The Early Edition: October 6, 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

The Syrian military said it will decrease airstrikes on Aleppo’s rebel-held areas following an international outcry over its bombardment of the city over the past few weeks, backed by Russia, Noam Raydan reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The Assad regime warned civilians and rebels inside Aleppo to leave or face their “inevitable fate” in a statement released last night, Reuters reports.

Iraqi militia are fighting for the Assad regime in Aleppo, further complicating the tangled web of US alliances against the Islamic State in the region, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Maria Abi-Habib report at the Wall Street Journal.

An explosion in a village in northwestern Syria close to the border with Turkey killed at least 20 people today, Syrian activists said. [AP]  The Islamic State claimed the attack, which targeted Turkey-backed rebel factions on the Syrian side of the Atmeh crossing, west of Aleppo. [Reuters]

Russian warplanes are using new Kh-101 long-range missiles in their campaign in Syria, according to Russian Defense Minister Shoigu. [Interfax]

The Russian military will use its experience in the Syrian conflict to further improve its weapons, the Russian defense ministry said. [AP]

The Obama administration has no plan to save Aleppo, Nancy A. Youssef observes at The Daily Beast. While US officials are working to find ways to slow down the Syrian-Russian advance on the besieged city, none of the options being developed would stop Aleppo from falling into the hands of President Assad and his Russian allies.

It’s not just that the US has done so little to directly assist Syrian rebels. A more fundamental failure is that it has refused to arm those who are willing to fight on their own behalf against Assad, Daniel Henninger writes at the Wall Street Journal, likening Aleppo to “Obama’s Sarajevo.”

Inaction by the US, Britain and France is essentially green-lighting the Syrian government and its allies’ war crimes, Samer Attar, a surgeon volunteer with the Syrian American Medical Society and the Aleppo City Medical Council, writes at the Washington Post.

It is too late for the US to intervene in Syria without risking a major war, Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson argue at the New York Times.

IRAQ

The US-led coalition in Iraq is investigating reports that an airstrike killed at least 19 pro-Iraqi government fighters in a village south of Mosul, it said yesterday. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.  The airstrike took place at 2 a.m. yesterday after hours of clashes between the pro-government fighters and the Islamic State in the Islamic State-held village of Haj Ali, the leader of the pro-government fighters said. [AP’s Sinan Salaheddin]

Iraq has requested an emergency UN Security Council session to address the presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq, an Iraqi foreign ministry spokesperson said today. [AP’s Sinan Salaheddin]

RUSSIA

Russia suspended an agreement with the US on research cooperation in the nuclear and energy sectors, a suspension decree posted on the Russian government’s website yesterday, the AP reports, calling it the latest move in worsening tensions between the two nations.

The US must “revisit its overall approach” to the Russian government, ranking Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin said. POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi reports.

AFGHANISTAN

Residents of Afghanistan’s Kunduz have accused Afghan and coalition officials of playing down the violence in the city, saying a large number of Taliban fighters were still in the city as fighting for control of Kunduz continued for a third day yesterday, Jessica Donati, Julian E. Barnes and Habib Khan Totakhil report at the Wall Street Journal.

Civilians are increasingly leaving Kunduz to escape the fighting, which officials said is now in its fourth day. [AP]

In less than two years 44 Afghan troops visiting the US for military training have gone missing, Pentagon officials said. [Reuters]

The “strategic and tactical muddle” that is the US’s ongoing intervention in Afghanistan will be President Obama’s “sorriest legacy,” according to Mark Perry at POLITICO Magazine.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The Obama administration criticized the Israeli government for approving plans to create a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank yesterday, the New York Times’ Mark Landler reports.

“Israel remains committed to a solution of two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel,” Israel’s government said in a statement released after the US’s rebuke. [Wall Street Journal’s Rory Jones]

INDIA and PAKISTAN

Indian forces fired without provocation across the de facto border in Kashmir yesterday, wounding one woman, Pakistan’s military alleges. [Al Jazeera]

The Indian army says it foiled an attack on an army camp and killed three suspected rebels in India-controlled Kashmir today, the AP reports.

The international community should “condemn” the “distortion of facts by India” regarding Kashmir, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif said today, adding that any “aggression” will not go unpunished and will be “met with a befitting response.” [DAWN]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

A former NSA contractor was covertly arrested in August by the FBI, which is investigating whether he stole and disclosed highly classified computer code designed by the agency to hack into the networks of foreign governments, the New York Times’ Jo Becker, Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo report.

A new Snowden? Josh Gerstein and Cory Bennett ponder at POLITICO, noting the arrestee Harold Martin III worked at Booz Allen Hamilton, the same company that employed former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Booz Allen Hamilton is ironically the provider of a special service called Insider4Sight designed to help the government spot “insider threats,” observes Lee Fang at the Intercept, who reports that Martin was charged yesterday.

Yahoo’s “carefully-worded” statement in response to Tuesday’s story by Reuters apparently exposing the company’s government-ordered surveillance program amounts to a “non-denial,” is Sam Biddle’s interpretation at the Intercept.

“Unusual restrictions” on the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state were attacked by Republican committee chairmen questioning Attorney General Loretta Lynch yesterday, Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

The FBI treated Clinton with “kid gloves,” agree lawyers Noel J. Francisco and James M. Burnham, writing at the Wall Street Journal, illustrating their point with a comparison between the Clinton investigation and the FBI probe into former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnel, whom they defended.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Former Portuguese prime minister António Guterrer will be the next UN secretary general after all 15 ambassadors from the UN Security Council agreed, Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

Clear front-runner Guterres previously ran the UN refugee agency for 10 years, Somini Sengupta writes at the New York Times. He will face a formal Council vote today and will then have his name submitted to the 193-member General Assembly for approval, which will likely happen next week.

Two former CIA officials will be compelled to answer questions under oath regarding the agency’s interrogations of terror suspects, a federal judge ruled Tuesday as part of a lawsuit against former CIA contractors by the American Civil Liberties Union, reports Greg Miller at the Washington Post.

The FBI and US Customs and Border Protection work together to exploit the vulnerabilities of travelers arriving at US airports from abroad to recruit informants, according to government documents obtained by The Intercept’s Cora Currier.

A suspected al-Shabaab attack has left six people dead in northern Kenya near its border with Somalia, Tom Odula reports at the AP.

A “potential terrorist attack” left two police officers in Brussels with knife wounds yesterday, Milan Schreuer and Alissa J. Rubin report at the New York Times.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is being pressed to bring up a straight 10-year extension of key Iran sanctions by Senate Democrats when lawmakers return to Washington next month, Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.

Recruits to Islamic militant groups are most likely to be well educated and relatively wealthy, a study by the World Bank has found. Jason Burke reports at the Guardian.

The US and the EU can “go ahead” and withdraw their assistance to the Philippines if they are unhappy with his drugs war, President Rodrigo Duterte said today. [Reuters]

Thousands of Colombians took part in a “March for Peace” demanding that the government and the FARC rebels not give up on a peace deal that was narrowly rejected by voters in a referendum last weekend, Joshua Goodman reports at the AP.

Germany’s defense minister warned the UK against exploiting the run-up to Brexit to block EU efforts to increase security co-operation among bloc members, Stefan Wagstyl reports at the Financial Times. 

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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