News Roundup and Notes: May 11, 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

Forty prisoners escaped from Khalis prison in eastern Iraq this weekend amid a riot which left around 40 people dead, including six police officers, according to Iraqi authorities. [AP]  The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the incident on Twitter. [CNN]

Training of Sunni tribal fighters by Iraq’s Shi’ite-led central government has begun in Anbar province, an urgent U.S.-backed response to tackle recent gains by the Islamic State. [Wall Street Journal’s Nour Malas]  The initiative has reportedly lifted hopes in the region, the training being cited as an important step in repairing sectarian tensions between Sunnis and the central government, writes Hugh Naylor. [Washington Post]

Marwan Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah commander, was killed in Syria during a battle with opposition rebels fighting the Assad regime in the Qalamoun region, northeast of Damascus, said sources. [Times of Israel]

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been transferred to Raqqa, Syria from Iraq, still unwell after sustaining serious wounds in a March airstrike, according to defectors from the Islamic State. Given his compromised physical state, a super deputy to the caliph will be nominated to control the day-to-day leadership of the group, reports Jamie Dettmer. [The Daily Beast]

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made a surprise trip to Syria on Sunday, visiting an ancient Ottoman tomb that was relocated earlier this year away from jihadist-controlled territory. [AFP]

The U.S. must not allow the Islamic State to look powerful to potential recruits, said chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee Ron Johnson, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

YEMEN

Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthi rebels have agreed to a five-day humanitarian ceasefire proposed by Saudi Arabia, according to statements from a Houthi news agency. The ceasefire would begin at 11pm tomorrow and would facilitate the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies into the country. [New York Times’ Mohammed Ali Kalfood and Kareem Fahim]

Saudi coalition airstrikes have escalated in the past week, despite the ceasefire proposal. A strike early Sunday targeted the home of deposed Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. [Wall Street Journal’s Asa Fitch and Mohammed Al-Kibsi]

A Moroccan fighter jet has gone missing in Yemen, according to the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces; it is unclear whether the pilot ejected and an investigation into the incident has been launched. [Al Jazeera]

Hundreds, and potentially thousands, of young boys are fighting in Yemen’s conflict, according to rights groups and humanitarian aid workers. Ali al-Mujahed and Hugh Naylor explore the reasons behind the high rate of child soldiers across Yemen’s armed factions. [Washington Post]

Jon Gambrell profiles the Sunni Arab states involved in the Saudi-led coalition which has targeted Shi’ite rebels in Yemen since March 26. [AP]

“Yemen’s conflict is homegrown and the only way to stabilize the country’s descent into civil war is through a political deal,” writes Seyed Hossein Mousavian, criticizing portrayals of the conflict in which Iran is framed as the aggressor and Saudi Arabia is said to have been forced to intervene. [Al-Monitor]

GUANTANAMO BAY

The Obama administration has defended the transfer of six Guantanamo Bay detainees to Uruguay in December, rebuffing claims by a senior GOP lawmaker that the resettlement fell short of congressional security standards imposed on releases from the detention facility. [Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin]

Footage of the force-feeding of former Guantanamo inmate Abu Wa’el Dhiab will remain secret for some time, it was made clear at a hearing of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Friday. [McClatchy DC’s Michael Doyle]

A retired American soldier has criticized the decision by a Canadian judge to release on bail former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr, describing his release as “worrisome.” [AP]

SURVEILLANCE, TECHNOLOGY, and PRIVACY

Last week’s NSA ruling would take U.S. intelligence “back to pre-9/11,” Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr said on ABC’s “This Week,” mounting a defense of the bulk phone records collection program.  Former House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers also said that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision will make it “more difficult” to counter the Islamic State. [CNN’s “State of the Union”]

The ruling on the NSA’s bulk telephone metadata collection could have broader implications, reports Andrea Peterson, including greater scrutiny of other surveillance programs authorized on the basis of similar relevance language. [Washington Post]

“Congress needs to respond” to last week’s decision, according to the Washington Post editorial board, noting the “promising reform proposal readily available” in the form of the USA Freedom bill.

The administration’s efforts to curb foreign hackers has had limited success; online espionage continues even with increased public awareness and spending, reports Nicole Perlorth. [New York Times]

IRAN

Saudi King Salman will not attend a summit hosted by President Obama on Thursday at Camp David, a sign of increasing Arab disapproval of the administration’s efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. Bahrain has since said its King Hamad will also not be in attendance. [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon et al]  Gulf leaders are looking for firm security commitments from Obama this week, in light of Iran’s behaviour in the region, U.A.E.’s ambassador to the U.S. has said. [AP’s Deb Riechmann]

A nuclear accord could unintentionally boost Tehran’s cyberwar efforts through economic sanctions relief, although Iran is equally likely to step up its cyber warfare in retaliation if a deal is not concluded, according to experts. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

Inspections of Iran’s nuclear program will not matter as we “cannot trust the administration” to call Tehran out on non-compliance, according to Jennifer Rubin, who cites the experience with Syria. [Washington Post]

UKRAINE and RUSSIA

NATO is boosting its cold war-style military contact with Russia to reduce the risk of confrontation amid tensions over the Ukraine conflict. The alliance is also moving to reduce the number of Russian delegates at NATO headquarters, many of whom are believed to be working for Russia’s intelligence agencies, according to diplomats. [The Guardian’s Ian Traynor]

Russian President Vladimir Putin used German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit yesterday to call for the resuming of normal ties with Europe, even as Western leaders boycotted the Red Square Victory Day parade on Saturday.  [New  York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar]  Merkel sought to balance her tribute to World War II losses with condemnation of Putin’s policies in eastern Ukraine during the visit, reports Anton Troianovski. [Wall Street Journal]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

An expose published yesterday claims President Obama deceived Americans through his narrative of the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011. Seymour M. Hersh accused the president of rushing to take credit for the kill, including falsely maintaining that senior Pakistani officials were not informed about the raid in advance, forcing the American military and intelligence communities to corroborate his version of events. [London Review of Books]

The EU will today launch a bid to gain Security Council approval for armed action in Libya’s territorial waters, an attempt to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean by targeting the trafficking networks. Britain is drafting the resolution which would authorize the mission. [The Guardian’s Ian Traynor]  Patrick Kingsley argues against a military strategy, noting that “[c]ontrary to mainstream portrayals, Libya’s smugglers are not one cohesive organisation with a clear chain of command.” [The Guardian]

There are a greater number of terror recruits in the U.S. than estimated by the FBI, according to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, who said “the threat environment today is one of the highest … ever seen.” [Fox News SundayThe Hill provides a useful summary of the Sunday political shows, which focused on the terror threat to the United States.

The U.S. military has increased security at all stateside bases and stations, an indication of concern over an increased and predictable security threat on American soil. [Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe]

Ten rival armed groups in the Central African Republic have signed a peace accord with the government, requiring that the groups disarm and potentially be held accountable for war crimes committed during the two-year conflict. [Al Jazeera]

GOP presidential hopefuls convene in South Carolina. Many of the almost dozen announced and potential presidential candidates in attendance focused on foreign policy and national security. Sen. Marco Rubio accused President Obama of leaving the country weaker than he found it. Janet Hook provides further details. [Wall Street Journal]

The U.S. listed a longtime Al Jazeera journalist as an al-Qaeda member, placing him on a suspected terrorists’ watch list, according to a document obtained by Edward Snowden that documents intelligence efforts to track al-Qaeda couriers. [The Intercept’s Cora Currier et al]

Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the House Benghazi panel is likely to be delayed if the committee does not have access to State Department emails from Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, panel chair Trey Gowdy said on Friday. [Politico’s Lauren French]

Nineteen Hazara hostages kidnapped in Afghanistan earlier this year have been released in exchange for 22 Uzbeks, a provincial official has said. [AP]

The UN Human Rights Council will today begin its universal periodic review of the United States’ human rights record. [OHCHR]

Japan’s prime minister is pushing legislation to boost the country’s international military role, a marked shift in the country’s traditionally pacifist policies. [AP’s Mari Yamaguchi]

North Korea is developing a ballistic submarine which could be fully operational in four to five years, according to the South Korean military. [Wall Street Journal’s Jeyup S. Kwaak]

The Swedish Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to revoke a 2010 detention order over allegations of sexual assault. [Reuters]

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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