The Early Edition: September 14, 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 ceasefire in Syria continued to hold across much of Syria yesterday, reports the AP. UN aid convoys are waiting at the Turkish-Syrian border for the Syrian government to give authorization to enter the country, reports Al Jazeera. Aleppo, where 10 people have been killed in scattered ceasefire violations since it began on Monday, is to receive aid shipments.

The cease-fire is the best option in Syria and one to which the US remains committed, Secretary of State told NPR’s Steve Inskeep.

The US-Russia agreement has widened a rift between Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who has deep reservations about military cooperation with Russia in targeting terrorist groups. [New York Times’ Helene Cooper and David E. Sanger]

Saudi Arabia welcomed the ceasefire and urged the Syrian government and its allies to abide by it yesterday. [AP]

Some 20 countries trying to end the Syria conflict from the sidelines may meet in New York if the ceasefire continues to hold, the UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said. [AP]

The real aim of the US-Russia brokered ceasefire is to keep Syria’s President Assad in power, claimed the previously al-Qaeda-linked group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham yesterday. [AP’s Bassem Mroue]

Assad’s government is pushing to seal deals for the surrender or evacuation of rebel strongholds despite the ceasefire, according to UN officials and opposition figures. Raja Abdulrahim and Noam Raydan report at the Wall Street Journal.

US airstrikes hit an Islamic State chemical weapons plant housed in a former Iraqi pharmaceutical factory, a top Air Force commander said yesterday. [CNN’s Barbara Starr and Nicole Gaouette]

The battle for Mosul could begin next month, reports the BBC. The long-promised and much-delayed operation will spell the end of the Islamic State in Iraq, according to authorities in Baghdad.

Former UK foreign secretary and Iraq war architect Jack Straw was relieved the UK’s “Brexit” vote would distract the media from the release of the Chilcot Report, which set out the “uncomfortable” results of an inquiry into the UK’s role in the Iraq war. The Intercept’s Zaid Jilani reports on leaked emails from Straw to former US secretary of state Colin Powell. 

ISRAEL

The US and Israel plan to sign the $38 billion package in military aid for Israel over the next decade today, officials have said. [New York Times’ Peter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis] The new agreement “underlines the continued strong bipartisan support for Israel in Washington, especially in Congress, and underlines the willingness of the US to maintain Israel’s technological edge over other militaries in the region,” suggest Geoff Dyer and John Reed at the Financial Times.

Israel launched a new spy satellite to gather intelligence on Iran and other adversaries in the region, but subsequently reported that the device was not acting in the “expected manner,” reports Ian Deitch at the AP.

LIBYA

A fourth oil port in Libya has been seized by forces loyal to powerful general Khalifa Hifter, allied to the country’s internationally recognized parliament based in Libya’s far east, which does not recognize the UN-backed government. This completes the General’s takeover of Libya’s oil installations, reports Al Jazeera.

Libya’s state oil company is prepared to quickly resume crude exports from three terminals seized earlier this week by Hifter’s forces, reports the AP’s Rami Musa.

Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s intervention in Libya in 2011 was carried out with no proper intelligence analysis and led to Libya becoming a failed state on the verge of civil war, a damning report by the UK foreign affairs select committee has found, Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

The Islamic State came within 45 miles of Libya’s remaining chemical-weapons site when it fought to expand its stronghold there late last year, write Missy Ryan and Greg Jaffe at the Washington Post. The encroachment set of a chain of events culminating in a disarmament operation involving the US, the UN and European countries.

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Separatist leaders in Ukraine announced a unilateral ceasefire yesterday starting midnight tonight. This could be a major step in solving the conflict, suggests Nataliya Vasilyeva at the AP.

Three Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in fighting with Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country, international observers warning of a serious increase in fighting following the truce earlier this month. [Wall Street Journal’s Laura Mills]

NORTH KOREA

Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in New York Sunday to discuss how to respond to North Korea’s latest nuclear test, Reuters reports.

North Korea will be capable of producing 20 nuclear bombs by the end of 2016 as it increases its uranium enrichment, according to weapons experts. Jack Kim and James Pearson report at Reuters.

The US Air Force was “bluffing” and “blustering” with its flyover of B-1 bombers over South Korea yesterday, North Korea said today. [CNN’s Brad Lendon]  The US has flown three such missions in Europe and Asia in the last two months, intending to show adversaries and allies what one US commander called “an unshakeable commitment,” NBC News’ William M. Arkin and Robert Windrem report.

THE PHILIPPINES

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is departing from his nation’s longstanding military alliance with the US, observes Trefor Moss at the Wall Street Journal. He has ordered his defense secretary to seek military equipment from China and Russia, and said yesterday that the Philippines would stop patrolling the South China Sea alongside the US Navy to avoid upsetting Beijing.

President Duterte’s comments that US troops should leave Mindanao – where they have been helping to fight an insurgency – were an expression of his concern for the service personnel, spokesperson for the Philippine armed forces Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said yesterday. [New York Times’ Felipe Villamor]

GUANTANAMO BAY

The Obama administration is threatening to veto a House hill prohibiting all transfers out of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, reports Rebecca Keel at the Hill.

US-educated former al-Qaeda member Majid Khan is to appear in Guantánamo Bay’s war court today to withdraw a guilty plea to a charge of providing material support for terrorism after two federal appeals courts ruled it was not a war crime. Khan is currently awaiting sentencing in 2018 for joining al-Qaeda, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Hacker “Guccifer 2.0” released a new trove of purported DNC. documents yesterday, though various reviews of the information have failed to turn up and bombshells, reports Katie Bo Williams at the Hill.

UK Surveillance agency GCHQ is planning to create a firewall offering protection against hackers, making the proposal at a conference in Washington, the Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill reports.

Former NSA Contractor Edward Snowden has made the “moral” case for presidential pardon, saying his disclosures in 2013 of US and UK government surveillance have benefited citizens. [The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill]

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL INVESTIGATION

The former adviser who set up Hillary Clinton’s email account on her private server while she was secretary of state said he did not know the details of what security functions were on the server, he said during a Tuesday congressional hearing. [The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams]

Former secretary of state Colin Powell tried to discourage Hillary Clinton and her team from roping him into Clinton’s defense of her use of a private email server, newly leaked emails seen by Eric Geller at POLITICO reveal. The emails show Powell regularly corresponded about the Clinton email server controversy, explaining that his situation was different, Lee Fang and Naomi LaChance report at The Intercept.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Saudi Arabia has signed a contract for Pterodactyl military drones with Chinese firm Chengdu, reports David Axe at The Daily Beast.

A “fully-fledged alliance built on shared antagonism toward the US-dominated world order” between Russia and China is “a possibility, if not yet a reality,” says the Financial Times, warning that the US and its allies must recognize that the relationship between the two countries has become much closer much faster than expected.

Climate change poses “a significant risk to US national security and international security,” a coalition of 25 military and national security experts warned, the Guardian’s Oliver Milman reports.

The EU is creating proposals for increased defense cooperation possibly leading to the creation of a small crisis-response force to react without US support to a range of security challenges, The Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman and Julian E. Barnes report.

France’s first anti-radicalization center is to open in a small town in the west of the country, according to officials. [AP]

Russia has turned its attention to Moldova, where it controls a breakaway territory called Transnistria, whose “president” has issued a decree requesting full annexation by Russia – so don’t be surprised if the Kremlin stirs up a fake crisis in Moldova,  says the Wall Street Journal editorial board. 

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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