Show sidebar

The Early Edition: April 15, 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

The ceasefire in Syria appeared to collapse yesterday under a surge in fighting between government forces and rebels. [Washington Post’s Zakaria Zakaria and Hugh Naylor]

The High Negotiations Committee is willing to share membership of a transitional government with members of President Assad’s government, but not Assad himself, spokesperson Salim al-Muslat told reporters yesterday. [Al Jazeera]

Islamic State conducted a surprise attack on refugee camps close to the Syrian village of Dabiq today, forcing residents to attempt to flee across the Turkish border, only to be shot at by that nation’s troops. The attack came as part of a push by Islamic State to take the “highly symbolic” Dabiq, believed by the group’s leaders to be the “pre-ordained epicenter of a clash that will herald an apocalyptic showdown.” [The Guardian’s Martin Chulov and Ian Black]

Ongoing clashes between previously allied groups, the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, have trapped an estimated 5,000 residents of the refugee camp Yarmouk in southern Damascus, Syria. Those inside the camp, which is largely controlled by Islamic State, have requested a temporary ceasefire between the groups to allow access for humanitarian aid, but have yet to receive a response, reports Patrick Strickland. [Al Jazeera]

US European Command has sent a squadron of Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler aircraft to an airbase in Turkey to support operations to attack Islamic State’s communications, the Department of Defense announced yesterday. The aircraft can protect ground forces by jamming radar and communications devices. The Pentagon has not disclosed the specifics of the operation. [CNN’s Jamie Crawford]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out four airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on April 14. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 17 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Microsoft is suing the Justice Department over its use of secrecy orders to stop the tech giant from informing users when the government obtains a warrant to read their emails, which Microsoft says happens frequently. In a lawsuit filed yesterday, Microsoft asserted that the gag order statute in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act 1986 is unconstitutional. [New York Times’ Steve Lohr; The Intercept’s Jenna McLaughlin]

US government agencies rank lowest in cybersecurity compared with major private industries, analysis from SecurityScorecard reveals. [Reuters’ Dustin Volz]

Four technology companies researching “social media mining and surveillance” are among 38 previously undisclosed companies receiving funding from “In-Q-Tel,” the CIA’s venture capital firm, reports Lee Fang, pointing, he says, to its increasing focus on monitoring social media. [The Intercept]

EUROPEAN TERROR THREAT

Four men and a woman have been apprehended by counterterrorism police in Birmingham, UK, and are being held on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts. The arrests are the result of an investigation involving Belgian and French authorities. [The Guardian’s Jamie Grierson]

Belgian’s Transport Minister Jacqueline Galant has resigned over accusations she ignored security failures at Brussels airport in the lead up to the terrorist attacks there on March 22. Her successor has yet to be announced. [BBC]

A Belgian court has rejected the appeal of Khalid Zerkani, convicted of running a terrorist recruiting network that sent people to Syria, including several of the perpetrators of the November Paris attacks, and instead increased his sentence, which he received prior to the Paris attacks, from 12 to 15 years. [Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Dalton; New York Times’ Alissa J Rubin]

The EU has approved a Europe-wide system of collecting and sharing airline passengers’ information in an effort to improve security. The measures are an indication that safety is “trumping concerns over protecting privacy and civil liberties,” says James Kanter. [New York Times]

AFGHANISTAN

Islamic State is potentially an “enormous threat” in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, in charge of communications for the coalition, warned at a Pentagon briefing, though he did not have any specifics as to the numbers of Islamic State fighters in the country. [The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel]

The Taliban’s recently announced spring offensive is not a new tactic but this time it is a test for new leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor, whose leadership some factions of the militant group have contested. [The Daily Beast’s Sami Yousafzai]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The Israeli soldier who featured in a video shooting an injured Palestinian man is to be charged with manslaughter, prosecutors said yesterday. The case has caused deep divisions of opinion, some condemning the soldier’s actions and others hailing him as a hero. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]

Israel’s expansion in the West Bank has been labeled a “war crime” by Palestinian officials, as Israel approves a further 200 settler houses in the area. [Al Jazeera’s Dalia Hatuqa]

SOUTH CHINA SEA

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter will visit an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea today, a course of action which is likely to stir up tensions with China, suggest Yeganeh Torbati and Ben Blanchard. [Reuters]

A high-ranking Chinese military officer visited a cluster of manmade islands in the South China Sea recently, US officials have said, the highest-level official visit to date. The visit was not publicized and is a sign of the “strategic importance” of the islands, suggest Jeremy Page and Gordon Lubold. [Wall Street Journal]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Guantánamo Bay parole board has rejected the application for release of the detention center’s oldest inmate, labeling him too dangerous for release. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

The “reckless” and “provocative” behavior of a Russian plane that flew close to a US warship in the Baltic Sea on Monday would have warranted retaliation under the rules of engagement, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said yesterday. He confirmed that Moscow has been contacted. [BBC; Reuters]

President Obama is to visit Saudi Arabia to discuss counterterrorism agreements and bolstering ballistic missile defense systems next week, according to a White House official. [Al Jazeera]

“Missing torture documents.” The ACLU sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons yesterday for access to documents relating to its 2002 inspection of a detention center known as “COBALT” close to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, a “CIA black site.” [The Intercept’s Alex Emmons]

Senior UK military officials are expected to be criticized alongside former prime minister Tony Blair in the Chilcot report into the 2003 invasion of Iraq, long overdue and expected to be produced next week. [The Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor and Ewen MacAskill]

Djibouti has become a “hub for the world’s superpowers,” hosting military bases including the US’ only permanent base in Africa, Camp Lemmonier, which houses 4,500 troops and contractors whose tasks include conducting missions against al-Qaeda in Yemen and al-Shabaab in Somalia. [The Economist]

“The way things get done communicates reluctance to assert American power.” Bob Gates, defense secretary for both George W Bush and President Obama, provides his opinion on Obama’s foreign policy. [Washington Post’s David Ignatius]

The US should uphold its “noble mission” as a broker among European nations, says Jim Hoagland, explaining why Europe is now a “sick man” the US should not disown. [Washington Post]

President Obama was ultimately responsible for the “messes” in Libya and Syria, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton  said yesterday, defending herself from the accusation of fellow candidate Bernie Sanders that she was responsible for the push to overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. [Politico’s Eliza Collins]

North Korea’s attempt to launch a ballistic missile today was a failure, US and South Korean defense officials have confirmed. [New York Times’ Michael S Schmidt and Choe Sang-Hun]

Tags:


About the Authors

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security

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