The Early Edition: July 20, 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

Over 50,000 people have now been rounded up in the crackdown following last week’s failed coup in Turkey, the purge widening to include teachers, academics and the media. [BBC] More than 15,000 teachers were suspended yesterday, and all university deans were requested to resign their posts. The powers of the military are also expected to be curbed, reports Loveday Morris for the Washington Post, and the purge seems likely to continue to escalate: President Erdoğan’s “important decision,” promised yesterday, is due to be revealed today.

The Turkish government is planning to establish a special court for trying coup plotters, and build a special prison for those convicted, according to Hürriyet Daily News. 

Erdoğan returned to capital Ankara late last night to chair the National Security Council meeting, to be convened at noon local time today, and then a cabinet meeting, during which the Council’s advisory decisions with be discussed.

The Turkish parliament intends to launch a “comprehensive probe” into the July 15 coup attempt next week, reports Hürriyet Daily News, quoting a ruling party official.

Two Turkish pilots involved in the downing of a Russian jet in November last year are in custody in connection with the coup, according to an official. The downing of the jet on the Syrian border caused a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin called Erdoğan on July 17, report AFP, to voice his hopes for a quick return to stability in Turkey and describing the attempted coup as unacceptable.

Hundreds of Erdoğan’s supporters gathered in Istanbul for the fifth day in a row yesterday, calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty and reportedly shouting “we want executions!” [AP]

President Obama urged Erdoğan to conduct itself in ways that reinforce public confidence in democracy and the rule of law, and offered US assistance in investigating the coup, speaking to Turkey’s president on the phone yesterday. Erdoğan’s authoritarian response to the coup so far has put him at odds with Obama, writes Nahal Toosi for Politico, yet Turkey remains an important US ally.

Turkey sent the US a “cache” of documents intended as evidence that Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind the coup, yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Carol E Lee]  The four dossiers of evidence do not include charges, since the investigation is ongoing, according to Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ. However, Ankara has also reportedly applied to the US Justice Department for the arrest of Gulen before his extradition. [Hürriyet Daily News]

Right-wing daily newspaper Yeni Safak prefers to pin the blame for the coup on Washington, reports Ishaan Tharoor for the Washington Post. The paper claims the US planned the coup via the “Gulen terror organization and tried to cause a civil war.”

Access to the WikiLeaks website has been blocked by Turkey hours after it leaked almost 300,000 ruling party emails dating from 2010 to July 6 this year. The emails are not connected to the coup plotters or to any rival political party or state, WikiLeaks confirmed. [Reuters]

“How can we credibly go to war with a NATO ally in coalition operations when that ally’s army is at war with itself?” Michael Weiss at The Daily Beast adds his voice to projections that Turkey’s failed coup could have a major impact on US-Turkish military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The putschists appear to have used a key NATO installation the Incirlik air base in Turkey to launch the aerial part – led by Turkish air force officers, since arrested – of their plot.

IRAQ and SYRIA

The US-led coalition has been blamed for airstrikes in northern Syria which led to the deaths of at least 56 civilians yesterday. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 11 children were killed, and dozens more people were wounded, in the area north of the Islamic State-held city of Manbij. US-backed forces began an offensive on the city, among the last of the Islamic State’s major territories, at the end of May. [Reuters]  The death toll is potentially the highest ever to result from a coalition bombing in the campaign against the Islamic State, Ryan Devereaux writes in The Intercept.

Members of the formerly US-backed Syrian rebel group Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki were filmed beheading a child, in footage surfacing yesterday. They had captured the young boy in Handarat, near Aleppo. The video has drawn outrage and the promise of an enquiry from the group’s leadership. The group no longer receives the weapons and funding it used to from the US. However, Katie Zavadski insists in The Daily Beast, the incident puts questions over which rebel groups America has supported in Syria back under the spotlight.

Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra is emerging as a dangerous long term threat in Syria as the Islamic State loses ground to the US-led coalition, suggests David Ignatius for the Washington Post. The terror organization has been waiting patiently for the past four years, embedding itself within more moderate opposition factions, and encouraging Sunni resistance to Syrian Presdient Bashar al-Assad. It has also developed close links with rebel groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

France and the US are planning a joint strike against the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq, France has confirmed. [Reuters]

Around 100 foreign fighters continue to enter Syria to join the Islamic State from Turkey, according to French intelligence. [Reuters’ John Irish]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 21 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 18. Separately, partner forces conducted 10 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

NICE

The lower house of the French Parliament approved the extension of France’s state of emergency overnight. Originally introduced following the November 13 Paris attacks, the state of emergency gives authorities far-reaching powers including banning people from leaving their homes and conducting searches without a warrant. [Wall Street Journal’s William Horibin]

Repeated assaults and the constant state of high alert has left French police exhausted and stretched too thinly, reports James McAuley for the Washington Post.

“Why do so many more attacks of this magnitude occur in France than in other European countries?” Asks Farhad Khosrokhavar in the New York Times. The answer, he says, is partly the ideological strength of France’s sense of nationhood, which includes an assertive form of Republicanism, and an open distrust of all religions. Mainly, though, it’s because France hasn’t managed to solve the problem of economic and social exclusion, particularly when it comes to young people.

Nice is a particular “breeding ground for Islamic radicals and jihadis,” write Elaine Ganley and Frank Jordans for the AP. Around 200 young people have travelled to Syria from Nice.

LIBYA

The Islamic State’s faction in Libya is facing the “distinct possibility” of defeat in its last stronghold, the city of Sirte, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the UN Security Council. Islamic State fighters fleeing Sirte are likely to be relocating and regrouping “in smaller and geographically dispersed cells throughout Libya and in neighbouring countries.” [AP’s Judith M. Lederer]

A helicopter was shot down outside Benghazi, Libya, Sunday, killing the two French special forces troops on board, anonymous officials told the AP’s Rami Musa. The Defending Benghazi Brigade claimed the attack, saying it had used an SA-7 shoulder-fired missile and heavy machine guns to down the aircraft.

SOUTH CHINA SEA

US forces will continue to operate in the South China Sea, US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said today during a visit to a Chinese naval base. Reuters’ Ben Blanchard provides the full report.

KFC outlets in China are reportedly being targeted by those protesting the decision of the arbitration tribunal in The Hague. Considered to be a symbol of US interests, outlets have been surrounded by protesters shouting anti-US slogans, reports Austin Ramzy for the New York Times.

Five Taiwanese fishermen set sail this morning for Taiping – or Itu Aba Taiwan’s only holding in the South China Sea in protest against the tribunal’s ruling. The ruling deemed Taiping a rock as opposed to an island, meaning it has no rights to resources in surrounding waters. The Fishermen intend to camp out on Taiping for a week, a largely symbolic move since Taiwan has occupied Taiping for decades. Reuters’ Damon Lin reports.

The Hague’s decision over the South China Sea will have implications for public international law and the peaceful settlement of international disputes generally, beyond its immediate significance for East Asia and maritime law, Jerome A. Cohen writes in the Wall Street Journal. It also brings arbitration into prominence in the field of international relations, where cannon fire is mainly what makes headlines.

GERMAN TRAIN ATTACK

The teenager who attacked a commuter train in southern Germany on Monday was not recruited by the Islamic State, German intelligence has concluded. NBC News reports.

Still, the attack was carried out with an “Islamist religious motive,” German officials have said. It is being treated as the first such attack by an asylum seeker on German soil. [The Guardian’s Philip Oltermann]

Greater cooperation between German police and intelligence agencies in Europe was called for by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier today, who also said that Germany will pledge a further 160 million euros – $176 million – to efforts to stabilize Iraq at a donor conference of 24 countries to be held in Washington. [Reuters]

UKRAINE

Fighting in Ukraine threatens to return to full-scale conflict, Ukraine’s top military commander is promising an “adequate response” to 24 hours of fighting with Russian-backed separatists, during which seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed, reports Roman Olearchyk for the Financial Times.

A prominent journalist working for investigative newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda was killed by a car bomb in Kiev this morning. [Reuters]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The depositions of the father of two New York rescue workers killed at the World Trade Center and a woman whose husband was aboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon will be heard and preserved, the judge in charge of the Guantánamo Bay 9/11 trials has ruled. However, he has refused to take the depositions before the presidential elections, and will hear them December 5-9, reports the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reaffirmed his commitment to the UK’s “special relationship” with the US following a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry in London yesterday. Key Brexit campaigner Johnson was seeking to reassure Britain’s allies that it will remain an engaged world power following the June 28 EU referendum, suggests Jenny Gross in the Wall Street Journal.

America – NATO stands with you. Jens Stoltenberg reassures readers of the Wall Street Journal that NATO plans to muscle up to fight the Islamic State and “project stability in North Africa and the Middle East,” starting with deployments of AWACS radar aircraft, increasing maritime security efforts, and bolstering support for its regional partners.

Despite being accused of fraud, security contractor DynCorp continues to hold a contract with the Pentagon for training Afghan’s police and its ministry of defense. Papers filed in a Washington DC federal court yesterday allege that the company fraudulently inflated costs over a four-year stretch when it held a contract with the US State Department for training Iraqi police. Spencer Ackerman provides the details in the Guardian.

A “coordinated terrorist attack” on a military base in central Mali has left 17 soldiers dead. Yesterday’s raid is the biggest in months in Mali. Three groups are suspected of the attack: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Macina Liberation Front, and an ethnic Peul group. [Al Jazeera]

North Korea confirmed today that it test fired ballistic rockets as part of a simulated pre-emptive attack on ports and airfields in South Korea, presumed to be a reference to the three tests carried out a few days ago, reports the AP.

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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