The Early Edition: May 10, 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 process. The Syrian government extended the ceasefire by another 48 hours on Monday, in spite of which fierce fighting has so-far continued in the city of Aleppo. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking from Paris, warned that the extension was “words on a piece of paper.  They are not actions,” and that it will be up to the commanders in the field and interested parties to put them into action. [Washington Post’s Carol Morello and Hugh Naylor]

Earlier, officials from the US and Russia agreed to work together to revive a cessation of hostilities originally brokered in February, during a meeting in Paris, France. Secretary of State John Kerry also joined talks held by the “Friends of Syria” – including representatives from European countries, the EU, the UAE, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey – who were meeting to try to relaunch the Syrian peace process. [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz]

Airstrikes in northwestern Syria have today killed at least ten people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees. It is unclear whether the warplanes were Russian or Syrian. [AP]

“Double standards as well as shortsighted indulgence of those who nurture criminal plans are impermissible.” President Putin’s remarks during Russia’s annual Victory Day celebrations, in which it marks its defeat of Germany at the end of WWII, may have been a “swipe” at the West, particularly the US, and its support for rebel groups in Syria which Russia designates as terrorists, suggests Andrew Higgins. [New York Times]

The Russian army in Syria is “bigger and more sophisticated” than most would think, reports Frederik Pleitgen, who was one of over 100 journalists flown to Palmyra by the Russians last week to witness Moscow’s role in liberating the historic city. What is more, “it does not look like an army that plans on leaving Syria any time soon.” [CNN]

Capt. Nathan Michael Smith sued President Obama last week over his military campaigns in Iraq and Syria, making the case that they are illegal unless explicitly authorized by Congress. The New York Times editorial board discusses the case and the Obama administration’s “thin legal rational” for its use of military force in Iraq and Syria.

Contradictions and inconsistencies in the UK government’s justification for drone strikes in Syria have prompted a parliamentary committee to call for “urgent clarification.” Drone strikes in Syria killed two UK citizens last year. [BBC]

A senior Islamic State commander has been killed in US-led airstrikes in Iraq. Abu Wahib, who appeared in Islamic State execution videos and who had been a member of the Islamic State’s precursor group since the US occupation in Iraq, was killed on May 6 alongside three of his colleagues, the Pentagon said. [Reuters; BBC]

A suicide bomb in a city close to Baghdad has killed at least 13 people, Iraqi officials said today.  Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. [AP]

The UK’s Chilcot report is to be published on July 6, following an inquiry into Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was done despite a lack of support from the UK public and on the basis of what turned out to be misinformation about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq at the time. The release of the report, of an inquiry which was set up seven years ago, in 2009, and last held public hearings in 2011, has been repeatedly delayed. [Washington Post’s Adam Taylor; The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition airstrikes carried out nine airstrikes against Islamic State targets on May 9. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 16 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

EUROPEAN TERROR THREAT

Three suspects on trial in Belgium for alleged involvement in a foiled terror plot were sent back to Belgium from Syria by Islamic State in 2014, according to evidence revealed on the first day of their trial yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Dalton]

One man has died and three others have been injured in a stabbing attack near Munich, Germany this morning, the perpetrator, a 27-year-old German man, reportedly shouting “Allahu akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”). Police are treating the attack as potentially Islamist. [BBC; New York Times’ Melissa Eddy]

Italian police have arrested two Afghan citizens in connection with a terrorism and human trafficking investigation, and have issued arrest warrants for three others. [AP]

France is to establish “anti-jihadist rehabilitation centers” in each of its regions by the end of 2017, Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced yesterday. [Politico’s Vince Chadwick]

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban insurgents overran two checkpoints in Helmand province today, killing at least 15 Afghan policemen, officials said. Reuters reports.

A joint US-Afghan raid has rescued the son of a former Pakistani prime minister who has been in Taliban captivity for the past three years, officials said. [AP]

The Taliban has claimed it shot down a US drone in Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border. [Washington Post’s Antonio Olivo]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Guantánamo Bay parole board has approved the release of Yemeni “forever prisoner” Salem bin Kanad, following his fifth review. Bin Kanad, who has been detained at the prison since 2002, will be released to “an Arabic speaking country with a rehabilitation program or reintegration program.” [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

A US warship navigated the South China Sea today as a counter to China’s territorial claims there. The USS William P Lawrence sailed within 12 nautical miles of Fiery Cross Reef, a disputed land mass on which China has built a 10,000-foot runway, a port, and other military facilities in recent years. This was the third such operation in less than a year. [Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold; Reuters’ Michael Martina and Greg Torode]

A bomb attack on a university in southwestern Pakistan has killed at least two police officers and wounded five people, according to a provincial official. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. [AP]

Two elderly Israeli women have been stabbed in Jerusalem by masked attackers, who were arrested during the ensuing manhunt, according to Israeli police. They have not released details of the alleged attackers. [AP]

Islamic State now claims affiliates in countries far beyond the Middle East, including Nigeria, Russia and Afghanistan. Karen Leigh, Jason French and Jovi Juan provide a look at some of them, their ties to one another and their varying natures. [Wall Street Journal]

“The lie exposes the truth. Obama wanted the deal (almost) no matter what.” The President’s speech-writer revealed how he had deceived the press over when negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program actually began in an interview last week: not when the more moderate current regime took over, but before that, when the previous “more recalcitrant hard-liners” were in power. This shows Obama wanted the deal more than Iran did, observes Richard Cohen. [Washington Post]

An alleged cyber hacker accused of stealing “massive quantities” of sensitive data from the US Federal Reserve, and who is fighting extradition from the UK to the US, will not have to hand over passwords to his encrypted devices to UK law enforcement, a court has decided in a landmark decision, reports Jamie Grierson. [The Guardian]

A “mock terror attack” training exercise was staged at a busy shopping centre in Manchester, UK, last night, involving over 800 volunteers. A video has been published by the Guardian.

Emails and text messages to and from Bryan Pagliano to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton from the time she was in office are “missing,” according to the State Department, responding to a FOIA lawsuit brought by the Republican National Committee. Pagliano was responsible for setting up and maintaining Clinton’s private email server. He has reportedly struck an immunity deal with the Justice Department to help the FBI in its investigations into Clinton’s treatment of classified messages. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein; The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris]

 “George W Bush is still right on Iraq.” In this sense, anyway: he understood that when US soldiers are sent to war, their commander in chief is obliged to win that war, says William McGurn, mourning what he says is the replacement of that principle in this year’s presidential election with “a new, bipartisan orthodoxy which holds that the only thing that matters about Iraq is Mr Bush’s 2003 decision to invade it.” [Wall Street Journal]

The impression that North Korea has been rapidly developing its nuclear capabilities is illusory, say Joel S Wit and Sun Young Ahn of SIAS, which conducted an extensive study last year called the “North Korea Nuclear Future’s Project.” The current nuclear weapons program is actually the “predictable” result of years of preparation, North Korea having simply chosen to step up its advertising more recently. [CNN] 

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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