The Early Edition: April 29, 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

Syria peace talks. “Bombs hitting hospitals, doctors and rescue workers killed, civilians starving, scored of dead and injured every day – the raw, bleeding statistics of Syria’s unending war are making a nonsense of an already fragile truce and destroying the slim hopes that peace talks can even carry on.” Ian Black gives a frank assessment of the fraught situation in Syria, at the Guardian.

Moscow has charged the US with violating Syria’s sovereignty, by sending special forces to the country without coordination with Damascus. [Reuters]

A “regime of calm” is to be enforced in Syria’s Latakia and Damascus regions from 1am April 30, lasting 72 and 24 hours respectively, according to a Syrian military statement. Aleppo was not mentioned in the statement. [Reuters’ Lisa Barrington; AP]  The agreement is sponsored by the US and Russia. [Reuters]

Vice President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Iraq yesterday, for the first time in close to five years, and at a time when “the country’s political leadership is mired in yet another crisis.” [New York Times’ Gardiner Harris; Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee and Matt Bradley]  Iraq’s political turmoil is such that some have suggested that partition may be the only way forward for the country. Tim Arango reports. [New York Times]

Biden emphasized the “serious” progress being made against the Islamic State during his visit. Nolan D. McCaskill discusses the vice president’s agenda for the trip at Politico.

Congress is attempting to use its budgetary powers to micromanage the fight against ISIS, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. [Politico]

The American-led coalition against ISIS does not have the Sunni Arab forces it needs to reclaim the militant group’s de facto capital, Raqqa, according to Gen Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Wall Street Journal’s Paul Sonne]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out seven strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on April 27. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 15 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

“Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan: the world’s most-needed hospitals are under attack.” Julie Vitkovskaya discusses the attack on al-Quds hospital in Aleppo on Wednesday night, which killed one of the area’s last pediatricians. [Washington Post]  And Jason Beaubien asks whether the rules of war are eroding, in light of the hospital bombing. [NPR]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israeli Prime Minister has rejected a French proposal to break the deadlock in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, Netanyahu saying that the two sides should speak directly and not through a third party. [Wall Street Journal’s Rory Jones; The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont]

The Obama administration has proposed giving Israel the biggest military aid package ever provided by America to another nation – which could top $40 billion – but the deal is facing challenges due the fraught relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. [New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis]

EUROPEAN TERROR THREAT

Three men, including two British men, have been charged with funding the November Paris attacks, supplying funds to suspect Mohamed Abrini. [The Guardian’s Vikram Dodd]  The three men were originally detained almost two weeks ago as part of an investigation involving French and Belgian authorities. [Wall Street Journal’s Alexis Flynn]

Italian authorities detained four individuals on suspicion of having links to Islamic State yesterday, one of whom received instructions to carry out attacks in Rome, according to Italian prosecutors. [Wall Street Journal’s Manuela Mesco and Giovanni Legorano]

Belgian police have been aware since mid-2014 that the Abdeslam brothers planned to carry out an “irreversible act,” a report into Belgium’s response to the November Paris attacks has revealed. Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up in Paris, and Salah Abdeslam is due to stand trial for murder and membership of a terrorist organization. [Politico’s Giulia Paravicini and Laurens Cerulus]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

“The fear that causes self-censorship is well beyond the realm of theory.” Glenn Greenwald discusses a newly published study that demonstrates how mass surveillance breeds “fear and conformity and stifles free expression.” [The Intercept]

The Supreme Court has approved changes to make it easier for the FBI to hack computers. Jenna McLaughlin provides the details at The Intercept.  And Sen Ron Wyden is pushing to block the Justice Department’s request, after the Supreme Court’s approval of the proposal. [The Hill]

NORTH KOREA

The UN Security Council is “preparing a response” to North Korea’s mid-range missile tests yesterday, a spokesperson reportedly calling the violations of UN sanctions “deeply troubling.” [BBC]

A US citizen has been sentenced to ten years’ hard labor by North Korea today, for spying and other offenses. [New York Times’ Choe Sang-Hun]

North Korea accused US soldiers of “hooliganism” and “disgusting” acts designed to provoke its frontline troops at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom, via a military statement today. [AP’s Hyung-Jin Kim]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Iran has asked the UN to induce the US to stop violating state immunity following the US Supreme Court decision to use $2 billion of seized Iranian central bank assets to compensate American terror victims, Iran’s Foreign Minister calling the decision an “outrageous robbery” in a letter addressed to the UN’s Secretary General. [Reuters; New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

Disciplinary measures have been taken against sixteen military personnel over the bombing of a Médecines Sans Frontières hospital in Afghanistan last October that left 42 dead, according to officials. The Pentagon is due to release a full report on the incident today. [BBC; AP]

“Ground truth may be elusive, but it exists.” May Jeong describes the events leading up to and following the US airstrike on the Kunduz-based hospital. [The Intercept]

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in eastern Saudi Arabia this morning, which caused a “minor injury” to a policeman, Saudi officials have said. [AP]

Russian and Chinese foreign ministers expressed mutual support in the face of “outside interference” in the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula today. The ministers were speaking after talks in Beijing. [AP’s Christopher Bodeen]

“Shared Responsibility Committees.” An FBI letter discloses details of plans to create committees of community members including social workers and religious figures tasked with intervening with individuals identified by the FBI as being in danger of radicalization. [The Intercept’s Cora Currier and 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