News Roundup and Notes: July 2, 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.

IRAN

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will meet with the chief of the IAEA today in Tehran, as part of efforts to come to agreement on the inspection of military sites, and an indication of the expanding role of the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency in concluding a nuclear deal with the Iranians. The weight accorded to the agency by the Obama administration is a cause of concern for some in Washington and in the Middle East. [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman; New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink]

The heavy reliance to be placed upon the IAEA is a “massive bet.” Michael Crowley provides details on the suspicions held by both the Iranians and some in the U.S. against the UN agency. [Politico]

Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium gas fell below the maximum required by an interim agreement with six world powers, according to the IAEA’s monthly report on Iran. However, the Institute for Science and International Security, a U.S.-based think tank, questioned whether Iran had in fact complied with its requirements, in a press release yesterday. [Reuters]

A group of Iranian university scientists, missile engineers and military officers are emerging as a final and formidable hurdle in the way of reaching a comprehensive nuclear agreement. David E. Sanger and Michael R. Gordon provide further details. [New York Times]

The Economist explores the threat posed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the successful conclusion of an agreement between Iran and major powers.

IRAQ and SYRIA

British lawmakers should be given the opportunity to reconsider authorizing airstrikes against Islamic State forces in Syria, the country’s defense secretary Michael Fallon will tell Parliament today. [The Guardian’s Frances Perraudin and Nicholas Watt]

The death toll from armed conflict in Iraq has risen, with an increase of more than 40 percent between May and June, according to UN figures published yesterday; at least 1,466 Iraqis died in June as security forces continue to battle the Islamic State. [AP]

The World Food Program will reduce the food aid given to Syrian refugees worldwide, starting this month, due to funding shortages, the agency announced in a statement. [Washington Post’s Liz Sly]

The Islamic State has established itself in Ramadi – repairing damaged infrastructure, coordinating local government, and strengthening its defences – one month after defeating Iraqi security forces there. [Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham]

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. The U.S. and coalition military forces conducted five airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on June 30. Separately, coalition forces carried out a further 12 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

“The debate around Sayyaf’s detention comes as the White House continues to struggle with… closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” John Knefel discusses the ongoing detention of Umm Sayyaf – the wife of an alleged senior commander of ISIS – captured in May. [Al Jazeera America]

The battle against the Islamic State is taking the shape of a “phony war,” argue Hillel Fradkin and Lewis Libby, warning that the Obama administration might regret “having dallied as the first lines of defense eroded.” [Wall Street Journal]

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

The first definitive evidence that the NSA spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel was allegedly released by WikiLeaks on Wednesday night. [New York Times’ Melissa Eddy]

The U.K.’s spy agency, GCHQ carried out illegal surveillance of Amnesty International, Britain’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has revealed.  [The Guardian’s Owen Bowcott]  Amnesty International has called for an independent inquiry into why the U.K. government has spied on human rights organizations.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will advocate for bans on strong encryption, potentially leading to clashes with leading Internet corporations. Encryption has become a contentious issue in the past year, largely because of revelations about mass surveillance by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. [Business Insider’s Rob Price]

Empirical data has undermined concerns about the detrimental effect of encryption on intercepting criminals, contrary to claims by FBI Director James Comey over recent months. [Motherboard’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai]

XKEYSCORE – mass surveillance software used by the NSA – has no built-in checks to curb abuse, according to documents provided by Edward Snowden. [The Intercept’s Morgan Maquis-Boire et al]

A total of 3,554 wiretaps were authorized in the United States, just 1% lower than those authorized in 2013, according to a new report by the federal judiciary. The report also contains analysis on intercept orders, criminal offenses investigated through wiretaps, encryption, cost and methods of surveillance.

EGYPT

Fighting in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Clashes between Islamist militants and Egyptian security forces killed at least 117 people yesterday, state media said, in what was reportedly the deadliest fighting between the two sides since the country’s revolution in 2011. [Wall Street Journal’s Dahlia Kholaif and Tamer El-Ghobashy]  The incident “marks an escalation” in the strategy and capabilities of the Islamic State in Egypt. [The Guardian’s Patrick Kingsley]

The Muslim Brotherhood called for a rebellion against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, describing him as a “butcher” in a newly issued statement. The statement was a response to the killing of members of its leadership during a raid in Cairo yesterday. [AP]

Jihadist attacks on Egypt are becoming “fiercer,” report Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick, commenting on the increasingly “audacious” nature of attacks by the country’s rising insurgency. [New York Times]

HILLARY CLINTON EMAILS

State Department email release. Much of the 3,000 pages of Hillary Clinton’s emails released on Tuesday evening is heavily redacted, with some redactions citing national security exemptions, calling into question Clinton’s assertion that no classified information was sent over her private email. A number of the emails concern Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Jason Leopold provides further details. [VICE News]

Officials with the Obama administration were aware Clinton was using her private account while Secretary of State, however claim to have been unaware to what extent. [The Hill’s Ben Kamisar]

Clinton received detailed foreign policy advice on Afghanistan from State Department outsiders, according to released emails from her private account. [Reuters’ Warren Strobel and Idrees Ali]

CHINA

China has passed a new national security law, which it claims is necessary to counter emerging threats but that critics worry will be used to quash dissent and inhibit foreign investment. [Wall Street Journal’s Chun Han Wong]

China has almost completed construction of an airstrip on disputed territory in the South China Sea, which is long enough to host military aircraft. China’s incursions into the maritime region have heightened tensions with its neighbors and the U.S. [Reuters’ Dean Yates]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A new European law enforcement unit will intercept Islamic extremists on social media, according to Europol, the European police agency. [New York Times’ Steven Erlanger]

A law requiring public officials, including teachers, to notify authorities of an individual at risk of radicalization came into effect in Britain on Wednesday, attracting criticism from Muslim community groups. [Wall Street Journal’s Jenny Gross and Alexis Flynn; Sky News]

Tunisian authorities have arrested at least 12 people, following last Friday’s terrorist attack for which ISIS claimed responsibility. [AP’s Bouazza Ben Bouazza]  Authorities are still searching for at least two accomplices who allegedly spent time at a Libyan jihadi camp with the attacker. [The Guardian]

There is a “low but growing” probability that America will engage in war with a global power, according to a report released by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. [AFP]

Iran has launched a media offensive against Saudi Arabia, criticizing Riyadh and the military coalition it leads for the three-month old offensive against Houthi rebels in Yemen. [Reuters’ Sam Wilkin]

Cross-border fire along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border killed one Afghan solider and injured two Pakistanis. The clashes threaten efforts to ease hostility between the two nations. [Wall Street Journal’s Margherita Stancati and Habib Khan Totakhil]

The Office of Personal Management (OPM) has recalled the Web platform utilized for submitting background checks, following the discovery of a security flaw; OPM announced that its database was hacked several weeks ago, with China cited as the “leading suspect.” [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

The CIA has paid over $10 million to consultancy firm, McKinsey & Co for their services in advising senior officials on the broad reorganization of the agency, a move viewed with skepticism by some. [Washington Post’s Greg Miller] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security

Sarika Arya

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