News Roundup and Notes: June 8, 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 is losing some territory in Syria and Iraq. ISIS militants have been partly pushed out of the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah by Syrian troops, while Iraqi forces launched a fresh attempt to retake Baiji. [Al Jazeera]

Iraqi forces are struggling to prepare for the impending battles against the Islamic State; a mistrust of leadership among troops is only one of several problems plaguing the counteroffensive efforts. [Wall Street Journal’s Nour Malas and Ghassan Adnan]

U.S.-led strikes are killing more than 1,000 ISIS fighters each month, top Pentagon official Lt. Gen. John W. Hesterman said on Friday. [U.S. Central Command]

The U.K. will send a further 125 military trainers to Iraq to assist in the fight against the Islamic State, Prime Minister David Cameron announced at the G7 summit. [BBC]

ISIS conspiracy theory. Jacob Siegel critiques the suggestions made by defense hawks and anti-interventionists alike that the U.S. fueled the rise of the Islamic State, based on a recently declassified intelligence report. [The Daily Beast]

The Islamic State has significantly expanded in Libya, bringing further chaos to the war-torn country which could serve as a new base for the terrorist group in launching attacks in the region. [Washington Post’s Hassan Morajea and Erin Cunningham]

Former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz died on Friday. Andrew McKie profiles the former leader who served under Saddam Hussein’s regime. [The Daily Beast]

SURVEILLANCE, TECHNOLOGY, and PRIVACY

Documents released by Edward Snowden indicate a close collaboration between the NSA and FBI. The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris offers more details and assesses the implications of last week’s “ominous” revelations.

Chinese hackers are aggregating a database on Americans through sophisticated cyberattacks as part of their espionage efforts, according to U.S. officials and analysts. [Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima]

Foreign hackers can be thwarted without undermining privacy rights, warns the New York Times editorial board, as the administration and lawmakers contemplate boosting America’s cyberdefenses.

GUANTANAMO BAY

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is liaising with the White House on a plan to shut down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, calling the renewed effort a “constructive step.” [Defense One’s Molly O’Toole]

British members of parliament criticize the Obama administration for its failure to release Shaker Aamer, the British Guantanamo detainee who has been cleared for transfer twice, in a New York Times op-ed.

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Ukrainian soldiers claimed they had defeated rebels in Maryinka, where tensions are still high despite a ceasefire following last Wednesday’s fighting. [The Independent’s Oliver Carroll]

G7 leaders reaffirmed their policy of sanctions against Russia until it demonstrates “implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty.” [BBC]  Reuters’ Jeff Mason and Noah Barkin cover the Russia-Ukraine crisis and other highlights of the G7 meeting.  And the New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis notes that President Obama sought to mend frayed ties with G7 host Chancellor Merkel over the NSA surveillance controversy.

Russian President Putin argued Moscow was not a threat to the West, in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Russia is increasingly using aid, ideology and misinformation to destabilize Europe, according to some Western officials. The New York Times’ Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger analyze a multifaceted Russian foreign policy strategy.

The State Department accused Moscow of failing to remedy a violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the two countries, in its annual report on arms control agreements. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israel launched strikes in the northern Gaza Strip, after a Salafist group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Saturday in southern Israel. The Israeli defense minister also ordered the closure of border crossings in response.  [Haaretz’s Gili Cohen et al]

Israel’s “odd partnership” with Hamas. Amos Harel analyzes the relationship between the historic enemies in light of escalating violence from an extremist Salafist group in Gaza. [Haaretz]

Economic profit could offer a new incentive for a peace deal, following a report by the Rand Corporation which concludes that the Israeli and Palestinian economies could gain $173 billion over the next decade if a two-state solution materialized. [New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren]

An increasing number of forced evictions in Jerusalem appear to be part of the Israeli strategy to remove Palestinians from the city, according to rights groups. [Al Jazeera]

YEMEN

Saudi-led airstrikes targeting the Yemeni army headquarters in Sana’a, controlled by Houthi rebels, killed at least 44 people yesterday, according to Houthi media. [Al Jazeera]

Saudi forces shot down a Scud missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen that was aimed at a large air base in the kingdom on Saturday. [NPR’s Scott Neuman]

IRAN

Tehran will agree to the “snapback” of UN sanctions in the event of non-compliance only if Iran is granted the same benefits under an emerging nuclear agreement, Iran’s chief negotiator has said. [Reuters]

Reporter Jason Rezaian is facing his second closed-door hearing in Tehran today on charges of espionage, which have been condemned by the U.S. and rights groups. [AP’s Nasser Karimi]

NIGERIA

Suicide bombers killed at least 30 people and injured 38 in two attacks targeting a northeastern Nigerian market on Friday. Officials blamed Boko Haram. [AP’s Ibrahim Abdulaziz]

Kevin Sieff assesses how the U.S. will support the new Nigerian administration in its fight against Boko Haram, given revelations of human rights abuses committed by the military. [Washington Post]

Nigerian refugees fleeing violence face dire conditions in Cameroon’s camps, with little assurances of UN aid. [The Independent’s Alistair Dawber]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Countering extremism and climate change are expected to be the focus of the second day of the G7 talks in Germany. BBC reports.

Seal Team 6. The New York Times investigates the wide breadth and limited oversight of the elite military unit that has turned into “a global manhunting machine.”

Bowe Bergdahl’s lawyer has requested the removal of the Army general from Bergdahl’s court-martial for desertion, citing a conflict of interest due to the general’s nomination as next Army chief of staff. [Bloomberg View’s Josh Rogin]

President Obama’s efforts to limit the transfer of military weapons to local police forces faces resistance in the Senate, reports Jordain Carney. [The Hill]

Sen. Gillibrand reprimanded President Obama for failing to do more to support sexual assault victims in the military, in an interview with Politico, Darren Samuelsohn reports.

President Obama’s record on the Middle East crises. The Economist writes that while the U.S. cannot solve the crises in the region, the president’s “deliberate neglect risks making them all worse.”

Clashes in Pakistan’s North Waziristan have killed several soldiers and 19 suspected militants. [Dawn’s Ismail Khan and Ali Akbar]  Eight of the ten militants charged with shooting activist Malala Yousafzai have been freed; new statements from Pakistani officials contradict earlier accounts that the accused had received life terms. [Washington Post’s Brian Murphy]

An Obama administration report criticizes Egypt’s failing record on human rights and its crackdown on activists, but notes the country’s significance to U.S. national security efforts. [New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick] Al Jazeera reports on the crisis facing the Muslim Brotherhood, which is suffering “the worst case of systematic state repression in modern Egyptian history.”

Two French men have been arrested in connection with a failed terrorist plot on a church near Paris. [International Business Times’ Jessica Menton]

Power shift in Turkey. The ruling Islamist AKP party relinquished its majority after 13 years in power, as the pro-Kurdish KDP party made gains in this weekend’s elections. [Wall Street Journal’s Emre Peker and Joe Parkinson]

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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).