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
Syrian peace talks will go on this week despite opposition coordinator Riad Hijab’s walking out of the peace talks along with almost all of its delegation on Friday. Defending the decision on Saturday, Hajib said that it had been done “to respect the Syrian blood that is shed under strike from the regime and its allies and to respect the Syrians who are killed of hunger following the siege and to respect Syrians who are killed under torture.” [Reuters]
The Syria peace talks are “in great trouble if we do not act quickly,” UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura warned on Friday, appealing to the US, Russia and regional powers to step in and rescue the process. He confirmed that he will continue the talks into this week. [New York Times’ Nick Cumming-Bruce; Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher]
The US will deploy 250 additional US troops to Syria, President Obama announced today at a technology fair in Germany. The additional forces will bring the number of US troops currently in Syria to around 300. [Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold and Adam Entous; Washington Post’s Missy Ryan et al]
Rockets launched from an Islamic-State controlled area of Syria have hit the Turkish province of Kilis, killing one and injuring numerous others. This is the latest of 45 rocket rounds that have hit Kilis since January 18, according to Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan. [Al Jazeera]
“The world’s wealthiest terror group.” Documents captured during a raid on a compound run by Islamic State’s “no 2 oil executive” Abu Sayyaf in Deir Ezzour province last May reveal how the organization has built a multinational oil operation, and how it “deals with the Syrian regime, handles corruption allegations among top officials, and, most critically, how international coalition strikes have dented but not destroyed Islamic State’s income.” [Wall Street Journal’s Benoit Faucon and Margaret Coker]
In a reflection of the fragility of the anti-Islamic State alliance, Iraqi Kurdish fighters and Shiite militia clashed in northern Iraq on Saturday night, fighting lasting until Sunday afternoon. Each side has blamed the other for the outbreak, which has aggravated tensions in the anti-Islamic State alliance. [Wall Street Journal’s Matt Bradley and Ghassan Adnan; Washington Post’s Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim]
Civilians have been warned not to return to the Iraqi city of Ramadi, retaken from Islamic State by Iraqi forces in December, after dozens have been killed by landmines left there by the militant group. [Al Jazeera]
Meanwhile, small numbers of US volunteers continue to join forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, many of whom are veterans, reports Reuters’ Stephen Kalin.
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
US Cyber Command is mounting computer-network attacks on the Islamic State, marking the first time the six-year old command has undertaken offensive operations against the militant group reports David Sanger in the New York Times.
“How much” data? Fourteen members of the House Judiciary Committee are asking US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to provide a rough estimate of of how much data involving US citizens is collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which authorizes overseas intelligence collection programs that “inevitably” hoover up Americans’ data as well. [The Intercept’s Dan Froomkin]
The Obama administration is likely to release “at least part of” the 28-pages of the congressional inquiry into 9/11 that shed light on Saudi connections to the attacks, reports the AP.
UN-brokered peace talks are “going nowhere” according to reporters covering the talks in Kuwait, which entered their fourth day yesterday. Government and Houthi delegations are a long way from reaching an agreement to end the conflict, and the Houthis are reportedly deliberating over whether they should leave the talks altogether. [Al Jazeera]
Marking a major turn in the civil war, Yemeni forces backed by Saudi-led airstrikes retook the city of al Mukalla, an al-Qaeda stronghold. [New York Times’ Saeed al-Batati et al; Washington Post’s Ali al-Mujahed and Hugh Naylor] The Saudi-led coalition claimed that over 800 al-Qaeda fighters were killed during the advance, according to the Saudi-led coalition. [Reuters]
The PKK is prepared to “escalate the war” against Turkey to meet President Erdogan’s attempts to make it surrender, the party’s leader has told reporters. [BBC]
Meanwhile, the Islamic State’s campaign to kill a number of its critics in Turkey in the past six months, demonstrates its continuing capacity to “strike “beyond its center of gravity despite suffering mounting losses” in Iraq and Syria. [Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor]
North Korea has launched a ballistic missile from a submarine, according to South Korean officials, who say they sighted the launch off North Korea’s east coast on Saturday evening. [Washington Post’s Anna Fifield]
“They’re going to have to do better than that.” President Obama has dismissed the offer but said that the US would consider engaging in conversation with North Korea if Pyongyang demonstrates a serious desire to denuclearize itself. [Wall Street Journal’s Colleen McCain Nelson and Kwanwoo Jun]
Obama in Europe. Following his trip to the UK at the end of last week, during which he urged the UK to remain a part of the EU, President Obama is in Hanover, Germany, today meeting with the “EU top-table,” the UK, Germany, France and Italy. The “G5” group will discuss Syria, the refugee crisis and the rise of Islamic State. However, the meeting is not likely to result in anything concrete, reports Simon Tisdall. [The Guardian]
Obama’s visit to Europe marks a “turnabout” in his thinking, suggests Michael Crowley, who has been accused of not giving the continent the attention it needs. [Politico]
A lawsuit against the creators of the CIA’s torture program has been allowed to proceed, a federal judge in Washington dismissing psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen’s motion to dismiss the civil suit brought against them on behalf of three individuals, one of whom is dead, who were victims of the program. [The Intercept’s Jenna McLaughlin]
House Republicans will offer an amendment to the annual defense policy bill aimed at restricting White House control over foreign policy planning this week, a response to numerous complaints about NSC “micromanaging” of Pentagon and other national security agencies’ decision-making. [Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian]
Russia is creating a new internal security force under the direct control of President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has announced. The Russian Guard will serve to increase control over the arms trade in Russia and streamline counterterrorism efforts. However, security experts say it is “really about upcoming elections and the possibility of mass unrest.” [Wall Street Journal’s Thomas Grove]