The Early Edition: October 13, 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.

YEMEN

A US warship fired cruise missiles at radar installations the Pentagon said were used by Houthi rebels to attack the USS Mason off the coast of Yemen this week, the strikes marking the first time the US has become involved militarily in Yemen’s civil war. Matthew Rosenberg and Mark Mazzetti report at the New York Times.

The strikes were carried out in “self defense,” the Pentagon said, initial assessments indicating that all three radar installations targeted were destroyed, CNN’s Faith Karimi and Ryan Browne report, citing a US official.

The US may be getting closer to a confrontation with Iran over involvement in Yemen’s civil war, suggests Kristina Wong at the Hill, observing that US officials are not shying away from the idea that Iran is partly to blame for the missile attacks on the USS Mason.

International human rights group Human Rights Watch accused the Saudi-led coalition of committing a war crime when it bombed a funeral in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, on Saturday, killing at least 140 civilians. [AP’s Maggie Michael]

US military support of Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen must cease if Saudi Arabia does not take steps to ensure that such an incident as the funeral bombing does not happen again, as Secretary of State John Kerry insisted Sunday, says the Washington Post editorial board.

IRAQ

Turkey’s demands to include a Turkish-trained Sunni force in the operation to retake Iraq’s Mosul are threatening to split the uneasy alliance of diverse Iraqi fighters on the eve of what could be a turning point in the war against the Islamic State, Tamer el-Ghobashy and Dion Nissenbaum observe at the Wall Street Journal.

What is Turkey’s “game” in Iraq? At its heart is a desire not to lose influence over Mosul, which has a large ethnic Turkmen population, explains Mark Lowen at the BBC. Its fight for local dominance is, however, taking place with two “elephants in the room,” the US and Russia: Turkey must work with the US as a NATO member, but it is also trying to align itself politically and diplomatically with Russia. This creates “a dangerous split.”

SYRIA

Secretary of State John Kerry will begin a new effort to reach a ceasefire deal in Syria’s Aleppo when he meets with representatives from the regional powers most directly involved in the Syria conflict on Saturday, US officials said. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon]

Over a dozen airstrikes were carried out overnight on rebel-held parts of Aleppo, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today. [AP]

Bombing of Aleppo on Tuesday and Wednesday left 145 people dead, the head of the Civil Defense rescue service there said. [Reuters]

Infighting that broke out last week among rebel forces marching toward the city of Hama has severely hampered their ambitious campaign to cut a main government supply line to Aleppo and lift the pressure on rebels fighting there, Bassem Mroue reports at the AP.

Accusations that Russia is committing war crimes in bombing Aleppo have been dismissed as “rhetoric” by President Putin, the BBC reports.

US and European officials have quietly begun to consider what sanctions against Russian officials who support the Syrian government might look like, according to diplomats, as Europe’s ties with Russia further deteriorate over Russia’s ongoing bombing of Aleppo. Laurence Norman and Julian E. Barnes report at the Wall Street Journal.

Islamic State militants are being jailed by one rebel group fighting in Syria in makeshift prisons with Islamic law and capital punishment, further complicating the civil war there, Hugh Naylor reports at the Washington Post.

A secret network in southeast Turkey is rescuing Islamic State fighters who decide to defect, at great risk to themselves. Those deserters tell Al Jazeera what life was like under the Islamic State and the roles they played within the group.

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

RUSSIA

Russia again rejected allegations of meddling in the US presidential election, dismissing claims that it was behind a series of recent hacks as “ridiculous,” the AP reports.

Russia has a “playbook” for covert influence in Eastern Europe, a report by a private US research group said. John Walcott and Warren Strobel report at Reuters.

US-Russia relations have moved beyond “new Cold War” to “outright conflict,” CNN’s Nicole Gaouette and Elise Labott suggest, noting the barrage of accusations and disagreements over issues such as Syria, Eastern European independence and escalating cyber breaches.

President Putin’s political unpredictability and his preparedness to use military force are new factors the next US president will have to take into account in America’s relationship with Russia, Maxim Trudolyubov writes at the New York Times.

It is not “entirely right” to talk about a new Cold War, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cautioned today, saying that Russia does not pose as much of a danger to global stability as the Soviet Union did. [Reuters]

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban fought its way further into the capital of Helmand province yesterday, officials said, threatening to take over the second major city in Afghanistan in just over a week. [Wall Street Journal’s Jessica Donati and Habib Khan Totakhil]

At least 100 Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban militants opened fire on them from all directions as they tried to retreat via an agreed-upon route near the city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, Afghan officials said yesterday. Mujib Mashal and Fahim Abed report at the New York Times.

The Islamic State claimed role in the deadly attack on Shi’ite worshippers in Kabul Tuesday, Pamela Constable and Sayed Salahuddin report at the Washington Post.

GERMANY

The Syrian refugee detained by German officials on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack committed suicide in his jail cell last night, Alison Smale reports at the New York Times.

Suspect Jaber Albakr, who strangled himself with his shirt, had been granted asylum in Germany last year, undergoing a security check at the time which did not turn up anything suspicious, the AP’s David Rising and Frank Jordans report.

It is not clear whether Albakr had accomplices, something which authorities are still investigating, a German official said. [Reuters]

GUANTANAMO BAY

Government censors can retroactively seal public war testimony, the 9/11 trial judge at Guantánamo has ruled, saying national security spills do occasionally slip through Camp Justice’s second-delay screening system, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

The full medical records of some of the alleged 9/11 plotters from their time in CIA custody were requested by their lawyers in Guantánamo’s 9/11 case on the ground that the details are needed to avert the defendants’ military execution, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

WikiLeaks released a fourth dump of material allegedly hacked from the email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairperson John Podesta yesterday, Julian Hattem reports at the Hill.

The US’s classified information would be much more secure if the intelligence community heeded lessons from the little-known case of Brian Regan, who 16 years ago pulled off a heist of more than 20,000 top-secret documents and tried to sell them to Iraq and Libya, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee writes at the New York Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed unity government are advancing on the last pockets of Islamic State militants still inside the coastal city of Sirte, Al Jazeera reports.

Japan will expand a military base in Djibouti next year to counteract what it says is growing Chinese influence in the region, Japanese government sources said. [Reuters]

An Islamic State plan to attack commemorations of the Shi’ite mourning period of Ashoura has been broken up in Iran, state media reported. [AP’s Nasser Karimi]

Two “militants” who had taken up positions in a government building in Indian-administered Kashmir have been killed, the Indian army said. [BBC]

Two teenagers carrying bayonet knives have been arrested in Australia on suspicion of planning an “imminent attack” inspired by the Islamic State, police said today. [New York Times’ Michelle Innis]

The UN’s 193 member states are expected to appoint former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres as the next secretary-general today, the AP’s Michael Astor reports.

Twenty-one of the Chibok schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram in Nigeria in April 2014 have been freed, a Nigerian government official told the BBC today.

Is the British military opting out of human rights? Alasdair Soussi at Al Jazeera discusses the announcement by British Prime Minister Theresa May that the British military will be able to opt out of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights during future conflicts. 

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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