News Roundup and Notes: June 1, 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.

SURVEILLANCE, TECHNOLOGY, and PRIVACY

Key provisions of the Patriot Act lapsed at midnight after senators failed to reach a deal on its extension. The Senate voted instead on advancing the House-approved USA Freedom Act, but Sen. Rand Paul blocked final passage of the reform measure until at least Tuesday—forcing the temporary shutdown of the NSA’s bulk collections program. [Politico’s Manu Raju and Burgess Everett; Wall Street Journal’s Kristina Peterson and Carol E. Lee]

There are “multiple workarounds” to the surveillance gap, reports Charlie Savage, based on interviews with intelligence and law enforcement officials about how they will cope with the expiring surveillance authorities. [New York Times]  Shane Harris similarly reports on the “backdoor provisions and alternate collection schemes” that will enable U.S. intelligence to continue spying, at least in the short term. [The Daily Beast]

Sen. Rand Paul is “enemy number one” among several GOP colleagues, who view him as jeopardizing national security by allowing key surveillance authorities to expire. [The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak and Olivia Nuzzi]  Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid blamed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, not Sen. Paul, for generating a “manufactured crisis” over the issue of surveillance reform. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

The Hill offers a useful wrap-up of the Sunday political shows, which saw lawmakers and top officials focus on NSA reform. CIA Director John Brennan, for example, warned that terrorist elements are watching the debate in the U.S., “looking for the seams to operate within.” [CBS’ “Face the Nation”]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Iraqi forces have bombed Fallujah, targeting the Islamic State-held city and neighboring villages for three days, witnesses have told CNN. At least 31 people have been killed during the ground and air attacks, reports Hamdi Alkhshali.

Iraqi troops and militia groups are making important gains on the outskirts of Ramadi in advance of a counteroffensive to recapture the fallen city from the Islamic State. [Asharq Al-Awsat’s Manaf Al-Obaidi]  Loveday Morris reports that the fight is being led by Kitaeb Hezbollah, a Shiite militia labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S., signaling the rise of pro-Iran militias in the fight against ISIS. [Washington Post]

The Iraqi army is shrinking in size, with sectarian militia units “picking up the slack,” writes Mitchell Prothero, who contrasts the record of Iraqi troops with that of Kurdish peshmerga forces in the north. [Politico Magazine]  Meanwhile, a video allegedly showing Shia militias committing an atrocity in Anbar province is being circulated on social media, reports Al Jazeera.

Iraqi forces lost 2,300 Humvee armored vehicles in Mosul after the Islamic State took over the northern Iraqi city last year, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said yesterday. [AFP]

Syrian government airstrikes killed at least 85 people in the country’s north on Saturday, amid continuing losses suffered by Syrian troops on the battlefield. [Washington Post’s Liz Sly]

The Islamic State is making gains in Syria, defeating rival rebel groups and claiming territory close to a Turkish border crossing. [Reuters]

A key Syrian rebel group is likely to withdraw from the U.S. program to train and equip moderate rebels to defeat the Islamic State, owing to U.S. demands that American arms are not deployed against the Syrian regime or its proxies. [The Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss]

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a second attack in Saudi Arabia; four people were killed when a suicide bomber targeting a Shiite mosque on Friday. [AP]  Four Saudi analysts speak to Al Jazeera about countering the militant group’s threat to the kingdom and the region.

The Islamic State is growing in Libya. Western officials are concerned by the territorial expansion of ISIS inside the country, which lacks a central government to lead the fight against the militant organization. [New York Times’ Suliman Ali Zway and David D. Kirkpatrick]

A political strategy must accompany the military component of the fight against the Islamic State, former CIA Director David Petraeus said in a BBC interview.

Moscow appears to be changing course on its ties with the Syrian regime, with sources saying Russia has begun to consider a “future without Assad” for Syria. Asharq Al-Awsat provides more details.

YEMEN

At least four Americans are being detained by the Houthi rebel group in Yemen, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller and Adam Goldman reported on Friday. State Department officials confirmed the reports yesterday, emphasizing that it is “doing everything” to secure the release of the detainees. [NBC News]

Saudi-led jets struck Houthi positions across Yemen today, including the northern province of Saada and outskirts of the southern port of Aden. [Reuters]

The war in Yemen is destroying its health sector, worsening the humanitarian crisis plaguing the nation. [Washington Post’s Ali al-Mujahed and Hugh Naylor]

IRAN

Negotiations on the nuclear deal with Iran intensified over the weekend, as the June 30 deadline nears. AP’s Bradley Klapper provides details.

The negotiations may face further setback after Secretary Kerry fractured his leg in a bicycle accident. It is still unclear how the injury will affect his summer schedule. [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz and Andrew Morse]

The P5+1 will reinstate UN sanctions against Iran should it violate the emerging deal, in a new agreement regarding sanctions “snapback.” [Reuters’ Louis Charbonneau, John Irish and Parisa Hafezi]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board comments on reporter Jason Rezaian’s trial in Tehran, writing that a “more prudent White House might look at all this and reconsider what a deal with such a regime is worth.”

AFGHANISTAN

Afghan President Ghani has warned Pakistan it must do more to control Taliban fighters who infiltrate Afghanistan. Yesterday, Afghan forces seized Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network weapons on the Afghan-Pak border. [The Wall Street Journal’s Margherita Stancai and Habib Khan Totakhil]

Afghan NGOs are organizing a conference to be attended by Afghans of “different parties” in Qatar as a follow up to peace talks that occurred earlier this month. The Afghanistan Analysts Network’s Thomas Ruttig analyzes the potential of the talks to lead to consensus, what to expect and the extent of Taliban participation.

CHINA

A Chinese official suggested the country could create an air defense zone in the South China Sea at the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference. [New York Times’ Edward Wong]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter addressed China’s construction in the South China Sea during the weekend conference, with the administration struggling to find the “right balance” on how to respond to Chinese expansion in the region. [Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Browne et al]  The defense secretary spoke to the BBC about his trip to Asia and America’s “pivotal” role in the region. And earlier today in Vietnam, Carter spoke with Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh, distinguishing Vietnam’s land reclamation efforts from China’s. [Reuters’ David Alexander]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah is pushing for an Israeli timetable for withdrawal from Palestinian territory, he said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Leaders of the Palestinian and Israeli football associations were able to agree to a deal to create a committee overseeing the free movement of Palestinian soccer players, allegedly restricted by Israeli officials. [Washington Post’s William Booth]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A travel ban on five Taliban officials residing in Qatar, set to expire today, has been temporarily extended, while the administration continues negotiations with Qatar in the hopes of securing a 6-month extension. [ABC News’ Justin Fishel]  The New York Times’ Rod Nordland highlights American and Afghan concerns, should the former Guantanamo Bay detainees be allowed to travel.

Cuba has been removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, prompting much Republican criticism of President Obama’s decision, following the State Department’s recommendation. [Politico’s Nahal Toosi]

The Pentagon’s accidental live anthrax shipment. Patrick Tucker explores whether human error or faulty procedures were behind the shipment; the department’s acknowledgment of its mistake signals efforts to strengthen detection of harmful chemicals. [Defense One]  The Senate Homeland Security Committee is demanding an explanation from Defense Secretary Ash Carter following the incident. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]  And a shipment of live anthrax to Australia in 2008 is also being investigated, under the recommendation of the U.S. government to the Australian Department of Defense. [Sydney Morning Herald’s Lisa Vistein]

At least 30 people have been killed in Nigeria’s Maiduguri, in a spree of attacks suspected to be committed by Boko Haram. Saturday’s killings came after the swearing in of President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday. [Al Jazeera]

A list of 89 EU officials banned from entering Russia has been leaked, triggering anger within the bloc. A Russian foreign ministry official confirmed the list was compiled in response to EU sanctions targeting Russia over the Ukraine crisis. [CNN’s Monica Sarkar]

American officials may have indirectly protected Gambian President Yahya Jammeh from a coup that was planned in the United States. Craig Whitlock and Adam Goldman report on the accounts provided by law enforcement officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. [Washington Post]

At least 2,600 people have been killed in Egypt in the 18 months following the military’s ousting of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, according to a state-approved rights body. [AP]

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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

Sarika Arya

Former Summer Fellow at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@sarika_arya).