The Early Edition: September 2, 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

Turkey’s President Erdoğan denied claims by US officials that Syrian Kurdish forces in northern Syria have withdrawn east of the Euphrates River today, reports the AP.

Turkey has removed the Islamic State and the Kurds from a 150 mile square area of northern Syria, Erdoğan also said this morning. [Reuters]

The Syrian rebel assault in Hama was the largest coordinated rebel assault in the area since 2014, reports Al Jazeera. The capture of at least 14 villages in four days prompted the Syrian government to retaliate with heavy air strikes yesterday.

An intensification of the Syrian government’s strategy of refusing access to besieged towns by aid agencies will lead to mass evacuations along the lines of that seen in the town of Darayya last week, the UN has predicted. Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

The UN Security Council will hold a meeting to take stock of the Syria conflict, now in its sixth year, and discuss prospects for ending it, on September 21, the AP reports.

Obama is under pressure to score a “major win” against the Islamic State in Iraq before he leaves office, Nancy A. Youssef writes at The Daily Beast. US generals are promising that the city of Mosul will be rid of the Islamic State soon, while politicians are pushing for the move to take place before the Obama administration terms, according to one official.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out eight airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on August 31. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command

TURKEY

Turkey’s President Erdoğan and President Obama are due to meet on Sept.4 on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in China, reports the Hürriyet Daily News, at a time when relations between the two NATO allies are strained. US Ambassador to Ankara John Bass and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirloğlu met yesterday to conduct a general assessment of issues that concern both sides, in an effort to smooth the ground ahead of the Presidents’ meeting, according to diplomatic sources.

Clashes between Turkey’s military and Kurdish militia in southeast Turkey have left a total of 20 Kurds and one Turkish soldier dead in southeast Turkey, reports the AP.

Turkey has begun a process to patch up relations with Egypt and Syria, a further shift in Turkey’s regional foreign policy toward increasing pragmatism, reports Reuters.

PAKISTAN

Pakistan says it has thwarted an attempt by the Islamic State to expand its network into the country, Pakistan’s military arresting 309 suspects, Islamic State members from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan among them, a military spokesperson said yesterday. [AP’s Munir Ahmed]

A suicide bombing at a court in the northern Pakistani city of Mardan has killed at least 12 people and injured over 50, according to officials. [BBC]  Militant group Jamaat-Ur-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for the attack, Reuters reports.

CHINA

The Chinese air force is developing a new type of long-range bomber, state media reported today. [AP]

China has set the trial date for this month for a US businesswoman accused of spying, Reuters reports. The US State Department has said it is concerned for her welfare.

China is tightening regulation of online maps to clarify its territorial claims and protect “national sovereignty and interests,” Chinese state media has reported today. [AP]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Romanian hacker “Guccifer,” responsible for revealing Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, was sentenced to over four years in federal prison yesterday, the Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu report.

Russia’s President Putin has no idea who hacked the D.N.C., but it is important that the information had been made public, he said in an interview reported by Russian media today. [Reuters]

US law enforcement purchases spy equipment enabling the interception of wireless calls and texts, the location of people via their cellphones, and the jamming of cellular communications in an area from British defense firm Cobham, a confidential 120-page catalogue reveals. This shows the wide range of electronic surveillance tactics used by police and militaries in the US and abroad, reports Sam Biddle at the Intercept.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The White House’s statement that it “did not and will not allow Iran to skirt” its commitments under the nuclear deal in response to the report from the Institute for Science and International Study would be “more credible” if the Obama administration had not agreed to allow Iran to inspect its own nuclear-related military facilities, and if Iran weren’t testing ballistic missiles as a result of another nuclear side-deal, according to the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

NATO needs to be able to regularly advise Afghan corps as well as occasionally push training and advice down to Afghan kandaks – units of 600 soldiers – US Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, NATO alliance spokesperson in Afghanistan, said yesterday, since Afghan security forces continue to have leadership problems. Julian E. Barnes reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Misrata militias spearheading the ousting of the Islamic State from Libya’s Sirte are claiming the city for themselves now that the terrorist group is all but removed, report Maria Abi-Habib and Hassan Morajea at the Wall Street Journal. Once the battle at Sirte is over, the Misrata militias will head for Libya’s capital, Tripoli, commanders say.

Ex-Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab is planning a hunger strike now that he has been returned to Uruguay after going missing for several weeks, demanding that he be allowed to leave the South American country. [AP’s Leonardo Haberkorn]

The US is providing logistical support and political cover for the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen conflict, the leader of the Houthis has said. [Reuters]

Extremism, Turkey, relations with Russia and global strategy are on the cards for foreign ministers of EU nations when they meet in Slovakia for a two-day meeting today, reports the AP.

A joint military exercise in the US with Israeli, Pakistani and UAE fighter pilots last month was “professional” even though the countries do not share diplomatic ties with Israel, the Israeli air force has said. [AP’s Daniel Estrin]

Peace talks with Muslim separatists suspected of a string of bombings in tourist towns will go ahead, Thailand’s military government has announced. [Reuters]

Five men taken into custody in the UK on suspicion of planning acts of terrorism last Friday are to be detained in custody for another week for questioning, a judge has ruled, under laws which allow law enforcement to hold suspects for up to 14 days without charge in sufficiently serious cases. Alexis Flynn reports at the Wall Street Journal. 

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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