The Early Edition: July 26, 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

Syrian government air strikes have killed more than 42 civilians in the city of al-Atareb, Aleppo province, as violence in the area continues to escalate. [Al Jazeera]

The UN has called for weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses in Aleppo, where over a quarter of a million people are trapped, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, delivering a briefing to the Security Council yesterday. He called the situation in Aleppo “medieval and shameful,” reports the AP.

A long and violent insurgency is foreshadowed by the Islamic State’s latest suicide in Baghdad, Iraq, according to US diplomats and commanders, report Michael Schmidt and Eric Schmitt for the New York Times. Many Islamic State fighters have blended back into the mainly Sunni population in the city, officials have said, and are waiting their chance to conduct future terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has shown little sign of being able to forge an inclusive partnership with Sunnis.

Israeli warplanes have hit a Syrian position from which mortars were fired into the Israeli-held Golan Heights, the Israeli military has said. No-one was injured in the mortar fire, which hit an open area close to Israel’s frontier fence, but Israel’s army has said that  the Syrian government is responsible and that it will “continue to act” to preserve Israel’s sovereignty. Israel has largely kept out of the Syrian war, but has delivered similar reprisals for errant fire on its territory in the past, the AP reports.

Over 100 Chinese nationals have joined the Islamic State in Syria, leaked Islamic-State registration forms show. Two recent studies by US think tanks found that most of the Chinese fighters listed in the records came from China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang and could be members of the Muslim Uighur ethnic group that has been resisting Beijing’s rule for decades. [Wall Street Journal’s Jeremy Page]

The US is looking at ways to increase counter-terrorism cooperation with China, a senior US official said today at the end of a visit to China by National Security Adviser Susan Rice. China has been trying to get Western countries to help it with its fight against what it calls its Islamist extremists, but up till now, Western countries have been reluctant to cooperate because of a lack of evidence that the extremists exist. [Reuters]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 13 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 24. Separately, partner forces conducted seven strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

TURKEY

Turkish Airlines fired 211 employees on suspicion of links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of orchestrating the July 15 failed coup, yesterday. [AP]

Turkey’s religious affairs directorate has removed a total of 1,112 personnel, including preachers and instructors in the Koran, since the coup, it confirmed today. [Reuters]

The Turkish government has also accused dozens of journalists of being part of a network linked to cleric and alleged coup mastermind Fetullah Gulen. Dozens of reporters have had their press credentials revoked, report Ceylan Yeginsu and Tim Arango for the New York Times.

Erdoğan justified the reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey as the democratic response to voters’ call for its return during an interview with German news agency ARD aired late yesterday. Erdoğan also accused the EU of failing to uphold its side of a deal to prevent migrants from entering Europe via Turkey, saying the EU has only transferred a fraction of the 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) promised to Ankara as part of the agreement.

Turkey’s agreement with the EU, already under strain, might collapse altogether as Turkey becomes “more dangerous” in the aftermath of the coup attempt, critics of the deal are arguing. Surfacing allegations of the torture of detainees from organizations such as Amnesty International mean that the EU “cannot expect to outsource its refugee responsibilities to Turkey,” Amnesty’s deputy Europe director has told the AP. This will put more pressure on Greece, the main migrant gateway into the EU.

Will NATO lose its “eastern pillar” now that Turkey has “ceased to be a team player?” David Gardner discusses Erdoğan’s subordination of almost every domestic and foreign policy consideration to his “quest for a Vladimir Putin-style presidency,” which includes speculating whether Turkey would be better served inside alliances such as the Eurasian Economic Union, Putin’s “brainchild,” rather than NATO or the EU. [Financial Times]

“Mr. Erdoğan’s accusation is no surprise, not for what it says about me but rather for what it reveals about his systematic and dangerous drive toward one-man rule.” Fethullah Gulen defends himself against Turkey’s President’s accusation that he orchestrated last week’s failed coup in the New York Times.

GERMANY

A video in which the attacker pledges loyalty to the Islamic State has been found on the cellphone of the Syrian man who blew himself up in Ansbach, Germany, on Sunday, wounding 15, German officials said yesterday. Melissa Eddy reports for the New York Times.

A statement on the Islamic State’s Amaq news agency described the attacker as a “soldier of IS” who had carried out the “operation” in response to its call to target states involved in the anti-Islamic State military coalition. [Financial Times’ Guy Chazan and Patrick McGee]

Police presence at airports and train stations will be boosted and stop-and-search operations carried out in Germany in response to the attacks and the perception that further terrorist attacks could be forthcoming. Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office has warned it has 410 leads on possible terrorists currently residing in Germany, report Kate Connolly and Janek Schmidt for the Guardian.

The German representative of Syrian opposition group the Syrian National Coalition has expressed shame over the string of attacks committed by Syrian asylum-seekers in Germany. Bassam Abdullah said he hoped the violence would not render Germans hostile to asylum-seekers. [AP]

FRANCE

Two men took several people hostage in a church in France’s Normandy region this morning. The assailants and a priest were killed during an operation to free the hostages, France’s interior ministry has said. The attackers’ motive remains unclear, but anti-terrorism investigators have been summoned to the case, reports France 24.

Two more have been arrested in connection with the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice, sources have told Reuters today. The arrests took place yesterday in Nice itself.

Outrage is growing over security flaws that may have contributed to the deadly terror attack in Nice on July 14, the French government defending itself yesterday over allegations from Sandra Bertin, who runs Nice’s CCTV network, that Interior Ministry officials had “pressured” her to falsify a report on policing on the night to make it seem that national police had been present when they were not. The Interior Ministry has issued a statement following the accusations. James McAuley provides the details for the Washington Post.

D.N.C. HACK

Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue of the email hack with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Laos, he told reporters today, but stopped short of making any allegations. He did inform Lavrov of the FBI investigation into the hack, launched yesterday, he said. [AP’s Matthew Lee]

Lavrov is declining to respond fully to allegations that Russia was behind the hack, saying that to do so he would have to “use four-letter words.” [AP]

There is “no proof” that Russia is behind the hack, WikiLeaks – which published the thousands of DNC staffers’ emails that were hacked – founder Julian Assange has told NBC Nightly News. [Politico’s Nolan D. McCaskill]

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has called for greater transparency of government intelligence capabilities in the wake of the hack, saying that this would give the US government a greater capability to attribute blame. Politico’s Caroline Kelly reports.

“The very rules of war have changed.” According to Max Fisher in the New York Times, an influential 2013 Russian military article by Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the Russian chief of the general staff, answers the question of why Russia would choose to hack Democratic National Committee emails: “nonmilitary means” such as deception and intervention have overtaken “the force of weapons in their effectiveness,” the article says.

Putin’s regime has tried to intervene in the politics of numerous European countries, but the attempt to meddle in a US election is a first, says the Washington Post editorial board, which firmly believes that credit for the disruption of the Democratic Party on the eve of its convention should go to the Russian president.

Suggestions of Russian involvement in the hack are feeding mistrust among skeptics of Obama’s attempts at a deal with Russia over Syria, writes Nahal Toosi in Politico.

GUANTANAMO BAY

“Virtually all” of the evidence disclosed to the defense by prosecutors in the 9/11 terror case at Guantánamo Navy Base has been sent back as inadequate, the Judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl said yesterday. Defense attorney Jay Connell explained after court that the Judge’s comments probably mean one of two things: either the original documents were over-redacted, or documents crafted as submissions for evidence were not meaningfully representative of the underlying evidence. Carol Rosenberg reports for the Miami Herald.

Guantánamo Bay’s last Russian captive Ravil Mingazov has been approved for transfer by the Periodic Review Board, which then issued a brief statement. Mingazov’s lawyers are attempting to help him resettle in Nottingham, England, where his ex-wife and son have lived since 2014, reports Carol Rosenberg for the Miami Herald.

SOUTH CHINA SEA

China asked the US to support its talks with the Philippines to resolve a territorial dispute in the South China Sea during a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi Monday. It was a move that seemed calculated to play down the recent legal decision against China’s claims in the region, suggests Ben Otto in the Wall Street Journal.

The US is not taking sides on the substance of maritime disputes in the region, Kerry told reporters this afternoon. He said that he and Wang had agreed that it is time to lower the temperature over the dispute, and that he intends to urge the Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte to negotiate with Beijing when he meets with him in Manilla tomorrow. [AP’s Daniel Malloy]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Iran has denied claims by Washington that three senior al-Qaida figures are based in the country, Nasser Karimi reports for the AP. The Obama administration accused Iran of helping the three – identified as “specially designated global terrorists” – to transfer money and fighters from South Asia to the Mideast.

A long-anticipated US-Israel agreement that could result in increased US military assistance to Israel may be signed next week when acting head of Israel’s National Security Council Jacob Nagel travels to Washington  to meet White House Officials, according to Israel’s prime minster’s office. The AP reports.

Forces fighting for the United Nations-backed Libyan government have seized the security headquarters in Sirte, they said Monday, a crucial step toward retaking control of the coastal city that the Islamic State captured more than a year ago. Tamer El-Ghobashy and Hassan Morajea of The Wall Street Journal report.

Suicide bombers in two explosives-laden cars attacked the UN Mine Action Service offices and a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia, today, killing 13 people. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack, reports the BBC.

Nine militants have been shot dead by Bangladeshi police in Dhaka today, authorities have said, with another militant wounded and in custody. Police surrounded the militants’ hide-out, opening fire around 5 am. “We are not sure what group these militants belong to,” Bangladesh’s inspector general of police told reporters, including the New York Times’ Julfikar Ali Manik.

Leaders meeting at the annual Arab League summit in Mauritania have pledged to “defeat terrorism.” The two-day talks, which opened yesterday, have focused on the crises in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. [Al Jazeera]  This year’s talks are the most poorly attended in years, points out the AP, which it calls a sign of the region’s disarray.

Brazilian authorities have arrested a 12th person suspected of being part of a group plotting to conduct terrorist attacks during the Rio Olympic Games next month. [Wall Street Journal’s Rogerio Jelmayer and Luciana Magalhaes]  Facebook and Twitter cooperated with investigators, the judge overseeing the probe into the alleged plotters said on Sunday, providing “data related to the conversations” between the plotters and “data about where those conversations were posted.” [Reuters]

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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

George Kadifa

Intern with JUSTICE