The Early Edition: March 7, 2016

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

An Islamic State suicide bomb attack has killed at least 60 people after it targeted an Iraqi checkpoint south of Baghdad yesterday, according to medical and security officials. [Reuters]  The incident is the latest in a string of ISIS attacks targeting Shi’ite majority neigborhoods. [Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy and Ghassan Adnan]  The UN’s most senior official in Iraq has strongly condemned the attack. [UN News Centre]

A key member of the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee indicated a willingness to attend peace talks convened by the UN in Geneva, though another opposition official said a decision had yet to be made. [Reuters]

Russia will permit access to its military bases in Syria for humanitarian aid deliveries, a spokesman for the defense ministry announced today. [Reuters]

A government-controlled neighborhood of Aleppo came under heavy shelling yesterday, killing 13 civilians and wounding 40 others. The state-run news agency SANA blamed the attack on “terrorists,” while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the shells were fired by insurgents, including the Nusra Front. [AP]

ISIS battled with Syrian insurgents over the weekend for control of a key border post with Iraq, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reporting that the Islamic State succeeded in recapturing the post from US-backed fighters. [Washington Post’s Philip Issa]

Political rivalries are undermining efforts to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, with differences between members of the anti-ISIS forces which include US, Iran-backed militias and Kurdish fighters. [Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces conducted six strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on March 6. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 13 strikes on targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

“How Islamic State is training child killers in a doctrine of hate.” Mark Townsend discusses the generation of children growing up under the ISIS “caliphate,” “indoctrinated with religious concepts from birth, and viewed by its fighters as better and purer than themselves.” Up to 50 UK children are growing up in ISIS-controlled territory. [The Guardian]

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Apple v. the FBI. The Obama administration remains conflicted over supporting requirements that tech companies provide law enforcement with a “back door” into their products, even as the Justice Department fights Apple in court, according to a number of people familiar with the situation. [Reuters]

Some criminals use iPhones as their “device of choice” due to the strong encryption provided for the product by Apple, three groups of law enforcement said in a court filing to the judge overseeing the dispute between Apple and the Department of Defense.

US law enforcement risks “unlocking a Pandora’s Box” in its fight with Apple, said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who called on American authorities to proceed with great caution. [UN News Centre]

Security is an endless race – one that you can lead but never decisively win.” Senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, Craig Federighi, explains the threat posed by the FBI’s attempts to pressure the tech giant “to turn back the clock to a less-secure time and less-secure technologies.” [Washington Post]

Apple users were hit by hackers over the weekend; Macintosh computers were for the first time attacked by ransomware, a “pernicious” software type considered as one of the fastest-growing types of cyber threat. [Reuters]

Amazon will restore encryption to its Fire tablets following complaints and criticism from its customers and privacy campaigners for quietly removing it from its latest software update. [Reuters]

NORTH KOREA

North Korea has threatened the US and South Korea with “indiscriminate” nuclear strikes, in response to annual military exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle. [BBC; New York Times’ Choe Sang-Hun]  The threat, which is a typically angry response to these exercises by North Korea, has been described as “absolutely not credible.” Moreover, if acted on it would “trigger everything North Korea wants to avoid, which is their absolute destruction in retaliatory attacks.” [Washington Post’s Anna Fifield]  Prior to the exercises, North Korea began pushing for more army recruitment, calling on retired soldiers to re-enlist and youths from secondary school onward to sign up. [Daily NK]

The Philippines is to be the first country to enforce new UN sanctions against North Korea, set to impound a suspected North Korean cargo ship that arrived in Subic Bay, northwest of Manila, last Thursday. The crew are likely to be deported and a team from the UN sent in to inspect the ship’s contents. [New York Times’ Floyd Whaley]

A North Korea Human Rights Act has been passed in South Korea, having been stalled for 11 years. The act funds North Korean defectors who send information to the South, and will establish a center to publish details of North Korea’s human rights abuses. [Wall Street Journal]

TURKEY

“Syria is in flames” but other countries “don’t even want the smoke.” There are rising levels of frustration among Turkey’s officials, as the country is being repeatedly called on to block militants migrating from Syria by nations which are reluctant or incapable of doing it themselves. [Washington Post’s Greg Miller and Souad Mekhennet]

“Neglecting our relationship with Turkey, creating a smokescreen around our original intentions, blowing hot and cold on Ankara’s European future” are all symptoms of Europe’s “duplicitous” attitude to Turkey. Rachida Dati argues that better cooperation with Turkey should be Europe’s starting point in tackling migration, the Syrian crisis and international instability. [The Guardian]

LIBYA

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the “alarming information coming from Libya about grave acts that could amount to war crimes” while on a recent visit to Algeria. “All external actors need to use their influence to appease the situation” in Libya, he said. [UN News Centre]

“A tense and listless city caught in the maw of Libya’s strange war.” Declan Walsh reports from Tripoli, where a “delicate status quo” shows signs of disintegrating, “security is brittle” and “migrants lie in wait” for a chance to leave. [New York Times]

“This is how you beat ISIS.” Representative Adam Schiff advocates “the coordinated use of military power, strong diplomacy to end the political infighting, capacity building, and efforts to sow division between local ISIS affiliates and their terrorist sponsors” to stop Islamic State from gaining a stronghold in Libya. [The Daily Beast]

Libya would be “an argument worth having” between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, if they become the choices in the presidential election this fall. “Libya is not only a story of US failure but also a problem that the next president will have a chance to get right – whether he or she likes it or not,” writes Jackson Diehl. [Washington Post]

Clashes between Tunisian police and unidentified gunmen have resulted in the deaths of at least 26 people near Tunisia’s border with Libya. Gunmen targeted a police station and military facilities in the town of Ben Guerdan this morning. [AP]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

NATO has announced that it will expand its efforts to control the flow of migrants across the Aegean Sea, by conducting patrols in the territorial waters of Greece and Turkey following “close consultation” with those countries. Over a million migrants arrived in Europe by this route last year. [New York Times’ James Kanter]

The Taliban has refused to engage in US-backed peace talks with Afghan officials while US troops are still fighting the group on the battlefield. [Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham]  The two sides met last month to discuss the possibility of engaging in a peace process. [Wall Street Journal’s Jessica Donati]

Muslim Brotherhood has been held responsible for a bombing in Cairo last summer, which killed Egypt’s top prosecutor. The group is banned in Egypt, and is trained by Palestinian militant group Hamas. Hamas, which has been trying to “develop ties” with Cairo, has denied the accusation. Muslim Brotherhood denied responsibility at the time of the attack. [New York Times’ Nour Youssef; Wall Street Journal’s Dahlia Kholaif]

A suicide bombing outside a court in Charsadda district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, has killed at least nine people. The splinter group of the Taliban claiming responsibility said that the attack was “revenge” for the recent hanging of a former Pakistani commando. [Al Jazeera; Reuters’ Jibran Ahmad]

Dissident Republican group the “new IRA” has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack on a prison officer in Belfast, Northern Ireland last week. A spokesperson for the group said that the attack was in retaliation for the treatment of dissidents in prisons. Four people have been arrested. [BBC]

A plan aimed at “Saving Jewish Jerusalem,” involving fencing off most of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods, adopted in principle by the center-left Labor Party and expected to appeal to the Jewish constituency, has been rejected by those “at both ends of the political spectrum.” [New York Times’ Isabel Kerschner]

Foreign diplomats are “expressing alarm” over Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s “inflammatory and insulting” rhetoric. It is very unusual for foreign diplomats to do so in the midst of a presidential campaign, say US officials, particularly those from allied countries, who know they may have to work with the winning candidate in the future. [Reuters]

“The Envoy” reveals that meetings took place between the US and Iran before the Iraq invasion, in which Iran promised not to fire at US airplanes if they crossed into Iranian airspace. “We wanted a commitment that Iran would not fire on US aircraft,” writes Zalmay Kahlilzad, a former ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan and the UN, in his book, which is due to be published this month. [New York Times’ Michael R Gordon]

“Preventative counterterrorism cases.” A new documentary, “Homegrown,” explores FBI arrests under its post-9/11 mandate to stop terrorist attacks before they happen, as opposed to investigating the crimes after they have taken place, the key question being “when is it acceptable to arrest someone for a crime they haven’t actually committed?” [The Intercept’s Murtaza Hussain] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security

Zoë Chapman

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE