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.
A five-day humanitarian ceasefire took effect at 11pm on Tuesday. The ceasefire is intended to allow the delivery of food and other supplies to the country. Vicious clashes took place in the hours leading up to the truce and fighting persisted in some areas after the ceasefire began. [New York Times’ Mohammed Ali Kalfood and Kareem Fahim]
Iran has dispatched a cargo ship to Yemen which it says is carrying food, medicine, tents and blankets, as well as reporters, rescue workers and peace activists. A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition said that no ships would be allowed to reach Yemen unless previously arranged with the coalition. A senior Iranian military official warned that if the ship were blocked it would “spark a fire.” Washington has cautioned Iran against “provocative actions.” [Reuters’ Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf; AP’s Ali Akbar Dareini]
IRAQ and SYRIA
The Islamic State has killed dozens in an attack on Homs province overnight; the attack targeted areas held by Syrian government forces. [Reuters]
Traces of banned toxic chemicals have been found in Syria by international inspectors, according to diplomats and officials, less than two years since President Bashar al-Assad committed to dismantling the country’s chemical weapons arsenal. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta et al]
There is enough evidence to indict Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and members of his regime following a three-year operation to smuggle official documents out of the country, according to the findings of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability. The evidence has been collected and prosecution cases prepared in anticipation of a war crimes tribunal to be established in the future. [The Guardian’s Julian Borger] Julian Borger looks in greater depth at the issue for The Guardian, considering whether an international court will ever hear the cases against Assad.
“[J]eopardizing the [Iraqi] capital’s security is still apparently preferable to publicly acknowledging that a fraud occurred” for the Iraqi government, writes Jacob Siegel, commenting on the use of a gadget by Iraqi police which supposedly detects explosives, but is in fact “useless.” [The Daily Beast]
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
The Gulf nations “are right to be deeply concerned about Iran’s activities, especially its support for violent proxies inside the borders of other nations,” President Obama said ahead of the Camp David summit this week. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the president outlined his priorities for the summit, where he is expected to reassure Gulf partners over an emerging nuclear deal with Iran. Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO meeting today, Secretary of State John Kerry also stressed the importance of a closer security arrangement with the Gulf nations. [Reuters]
The International Atomic Energy Agency can push for access to military sites in Iran, according to the agency’s chief, a position ruled out by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. [Reuters]
House GOP leaders are not likely to allow amendments to the Iran bill passed by the Senate last week, setting up the measure for approval at a House vote this week. [Politico’s Jake Sherman and Lauren French]
Gunmen killed 43 people in a bus attack in Karachi, Pakistan today, targeting a Shi’ite minority group. A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. [AP]
A defector from Pakistani intelligence helped the U.S. in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, two former senior Pakistani military officials told AFP yesterday, denying that the two governments had officially worked together.
Pakistan’s prime minister made an “unusually strong condemnation” of the Afghan Taliban during a visit to Kabul on Tuesday. [Wall Street Journal’s Margherita Stancati and Saeed Shah]
SURVEILLANCE, TECHNOLOGY, and PRIVACY
No amendments will be allowed on the USA Freedom Act when it comes before House lawmakers this week, with the House Rules Committee shutting down amendments in an apparent effort to ensure continued backing from the Obama administration. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]
Some of the strongest defenders of NSA surveillance have financial links to NSA contractors, reports Lee Fang. [The Intercept]
A U.S. Marine helicopter is missing in Nepal following a second powerful earthquake in the country; the helicopter was delivering aid to one of the districts hit hardest by the quakes and had six Marines and two Nepali troops on board. [Reuters’ Krista Mahr and Ross Adkin]
The EU’s plans for military action against migrant smuggling networks in Libya include options for ground forces on Libyan territory, according to a 19-page strategy paper obtained by Ian Traynor for The Guardian. The focus of the campaign will be on air and naval force in the Mediterranean and in Libyan territorial waters.
The high-level U.S.-Russia talks yesterday involved a “softer rhetoric,” with Secretary of State John Kerry stressing the importance of open dialogue even if “a major breakthrough” on key issues was not possible. [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz and Alan Cullison] Kerry updated his NATO allies on the Sochi meeting in Turkey earlier today, where foreign ministers will discuss the crises in Ukraine and the Middle East. [AP]
The case of Guantanamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah is “one of the strangest—and perhaps most troubling” cases to arise out of the War on Terror, writes Raymond Bonner, commenting on the seemingly intentional delay in Zubaydah’s federal challenge of his detention. [Politico Magazine]
Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon put the country at risk and Lebanese civilians will likely be killed in the event of another conflict between Israel and the Shi’ite organization, said Israeli military officials this week. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]
The ICC’s chief prosecutor is pushing Israel to provide reliable information for the preliminary probe into possible war crimes in Palestinian territories, warning that she may be forced to launch a full-scale investigation based on Palestinian allegations if Israel refuses to comply. [AP’s Edith M. Lederer]
The U.K. has been a “passively tolerant society” for too long, according to the country’s reelected Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron will announce a new counter-extremism bill later this month to include new immigration rules and “extremism disruption orders” designed to confront a “poisonous” extremist ideology. [BBC]
The U.S. military is considering sending aircraft and ships to the South China Sea to directly challenge Chinese territorial claims, a response to a chain of rapidly growing artificial islands built by the Chinese. [Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous et al]
Cuba is ready to name its U.S. ambassador, said President Raul Castro yesterday; this step toward restoring diplomatic ties will take place following Cuba’s removal from the Washington blacklist of “terrorism sponsors” at the end of the month. [Washington Post’s Nick Miroff]
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