The Early Edition: October 25, 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 Peshmerga and Iraqi forces are advancing on Mosul on separate fronts in the face of stiff resistance from the Islamic State, which is launching counterattacks in other towns, Al Jazeera reports.

The Islamic State took full control of the town of Rutba in the western Iraqi province of Al Anbar yesterday, Al Jazeera reports.

The aim of the Islamic State’s attacks in other towns is to draw coalition troops and resources away from Mosul, explains the Wall Street Journal editorial board, discussing the progress of the battle for Mosul so far.

Kurdish forces surrounded key town Bashiqa and are preparing to launch a full assault, advancing with caution due to the threat of suicide bombs from the Islamic State. [BBC]

The Islamic State has refined innovative tactics and launched diversionary attacks along the frontiers of their self-styled caliphate, with many now fearing the group has “more surprises in store” as coalition forces close in on Mosul. Joseph Krauss at the AP takes a look at tactics the Islamic State might employ.

The Islamic State is using asymmetric warfare tactics to inflict damage on advancing Iraqi forces and terrorize civilians, CNN’s Tim Hume explains.

Turkey will use all rights and opportunities in Iraq if needed, including ground operations, Turkey’s foreign minister said. [Reuters]

Turkey’s decision to “pick a fight” with Iraq makes the logistical and strategic “nightmare” of reconciling the competing interests of multiple countries and groups in the battle for Mosul more likely, observes the New York Times editorial board.

Turkey’s disputed involvement in the fighting has intensified the risk that the Mosul operation could morph into a new frontline in the wider conflict between Sunnis and Shi’ites, Simon Tisdall writes at the Guardian.

SYRIA

Syrian government forces captured strategic high ground in besieged Aleppo yesterday as its ally Russia said it was not planning any more “humanitarian pauses” in the city’s rebel-held districts, the AP’s Bassem Mroue reports.

Russian and Syrian warplanes have not conducted airstrikes on Aleppo in the last seven days, the Russian Defense Ministry said today. [Reuters]

NATO’s chief is concerned that a Russian naval battle group heading to Syria may be used in air strikes against civilians in Aleppo, Reuters reports.

The UN abandoned a plan to evacuate injured residents from Aleppo, blaming all parties to the fighting for obstructing its efforts. [Reuters]

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels took control of three areas in the last 24 hours as they continued to drive the Islamic State and Kurdish YPG militias from the Turkey-Syria border as part of the “Euphrates Shield” operation, Reuters reports.

Heavy airstrikes across rebel-held Idlib province in northwestern Syria have left sixteen civilians dead, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Al Jazeera reports.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out four airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Oct. 23. Separately, partner forces conducted 10 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

QUETTA ATTACK

An attack on a police training center in the Pakistani city of Quetta last night has left at least 60 people dead, outlawed group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claiming responsibility for the massacre, Al Jazeera reports.

The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the attack today, Reuters reports.

A previously unknown organization called Tehreek-e-Taliban Karachi also claimed responsibility, saying the assault was revenge for the killing of its men in police custody, the Guardian’s John Boone and Kiyya Baloch report.

Most of the victims were cadets, the New York Times’ Salman Masood reports. All three attackers also died, one being shot, the other two detonating suicide vests.

SOUTH AFRICA and BURUNDI WITHDRAWAL FROM THE ICC

The chief of the International Criminal Court’s oversight board called on South Africa and Burundi to abandon their decisions to withdraw from the ICC, Babacar Dione and Carley Petesch report at the AP.

South Africa’s withdrawal from the ICC is illegal and the country’s top court should intervene, the country’s main opposition party said yesterday, trying to block the government’s exit plans. [AP’s Christopher Torchia]

RUSSIA

Russia and Saudi Arabia’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council risks undermining the institution’s credibility, Human Rights Watch said today. [AP]

The US military is increasingly wary of Russia, military leaders even talking about a potential war with Russia at a US Army conference earlier this month, Kristina Wong observes at the Hill.

Russia is upgrading bomb shelters in the largest cities and revisiting Soviet-era civil-defense plans, recently holding its largest civil defense drill since the collapse of the USSR. “The Cold War is back” at the Kremlin’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, Thomas Grove concludes at the Wall Street Journal.

Warnings of a return to the Cold War have been a “staple of European debate” on Russia for three years now, but recently western diplomats, politicians and analysts have been reassessing Russia, talk turning from transition to liberal democracy to regression as the new era “Cold War 2.0” begins, write Patrick Wintour, Luke Harding and Julian Borger at the Guardian.

THE PHILIPPINES

Philippines President Rodrigo Dutete reiterated previous comments about withdrawing from the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US and US influence in his country and the region today as he departed for an official visit to Japan, CNN’s Euan McKirdy and Kathy Quiano report.

The US could “forget” EDCA if he remained in power longer, Duterte said. [Reuters]

Tirades against  America have “long been a staple” of Philippine politics, Andrew Browne writes at the Wall Street Journal, but Duterte’s desire for economic cooperation with China has even deeper roots.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Former State Department IT staffer John Bentel pleaded the 5th Amendment in a sworn deposition in which he was asked questions about Hillary Clinton’s private email server yesterday, Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

The result of WikiLeaks’ new transparency is less transparency, Richard Cohen writes at the Washington Post.

The UAE is recruiting hackers to create the “perfect surveillance state,” writes Jenna McLaughlin at The Intercept.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

An Iranian-American has been sentenced to 18 years in Tehran for “collaboration with a hostile government,” Jon Gambrell reports at the AP.

Turkey’s post-coup emergency rule gave a “blank check” to security services to torture detainees, Human Rights Watch said today. Humeyra Pamuk reports at Reuters.

The Pentagon is looking into how to resolve the issue of thousands of Army National Guard members who have been ordered to repay at least $30 million in bonuses they should not have received, reports Dan Lamothe at the Washington Post.

Top congressional leaders are fighting the clawback of soldiers’ bonuses, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling efforts to recoup the money “disgraceful” and asking the Department of Defense to waive the repayments. [POLITICO’s Brent Griffiths]

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on the Bishaaro Guest House in Kenya’s northern Mandera County which killed 12 early this morning, Tom Odula reports at the AP, the group saying they targeted Christians.

The attack was one of three launched by al-Shabaab in the last 24 hours, Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar report at Reuters.

Two imams suspected of promoting the Islamic State in Ibiza have been arrested by Spanish police, the AP reports.

A bomb exploded inside a car left in the parking lot of a local chamber of trade in Antalya today, an official said. [AP]

Why is it taking so long for the US and its allies to oust the Islamic State from Libya? Missy Ryan answers this question at the Washington Post.

A recent German terrorism case highlights two central challenges facing Europe: getting a handle on the security risks presented by the arrival of over one million migrants last year, and addressing the continued reliance by European governments on intelligence from the US to avert attacks. [New York Times’ Alison Smale and Melissa Eddy]

The perception that refugees are more prone to radicalization is wrong and dangerous, and overly-restrictive migration policies introduced on that basis are unjustified, the UN expert on counterterrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson said in a news release today. [UN News Centre]

 A Middle East mired in conflict and disarray and desperate for American leadership will confront the next US president, according to Peter Baker at the New York Times.

 

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