The Early Edition: June 23, 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 Islamic State has shown “stubborn resilience” this week despite recent territorial losses in Iraq and Syria, with a successful counteroffensive near Syria’s Raqqa – Islamic State’s “capital” – and ongoing resistance in Fallujah, Iraq, preventing Iraqi special forces from making significant gains there. There have also been renewed clashes between pro-government forces and the Islamic State in Sirte, Libya. [AP’s Philip Issa and Susannah George]

Turkish artillery fire backed by US-led coalition airstrikes has killed at least eight Islamic State fighters in northern Syria, military sources said today. [Reuters’ Tulay Karadeniz et al]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 18 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on June 21. Separately, partner forces conducted 16 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

AFGHANISTAN

American sanctions against Russia are making it hard for the US military to replenish Afghanistan’s air force, Obama’s 2014 order banning business with Russia’s arms industry preventing his administration from purchasing Russian-built Mi-17 transport helicopters, used by Afghanistan. [Wall Street Journal’s Michael M Phillips]

“A broken promise in afghanistan.” Congress is on course to “abruptly close” the Special Immigrant Visa program which allows Afghans who have helped US officials and troops since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, mainly as interpreters, obtain special visas – yet almost 10,000 Afghans are still trying to obtain them, reports Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). [New York Times]

SOUTH CHINA SEA

Indonesia’s President travelled to the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea aboard a warship today, a move designed to “assert sovereignty over the area” following China’s recently stated “overlapping claim” on nearby waters. [Reuters’ Kanupriya Kapoor]

The number of nations supporting China’s position in the case brought by the Philippines over China’s claims in the South China sea is growing daily, according to China’s foreign ministry. While over 40 countries have offered support, according to China, only eight countries have come out publicly, according to Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. [Reuters’ Ben Blanchard]

NORTH KOREA

“We have the sure capability to attack in an overall and practical way the Americans in the Pacific operation there.” North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has been quoted by the nation’s official news agency, KCNA, as claiming that Wednesday’s successful launch of a medium-range Musudan missile means that North Korea is now capable of striking US targets in the Pacific. [The Guardian’s Justin McCurry]  Studying the trajectory of Wednesday’s launch, experts have estimated that the maximum range of a Musudan would include US bases in Japan and Guam. [Wall Street Journal’s Alastair Gale]

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting late last night during which US ambassador Samantha Power called for “urgent and united condemnation” of North Korea’s latest missile tests. After the meeting, France’s deputy UN ambassador informed reporters that the council intends to react quickly and will “very soon” have a press statement which will stress the importance of implementing the latest sanctions on North Korea and the UN’s commitment to a “peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to this situation.” [AP’s Edith M Lederer]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Senate narrowly rejected an increase in FBI surveillance powers yesterday, voting 58-38 on a procedural hurdle, while 60 votes were needed to move forward. The proposal would have allowed the FBI to use “national security letters” to obtain people’s internet browsing history and other information without a warrant during a terrorism or federal intelligence probe. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]

Guantánamo Bay detainee Abdel Malik Wahab al Rahabi, who arrived at the prison camp the day it opened, was delivered to Montenegro by the Pentagon yesterday. After 14 years’ detention, Rahabi has never been charged with a crime. The government of Montenegro released a statement saying its decision to take him, along with another Yemeni detainee, was a “humanitarian gesture.” [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

A recently declassified portion of a 2007 Justice Department memo reveals “a surprising set of CIA rationales” for waterboarding. In the memo, the CIA said it would only torture detainees in order to “psychologically break” them to the point where they would reveal information. The interrogations were not designed to obtain answers to specific questions. Yet this claim is contradicted by the CIA’s actual record, report Shane Harris and Nancy A Youssef. [The Daily Beast]

Russia will likely deploy advanced nuclear-capable missiles in is European exclave Kaliningrad by 2019 as a response to the US-backed missile shield, Russian military sources have predicted. This was probably the plan all along, suggests Andrew Osborn, the US-backed shield simply providing Moscow with the political cover it needs to justify the move. [Reuters]

There is no prospect of a peace deal with Palestine in the near future, Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin said in a speech to the European Parliament yesterday, urging the EU to be patient and to put its weight behind measures that will facilitate future negotiations. [Wall Street Journal’s Joseph Ataman and Laurence Norman]

Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused to disclose who ordered the removal of reference to the Islamic State and its leader from the publicly-released version of a transcript of the 911 call made by Orlando Shooter Omar Mateen, yesterday, citing a wish to avoid providing “a further platform for the propaganda of the killer.” [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman yesterday to discuss ways to improve the situation on the ground in Yemen, in the aftermath of the controversy over the UN’s u-turn on its decision to include the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen on a list of armies accused of killing and maiming children. It was a closed meeting, but anonymous sources have reported that the Saudi delegation questioned the sources the UN had relied on in making its original decision. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta; AP’s Michael Astor]

The Columbian government and FARC rebels agreed a bilateral ceasefire yesterday, the last main step toward ending “one of the world’s longest wars.” The agreement will be signed today by Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono – or “Timochenko” – in Havana. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Chile, and the US special envoy to the almost four-years-old peace talks will be present to witness the signing. [The Guardian]

A man was jailed for spreading images of Islamic State violence today in New Zealand, making him the first person to be imprisoned for circulating and possessing “objectionable material linked to extreme violence.” He was sentenced to three years nine months. [Reuters’ Melanie Burton]

Five foreign workers – three Australians, a New Zealander and a South African – were among a group kidnapped after their convoy was attacked by around 30 gunmen in Akpabuyo district, southeastern Nigeria, yesterday. The identity of the kidnappers is currently unknown, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said. [Wall Street Journal’s Rob Taylor] 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

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