The Early Edition: August 30, 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

The Pentagon has called on both Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria to “stand down immediately and take appropriate measures to de-conflict,” press secretary Peter Cook issuing a written statement yesterday. [The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter called on Turkish and Kurdish forces in northern Syria to stop targeting each other and focus on fighting the Islamic State in a statement yesterday. [Al Jazeera]  Refusing to heed what was the US’s first criticism of its NATO ally since it launched its military operation in Syria, Turkey’s President vowed to press ahead until both the Islamic State and Kurdish Syrian fighters no longer posed a security threat to Turkey, reports the AP’s Suzan Fraser and Zeina Karam.

Turkey carried out 61 artillery strikes around the Syrian town of Jarablus in the space of 24 hours, hitting 20 targets, the Turkish military announced yesterday. [Hürriyet Daily News]

Syrian rebels backed by Turkey and the US pushed further toward also-US-backed Kurdish positions yesterday, Turkey warning the Kurds to “immediately” pull back east of the Euphrates River or face further assaults. [Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan]  The US should “keep its word” and “use its influence” to force the Kurds to withdraw to the east of the Euphrates, Turkey’s deputy prime minister has said. [Hürriyet Daily News]

Cooperation between Turkey and the US broke down at senior levels when Turkish ground forces launched their sudden offensive in Syria last week, officials on both sides have said, belying public statements that the episode was an example of close US-Turkish cooperation. Turkey reportedly launched the operation without advance warning, reports Adam Entous et al at the Wall Street Journal.

US-led coalition warplanes hit Islamic State targets around the Syrian town of Jarablus overnight, the Turkish military said today. [Reuters]

“Everyone is pursuing their own interests, not Syria’s,” a rebel fighter interviewed by the New York Times’ Anne Barnard has said. Rebel groups are depending on outside backers who only partly share their goals, meaning they have not united in opposition to the Islamic State and the Assad regime.

The UN has awarded contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to people closely linked to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and whose businesses are under US and EU sanctions, as part of an aid program critics have complained is increasingly at the whim of the Syrian government, a Guardian investigation has revealed. Nick Hopkins and Emma Beals report.

Iraqi militias are recruiting children ahead of the Mosul offensive, reports the AP, citing a report from Human Rights Watch. The children are being taken from camps for displaced civilians.

The Islamic State has buried thousands of its victims in 72 mass graves documented by the AP, report Lori Hinnant and Desmond Butler. More graves are expected to be uncovered as the Islamic State continues to retreat.

Internal administrative documents apparently from the Islamic State show the organization is under strain from financial misappropriation, embezzlement, alleged infiltration by anti-Islamic State spies, and bureaucratic infighting, reports The Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss. 

TURKEY

President Obama will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the G20 summit in China next week, Carol E. Lee reports at the Wall Street Journal, their first meeting since the July 15 failed coup. Obama will also meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss US-China relations, separately.

Turkish police have arrested and detained 23 staff members in raids on Kurdish-language newspaper the daily Azadiya Welat in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Roy Greenslade reports at the Guardian.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Nicolay Mladenov, the UN’s envoy to the Security Council, called for a “radical overhaul” of the way the UN deals with the “problems of Gaza” yesterday.  Mladenov accused leaders on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of threatening the prospect of a two-state solution by shying away from the steps needed to reach it, Michael Astor reports for the AP.

An Israeli soldier who shot an unarmed Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank Friday is under investigation, the Israeli military said yesterday. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

The hackers behind the attack on the DNC appear to have targeted prominent Washington-based think tanks last week, Defense One‘s Patrick Tucker reports. Private Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike confirmed the hackers targeted fewer than five organizations, one of which was the Center for Strategic and International Studies. [The Hill’s Joe Uchill]

The Russians are not just hackers – they’re also hacks, writes Dana Milbank at the Washington Post. In some cases, documents hacked from the DNC and  state voter-registration systems were doctored before being leaked.

The process the federal government uses to designate classified information is “fundamentally broken and in desperate need of reform,” the House Oversight Committee’s leading Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a letter released yesterday. The process is the one used to decide which of the emails that passed through Hillary Clinton’s private email server were classified, reports the Hill’s Katie Bo Williams.

YEMEN

The death toll in an Islamic State-claimed car bomb attack on an army training camp in Yemen’s port city of Aden yesterday has risen to 70, reports Al Jazeera.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s 18-month civil war so far, the UN said today, nearly twice the estimates of officials and aid workers. [Reuters]

EUROPE

An arson attack on a crime lab in Belgium at around 2:00 am yesterday has potentially destroyed evidence crucial to terrorism cases, officials have said. The New York Times’ Milan Schreuer reports.

“Can ISIS attacks be stopped?” NBC News’ Mac William Bishop examines the question of whether attacks like the one in Nice, France, on July 14, when an 18-ton truck was driven at speed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, leaving 86 dead, can be prevented in future.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea called a UN Security Council statement condemning its recent ballistic missile launches a “hostile act” perpetrated by the US, warning that the statement could precipitate America’s “self-destruction.” [AP’s Edith M. Lederer]

US and North Korean experts and current and former officials met secretly several times this year, emerging from the “Track 2” dialogues believing Kim Jong Un’s regime is ready to begin talks about its nuclear program again, Josh Rogin reports at the Washington Post.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Iran has deployed a highly advanced Russian-made S-300 air defense system at its underground Fordo nuclear facility, according to state television, which did not specify if the system is fully operational. [AP]  The deployment is “of concern” to the US, which has “long objected to the sale of Iran – of these kinds of capabilities,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a press briefing yesterday. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

The Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan was hit by a suicide car bomber today, killing the attacker and wounding at least three others, officials have reported. The blast has been described as a “terrorist” act, reports Reuters.  Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev has ordered his government to strengthen anti-terrorism measures following the attack. [Reuters]

Venezuela has accused the US and its political opposition of planning a coup for Thursday, when a march to demand a recall vote against President Nicolas Maduro is planned by the government’s opponents, reports Fabiola Sanchez at the AP.

The Taliban has appointed a new military chief, Mullah Ibrahim Sadar, as it tries to gain ground in Afghanistan, reports the AP. Sadar’s appointment heralds a commitment to confrontation over peace talks.

Secretary of State John Kerry called on Bangladesh to increase efforts to combat extremist violence during his first trip to the country yesterday, amid growing concern over terrorism there following a series of attacks. [AP’s Matthew Lee]

China will be the “loser” if it does not recognize the ruling of an arbitration court in The Hague which denies its territorial claims in the South China Sea, the Philippine’s foreign minister said today. [Reuters]

The permanent ceasefire in Colombia took effect yesterday, reports the AP’s Joshua Goodman, the FARC commander and President Juan Manuel Santos making announcements that their fighters would cease hostilities at 12:01 am.

What is the role of US diplomacy effective in the Middle East? While US foreign policy has focused on military action for over a decade, often-overlooked diplomacy, while slow and often frustrating, is crucial, writes Peter Kenyon at NPR. 

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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