The Early Edition: October 20, 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

Kurdish forces opened a new front in the campaign to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State today, thousands of Peshmerga soldiers attacking from the north, Michael R. Gordon reports at the New York Times.

Iraqi counterterrorism forces joined the Mosul offensive today, besieging the town of Bartala this morning, Loveday Morris and Kareem Fahim report at the Washington Post. The force has received training from the US, commanders said.

The Mosul offensive is going faster than planned, Iraq’s prime minister said today. [Reuters’ Stephen Kalin and Babak Dehghanpisheh]

World diplomats met to discuss a plan to protect civilians, distribute aid and address governance questions in Mosul once it is liberated from the Islamic State today, the AP reports.

Islamic State forces are in a state of “frenzy” inside Mosul, increasingly terrorizing the local population, the BBC reports.

The Islamic State is rebranding itself from a “caliphate” to an insurgency and preparing for a guerrilla war, according to the commander of US-led coalition ground forces in Iraq Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky. [The Daily Beast’s Nancy A. Youssef]

Iraqi soldiers are framing the operation to retake Mosul as a chance for personal vengeance against the Islamic State. Susannah George at the AP speaks to some of those taking part in the offensive.

A “homegrown resistance” of Mosul residents who have escaped the city plans to launch attacks against the Islamic State as Iraqi and Kurdish forces close in, Martin Chulov reports at the Guardian.

The rift between Iraq and Turkey is widening days into the Mosul offensive, rhetoric growing increasingly heated on both sides, the AP reports.

Hundreds of battle-tested and heavily armed Islamic State fighters fleeing to Europe to launch terrorist attacks against US and allied interests is “a legitimate concern,” a former US National Counterterrorism Center official told NBC News’ Josh Meyer and Hans Nichols.

SYRIA

A unilateral ceasefire backed by Russia came into force today to allow residents and rebels to leave eastern Aleppo, the Syrian military said. [Reuters]

Rebels have rejected the move and there are reports of clashes at one of the exit corridors, the BBC reports.

Russia promised two corridors for rebels and separate corridors for civilians to move to government-controlled areas of Aleppo, a familiar move by Russia in Syria that the UN has described as “forced displacement,” Philip Issa and Sarah El Deeb report at the AP.

Russia intends to “continue, as much as possible, considering the situation on Syrian territory, a pause in the air strikes,” Russian President Putin said after a meeting with French and German leaders, raising the hope that the ceasefire will continue beyond eight hours. [AP]

Turkish warplanes have struck the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia north of Aleppo, killing 200 fighters, according to Turkish media. [AP]  No more than 10 fighters have been killed so far, according to a Syrian-Kurdish forces leader, while the US-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least nine YPG fighters were confirmed dead, Al Jazeera reports.

Turkey is “displeased” with the support the US gives Syrian Kurdish fighters linked to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels, Turkey’s deputy prime minister said today. [AP]

The US is assembling a force to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, Maria Abi-Habib and Dion Nissenbaum report at the Wall Street Journal, top officials meeting in recent weeks with members of the anti-Islamic State coalition including Turkey, the UK and Kurdish leaders in Syria to try to reach an agreement to launch an offensive soon.

Germany and France do not exclude further sanctions against Russia over its involvement in Syria, the countries’ leaders said ahead of today’s EU summit in Brussels. Janosch Delcker reports at POLITICO.

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

YEMEN

Iran has increased weapons transfers to the Houthis in Yemen, US, Western and Iranian officials told Reuters’ Yara Bayoumy and Phil Stewart, who suggest the development could prolong and intensify the now 19-month-old war.

RUSSIA

The US accused Russia of violating a Cold War-era missile treaty banning the production, maintenance or testing of medium-range missiles, summoning Moscow to a mandatory meeting before a special treaty commission, Paul Sonne, Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold report at the Wall Street Journal.

Britain is sending warships to monitor a Russian aircraft carrier and other vessels sailing through the North Sea and the English Channel, the AP reports.

Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill called for a “holy war” against “evil” after meeting with Queen Elizabeth and the Archbishop of Canterbury while on an official visit to the UK, the BBC reports.

IRAN

The “unjust” judgments against two Iranian-Americans on charges of cooperating with the US are the latest effort by the Iranian judiciary, under the control of the country’s hardline faction, to “thwart improved ties with the United States and the West after the 2015 nuclear deal,” Carol Giacomo writes at the New York Times.

In the context of Iranian foreign policy, the long sentences handed to Baquer Namazi and his son Siamak are “grim but unsurprising,” observes the Washington Post editorial board.

COLOMBIA

Colombians would like to see a quick agreement on a new peace deal, the head of the UN political mission in Colombia Jean Arnault said yesterday. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

Any future deal with the FARC – also “a prolific cocaine cartel” – “must address voters’ substantive concerns,” according to former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, writing in the Wall Street Journal.

THE PHILIPPINES and CHINA

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will announce his “separation” from the United States today, he said. [Reuters]

Duterte said it was “time to say goodbye to America” before embarking on what will be a four-day trip to China, AFP reports.

Duterte and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to resume talks on disputes in the South China Sea when they met in China today, the New York Times’ Jane Perlez reports.

The two leaders did not discuss whether China would allow Filipino fishermen to return to Scarborough Shoal, according to a senior Chinese diplomat. [AP]

Can the US-Philippine alliance survive Duterte? Academics and former officials debate this issue at the New York Times.

Few would have expected the Philippines, America’s strongest ally in South East Asia, to fall “into China’s hands” after China’s furious reaction to an international tribunal in The Hague’s upholding of the Philippine’s complaint against its territorial claims in the South China Sea, observes the Economist.

INDONESIA

Suspected Islamic State militants wounded three Indonesian police in a knife attack today, Reuters reports.

An Islamic militant was sentenced to 10 years in jail by an Indonesian court for his involvement in a suicide bombing and gun attack in the capital Jakarta earlier this year today, Niniek Karmini reports at the AP.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Top-secret NSA hacking tools offered for sale on the internet two months back were found in the huge trove of stolen documents in the possession of NSA contractor Harold Martin by investigators, Scott Shane, Matt Apuzzo and Jo Becker report at the New York Times.

Quiet pressure from the US government played a role in Ecuador’s decision to cut off internet access to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, US officials told NBC News’ Ken Dilanian, William M. Arkin and Robert Windrem.

Defensive measures have been put in place to prevent Russia from hacking more emails to influence the upcoming presidential election, US officials said. [NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden, William Arkin and Robert Windrem]

Russia has unleashed a strengthened cyberwarfare weapon to sow uncertainty about the US democratic process with the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the D.N.C., US officials say, transforming state–sponsored hackers from internet spies to political tools in the process, observe James Marson, Sam Schechner and Alan Cullison at the Wall Street Journal.

More physically destructive hacks are coming, a US and a UK cybersecurity official have warned. [AP’s Raphael Satter]

Serious threats to personal privacy and other political values are posed by hacks accompanied by the indiscriminate publication of someone’s personal emails, such as the Podesta hacks, and the fact that someone wields significant power does not obviate those concerns, author and activist Naomi Klein tells the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald.

The release of at least 23 secret legal opinions issued since 9/11 was requested from the Foreign Intelligence Services Court in a filing by the American Civil Liberties Union, Julian Hattem reports at the Hill.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Two Americans were killed and three others wounded when an Afghan soldier opened fire at a military depot near Kabul yesterday, Mujib Mashal reports at the New York Times.

An initial “road map” came out of negotiations on the Ukraine crisis in Berlin yesterday, but no breakthrough, Anton Troianovski reports at the Wall Street Journal.

A demobilized Navy Reserve lawyer testified in the USS Cole case from Virginia “under extreme duress” yesterday after he was picked up by US Marshals by order of the judge in the case, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

North Korea carried out a second failed missile launch in less than a week today, according to the South Korean military. [BBC]

A teenage girl went on trial in Germany today accused of stabbing a policeman at a train station in Hanover on the orders of the Islamic State, Reuters reports.

 

Just Security’s Three-Year Anniversary Event, “National Security and Transparency in this Administration and the Next,” is taking place on Nov.2. Details are available here. 

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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