News Roundup and Notes: May 18, 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 Iraqi city of Ramadi fell into the complete control of the Islamic State on Sunday, a significant setback to the U.S.-backed efforts to stymie the spread of the Islamist group. At least 500 civilians and security personnel were reportedly killed over the past two days in and around the city. [New York Times’ Tim Arango]

The Iraqi military is sending Iran-backed Shi’ite militias to Ramadi to recapture the city from the Islamic State, according to reports. [BBC]  The fall of Ramadi marks the worst loss for Iraq since last year’s defeat at Mosul, with elite Iraqi units once again abandoning American equipment as they fled the area. Meanwhile, the White House said it will rush the delivery of shoulder-fired rockets to Iraq. [McClatchy DC’s Mitchell Prothero]

U.S. Special Operations forces carried out a raid in eastern Syria late Friday, killing a senior Islamic State leader and capturing his wife. The operation was the first ground mission targeting extremists in Syria. [White House; Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold]  An FBI-led interagency team is now interrogating the wife, Umm Sayyaf, as well as a rescued Yazidi slave. [The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer and Kimberley Dozier]

The target, Abu Sayyaf, was a commander considered to have acted as the group’s “financial officer,” thought to be responsible for overseeing the Islamic State’s black-market oil and gas sales. [Reuters’ Matt Spetalnick and Phil Stewart]  Doubts were cast over Sayyaf’s seniority, with Martin Chulov and Spencer Ackerman noting that he was not on the U.S.’s hit list of at least 10 ISIS leaders, leading to speculation as to whether a more senior figure was being targeted in the raid. [The Guardian]

Sen. Dianne Feinstein described the operation as “a picture-perfect raid,” and said that the U.S. should be conducting more missions like it, speaking on ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Marco Rubio said that former President George W. Bush did the right thing by authorizing the 2003 Iraq invasion based on the information available at the time, in an appearance on Fox News Sunday.

“It takes political bravery to change a flawed position and accept blame.” Jack Shafer discusses “Jeb and Hillary’s Iraq quagmire” and the impact it should have on their eligibility for the presidency. [Politico Magazine]

YEMEN

The Saudi-led coalition resumed airstrikes targeting Shi’ite Houthi rebels yesterday, hours after a five-day humanitarian ceasefire expired. Airstrikes targeted several Houthi positions and tanks in a number of neighborhoods in the port city of Aden, officials said. [AP]

The coalition resumed strikes because the Houthi militia violated the truce, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Reyad Yassin Abdulla said today. The coalition will not consider any new ceasefire proposals despite UN pleas to extend the truce. Renewed strikes will avoid the airport in Sana’a and the seaports at Aden and Hodaida to allow aid into the country, Abdulla said. [Reuters]

Hundreds of Yemeni lawmakers and tribal leaders met for three days of talks earlier on Sunday in Saudi Arabia to discuss Yemen’s future; the Houthis boycotted the talks. [AP’s Ahmed Al-Haj]

SURVEILLANCE, TECHNOLOGY, and PRIVACY

The standoff over NSA reform could mean no action by Congress. With key provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire, this would be a “pipe dream” for civil libertarians but disastrous for NSA defenders, reports Julian Hattem. [The Hill]

France’s new intelligence bill is another step toward the “murky new world of surveillance without borders,” comments Sylvie Kauffmann in a New York Times op-ed.

CIA’S POST-9/11 PROGRAM

Poland will be paying a quarter of a million dollars to two Guantánamo detainees who were held in CIA “black sites” in the country, following last year’s European Court of Human Rights ruling against Poland for its role in the CIA’s interrogation program. [AP’s Vanessa Gera]

Scottish police are investigating the nation’s role in the CIA’s post-9/11 program and are pushing for unredacted access to the recently declassified Senate Intelligence Committee report on the subject. The investigation is focused on allegations that Scotland’s airports were used as a stop-off for U.S. rendition flights. [The Scotsman’s Chris Marshall]

U.S.-GULF TIES

President Obama commented on the Camp David summit with six Gulf nations in an interview with Al Arabiya News, welcoming strengthened ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council while seeking to reassure their concerns over a nuclear deal with Iran.

A joint statement following the summit hints at U.S. backing for a new Arab rapid response military force, although analysts said the language used does not commit the administration to any new action. [Politico’s Michael Crowley and Nahal Toosi]

NIGERIA

Nigerian troops have destroyed ten Boko Haram camps in the country’s Sambisa Forest, killing a number of militants during the offensive in Borno state. [Al Jazeera]

Boko Haram militants retook the Nigerian border town of Marte on Friday, mounting attacks on nearby villages, according to officials. [AP’s Haruna Umar]  A suicide attack by a female teenage bomber killed at least seven people on Saturday in the northeastern town of Damaturu in an assault believed to be orchestrated by Boko Haram. [AP’s Haruna Umar and Adamu Adamu]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

One Marine was killed and 21 others injured due to a “hard-landing mishap” involving an Osprey aircraft during routine training in Hawaii, the Marine Corps said yesterday.

The bodies of six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers from the helicopter crash in Nepal were identified on Sunday, according to officials. [New York Times’ Bhadra Sharma and Nida Najar]

A Taliban suicide attack targeted an EU convoy from a police training mission close to Kabul’s international airport on Sunday. At least three people were killed, including one Briton, said Afghan authorities. [AP]

President Obama will significantly restrict the federal provision of military-style equipment to local police forces, in response to recent growing tensions between local law enforcement and minority communities. [New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis]

Sen. John McCain could be Obama’s “last hope” on closing the Guantánamo prison, reports Kristina Wong, noting McCain’s proposals crafted alongside Sen. Joe Manchin. [The Hill]

Proposed amendments to the defense authorization bill could compromise transparency laws, including the FOIA, sparking concern among transparency activists, reports Politico’s Josh Gerstein.

EU foreign and defense ministers will approve a mission to destroy the boats used by migrant smugglers out of Libya; at a meeting in Brussels, ministers will also discuss the operation’s command-and-control structure. [BBC]

Secretary of State John Kerry accused North Korea of committing atrocities and demonstrating “flagrant disregard for international law” in relation to its nuclear activity, during a visit to Seoul. [AP’s Matthew Lee]

A senior State Department official will hold a day of talks with Russian officials today, a step by the U.S. to deepen its involvement in efforts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. [New York Times Neil MacFarquhar]  And one of two Russian soldiers Ukraine says it captured during fighting in eastern Ukraine has admitted on video that he was part of a Russian special forces spying mission. [Reuters]

Sen. Lindsey Graham proposes eight principles to guide the nuclear negotiations with Tehran “to ensure we get the right answers and achieve a sound, enforceable deal,” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

President Obama’s military commitments to crises around the world require a matching budget, writes Fred Hiatt, noting that U.S. troops cannot “operat[e] on a budget designed for a world in which the tide of war is receding.” [Washington Post]

A security researcher removed from a United Airlines plane last month had previously taken control of a flight by hacking into the in-flight entertainment system, causing it to fly sideways momentarily, according to a search warrant filed by the FBI. [Wired’s Kim Zetter]

Ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was sentenced to death  on Saturday, for escaping from prison at the height of the country’s uprising in 2011, the “latest blow” to Islamist critics of Egypt’s government, report Tamer El-Ghobashy and Dahlia Kholaif. [Wall Street Journal]

Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, warned of a threat by Somalia-based al-Shabaab to his country in his first public appearance since an attempted coup against his government last week. [New York Times’ Isma’il Kushkush]

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death by a federal jury on Friday for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. [Reuters’ Scott Malone and Elizabeth Barber]

 

Countering violent extremism. Join former senior UN counterterrorism official, Richard Barrett, and Just Security’s Faiza Patel for a discussion on countering violent extremism on May 29, 2015. Details here.

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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