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
“Chilling” abuses by opposition groups in Syria, including some backed by the US, have been documented in a report released by Amnesty International, which is based on interviews with around 70 people living or working in the provinces of Idlib and parts of Aleppo, both areas under the control of insurgents. Torture, abductions, and summary killings were reportedly committed by five armed groups according to the NGO. [AP]
Turkey intends to cooperate with Russia in combating the Islamic State in Syria, it said yesterday. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu denied that he had suggested he would allow Russia to use Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, a key NATO facility close to the Syrian frontier, on Turkish state television the day before. The base is heavily used by the US and other alliance members. [Reuters’ Ece Toksabay and Dmitry Solovyov]
“Spread terror at home rather than join militants across the border in Syria.” Following rare attacks in Jordan recently, Western officials intercepted messages from Islamic State leaders urging its affiliates to attack outside the boundaries of its self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq, a tactic the terrorist organization is increasingly reverting to as it suffers battlefield and territorial setbacks, and attendant losses of sources of income such as oil. Maria Abi-Habib and William Mauldin report for the Wall Street Journal.
The UK’s Iraq Inquiry Committee will release the long-awaited Chilcot report on Britain’s role in the Iraq war tomorrow, seven years and $14 million after it was commissioned. It is likely to be a “definitive assessment” of a conflict which many in Britain see as “the worst foreign policy blunder since the 1956 Suez crisis.” Sewell Chan sets out the likely key issues in the New York Times: intelligence failures, how the military intervention itself was carried out, and decision-making by UK officials – including then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“Saddam has gone, and we have one thousand Saddams now.” With the benefit of hindsight, many Iraqis now mourn the old, pre-2003 Iraq invasion regime. The Baathist dictatorship was calmer and more secure than the Iraq of today, with its “corruption, mismanagement and violence” – caused by the fact that the US and Britain removed a hated dictator without any real plan to rebuild the country they had “broken,” writes Jeremy Bowen of the BBC.
“Wetting” of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers was relatively common practice following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, according to a former captain in the Irish Guards’ statement to the Iraq fatality investigations that are ongoing in the UK. The procedure involved forcing suspected looters into rivers and canals, and reportedly led to the drowning of a number of Iraqis. [The Guardian’s Ian Cobain]
The death toll following the suicide bombing in a Baghdad shopping district on Saturday reached 200 yesterday. Attributed to the Islamic State, the attack is Iraq’s worst single bombing in nearly a decade, reports NBC News. Most of those who died were victims of a huge fire that destroyed shops and several small malls following the detonation of an explosives-laden car in the Karrada area of Baghdad early on Sunday morning. [Washington Post’s Mustafa Salim and Loveday Morris] A video posted by CNN from a drone flying over Baghdad shows the devastation caused by the attack.
Some Iraqis are calling for the resignation of officials, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, with further calls for his ouster likely, according to analysts. [New York Times’ Falih Hassan and Tim Arango]
Iraq’s prime minister has finally ordered the withdrawal of British-made “bomb detectors” proven to be fake a long time ago following Saturday’s car-bomb in Baghdad. The fake detectors were sold to the Iraqis between 2007-10, netting UK businessman James McCormick enormous profits – and a 10-year jail sentence for fraud. The “wand-like devices” have been widely used at security checkpoints, embassies, compounds and government ministries throughout the country. [Washington Post’s Mustafa Salim and Loveday Morris; The Guardian’s Martin Chulov]
Iraq executed five convicted terrorists in Baghdad yesterday, its Justice Ministry has announced. [AP]
Five of the 13 hostages rescued from Saturday’s attack on a restaurant in Dhaka’s capital were still being held by authorities on Monday. It is not clear whether they are simply being held for further questioning in the hope that they will shed light on the attack, or whether they are suspects. Commandos also captured one of the attackers and killed six others when they stormed the restaurant. The attack left 28 dead in total. [AP]
Most of the attackers came from “privileged backgrounds, and were educated in top schools,” and did not fit the “typical profile” for religious radicals “coming from economically deprived backgrounds and latching onto extremist groups that promised a new future,” writes Katy Daigle for the AP. According to police, the attackers that were killed by paramilitary forces were members of banned domestic group Jumatul Mujahadeen Bangladesh (JMB). They are investigating the possibility of links with the Islamic State.
Bangladesh’s home minister rejected the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the attack, speaking on Sunday, reiterating the government’s position that domestic militants were responsible for this and numerous other killings in Bangladesh over the past 18 months, reports the Washington Post.
The bodies of seven Japanese people killed in the attack were flown back to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport today, reports the AP.
NATO and Russia are “each building up their military capabilities across eastern Europe,” reports Reuters, following a visit to Kaliningrad, Russia’s “strategic centrepiece.” Located between Poland and Lithuania, much of the military activity going on there reportedly indicates that Russia is “preparing to station new missiles” there and intends to “build a web of anti-aircraft systems” to challenge NATO aircraft.
The US has failed to adapt to Russia’s “more antagonistic stance,” writes Josh Rogin in the Washington Post, and the US-Russia relationship is “failing” as a result. A case in point is last week’s announcement that the Obama administration is proposing increased military cooperation with Russia in Syria, in exchange for Moscow agreeing to abide by a cease-fire it has already agreed to. That is, Washington is offering Moscow “both a reprieve from the political and military isolation it imposed after the invasion of Ukraine – and a reward for taking unilateral military action designed to undermine US policy in Syria.”
SOUTH CHINA SEA
Beijing began a week of military drills in the South China Sea this morning, deploying at least two guided missile destroyers and one missile frigate, among other vessels, to the region. [The Guardian’s Tom Phillips]
Vietnam has protested against the drills, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Hai Binh posting a statement on the ministry’s website late yesterday that China’s moves are a serious violation of Vietnamese sovereignty and demanding that China stops the drills. [AP]
Chinese and Japanese fighter jets were involved in a confrontation over the South China Sea last month, China’s defense ministry has confirmed. According to Beijing, two Chinese jets were carrying out routine patrol when two Japanese fighters approached them at high speed. [AP]
Philippines v China: why is the case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague so important? Ben Westcott explains how the decision, due to be handed down on July 12, will have “major, lasting implications for one of the world’s biggest potential flashpoints – the South China Sea.” [CNN]
China should prepare itself for military confrontation in the South China Sea, a major Chinese newspaper said today as tensions rise ahead of the July 12 ruling. [Reuters’ Ben Blanchard] Following the publishing of the story in the state-run Global Times, China’s government has sought to downplay fears of a conflict in the South China Sea, officials insisting that the Chinese government is committed to peace. [Reuters’ Ben Blanchard and Megha Rajagopalan]
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
The perpetrators of an attack in a mall in Tel Aviv last month were inspired by the Islamic State, Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet has said. The two cousins, from a village in the West Bank, were captured at the scene after they open fired with homemade rifles, killing four Israeli civilians. They were not “officially recruited” to the Islamic State, nor did they receive “any guidance or assistance,” the agency added. [Washington Post’s William Booth]
The UN has denounced Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes and its plans to build new houses for Israeli settlers, saying it raises questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, as both sides lose faith in a two-state solution.
The US discarded plans to provide Afghan troops with 300 extra armored vehicles as they prepared to take on the Taliban without NATO support in 2014, documents seen by Reuters’ Josh Smith indicate. The decision was made for budgetary reasons, and “remains a sore point.”
A South American airline has issued an alert on former Guantánamo Bay detainee, Syrian native Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was resettled in Uruguay. His whereabouts have been unknown for some weeks, though Uruguayan authorities are insisting that he is visiting Brazil. The Brazilian government denies that there is any record of him entering the country. [AP’s Mauricio Savarese and Leonardo Haberkorn]
Suicide bombers struck three locations in Saudi Arabia yesterday. One of Islam’s holiest shrines, in Medina, was targeted, resulting in the three deaths. Attacks on a mosque in the eastern city of Qatif, home to many of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority, and an earlier attack close to the US Consulate in the city of Jidda, killed only the attackers. The Islamic State is reported to have claimed responsibility for the bombings. [Washington Post’s Liz Sly; New York Times’ Ben Hubbard]
Turkey has jailed 17 suspected of involvement in last week’s attack on Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, most of whom are foreigners. These arrests bring the total number in jail awaiting trial over the attack to 30. Turkey’s President Erdogan has described the triple-suicide attack as the work of Islamic State militants from the ex-Soviet Union, reports Reuters’ Daren Butler.
French intelligence services need to be overhauled following last year’s Paris terror attacks, a French parliamentary commission of inquiry has recommended. The commission has said that a lack of communication between different entities was to blame for the attacks not being prevented. [BBC]
A suicide bomber riding a motorcycle attacked a police station in Solo, Indonesia, this morning, killing himself and wounding a police officer, reports Reuters.
A bomb attack on a bar in Malaysia last week was the work of the Islamic State, Malaysian authorities have said, calling it the first Islamic State attack in Malaysia. [BBC]
Suspects detained last month in Iran in relation to a major terror plot have links with the Islamic State, Iranian state TV said Monday. It said they were recruited in Iraq, Syria, and another country, and began planning attacks in Tehran in 2015, on the promise of $1 million for each attack. [AP]
WikiLeaks published over 1,000 emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server yesterday, identifying all that referred to the Iraq War. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said last month that his website had gathered “enough evidence” for the FBI to indict Clinton. [The Hill’s Tim Devaney] Hillary Clinton was interviewed by the FBI on Saturday morning. [Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti and Kristen East]