News Roundup and Notes: June 4, 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 Islamic State fight may take “a generation or more,” despite “strategic momentum” against the militant group, U.S. special envoy Gen. John Allen said yesterday. [AFP]

The U.S. plan to train and arm moderate Syrian opposition fighters faces considerable challenges, including the difficulty of picking the right fighters, Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey has acknowledged. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]

What has the U.S.-led coalition achieved so far? Defense One’s Ben Watson has a video summing up “how little” the air campaign has so far accomplished.

U.S.-led strikes continue. Coalition forces carried out four airstrikes targeting ISIS in Syria on June 2. Separately in Iraq, forces conducted 18 airstrikes against ISIS targets. [U.S. Central Command]

The Nusra Front will continue fighting the Islamic State, the leader of the al-Qaeda-affiliated group said in the second part of an interview with Al Jazeera. The media engagement appears to be an effort to portray the Nusra Front as a national movement in Syria.

The Syrian regime likely used toxic chemicals during barrel bomb attacks in Idlib province in April and May this year, according to a new Human Rights Watch account.

The Islamic State is using a “mix of persuasion and violence” to make advances in the region, casting itself as the sole defender of Sunni interests but brutally attacking other groups that challenge this status, report Anne Barnard and Tim Arango. [New York Times]

The fighters who led the capture of Ramadi include almost all Sunni tribes and jihadist groups fought by the U.S. since 2003, including ex-Baathist Saddam loyalists—and their eventual vision for Iraq is markedly different than that of the Islamic State, reports Malcolm W. Nance. [The Intercept]

The Boston terror suspect shooting case has reignited concerns about the growing influence of the Islamic State and other extremist groups on homegrown jihadists. [New York Times’ Jess Bidgood And Dave Philipps] The suspected Islamic State sympathizer, who was fatally shot by police on Tuesday, had planned to attack police officers in Massachusetts. [Washington Post’s Adam Goldman]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine has killed at least 19 people and injured many more, including civilians, disrupting a ceasefire signed in February. [New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer] The Ukrainian government alleges that separatists provoked the attack on two towns west of Donetsk, Maryinka and Krasnohorivka. It is unclear who is now in control of these areas. [BBCThe Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss discusses the implications of a rebel takeover of Maryinka.

Washington issued a statement holding Moscow responsible, but pro-Russian rebels denied initiating the offensive. [Reuters’ Alessandra Prentice and Pavel Polityuk]

The EU is likely to decide in favor of extending sanctions against Russia at the end of June, in light of ongoing violations of the Russian-Ukrainian ceasefire. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

The Pentagon is requesting the loosening of a ban on the purchase of Russian rocket engines, imposed by Congress following Russian annexation of Crimea. According to the Pentagon the engines, in use since 2000, are essential to American space defense. [New York Times’ Steven Lee Myers] 

YEMEN

An ex-AQAP operative said that former Yemeni President Saleh aided the group, at times directing al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch, in an interview with Al Jazeera.

The Yemeni government has agreed to attend peace negotiations in Geneva with representatives of the Houthi movement, Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin has said. [Asharq Al-Awsat] 

SURVEILLANCE, TECHNOLOGY, and PRIVACY

The administration will ask FISC to temporarily restart the NSA’s bulk collection program, arguing the program will need to be restarted in order to effectively end it as required by the USA Freedom Act. [The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman]

House lawmakers are seeking to curb “backdoor” surveillance, proposing two amendments to a funding bill in an attempt to prevent the administration from efforts to weaken encryption. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

Civil libertarians will push for additional reform of government surveillance, hoping to use the momentum of the USA Freedom Act to their advantage, reports Julian Hattem. [The Hill]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Pentagon has confirmed the deaths of two American service members, one in Afghanistan and one in support of the operation to defeat the Islamic State. [New York Times]

The House Oversight Committee hearing on the administration’s compliance with open records legislation yesterday involved clashes over the State Department’s handling of former Secretary Clinton’s emails, among other issues. [The Hill’s Megan R. Wilson]

The number of labs mistakenly sent live anthrax by the Pentagon is now at 51, across 17 states and three countries. According to the Defense Department, that number is likely to rise. [CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Barbara Starr; DoD]

The Israeli Defense Force launched aircraft fire in Gaza, following yesterday’s rocket attacks by the Islamist Salafist group. [Haaretz’s Gili Cohen et al]

The UN will establish a review panel assessing its response to allegations of sexual abuse against children by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone; UN News Centre]

Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian government of committing war crimes while countering Boko Haram. The Nigerian defense ministry accused the organization of trying “to blackmail the Nigerian military.” [New York Times’ Adam Nossiter]

The Special Ops Commander in Central and South America was removed for repeated intoxication, becoming the fourth U.S. general to be removed from his post “for alcohol-related misbehavior.” [Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock]

Two Egyptian policemen were shot and killed by militants at the Giza pyramids, marking the increase of such attacks against state security. The New York Times’ Merna Thomas and Alison Smale discuss the fragile political stability in Egypt. And former President Mubarak has been ordered to face a retrial over the deaths of at least 800 protesters in 2011. [BBC]

South Korea has conducted tests of new missiles that have the capacity to reach anywhere in North Korea. [New York Time’s Choe Sang-Hun]

The U.S. failed to use a recent UN conference to further nuclear disarmament. The New York Times editorial board comments on the “lost opportunity.”

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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).