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
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have chosen the town of Al-Bab on the Turkish border as the next target in their campaign to oust the Islamic State from Syria. Al-Bab is around 30 miles from recently-recovered Manbij, and is used by the extremist group as a conduit for fighters moving in and out of Syria. Raja Abdulrahim reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia intimated it was close to an agreement on a military collaboration with the US in Aleppo yesterday, also conceding that the daily three-hour halt in fighting it proposed last week is insufficient. These developments mean that Russia is trying to avoid being seen to be responsible for the suffering of Aleppo’s citizens, suggest Rick Gladstone and Alison Smale at the New York Times.
However, US State Department Spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters that discussions with Russia are ongoing and no agreement is close, reports the AP’s Vladimir Isachenkov.
Joint US-Russian airstrikes on Aleppo would be “ludicrous and diabolical” and would have a disastrous impact on civilians, British aid worker in Aleppo Tauqir Sharif told The Intercept’s Murtaza Hussain. The addition of US airstrikes to the Russian and government airstrikes currently causing havoc would compound civilians’ misery, and would give the impression that the US was openly siding with the Assad regime.
Russia’s Defense Ministry says it has struck a number of targets in Syria with bombers based in Iran. [Reuters] Russia’s state media reported earlier today that Russia has deployed Tu-22M bombers to an air base in the city of Hamadan, Iran, to carry out airstrikes on targets in Syria. [The Jerusalem Post] The head of Iran’s National Security Council later confirmed that Iran and Moscow are sharing facilities in the fight against terrorism in Syria. [Reuters]
“The never-told-before story of the meeting that led to the creation of ISIS.” Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa at Foreign Policy present the first of three articles detailing the story of Syrian Islamic State operative Abu Ahmad, who witnessed the extremist group’s expansion into Syria first hand, facilitated by leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s political scheming, and achieved despite al-Qaeda’s efforts to prevent it.
“Missteps and miscalculations by multiple actors” left Iraq’s security forces weakened and vulnerable to the Islamic State’s rise in 2014, contrary to the assertions by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s political foes, who place the blame squarely on her and President Obama’s shoulders, report Jeff Gerth and Joby Warrick at the Washington Post. An intensive review of documents and interviews reveal ambitious plans by State Department officials to take control of dozens of military-run programs in Iraq, that were later scrapped or truncated.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out seven airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on August 14. Separately, partner forces conducted seven strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Turkish police raided 44 companies in Istanbul today, armed with warrants for the detention of 120 executives, as the post-coup attempt purge continues. The companies are accused of providing financial support to the movement of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed for planning the coup. [Reuters]
Detention warrants for a further 83 Istanbul court personnel were issued early this morning, over suspected links with the “Fethullahist Terror Organization” – the name given to the movement of cleric Fethullah Gulen. [Hürriyet Daily News]
“Coup-proofing doesn’t work,” according to a Turkey expert at the Washington-based foreign policy think tank the Atlantic Council, “except that it fractures and divides armed forces.” While there is little evidence that Turkey’s post-coup purge of its army has weakened its ability to fight so far, reports Matt Bradley at NBC News, the hemorrhaging of senior officers will almost certainly take its toll.
A fifth of Guantánamo Bay’s remaining detainees have been transferred to the UAE, the Pentagon announced yesterday. The transfer of 15 prisoners is the largest single transfer by the Obama administration so far, reports Charlie Savage at the New York Times. The transfer of 12 Yemenis and three Afghans leaves 61 detainees – compared to the 242 imprisoned in the detention center in 2009 when Obama took office. [Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin and Carol E. Lee]
The CIA initiated a 40-second delay on the audio feed to the gallery from the 9/11 trial at Guantánamo Bay war court in 2013, documents released by The Intercept revealing the evolution of secret rules governing what may and what may not be discussed before the court show. Mattathias Schwartz reports.
US Army chief of staff Gen. Mark A. Milley told Chinese officials not to feel threatened by South Korea’s decision to deploy a US missile defense system during a meeting today, reiterating the US position that the defense system is intended to destroy possible North Korean missiles, not to track missiles inside China. The THAAD system has prompted strong protests from China. [AP]
China is seeking closer military ties with Syria, Chinese state media cited a senior Chinese officer as saying today, during a visit to the war-torn country. China has been getting more involved in Syria, sending envoys to help push for a diplomatic resolution to the civil war there. [Reuters]
China tried out 21 new items of security equipment including drones during a counter-terrorism exercise in Xinjiang, Chinese state media said today. The Xinjiang region of northwest China has been the site of violence between the Muslim Uighur people and ethnic majority Han Chinese for years, the government blaming the unrest on Islamist militants. [Reuters]
China claims it has launched a “quantum satellite” – the world’s first – which it hopes will enable it to build a hack-proof communications system with potentially significant military and commercial applications. Tom Phillips reports for the Guardian.
The risks of an “inadvertent clash” between China and the US over the South China Sea are growing by the day, Andrew Browne writes at the Wall Street Journal. A RAND Corp study warns that violence between the two nations – each other’s largest trading partner – could ignite quickly, because each side has deployed precision-guided munitions and cyber and space technologies, and has a strong incentive to launch strikes first as part of a “use it or lose it” calculation.
The bombing of a hospital in Yemen earned the Saudi-led coalition a rare rebuke from the US State Department yesterday, spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau saying “of course we condemn the attack.” The State Department has previously deflected questions about coalition attacks, referring reporters to the Saudi government – despite the fact the US supplied billions of dollars of weapons to the coalition, reports Alex Emmons for The Intercept.
Oscar Morel has been charged with double murder following the shooting of an Imman and his friend in Queens, New York, police said late last night. They did not disclose any possible motive for the killing. [Al Jazeera]
Russia has no intention of severing diplomatic ties with Ukraine, and is discussing possible talks with Ukrainian, Russian, French and German officials aimed at resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday after meeting with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier. [Wall Street Journal’s Andrey Ostroukh]
An Iranian with citizenship in another country has been detained in Iran over allegations they have links to British intelligence services, a prosecutor said Today, the latest of a number of dual nationals arrested in the country in the wake of its nuclear deal with world powers, the AP reports.
Bangladeshi security forces have arrested four women on suspicion of being members of a domestic militant group blamed for the attack on a café in Dhaka last month, which killed 22 people. The group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. [Reuters]
Somali-based al-Shabaab poses a rising threat to East African nations and is “clearly no longer an exclusively Somali problem,” according to a report released yesterday by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Kevin Sieff reports at the Washington Post.
Detailed instructions for the Justice Department to file perjury charges against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were laid out by two leading House Republicans yesterday, over a month after first requesting that the Department open a criminal probe into alleged misstatements Clinton made under oath about about her email arrangements while serving as secretary of state. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem] A group of House Republicans also sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey requesting that he provide Congress with a copy of Clinton’s interview with investigators over her private email server. Comey told the House Oversight Committee last month that the FBI did not record its interview with Clinton. [The Hill’s Cristina Marcos]
Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has been hired by the DNC to do a complete “restructuring and rebranding” of the Committee’s management systems after they were breached by suspected Russian hackers, Chair Donna Brazile has said. [POLITICO’s Daniel Strauss]
Just Security is hiring. Click here for details.