The Early Edition: October 24, 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

Iraqi forces shelled Islamic State positions outside Mosul today, while Human Rights Watch called for a probe into a suspected airstrike that hit a mosque on Friday in the nearby town of Daquq, killing over a dozen, the AP’s Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Joseph Krauss report.

There were limited gains in the first week of the Mosul offensive, Susannah George and Joseph Krauss report at the AP, providing a look at the main developments.

Iraqi Kurdish forces advanced to within 5.5 miles of the northern city of Mosul yesterday, cordoning off eight surrounding villages, the AP’s Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Joseph Krauss report.

Kurdish troops backed by Turkish and other foreign special forces advanced on the town of Rutba west of Mosul yesterday, Fazel Hawramy and Emma Graham-Harrison report at the Guardian.

Kurdish forces also attacked Islamic State positions in the town of Bashiqa near Mosul, Turkish troops providing artillery fire despite the Iraqi prime ministers rejection of an offer of Turkish involvement on Saturday. [BBC]

The Turkish artillery fire was at the request of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Al Jazeera reports.

The rift between Iraq and Turkey is a “stark example” of the “complete breakdown of sovereignty” in Iraq as well as Syria, the Islamic State erasing the borders between the two countries while Turkey has stationed troops in both without the permission of either. [New York Times’ Tim Arango and Michael R. Gordon]

Turkey is trying to reassert historic territorial claims while also destroying its enemy the Kurdish separatists in Iraq, observes Bill Neely at NBC News.

The Islamic State killed 284 men and boys as Iraqi-led coalition forces advanced on Mosul, an Iraqi intelligence source told CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali, Laura Smith-Spark and Tim Lister.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited Irbil yesterday to assess the fight against the Islamic State in northern Iraq, also meeting with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, the AP’s Lolita C. Baldor reports.

Carter assured Kurdish leaders that the US-led coalition will provide the air support necessary to help their forces liberate Mosul and warned the international community of the need to be prepared to reconstruct the city after the operation is complete. [NBC News’ Hans Nichols]

Countries where the Islamic State has carried out terrorist attacks face the dilemma of supporting efforts to defeat the group in Iraq and Syria while knowing that this risks dislodging its members and casting them elsewhere, Michael Birnbaum writes at the Washington Post.

The Islamic State will fight to the bitter end in Mosul, where its caliphate was declared in 2012 by its leader – and former leader of Mosul itself – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – and then retreat temporarily into the desert, Hassan Hassan writes at the New York Times.

SYRIA

Heavy clashes between rebel and government forces resumed in Syria’s besieged city of Aleppo after the three-day “humanitarian pause” ended, reports Patrick Wintour at the Guardian. Neither rebels nor residents responded to Syrian government and Russian calls for them to leave during the ceasefire, and the ceasefire ended before the UN could evacuate wounded civilians.

Warplanes – either Russian or pro-government – targeted rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo Saturday, residents and rebels said. [Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor and Zakaria Zakaria]

Russia is not currently considering a return to the ceasfire, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, announcing the end of the ceasefire Saturday. [Reuters]

Turkey has hit dozens of Islamic State and Kurdish YPG targets in Syria in the last 24 hours, Turkey’s army said today. [Reuters]

The Obama administration is secretly considering whether to send more firepower to CIA-backed units in Syria, Greg Miller and Adam Entous report at the Washington Post.

Hezbollah has vowed to remain in Syria until it could “defeat the apostate project,” saying the insurgency against President Assad is a façade designed to weaken Iran’s regional access to Syria, Philip Issa reports at the AP.  President Assad has provided a corridor for Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah for years.

The UK government’s refusal to release secret advice about the legality of British drone strikes in Syria on Aug. 21 2015 targeting two Britons is being challenged by Rights Watch UK, the Guardian’s Owen Bowcott reports.

Sharing information from the sky on the timing and movements of Russian and Syrian warplanes would be a “simple but necessary act” by NATO that would save the lives of Syrian refugees without the use of military power, suggest Daoud Kuttab and Hazm Almazouni, writing at Al Jazeera.

It is time for the US to act more assertively in Syria to further four objectives: ending mass civilian killing; protecting the moderate opposition; undermining extremist narratives of Western indifference to injustice; and forcing Assad to the negotiating table, John Allen and Charles R. Lister argue at the Washington Post.

YEMEN

A 72-hour extension to the ceasefire in Yemen was urged by the UN envoy to Yemen Saturday as the original 72-hour period came to an end. [UN News Centre]

RUSSIA

Russian President Putin’s more confrontational stance toward the US is eroding the common ground established by the two nations over the past 25 years by the improvement of security for nuclear materials and reductions in nuclear weapons arsenals, starting with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty signed in 1987, reflects the Washington Post editorial board.

Russia is ready to “turn a new page” with the next US president and resume a more pragmatic relationship with Washington despite the recent escalation in tensions, Sergei Ivanov, a member of President Putin’s security council, told the Financial Times’ Kathrin Hille and Lionel Barber.

THE PHILIPPINES

The Philippines remains a “trusted” ally and the US supports its strengthening ties with China, US Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said. [Reuters’ Manuel Mogato and Enrico Dela Cruz]

President Rodrigo Duterte’s sense of grievance borne of what he sees as US arrogance toward the Philippines threatens to undo a vital American relationship in Asia, writes Trefor Moss at the Wall Street Journal.

INDIA and PAKISTAN

Cross-border fire in Kashmir killed a soldier and three civilians, Pakistan and India said today, trading accusations over the incident. [AP]

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tough stance on militants in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir is risking war with Pakistan, according to experts. [New York Times’ Geeta Anand]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Hillary Clinton’s chief campaign strategist Joel Benenson was put on notice by WikiLeaks that it will leak information about him yesterday, the Hill’s Joe Uchill reports.

WikiLeaks is testing founder Julian Assange’s 2006 hypothesis that total transparency would cause the US’s two major political powers to fall into “an organizational stupor,” suggests Raphael Satter at the AP.

Little-known New Zealand company Endace designed “Medusa,” the technology used by the UK’s electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ to gather vast quantities of internet data at speed, as well as by other governments worldwide, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher and Nicky Hager.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Another country has offered to accept ex-Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab, prompting him to stop the hunger strike he has been on in protest of his transfer to Uruguay, according to his supporters. [AP]

The Islamic State is trying to establish a caliphate in Afghanistan, the country’s top US commander Gen. John Nicholson said in an interview with NBC News’ Courtney Kube.

The California National Guard is being ordered to repay thousands of dollars paid to soldiers for reenlisting to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, NPR’s Bill Chappell reports.

A nuclear Iran is the “truly mortal danger” facing the US, not the Islamic State, which is just a “distraction,” according to Mark Helprin at the Wall Street Journal.

New details are emerging that can tell us a lot about the Islamic State organization six months after The Daily Beast exposed the “most important European in ISIS” Abu Suleyman al-Firansi, writes Michael Weiss.

An Israeli aircraft hit a militant target in the Gaza Strip today after a rocket was fired toward Israel, the Israeli military said. [Reuters]

The Islamic State and the Taliban in Pakistan said they killed a police official in the northwest of the country today, Saud Mehsud reports at Reuters.

China warned the US today for sending its ambassador in India to a contested region on the India-China border, saying its meddling would only complicate the dispute over the territory, Reuters reports.

Around 83 Nigerian soldiers are missing after Boko Haram attacked a remote military base in northeast Nigeria yesterday, senior army officers said. [AP’s Haruna Umar and Michelle Faul]

Al-Shabaab recaptured a town in central Somalia after Somali and African Union troops pulled out yesterday, residents said. [AP’s Abdi Guled]

UN sanctions targeting nuclear and missile tests are “criminal documents,” North Korean officials told the AP today.

 

Just Security’s Three-Year Anniversary Event, “National Security and Transparency in this Administration and the Next,” is taking place on Nov.2. Join us for a wide-ranging discussion with panelists Amy Davidson (Staff Writer, The New Yorker), Jack Goldsmith (Henry L. Shattuck Professor, Harvard Law School), Jameel Jaffer (founding director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University; Former deputy legal director at the ACLU; Executive Editor, Just Security), and David McCraw (Assistant General Counsel, The New York Times). 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