The Early Edition: July 19, 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.

TURKEY

Secretary of State John Kerry joined EU leaders in warning Turkey to stick to the rule of law in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt last Friday, both the US and the EU promising to increase vigilance over President Erdogan’s government in the ensuing days. Kerry was speaking after a meeting with all 28 of the EU’s foreign ministers. [Politico’s Maïa de la Baume]

Turkey’s relationship with NATO will also depend on whether it continues to meet the alliance’s requirements for democracy and the rule of law in the coming days. Turkey is a key part of NATO, reports Adam Taylor for the Washington Post. The third-largest NATO country, it has the second highest number of military personnel, after the US. Its geographical location, atop the Middle East, is also vital. The coup, and the subsequent purge of military, police and civil service personnel, calls into question not only Turkey’s suitability as a NATO partner, but its continuing capabilities.

International military and diplomatic leaders including Turkey’s foreign minister are due to meet in Washington this week to discuss the fight against the Islamic State. Felicia Schwartz writes that they will meet under a “cloud of uncertainty” following the coup, but Obama is determined to keep the offensive on track and to find ways to speed up operations during the meeting. [Wall Street Journal]

The crackdown on military officials has been expanded to include police, judges, governors and civil servants, Turkey’s interior ministry suspending almost 9,000 employees yesterday, raising the total number of bureaucrats fired or detained to almost 20,000. [Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham and Hugh Naylor]

Turkish courts have ordered 85 generals and admirals jailed pending trial for their roles in the failed coup, including alleged ringleader Gen. Akin Ozturk, and Gen. Adem Hududi, commander of Turkey’s 2nd Army, which is responsible for countering possible threats to Turkey from Syria, Iran and Iraq. [AP]

The plotters of the coup were under investigation before they acted, and they knew it, according to Turkish officials, who say that the knowledge made them act early out of fear they would be stopped. [Al Jazeera]

Turkey’s National Security Council will convene tomorrow, following which the Council of Ministers will “announce an important decision,” President Erdogan said yesterday, refusing to reveal further details, according to the Hürriyet Daily News

Erdogan has said he is prepared to reinstate the death penalty in Turkey if the people demand it and the necessary legislation is passed. EU officials have said that Turkey’s bid to join the EU will end if he does so. [AP]

Cleric Fethullah Gulen has entreated the Obama administration not to give in to calls for his extradition to Turkey, which he has said are based on “the enmity of a regime” that is recognized world-wide as “dictatorial.” In an email to the Wall Street Journal, Gulen – accused by Turkey’s President Erdogan of instigating the coup – also said that, if he were to be returned to Turkey, he is prepared to “face the gallows,” reports Jay Solomon.

There are two widely divergent views of cleric Fethullah Gulen within the Obama administration, reports Jay Solomon for the Wall Street Journal. The man Turkey’s President has accused is viewed by some as an ageing, harmless individual, while others see him as a shrewd political operator and businessman, who, before he came to the US over 15 years ago, built a large-scale religious movement in Turkey. “Gulenists” have played central roles in attempts to weaken both the Turkish military and President Erdogan’s government, according to US officials.

“Would Turkey be justified in dispatching a weaponized drone over Pennsylvania to find and kill Gulen?” That was the question raised by Col. Morris Davis – former chief prosecutor of Guantánamo’s military commissions who resigned in protest over the use of torture-obtained evidence – on Sunday, and which Glenn Greenwald endeavors to answer in The Intercept.

WikiLeaks will release documents on Turkey’s political power structure following the failed coup attempt, it said on Monday via Twitter. The first batch, it said, will include thousands of emails and documents, mostly in Turkish. WikiLeaks believes the Turkish government will attempt to censor the distribution. [Al Jazeera]

The eight Turkish military personnel who fled to Greece have appeared before immigration authorities for interviews about their asylum applications today, the AP reports.

IRAQ and SYRIA

UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go if the war is to end, Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian. Johnson is due to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry today. He said he would be “making clear” his view that Assad must go and that the international community, including Russia, “must be united on this.”

US-led airstrikes killed at least 21 civilians on Syria on Monday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Strikes on Manbij killed 15, and a further six were killed in the nearby village of Tokhar. The total number of civilians killed in coalition airstrikes on Manbij since May 31 is now at 104, Al Jazeera reports.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 12 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 17. Separately, partner forces conducted 11 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

NICE

French prosecutors revealed further details of the life and character of Lahouaiej Bouhlel, perpetrator of last week’s terror attack in Nice, yesterday. Data discovered on his computer reportedly included images of militants draped in Islamic State flags, and other terrorist group-related pictures, indicating a recent and rapidly developing interest in jihadism. There is no evidence so far that he actively pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, report William Horobin and Stacy Meichtry for the Wall Street Journal.

The moment’s silence for the victims of Nice’s terror attack yesterday was cut short as cries of “resign, resign” erupted from the crowd, directed at France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was present. [New York Times’ Alissa J. Rubin and Aurelien Breeden]  The incident was an example of the growing criticism of France’s government precipitated by last week’s terror attack, particularly from political opponents. [France 24]

SOUTH CHINA SEA

China will continue to build on South China Sea islands, ignoring foreign opposition, China’s navy chief told US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson on Monday during a meeting in Beijing, according to China’s state media. [Wall Street Journal’s Chun Han Wong]

The Philippines has rejected a Chinese offer to hold talks “outside of and in disregard” of the recent international tribunal’s ruling discrediting China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. told his Chinese counterpart that the condition was “not consistent with our constitution and our national interest.” Wang Yi, China’s foreign secretary, reportedly told him that “we might be headed for a confrontation” if the Philippines insists on China’s compliance to the decision. Jim Gomez reports for the AP.

IRAN

Iran’s ballistic missile launches are not consistent with the spirit of the nuclear deal, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said in a report released yesterday, in which he also called for Iran to “refrain from conducting such launches.” [The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel]  Ban also called for implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA – under which Iran reaffirmed it would not seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons. [UN News Centre]

Iran intends to expand its uranium enrichment program after the first 10 years of the nuclear deal, as limits on the 15-year accord ease in the coming years, a document obtained by the AP reveals. The document was submitted by Iran’s “negotiators and experts” to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Islamic State has claimed a 17-year old Afghan asylum seeker suspected of attacking German commuters with an ax and a knife yesterday was one of its “fighters,” via its news agency in the hours after the attack. Five people were injured in the attack, while the suspect was shot dead by police. Stephanie Kirchner and Michael Birnbaum report for the Washington Post.  Investigators searching the suspect’s home found a “self-drawn IS flag,” Bavaria’s Interior Minister said today. [Wall Street Journal’s Ulrike Dauer and Anton Troianovski]

The first day of a 9/11 pre-trial hearing at Guantánamo Bay was delayed over a secret filing to the trial judge by attorneys for defendant Walid Bin Attash , prompting judge Army Col. James L Pohl to take the unusual step of ordering a closed session, which was then adjourned to today. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Vice President Joe Biden met with Australia’s prime minister and other leaders in Australia today to reassert America’s intention to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Biden is on a tour of the Pacific, part of US efforts to remain a “Pacific power,” says the AP.

British MPs voted to renew the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system by 472 votes to 117 yesterday. [BBC]

The Afghan Taliban’s leader has dismissed reports that the group has been weakened following its change of leadership in May, insisting that it intends to launch new operations after Ramadan – which also accounts for the natural slow-down in the group’s operations, while its members fast during one of the hottest periods of the year. [Reuters’ James MacKenzie]

The New York Times is due in federal court today as part of a lawsuit seeking to force the Pentagon to release copies of over 1,000 work-related emails sent by Defense Secretary Ash Carter from his personal account. The lawsuit was filed in May, and is part of the ongoing saga over government officials’ use of private email, reports Austin Wright for Politico.

The FBI will start sending the “several thousand” deleted work-related emails sent through Hillary Clinton’s private email server during her time as secretary of state to the State Department on a “rolling” basis starting Friday, government lawyers have said. [The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams]

Indonesia is “99 per cent” sure its most-wanted militant and Islamic State supporter “Santaso” was killed in a fight with security forces yesterday, a senior government official said today. [Reuters’ Kanupriya Kapoor]

Militants have attacked and seized an army base in the Malian town of Nampala today, the deputy mayor of a nearby town has reported. The army is regrouping and preparing a counter-attack. [Reuters’ Adama Diarra et al]

North Korea fired three ballistic missiles today, six days after South Korea confirmed the location for the US THAAD missile defense system, Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times. The missiles were fired from Hwangju, south of Pyongyang, early this morning, flying 310-370 miles before landing in the sea off North Korea’s coast, according to the South Korean military.

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About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

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