The Early Edition: September 28, 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.

SYRIA

Syrian government troops made advances in the center of besieged Aleppo yesterday as aerial bombardments by the Assad regime and its ally Russia continued for a fifth day, Hwaida Saad reports at the New York Times.

Assad’s forces captured Farafra district from the rebels as part of the campaign aimed at wiping out rebel forces and retaking Aleppo, [Al Jazeera]

Two hospitals in Aleppo were bombed early this morning, putting them out of service, Liz Sly reports at the Washington Post.

Rebels in Aleppo have been given new surface-to-surface Grad rockets by foreign states in response to the government’s offensive, a Rebel commander told Reuters today.

The US will give $364 million more in humanitarian aid to civilians caught up in the war in Syria, officials say, the funds intended to help the UN and other charities provide food and other necessities. [BBC]

A letter urging President Obama to “persevere” in the “diplomatic path” toward peace in Syria despite the bloodshed was sent by almost 60 House Democrats, POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi reports.

Russia’s strategy in Aleppo is to make up for Assad’s manpower shortage on the ground with ferocious aerial bombing to turn they city into Syria’s “Grozny,” David Gardner writes at the Financial Times.

Many Western diplomats are left confused about Russia’s ultimate motivations and strategy in Syria on account of its expansion of its military support to the Syrian regime in the wake of the collapse of the ceasefire, Geoff Dyer, Max Seddon and Arthur Beesley write at the Financial Times. Some believe Moscow has been stringing Washington along for the past few months, while others think Russia has been played by Syria’s president.

The best way to bring the suffering to an end in Aleppo may be “a quick victory for Bashar al-Assad” now that diplomacy has failed and Russia holds most of the cards, Adrian Hamilton tentatively suggests at the Guardian.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 20 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Sep. 26. Separately, partner forces conducted 11 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command

IRAQ

Defeating the Islamic State in Iraq’s Mosul now risks a new civil war, suggests Ramzy Mardini at the New York Times, urging President Obama to take the time to pressure the Iraqi government to build a single military force that is also tailored to liberate the rest of Nineveh.

Before the operation to retake Mosul, the international community should consider the humanitarian consequences, a NATO official reportedly told the Hürriyet Daily News.  These post-operation consequences include security risks, renewed instructions by the Islamic State to its cells in the West, and the post-liberation actions by the huge number of armed groups in Iraq.

SAUDI ARABIA and JASTA

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain will vote to override President Obama’s veto of JASTA, ignoring warnings that the legislation could put US troops at risk – a notable break from his usual allies on the Capitol, write POLITICO’s Seung Min Kim and Jeremy Herb.

While the bill’s aim is “compassionate,” it would complicate the US’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and may expose the American government, citizens, and corporations to lawsuits abroad, warns the New York Times editorial board. Moreover, experts doubt it would actually achieve its goal of giving families of 9/11 victims their “day in court.”

AFGHANISTAN

The US military is investigating an airstrike on a residential building which killed 13 civilians in Afghanistan. [AP]

US-backed efforts to fight corruption among top Afghan officials are failing, US auditors say. Combating corruption is considered crucial to long-term success in Afghanistan, while the public anger it engenders has led many Afghans to turn toward the Taliban insurgents. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland and Jawad Sukhanyar]

NORTH KOREA

Women leaders from over 38 countries urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to start a peace process to turn the armistice that ended the Korean war into a peace treaty before he leaves office, per a promise he made in 2007, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

The US’ indictment of a Chinese businesswomen for alleged financial ties to North Korea exposes fresh divisions between the US and Beijing over how to deal with the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, Chun Han Wong writes at the Wall Street Journal.

DNC HACKS

The hacked cellphones of several Democratic Party officials are being investigated by the FBI with the belief that they are connected to a series of breaches of party networks and the assumption that Russia is behind the hacking, Mark Hosenball reports at Reuters.

Vladimir M. Fomenko, the only person so far implicated in the Russian hacking of the DNC is eager to discuss the case and has offered IP addresses and logs to the FBI, yet nobody at the FBI is asking for them – something Andrew E. Kramer at the New York Times finds intriguing.

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL INVESTIGATION

The FBI looked “hard” for signs of obstruction of justice in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server and concluded that they could not prove a criminal case against anyone, Director James Comey said yesterday at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, via Josh Gerstein at POLITICO.

The FBI found no evidence that Cheryl Mills, chief of staff while Clinton was serving as secretary of state, broke the law, Comey said, reports the Hill’s Katie Bo Williams. Mills was granted “active production immunity” preventing her from being prosecuted for anything found on a laptop she handed over to the FBI during the investigation into Clinton’s private server.

Comey will get another chance to explain his agency’s “double standard” regarding Hillary Clinton and the probe into her private email server – which is “looking more like a kid-glove exercise with each new revelation” – when he appears before the House Judiciary Committee today, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The US will respond to Turkey’s request for the extradition of Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen within days, US officials told their Turkish counterparts. [Reuters]

The head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division Assistant Attorney General John Carlin is to step down next month, officials said. Bryan Bender reports at POLITICO that Mary McCord is to replace him on Oct. 15.

Shimon Peres’ “life-defining” negotiations toward an independent Palestinian state and peace with Israel appear to be unraveling today, upon his death at 93. Rory Jones explores the problems with the peace process and the agreements known as the Oslo Accords at the Wall Street Journal.

Legislation that would bar the president from conducting a nuclear strike unless Congress had issued a formal declaration of war was issued yesterday by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), the Intercept’s Alex Emmons reports.

Spanish, German and Belgian authorities have arrested five people on suspicion of forming an “active and dangerous” Islamic State cell and promoting Islamist militancy, Spain’s interior ministry said today. [Reuters]

Four al-Shabaab fighters have been killed by the US military in Somalia in what the military said was airstrikes in self-defense, the AP reports.

Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter has rejected a UN-brokered Libyan government, the general, whose army recently captured key oil facilities in Libya, saying the country would be better served by a leader with “high-level military experience,” Rami Musa and Brian Rohan report at the AP.

India will not attend a meeting of South Asian nations due to be held in Islamabad in Pakistan this November, its foreign ministry stated late last night on account of “increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of Member States by one country.” [AP’s Muneeza Naqvi]

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was struck by a Buk missile fired from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, an international criminal investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014 is expected to conclude, diplomats said. Luke Harding reports at the Guardian.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin insists that Radar data shows the rocket that hit flight MH17 was definitely not fired from territory held by pro-Russsian separatists in eastern Ukraine. [Reuters]

A lawsuit against the Norwegian government by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to secure free passage into the country to receive a free speech award has been rejected by a Norwegian appeals court, Reuters reports. 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE