The Early Edition: May 11, 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

A car bomb attack targeted a predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood in Baghdad today, killing at least 70 people and wounding dozens, according to Iraqi officials. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. [Reuters]

Fresh airstrikes targeting the town of Binnish, in Idlib province in the northwest of Syria, have killed at least 14 people today, with fighting also continuing around Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Al Jazeera]

States supporting the Syria peace process must prevent the warring parties from attacking hospitals and other unlawful targets, the UN warned today. [Reuters’ Tom Miles]

Turkish special operations forces carried out a raid against ISIS fighters in Syria over the weekend, part of efforts to push the militants away from an important stretch of the Turkey-Syria border, US officials said today. [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum]

An “unlikely alliance” has formed between an Arab tribal force and a leftist Kurdish group in northern Iraq, a “measure of the extent to which Islamic State has upended the regional order.” [Reuters’ Isabel Coles]

“Suspicion and hostility” could cast a shadow over the fight to reclaim Mosul, Iraq from the Islamic State. Martin Chulov provides the details. [The Guardian] 

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out two strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on May 9. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 27 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

“But the danger is that this will become a simplistic, mob-rule pursuit of Blair himself.” Jackie Ashley argues for why the Chilcot report on the Iraq war should not be used to blame the UK’s involvement in Iraq on “one man” – former prime minister Tony Blair. [The Guardian]

GUANTANAMO BAY

Classified information was accidentally revealed during a Guantánamo Bay military commission hearing for the 9/11 defendants in February, which later appeared on computers used by defense lawyers, prosecutors, and the judge, according to a court filing that has recently been released. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]

The judge who imposed a no-touch order on female guards at Guantánamo Bay has said that he will expedite the lifting of the order if the Pentagon takes “appropriate action to absolve any taint” caused by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr.’s previous criticism of the order, though he has not specified what the officials must do. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Cybersecurity, privacy and national security experts were summoned to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday to explain the possible implications of reauthorizing a law which the NSA says allows it to gather online communications from sites such as Facebook and Google. The NSA uses programs PRISM and Upstream, which are aimed at “foreign targets” but also dredge up “a potentially vast” amount of non-public data involving innocent US citizens. [The Intercept’s Jenna McLaughlin]

Capitol Hill is being held to ransom by hackers infiltrating its computers, encrypting their contents, and then forcing users to pay a ransom for the encryption passwords. [The Intercept’s Jenna McLaughlin; The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams]

A lawsuit alleging that the Obama administration is illegally dragging its heels over responding to FOIA requests has been filed by conservative watchdog group the Cause of Action Institute. The group believes the requests are being forced through often lengthy review processes by White House lawyers. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]

YEMEN

The ceasefire in Yemen is being threatened by a steep escalation in violence over the past few days, but even if the government-Houthi negotiations succeed, Yemenis say the “vicious fighting, past broken promises and deepening divisions” may lead them into another, even uglier war, reports Kareem Fahim. [New York Times]

The identity of an al-Qaeda bomb-making instructor has been revealed: Anwar al-Awlaki, the US imam who joined the Islamist group in Yemen and became its leading English-speaking propagandist. Al-Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in 2011 – the first US citizen to be killed without criminal charges or trial in the fight against terrorism. The revelations were made in court documents relating to the case of Minh Quang Pham, a British al-Qaeda operative currently on trial. [New York Times’ Scott Shane and Benjamin Weiser]

EUROPEAN TERROR THREAT

Islamic State appears to have infiltrated asylum centers in Rome, Italy, a number of recent arrests indicate. On Tuesday, Italian police entered the Bari-Palese CARA Refugee Reception Center in Puglia and arrested an Afghani national on international terrorism charges, while other arrests took place in camps elsewhere. [The Daily Beast’s Barbie Latza Nadeau]

Germany plans to increase the size of its armed forces for the first time since WWII, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced yesterday. She said the decision was prompted by Russian aggression and fear of terrorist attacks. [Wall Street Journal’s Anton Troianovski]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A Palestinian teenager was convicted of two accounts of attempted murder by an Israeli court yesterday, for his role in a stabbing attack in East Jerusalem last October. Both perpetrator and victim were 13 at the time of the attack. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]

Israeli police have begun a manhunt for the attackers of two elderly women in Jerusalem yesterday. Two men were arrested yesterday in an Arab area of East Jerusalem, but released shortly afterwards. [AP]

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL CONTROVERSY

A long-time aide to Hillary Clinton momentarily left an FBI interrogation because she was being questioned on an “off-topic issue” recently, indicating the “tension” around the FBI probe, suggests Matt Zapotosky. Cheryl Mills served as chief of staff while Clinton was secretary of state. [Washington Post]

Sensitive information is “routinely” emailed on unclassified government servers, a recently released train of emails involving numerous officials, including former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, has revealed, reports Steven Lee Myers. [New York Times]

AFGHANISTAN 

The son of a former Pakistani prime minister has been flown home after he was rescued from Taliban captivity during a joint US-Afghan raid yesterday. [AP’s Zaheer Baber and Rahim Faiez]

Eleven tons of ammonium nitrate have been seized at the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan; the chemical, which is used for making bombs, was found hidden under fruit crates in a truck coming from Pakistan, the Afghan government said yesterday. [NBC News’ Melanie De Lima and F. Brinley Bruton]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Obama will become the first US president to visit Hiroshima when he makes a “historically symbolic” visit at the end of this month. The trip could signal a transformation in US-Japan relations, or it could “open old wounds” dating back to the US’ detonation of a nuclear bomb there at the close of WWII, which killed over 100,000 people. Both Japan and the US are keen to avoid the impression that the visit is an apology for the bombing, report Gardiner Harris et al. [New York Times]

The visit will provide Obama with a major opportunity to put forward “some tangible new initiatives to advance his vision of a nuclear-free world,” write the New York Times editorial board, as well as a chance to “improve his credibility” on this issue, which has been marred by such moves as his support for a $1 trillion progam to rebuild the US nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years.

US prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for the man accused of orchestrating the attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. Ahmed Abu Khattalah is awaiting trial on murder charges. [Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett]

Iran has taken delivery of a Russian air-defense missile system, its defense minister announced yesterday. The S-300 system is part of an arms deal between the two nations, reinstated following the framework nuclear agreement reached last year. [Washington Post’s Andrew Roth]

The most detailed information yet about how Islamic State recruited almost a dozen men from Minneapolis around two years ago is expected to be revealed during the trial of three Somali-Americans, part of a group accused of plotting to join the Islamist organization. Six others have already pleaded guilty. [NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston]

“We must be careful not to fall into the trap of putting in place policies and procedures that normalize and legitimize extrajudicial killing,” argues Chris Cole following yesterday’s publication by the UK Parliament’s joint committee on human rights of a report on the use of armed drones for targeted killing, and its Chair’s suggestion that an independent body be set up to which military force which takes place outside of conventional armed conflict can be referred. [The Guardian]

The likely appointment of Rodrigo “the Punisher” Duterte as the Philippines’ next president may have “a major impact” on the deadlock in the South China Sea, writes Emily Rauhala. Very little is known about Duterte’s policy on China. [Washington Post]

Five Australians have been arrested for allegedly planning to join Islamic State by sailing a small boat to Indonesia and the Philippines before making their way to Syria, Australian officials have said. [BBC; Reuters’ Matt Siegel]

The US can’t fix the Middle East, according to James Clapper, director of national intelligence, endorsing President Obama’s view. [Washington Post’s David Ignatius]

“An inane jumble of jingoistic sloganeering.” The annual defense budget is exposing a rift between the Republican party’s national security wing and presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump over approaches to foreign policy, report Spencer Ackerman and Sabrina Siddiqui. [The Guardian] 

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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