The Early Edition: September 20, 2016

Before the start of businessJust Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

IRAQ and SYRIA

The Syrian army declared that the seven day ceasefire near Aleppo was over and immediately began intensive airstrikes in rebel-held parts of the city, Anne Barnard and Michael R. Gordon report at the New York Times.

At least 12 aid workers and an unknown number of civilians were killed in an airstrike against an aid convoy. [Washington Post’s Karen De Young and Erin Cunningham]

The US is reassessing its decision to cooperate with Russia in Syria after yesterday’s airstrike, Geoff Dyer and Erika Solomon report at the Financial Times.  The State Department expressed “outrage” over the attack, which spokesperson John Kirby said was not done by the coalition and could only be the fault of Russia or its ally, the Assad regime.

The UN has suspended all aid convoys to Syria following the attack, reports the BBC.  UN emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien made it clear that, if a deliberate targeting of humanitarians, the strike would “amount to a war crime,” calling for an “impartial and independent investigation into this deadly incident.”

The International Syria Support Group – including the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran – will meet for “crisis talks” today at the UN General Assembly in New York, the Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz reports.

The Syrian army backed by Russian airstrikes reportedly repelled a rebel offensive on the northern edge of Aleppo today, killing 40 rebels. Russia’s military said it was “senseless” for Assad’s army to respect the ceasefire while being attacked by militants, reports Reuters.

The Pentagon appointed a brigadier general to investigate whether coalition forces accidentally struck Syrian military forces over the weekend. [The Hill.]

There is a possibility that those killed in the coalition strikes were former prisoners turned into conscript soldiers by Assad’s regime, according to defense officials who spoke to Nancy A. Youssef at The Daily Beast.

The Turkish army killed four Kurdish militants today in northern Iraq during one of its regular cross-border air operations against the PKK there, reports Reuters.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 16 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Sep. 18. Separately, partner forces conducted 12 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command

USA ATTACKS

New York and New Jersey bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami was charged with five counts of attempted murder yesterday,  Mark Hensch reports at the Hill.

Rahami was apprehended and arrested yesterday in Linden, New Jersey, after a shootout with police in which Rahami and two police officers were wounded, report Marc Santora, William K. Rashbaum, Al Baker and Adam Goldman at the New York Times.

New York City’s Wireless Emergency Alert system was used to encourage the public to help police find Rahami in the hours before his arrest, New Yorkers receiving a “WANTED” cellphone message Monday morning, Ryan Devereaux reports at the Intercept.

Investigators were searching for clues to the motive behind the bombings this morning and trying to determine whether Rahami had accomplices or had been radicalized overseas, Reuters’ Joseph Ax and Mica Rosenberg report.

Rahami traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan several times without detection by the US government, officials told The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris, Nancy A. Youssef, Katie Zavadski and Kate Briquelet.

Law enforcement officials are unsure whether Dahir Adnan, responsible for the stabbing of nine people in a Minnesota mall Saturday, had contact with any terror organization or had self-radicalized, though the St. Cloud police chief stressed the investigation has barely started. [New York Times’ Mitch Smith and Richard Pérez-Peña]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

France wants to organize an international conference before the end of the year to present a package of incentives for a peace agreement to Israel and Palestine, it said Monday. [AP’s Edith M. Lederer]

In Israel, some view the US-Israel military aid deal with indifference, William Booth and Ruth Eglash write at the Washington Post. Israeli defense leaders say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blew the opportunity for a “new era of cooperation” between the two nations presented by the deal.

Israeli troops have shot and killed a Palestinian who tried to stab a soldier near Hebron in the West Bank, Israel’s military said. [AP]

GUANTANAMO BAY

The Uruguayan government rejected an ultimatum from former Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab, on hunger strike demanding to leave the country, yesterday, Leonardo Haberkorn reports at the AP.

The next president should avoid adding further barriers to closing Guantánamo, urges the New York Times editorial board.White House officials are resigned to having to hand over Guantánamo Bay prison and its “legal morass” to the next administration after a bill halting detainee resettlements until more onerous restrictions could be placed on releases or President Obama left office was passed with 244 votes last week. While there seems to be little interest in the Senate passing the bill, it is likely to be on the table when the House and Senate versions of the spending bill are reconciled later this year.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea said it successfully tested a high-powered rocket engine used for launching satellites, increasing concern it is making progress in developing a long-range ballistic missile, Alastair Gale reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The US and China have vowed to coordinate more closely in addressing the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, President Obama and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York yesterday, both leaders condemning North Korea’s latest test. [AP]

The US and China are focusing on the finances of a Chinese conglomerate headed by an individual the Obama Administration believes has played a part in supporting North Korea’s nuclear program, Chun Han Wong and Jay Solomon report at the Wall Street Journal.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

A Reddit post alleging that an IT specialist who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private email server sought advice on how to alter the contents of “VERY VIP” emails is being investigated by the House Oversight Committee, according to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). [The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams]

There is little truth in the five charges leveled at former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, writes Trevor Timm, who explains why the charges are wrong at the Guardian.

The Obama administration has invested too much in demonizing Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning to pardon them now, suggests Peter Maass at The Intercept. However, there are other “leakers and whistleblowers” for whom pardons are both compelling and politically palatable.

THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY

President Obama’s “most important diplomatic encounter” at the UN General Assembly yesterday was with Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the two leaders discussing the impending Mosul offensive and making confident assessments of the progress that would be made by Iraqi and Kurdish forces in liberating the besieged city from the Islamic State. However that confidence was eclipsed by Saturday’s stabbings and bombings in the US, observes Mark Lander at the New York Times.

Hopes are high while expectations are low that world leaders gathering for their annual meeting at the UN General Assembly today will make any progress on an “array” of global crises that “desperately need solutions” including Syria and escalating attacks by Islamic extremists, Edith M. Lederer writes at the AP.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Saudi police have arrested 17 suspected Islamic State members believed to be in the advanced stages of planning four attacks across the kingdom, Saudi authorities said yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Summer Said and Asa Fitch]

Boko Haram launched three attacks in northeast Nigeria within hours of one another Sunday, beheading a village chief and his son, killing Christians returning from church, and ambushing a convoy under military escort, a Nigerian army spokesperson said yesterday. [AP’s Haruna Umar and Michelle Faul]

France’s specialized prison units for radicalized individuals are being defended by Justice Minister Jean-Jaques Urvoas after a recent attack on guards, the AP reports.

A US permanent resident has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine for “spying” by an Iranian court after being in detention for a year, The AP reports.

A Canadian and two Italians have been abducted in Libya by a “small outlawed group,” the AP reports. 

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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