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.
Nuclear talks to resume. Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program passed another important deadline yesterday, the parties failing to reach agreement in time to ensure a quick review of any deal by Congress. [BBC]
Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that “we will not be rushed,” in reaching the potentially historic agreement, but stated that “tough decisions” need to be made “very soon.” [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and David E. Sanger]
Senior Iranian officials accused the U.S. of changing positions and backtracking in the run up to the deadline yesterday, accusing everyone of having “their own red line.” [The Guardian’s Julian Borger; Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon et al]
Sen John McCain suggested the Obama administration is making too many concessions in the negotiations, making it “clear who wants the deal more,” in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” yesterday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed optimism at the prospects of a nuclear deal with Iran yesterday, but cautioned that Congress will not approve an agreement which fails to properly safeguard against Iran getting a nuclear weapon. [The Hill’s Mike Lillis]
When and how the UN Security Council sanctions are lifted from Iran holds “great significance” for the Iranian administration’s ability to maintain influence at home, writes Mohammad Ali Shabani. [Al-Monitor]
“[H]ard-nosed agreements with Iran can stick and… Tehran must be taken seriously” in its expressed willingness to reach a fair deal with the negotiating parties, writes Roger Cohen, commending the impact which the November 2013 interim pact has had on the progress of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. [New York Times]
IRAQ and SYRIA
Syria’s army claims to be closing in on Islamic State militants, currently controlling the ancient city of Palmyra, part of a major offensive to recapture the city. [Reuters]
A Turkish buffer zone in Syria is undesirable to both the U.S. and Turkish generals, writes Zvi Bar’el, suggesting that Ankara’s reasoning lies not with ISIS but with the Kurds. [Haaretz]
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. The U.S. and coalition military forces carried out seven airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria on July 8. Separately, military forces conducted a further 14 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
The next influx of Syrian refugees may end up in Europe, according to Turkey, who is currently sheltering almost two million displaced persons and has said it has “reached capacity” for accepting more. [Reuters]
Members of jihadist insurgencies in the Caucuses are defecting to the Islamic State with increasing frequency, Andrew S. Bowen explores what that means for the region, suggesting that “perhaps” more jihadist recruits will be convinced to mount their fight at home rather than travelling to Syria. [The Daily Beast]
Hezbollah is “increasingly shouldering the burden” in Syria’s conflict on behalf of the country’s regime led by President Bashar al-Assad, putting the powerful militia group as risk of “overextending itself and puncturing its carefully cultivated image,” write Dan De Luce. [Foreign Policy]
There may be “no alternative to a larger, more intense, conventional war against Isis,” argues military strategist David Kilcullen, suggesting that there is a “threat of regional conflagration” if the international response remains limited, in an op-ed for the Guardian.
Humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen. The UN announced an “unconditional” humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen, starting today and lasting until the end of Ramadan, on July 17. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the pause in hostilities. Houthi rebels have given assurances that the truce will be respected, officials said. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]
Over 80% of Yemen’s 25 million people are in need of some form of aid, a situation exacerbated by the ongoing conflict, which has killed some 3,000, now in its fifth month. [BBC]
“The situation in Yemen is dire.” Bruce Riedel accuses the international community of failing Yemen, criticizing the “unbalanced and ineffectual” UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR 2216) adopted in April and suggesting the Saudis have “no endgame strategy.” [Al-Monitor]
An Iranian-flagged merchant ship repeatedly targeted a laser device at a U.S. Navy ship and helicopter from Sunday-Wednesday this week in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Yemen, according to a U.S. defense official. [CNN’s Barbara Starr]
Afghan officials insist that Taliban insurgents, who participated in initial peace talks in Pakistan this week, had permission to do so from the group’s deputy leader, despite rumors to the contrary. [New York Times’ Mujib Mashal]
At least two dozen ISIS militants were killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan recently, including two key figures, according to local media reports. [Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan and Tim Craig]
The personal information from background checks of 21.5 million people was stolen by hackers who breached OPM’s security clearance database; the breach is likely to constitute the largest cyberattack into the systems of the U.S. government. [New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis] “Just as a glitch is not an attack, stealing data is not war;” P.W. Singer and August Cole seek to downplay claims that the hack was like “Cyber Pearl Harbor.” [Politico Magazine]
The threat of terrorism has “significantly risen” in Ukraine, according to President Poroshenko, discussing the infiltration by criminals and weapons traffickers in the east of the country. [Reuters]
An ISIS-inspired 4th of July attack was diverted, according to FBI Director James Comey, the agency reportedly making more than 10 arrests in the lead up to the holiday. [Reuters’ Julia Edwards and Mark Hosenball]
The level of ill-will surrounding Chinese-American relations is “at its highest since the bloodshed of 1989” argues Orville Schell, director of the Centre on U.S.-China Relations, in an op-ed for the New York Times.
Indian and Pakistani national security advisers will meet to discuss prosecution of Pakistanis in connection to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, while conflict in Kashmir continues to escalate. [Reuters’ Krista Mahr and Lidia Kelly]
Egypt will purchase high-tech American border surveillance equipment, announced the U.S. Department of Defense, to protect it from threats in Libya and elsewhere. [Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe]
British travelers should leave Tunisia as a repeat terrorist attack is “highly likely,” warned the British Foreign Office yesterday, a “serious upgrade” in the government’s travel advice. A terrorist attack last month in Sousse left 38 people dead, including 30 U.K. nationals. [The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt et al]
‘The 51 Day War’ recounts a foreign journalist’s experience of the 2014 Gaza War; The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald interviews Max Blumenthal.