the agreement that make it more difficult for Iran to rebuild its nuclear weapons program, in an interview with Politico, reports Michael Crowley. Darius Dixon and Burgess Everett explore whether Moniz, the “affable nuclear physicist,” can sell the deal to skeptical lawmakers. [Politico]

The White House “sales pitch [on an Iran deal] has only just begun,” press secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday, as the administration proposed classified briefings to sell the framework deal to key lawmakers. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian] President Obama also held a private meeting with journalists to discuss the Iran talks earlier this week. [Politico’s Dylan Byers and Hadas Gold]

The “near-collapse” of the nuclear talks foreshadows the obstacles to securing a final accord with Iran, write Carol Morello and Karen DeYoung, who report on the “roller-coaster” talks that led to the framework deal. [Washington Post]

Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz explore the consequences of an Iran deal. The “ultimate significance” of the accord will be contingent upon “its verifiability and enforceability,” write the former secretaries of state in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Meanwhile, over 50 foreign policy luminaries have signed a statement welcoming the progress made in the negotiations and calling on lawmakers to hold off on any legislative action on Iran. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Israel’s latest demands are “unrealistic,” according to the New York Times editorial board, and could “scuttle what seems to be a very serious and potentially groundbreaking deal.” Daniel W. Drezner explains why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “the least important player on the Iran chessboard.” [Washington Post]

SURVEILLANCE

The Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration collected bulk telephone data linked to drug trafficking for decades prior to 9/11, providing a blueprint for the much broader NSA surveillance program which followed, reports Brad Heath. [USA Today]

Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul said he would end the NSA’s bulk collection of U.S. citizens’ phone records if elected to the White House. [The Hill’s Mario Trujillo]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A Palestinian wounded two Israeli soldiers in a stabbing in the West Bank this morning; the assailant was shot dead by troops. [Haaretz’s Gili Cohen]

The death of a Spanish UN peacekeeper in southern Lebanon earlier this year was the result of Israeli fire during a clash with Hezbollah fighters, an Israeli security official has confirmed. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]

PAKISTAN

Eight Iranian border guards were killed by militants from Pakistan; Pakistani security agencies are investigating the incident, ahead of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s visit to the country to discuss the Yemen conflict. [Dawn’s Mateen Haider]

A Pakistani court has ordered criminal charges to be filed against a former CIA station chief and former CIA lawyer in connection with a 2009 U.S. drone strike that killed two people. [Al Jazeera America]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Russian hackers who infiltrated the State Department network last year used the attack to breach sensitive White House networks, enabling access to non-classified but sensitive information including real-time details of President Obama’s schedule, according to U.S. officials. [CNN’s Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz]

A firefight occurred between NATO and Afghan forces today in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least one Afghan soldier, according to police sources. No details were available on foreign casualties. [Reuters]

Cuba’s removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism may be imminent, with the State Department “way down the road” in its assessment of Cuba’s status, according to sources familiar with the subject speaking to ABC News.

The White House is looking to smooth relations with Venezuela; an official said yesterday that the country does not constitute a threat to U.S. national security, moving away from the language used in an executive order last month. [New York Times’ William Neuman]

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has called on Defense Secretary Ash Carter to enforce the protocol on force-feedings used in federal prisons at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Russia has a “far more capable military than the quantitative, very large military that the Soviet Union had,” said Adm. William Gortney, commander of U.S. Northern Command, adding that Moscow is sending a message by conducting an increasing number of military flights close to the U.S. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong] 

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has warned against the militarization of territorial disputes in relation to the East and South China Seas, in a speech at the start of his first Asia tour. [Reuters]

Stronger Arab military presence in the Middle East has the “potential to create unexpected consequences,” writes Philip Ewing, as Washington welcomes the robust role Arab states are playing in Yemen and Syria. [Politico]

Malaysia has enacted a highly contentious antiterrorism bill which revives the practice of detention without trial, alarming government critics and raising concerns of an increasingly authoritarian leadership, reports Thomas Fuller. [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