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.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew regarding the nuclear agreement concluded by the Obama administration on July 14. Footage available here.
Lawmakers were skeptical of the deal, and criticism of senior officials often became personal during more than four hours that the committee met. Chairman of the committee, Bob Corker accused Secretary Kerry of getting “fleeced” by the Iranians. [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Felicia Schwartz] Kerry mounted a “furious counterattack,” saying that it was fantasy to think Iran’s nuclear knowledge could be simply “bomb[ed] away.” [Reuters’ Patricia Zengerle and Matt Spetalnick]
Side agreements took place between Iran and the IAEA, national security adviser Susan Rice has conceded. Rice rejected claims from Republicans that such arrangements constituted “secret” side deals to the nuclear accord. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian] White House press secretary Josh Earnest has also rejected such assertions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Secretary of State John Kerry was “fully aware” that he would have to submit the side agreements to Congress. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani defended the deal yesterday, hitting back against domestic criticism, suggesting the alternative for the Islamic Republic was an economic “Stone Age.” Critics inside Iran have accused the deal of constituting an affront to the country’s sovereignty and an act of submission to foreign powers, report Thomas Erdbrink and Rick Gladstone. [New York Times]
EU High Representative Federica Mogherini will visit Saudi Arabia and Iran on the July 27 and 28 to discuss issues arising out of the conclusion of the nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic on July 14, according to a statement released yesterday.
As sanctions are lifted it will “become all but impossible to prevent Iran from buying whatever it wants, whenever it wants,” cautions the Wall Street Journal editorial board, expressing its concern over the level and quality of inspections authorized under the accord.
Iran executed 694 people between January 1 and July 15 2015, according to Amnesty International, an “unprecedented spike” in execution figures in the country.
“The deal implicitly assumes that Iran will attempt to cheat unless it knows it will get caught.” The Economist puts forward the case for why the agreement with Iran is not “déjà vu” from the accord with North Korea is 1994.
IRAQ and SYRIA
Manned and unmanned US warplanes will be able to carry out aerial attacks on ISIS positions from Turkish airbases at Incirlik and Diyarbakir. The agreement was reached during a phonecall between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Obama, on Wednesday. [New York Times’ Ceylan Yeginsu and Helene Cooper] The consensus will include a partial no-fly zone over the Turkish-Syrian border, sources have said. [Hurriyet Daily News’ Ugur Ergan]
Turkey has conducted airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria. It is the first time that Turkish jets have hit targets inside Syria; an official claimed that the planes did not cross over the Syrian border. Authorities also conducted raids across the country, arresting 251 people. [Reuters; BBC]
Defense Secretary Ash Carter will meet with Iraqi Kurdish leaders today, in the regional capital of Irbil with the aim of providing Carter with an insight into how the Kurds have succeeded in maintaining an effective force against ISIS. [AP]
US-trained Iraqi troops are preparing to launch an offensive against ISIS in Ramadi, the regional capital of Anbar province; the success of the operation will reflect on the Obama administration’s strategy for tackling ISIS in Iraq. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]
The Assad regime did not relinquish all of the chemical weapons it was supposed to, US intelligence agencies have concluded, one year after the removal of Syria’s arsenal was lauded as a foreign policy victory, report Adam Entous and Naftali Bendavid. [Wall Street Journal]
ISIS poses a greater threat to the US than al-Qaeda, FBI Director James Comey said on Wednesday, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Swedish authorities arrested two citizens on suspicion of terrorism related offences and murder in Syria in 2013. [AP]
An Australian nurse who claims he was forced to work for the Islamic State in Syria will return home today after surrendering himself in Turkey. The man, Adam Brookman, struck a deal to surrender to Australian police, with the knowledge that he would be arrested on his return to Sydney. [The Guardian]
If the conflict in Syria can be “somehow toned down,” it will have an impact on stabilizing the whole region, said veteran US diplomat James Dobbins in an interview with Al-Monitor, adding that following the Iran deal the focus should shift to Syria.
A suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed more than a dozen people in Faryab province, where there have recently been clashes between government and Taliban forces. [Washington Post’s Sayed Salahuddin]
A senior al-Qaeda leader was killed in an American airstrike in southeast Afghanistan earlier this month. Abu Khalil al-Sudani was in charge of suicide and explosive operations according to the Pentagon. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]
A Department of Justice criminal investigation into the Benghazi email scandal has been requested, to determine whether sensitive government information was compromised by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of her personal account. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo]
The Nigerian President made controversial, combative remarks, at a speech at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, surprising officials given his “warm” reception at the White House, reports Adam Nossiter. [New York Times] The US has pledged $5 million towards a multinational joint force fighting Boko Haram, but further aid should be predicated on Nigerian progress in protecting human rights, writes the Washington Post editorial board.
A controversial French surveillance law is constitutional, the country’s top court has ruled. [AP]
The Saudi-led coalition has completely ousted Houthi rebels from the port city of Aden, and the city’s airport was reopened on Wednesday. [AP]
Anwar al-Awlaki has influenced almost 25% of arrested terror suspects since 2007, according to a report by Fordham Law School’s Center on National Security. [NBC’s Robert Windrem]
A British boy plead guilty to terrorist charges, after plotting an ISIS-inspired attack in Australia. [Reuters]
Israel provided military aid to Jordan’s anti-ISIS effort, in the form of around 16 surplus Cobra attack helicopters. [Jane’s Gareth Jennings]
Sinai Province, the Egyptian ISIS affiliate, has expanded, in part due to Egypt’s brutal crackdown on unrest in the peninsula. [NPR’s Leila Fadel]
Two “violent terrorists” were arrested in China, according to officials who allegedly seized weapons from two men. [Reuters’ Megha Rajagopalan]
A “massive institutional failure” at an Army lab led to the shipment of lethal anthrax to at least 86 other sites, according to an internal review. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]