News Roundup and Notes: June 16, 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.

U.S. STRIKES

Al-Qaeda’s second in command was killed in a U.S. strike in the Yemeni port city of Mukalla last week, the terrorist group confirmed earlier today. The death of Nasir al-Wuhayshi, who also served as the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is likely to be the strongest blow to the network since the bin Laden killing, reports AP’s Maggie Michael. American officials said yesterday that they were still analyzing intelligence related to last week’s strikes. [Washington Post’s Greg Miller and Hugh Naylor]

Wuhayshi has been a key target for the U.S. for over two years; Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef provide more details on the AQAP leader. [The Daily Beast]

Al-Qaeda-linked commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar was not listed among those killed by a weekend U.S. airstrike, according to lists released by two militant groups in Libya. [AP]  U.S. officials have been restrained in their assessments, particularly as Belmokhtar has been mistakenly declared dead in the past. [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum and Drew Hinshaw]

The uncertainty over the deaths of Wuhayshi and Belmokhtar highlight the “recurring lesson” from the administration’s targeted killing program—the problem of correctly identifying targets overseas notwithstanding numerous sources of intelligence, reports Scott Shane. [New York Times]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Syrian Kurds have claimed control of the strategic town of Tal Abyad, an important victory against the Islamic State that cuts off the group from the key supply route to Raqqa province. A monitoring group said some fighting against ISIS fighters in the town continued. The offensive, which displaced over 16,000 people, was backed by U.S.-led airstrikes. [Al Jazeera]

The Islamic State’s military strategy, focused on “remaining and expanding,” is analyzed by Bill Law at BBC.

The EU has been unsuccessful at stemming the flow of citizens to Iraq and Syria, the bloc’s counterterrorism chief said yesterday. [AP]

British authorities are looking for a family of 12 believed to have travelled to Syria to join a relative thought to be fighting with the Islamic State. [Reuters]

Israeli intervention facilitated the U.S.-Russia deal requiring Syria to give up its chemical weapons stockpile, thus helping President Obama avoid enforcing his “red line” on Syria in 2013, according to a new memoir from the former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren. [Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake]

OPM HACK

Arshad Mohammed and Joseph Mann report on the intensely personal information that may come to light as a result of the hack targeting the Office of Personnel Management in Washington. [Reuters]

The administration has enumerated steps for federal agencies to enhance their security, in response to the OPM cyberattack. [Washington Post’s Lisa Rein]

OPM officials are scheduled to attend a congressional hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

AFGHANISTAN

Senior Afghan and Taliban officials have met in Norway for peace talks, but each side has downplayed the meeting’s significance. [NBC’s Fazul Rahim and Mushtaq Yusufzai]

The Afghan parliament is expected to confirm Masoom Stanekzai as the new defense minister, amid heightened conflict with the Taliban. [AP’s Lynne O’Donnell]

Rod Nordland analyzes the political clout of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has stated that he is uninterested in taking another official government role. [New York Times]

IRAN

The U.S. is considering how to address the loosening of sanctions in light of a pending nuclear agreement with Tehran, with dangers if sanctions are lifted too quickly or too slowly, reports Politico’s Nahal Toosi.

An Israeli newspaper has reported that President Obama invited Prime Minister Netanyahu for talks in the U.S. after the deadline for the Iranian nuclear deal, but Israeli officials denied that an invitation had been received. [Reuters]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

European Union sanctions against Russia may be extended without debate next week. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

Ukrainian residents in war-torn Dontesk held a rare protest making an array of antiwar demands. [Kyiv Post’s Johannes Wamberg Anderson]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The Israeli government has released a cartoon satirizing foreign correspondents during the Gaza war last summer, following the release of a report vetting the Israeli army’s respect for international law—all part of an increased effort to preemptively counter UN criticism.  [New York Times’ Robert Mackey]

Michael Oren accuses President Obama of purposefully alienating Israel in a Wall Street Journal op-ed from the former Israeli ambassador to the United States.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir left South Africa yesterday in defiance of a court order requiring him to remain in the country in an effort to comply with an ICC arrest warrant for the leader. [The Guardian’s Owen Bowcott]  The New York Times editorial board criticizes the South African government for being complicit in President al-Bashir’s evasion of arrest. The incident further highlights the limitations of the politicized court, reports Somini Sengupta. [New York Times]

UN peace talks on Yemen were furthered delayed after alleged flight complications prevented the Houthi delegation from arriving on Monday. [Al Jazeera]

An Egyptian court has confirmed the death sentence for former President Mohamed Morsi on charges relating to a 2011 prison break. Morsi was also handed a life sentence on conspiracy charges; others Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been sentenced to varying terms in prison, and some were handed down death sentences, on spying charges. [Al Jazeera]

Police headquarters in Chad’s capital were attacked by suicide bombers on Monday morning, ostensibly in retaliation for the country’s role in fighting Boko Haram. The Nigeria-based militant group was suspected to be behind the violence, which killed at least 23 people. [New York Times’ Adam Nossiter]

The House Select Committee on Benghazi was provided at least 60 additional emails from Hillary Clinton’s former adviser, Sidney Blumenthal. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]  The latest correspondence indicates that either the State Department or the former secretary of state previously withheld the communication from the panel, reports Rachael Bade. [Politico]

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced it has nearly completed its new outposts in the South China Sea, amid increasing tension surrounding its land reclamation program in the region. [Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee]

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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).