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
“Gaps of trust” between the US and Russia prevented the nations’ leaders from brokering a cease-fire in Syria yesterday following a 90-minute meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China, President Obama said afterwards. [New York Times’ Mark Landler] Obama and Russia’s President Putin agreed to continue negotiating, however, even as Assad regime forces advance on the besieged city of Aleppo, report William Wan and David Nakamura at the Washington Post.
Critical territory on the outskirts of Aleppo was seized by Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes Monday, part of the siege on Aleppo that was re-established on Sunday. [New York Times’ Anne Barnard]
Five explosions across mostly government-controlled areas of Syria left at least 48 people dead Monday morning, reports Al Jazeera. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in Tartous, Homs, Hasaka and in the suburbs of Damascus. Most of the attacks targeted government checkpoints, report Liz Sly and Zakaria Zakaria at the Washington Post.
Convicted Australian terrorist Ezzit Raad has been killed fighting for the Islamic State in the city of Manbij, Syria, the Islamic State has reported via its online propaganda magazine. Raad was jailed in 2008 for plotting to blow up the Melbourne Cricket Ground. After his release he was able to travel to Syria. [The Guardian’s Ben Doherty]
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a car bomb that exploded in a busy area of central Baghdad overnight, killing at least 12 civilians, reports the AP’s Sinan Salaheddin.
The US military is increasingly relying on private contractors to operate drones in Iraq and Afghanistan due to its extensive use of the aircraft in the campaign against the Islamic State, reports Michael S. Schmidt at the New York Times.
The Taliban bombed the Afghan Defense Ministry in Kabul in two coordinated attacks yesterday, killing at least 24 people, the AP’s Rahim Faiez reports.
An overnight militant assault on the offices of humanitarian organization CARE International in Kabul, Afghanistan, has ended, security officials declared today. Gunmen were holed up in the organization’s compound for almost 11 hours after attacking it with a car bomb at around 11pm last night – just a few hours after the Defense Ministry bombings. [New York Times’ Mujib Mashal and Zahra Nader]
US intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating a broad covert Russian operation to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in US political institutions, according to security and congressional officials. [Washington Post’s Dana Priest, Ellen Nakishima, and Tom Hamburger]
President Obama and Russian President Putin discussed cybersecurity “generally” during their meeting at the G20 summit Monday, the leaders emphasizing the need to avoid the “cycle of escalation” that has made other conflicts difficult to resolve, Obama said afterwards. [The Hill’s Cyra Master]
The US has “more capacity than anybody, both offensively and defensively,” Obama said to reporters after his meeting with Putin, a “subtle warning to Russia” amid growing signs of Russian intervention in the presidential election, according to POLITICO.
Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir is to brief British MPs today to urge them not to ban UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the UN claims that British weapons were used to conduct indiscriminate attacks on hospitals, markets and cities in Yemen. Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince – who is also Second Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister – to discuss Saudi Arabia’s financial support of the UN Palestine refugees agency, the conflict in Yemen, and other matters, yesterday. [UN News Centre]
The Philippines asked China to explain the presence of more ships than is normal near the Scarborough Shoal as world leaders gathered at the G20 summit in Hangzhou yesterday. [Washington Post’s Emily Rauhala]
“Stairgate.” Beijing blames “dozens of US reporters” it says rushed a Chinese security cordon at Hangzhou airport for the botched greeting of President Obama Saturday, report Chuin-Wei Yap and Carol E. Lee at the Wall Street Journal.
North Korean leader Kim Jon-un called on his military to keep up its nuclear weapons development following further test-fires Monday, reports AFP.
North Korea fired three ballistic missiles toward Japan Monday, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the final day of the G20 summit meeting took place. Su-Hyun Lee reports at the New York Times.
Is North Korea seeking to outrun its southern neighbor by testing multiple missiles in the run-up to Seoul’s deployment of a US THAAD missile defense system? CNN’s James Griffiths explains how North Korea could bypass the THAAD system.
Ex-Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab is weak from his hunger strike protesting his resettlement in Uruguay in 2014 and may need hospitalizing, a friend said yesterday. [AP’s Leonardo Haberkorn]
The Islamic State planned for the November 2015 Paris attacks to be “far worse,” CNN’s Scott Bronstein et al reported yesterday. CNN has obtained thousands of documents and photos from internal European investigations revealing new information about captured operatives believed by investigators to be planning attacks on France and shedding new light on the highly organized branch of the Islamic State devoted to plotting attacks in Europe.
Israel has agreed in principle to allow the International Criminal Court in The Hague to send a delegation to Israel and the occupied territories in the context of a preliminary enquiry into Palestinian complaints about the 2014 Gaza war and settlement building, according to Israeli officials. [Haaretz’ Barak Ravid] The step could increase the risk of Israeli officials being prosecuted for war crimes, foreign ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told Al Jazeera’s Jonathan Cook Sunday.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act is more likely to hurt the US than bring justice against any sponsor of terrorism, say John R. Bolton and Michael B. Mukasey at the Wall Street Journal. Congress will face pressure to pass the Act when it returns from summer break this week.
It is increasingly difficult for Ukraine to secure Western support in its fight against “Russian aggression,” Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said today, adding that a full-scale Russian invasion could not be ruled out. [Reuters]
German and Latvian troops have begun a joint exercise close to Latvia’s border with Russia as part of a NATO drive to shore up air defenses against a possible Russian attack, reports Sabine Siebold for Reuters.
A journalist was detained over alleged links with Boko Haram and the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls by Nigeria’s intelligence agency Monday as the plane he was traveling in from Dubai landed in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, the AP’s Michelle Faul reports.
Japan has agreed to provide two large patrol ships and lend up to five used surveillance aircraft to the Philippines, Reuters reports.
The US is to give Laos an additional $90 million over the next three years to help clear unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War, following Barak Obama’s first visit – and the first visit by any US president – to Laos today. [Reuters]
The trip took place after Obama canceled a planned meeting with the Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte soon after Duterte refered to him as a “son of a bitch,” reports Carol E. lee at the Wall Street Journal. Duterte has since tried to defuse the situation, voicing regret for the insult. [Reuters]