The Early Edition: August 25, 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

Another nine or more Turkish tanks entered northern Syria today as the “Euphrates Shield” operation to force the Islamic State out of Jarablus and the surrounding area and prevent the Kurdish militia from taking its place there continues, reports Reuters.

Syrian rebels backed by the US and Turkey announced they had seized the town of Jarablus by yesterday evening, Tim Arango et al report at the New York Times.  They have now advanced up to 10 km south of the town, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in an apparent attempt to pre-empt rebel advances. [Reuters]

Secretary of State John Kerry told his Turkish counterpart that Syrian Kurdish forces have begun to withdraw east of the Euphrates River, Turkish officials said today, acceding to Turkey’s demand that they do so. [AP’s Suzan Fraser]  Vice President Biden warned the Syrian Kurds that they would lose all support from the US if they did not comply with Turkey’s demand that they withdraw, during his visit to Ankara yesterday. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung]

The tensions between Turkey and the Kurds pit a NATO ally against the most effective US military proxy in Syria’s complex civil war, reports Philip Issa at the AP, who takes a look at the battle-hardened Syrian Kurds and their craving for the sort of autonomy their northern Iraqi counterparts enjoy.

Syrian government planes have dropped bombs containing chlorine on civilians at least twice over the past two years, according to a joint report from the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which will be made public after the UN Security Council has considered it, according to a statement released by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson yesterday. President Assad signed a treaty banning chemical weapons around three years ago after an attack killed hundreds in a Damascus suburb, Rick Gladstone reports at the New York Times.  The report also accuses the Islamic State of using mustard gas in Aleppo on Aug. 21, 2015, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi. 

TURKEY

Vice President Biden asked Turkish authorities to be patient with the US extradition process as they seek the return of cleric Fethullah Gulen, during his visit to Ankara yesterday, also seeking to assuage concerns that the US is shielding Gulen. [AP’s Suzan Fraser]

Turkey fired over 2,800 judges and prosecutors yesterday as part of the purge of so-called Gulenists following the July 15 coup attempt. The total number of people sacked from the civil service, judiciary, police forces and courts is now at around 80,000, reports the Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkey’s Education Ministry dismissed over 27,000 staff and Turkey’s Council of Higher Education forced all 1,577 university deans to resign on Tuesday night. The attacks on academia reflect possibly the most transformative chapter in Turkey’s split between its urban elite and conservative-Muslim interior, suggest Joe Parkinson and Emre Peker at the Wall Street Journal, and shows the acceleration of the  country’s move from stalwart Western ally to aspiring regional power.

YEMEN

Pressure from Congress on President Obama to withdraw support for Saudi Arabia in the conflict in Yemen is growing, a group of lawmakers circulating a letter yesterday asking the President to withdraw his request for Congressional approval of a $1.15 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia until Congress can debate US military support for the Saudis, Mark Mazzetti and Shuaib Almosawa report at the New York Times.

The UN’s human rights chief has called for an international investigation of abuses in Yemen’s civil war, reports the AP.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to stop the use of their sites to promote terrorism and extremism, according to a report by the UK Commons home affairs select committee. Social media sites are the “vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda and the recruiting platforms for terrorism,” according to the report. Alan Travis reports at the Guardian.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has promised to leak “thousands” more documents relating to Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and the presidential election, claiming it would have a “significant” impact on the election during an interview with Fox News last night, reports Cristiano Lima at POLITICO.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

A Palestinian was shot dead in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers yesterday, who said he had stabbed and wounded one of them, a version of events his family have said “made no sense.” [AP]

The Israeli army has cleared itself of wrongdoing over the Aug. 3, 2014 firing of an air-to-ground missile at a motorcycle as it passed a UN school in the town of Rafah, killing around 10 civilians, an event which prompted international outrage at the time. Closing its investigation, the military said that by the time the motorcycle had turned toward the school, it was too late to stop the missile. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]

NORTH KOREA

The UN Security Council will consider issuing a statement on the latest North Korean missile launch following an emergency meeting last night. The US is drafting a press statement for the council, according to Malaysia’s UN Ambassador, who is serving the council’s current president, Edith M. Lederer reports for the AP.

This week’s submarine-launched missile launch was an operational success, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which says it marks the second recent milestone since June’s successful firing of a medium-range Musudan missile from a road-mobile carrier – using a Chinese “transporter-erector-launcher” acquired from a Chinese defense contractor in 2011. The US hasn’t sanctioned a single Chinese entity for arming or otherwise sustaining the Pyongyang regime, the board points out.

The test had achieved the “greatest success,” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said, claiming the continental US and American military bases in the Pacific were now within striking range of North Korea’s missiles, reports Choe Sang-Hun at the New York Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Guantánamo Bay has inspired more terrorist than it has imprisoned, writes the New York Times editorial board, reflecting on the case of Abu Zubayah, who appeared for the first time on Tuesday at a parole board hearing, and who was tortured by the CIA – for which the CIA has never been held to account – even after he had willingly turned over all the information he had to the FBI. That is an outcome that could have been avoided, says the board, if men like Zubaydah had not been tortured, and instead had been given a chance to contest their detention in a court of law.

The US is hailing a historic peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel movement which, if approved by voters, will end the longest-running armed conflict in the Americas, dating back to 1964. The US has invested roughly $10 billion to help the Colombian government strengthen its economy and security, contributing to efforts to get the FARC rebels to come to the table. [POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi]

An attack on the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul last night left 12 people dead, police said early this morning. The attack began with a large explosion, which officials said was a car bomb, followed by gunfire. Two attackers were killed. No group appears to have claimed responsibility or been specifically blamed so far. [Reuters]

Four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ships harassed a US destroyer close to the Persian Gulf, the US Navy said, calling it an “unsafe and unprofessional interaction.” [Wall Street Journal’s Paul Sonne] Iran will “warn” any foreign ship entering its territorial waters, and “confront” them if it’s an invasion, Iran’s Gen. Hosein Dehghan said today. [AP]

The US and Bulgaria will conduct joint air patrols next month in operations aimed at opening a new front in the NATO alliance’s efforts to deter increasing Russian military aggression, officials from both countries have confirmed. Julian E. Barnes reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Congress wasn’t persuaded by the Pentagon’s request for $12 million to build a new employee screening facility at its most-used entrance over worries that terrorists could walk right through its front door, reports POLITICO’s Austin Wright.

Plans showing “the entire secret combat capability” for French stealth submarines built for the Indian army have been leaked, raising concerns over the digital security at the company that constructed them – the same company that just signed a multibillion dollar deal to build submarines for Australia, reports the New York Times’ David Jolly.  A timeline of the conflict has been provided by the AP.

Mohamed Amiin Ali Roble, who survived the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse, faced terror charges yesterday over accusations he traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State – just weeks after he received over $91,000 in settlement money for the incident, which saw his school bus plummet 30 feet as the bridge collapsed. [AP’s Amy Forliti]

President Obama could declare that “the United States will not use nuclear weapons against any target that could be reliably destroyed by conventional means.” This would be a “simpler change” to US nuclear policy that could have as great, or even greater, benefits for US security than the “no first use” pledge Obama is reportedly currently considering, according to Jeffrey G. Lewis and Scott D. Sagan, writing in the Washington Post. 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

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