The Early Edition: October 31, 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.

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.

IRAQ

Iraqi special forces advanced on Islamic-State held Mosul from the east this morning, entering the last village before the city limits and clearing a path for army units, Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports at the AP.

The Iraqi army has since entered the Karama district of Mosul, their first advance into Mosul itself, Reuters reports.

Iraq’s Shi’ite militias joined the operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, they said Saturday, Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim at the Washington Post suggesting that the move could churn up sectarian and regional tensions in the already-complex battle.

The Islamic State has been forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes in sub-districts around Mosul including almost 8,000 families it abducted since the Mosul operation began on Oct. 17, according to reports the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called “credible.” [UN News Centre]

Turkey warned it will intervene if Shia militias heading for Mosul commit atrocities in the town of Tal Afar, which has strong ethnic ties to Turkey, Al Jazeera reports.

“Defeat on the battlefield must always leave behind the seeds for a comeback.” Whether the operation to retake Mosul will be the end for the Islamic State or the beginning of a new cycle depends on understanding that this is the terrorist group’s doctrine of survival, Hassan Hassan writes at the Guardian.

A successful Mosul offensive could boost national unity, restore the pride of the Iraqi army humiliated when it fled the Islamic State in 2014, and destroy the terrorists’ self-proclaimed caliphate – but the “tinderbox coalition” of fighters advancing on Iraq’s second-largest city also risks triggering more bloodshed even after the Islamic State is ousted, Mo Abbas writes at NBC News.

Both the Mosul operation and the upcoming Raqqa campaign in Syria involve a “new and largely untested” US military strategy to defeat the Islamic State, not by committing substantial land forces, but Special Forces, intelligence resources and air support to Iraqi and Syrian fighters on the ground. CNN’s Peter Bergen interviews the general running the war against the Islamic State.

The fear and suspicion still haunting Sinjar in northern Iraq after it was liberated from the Islamic State almost a year ago is a warning of the challenges ahead for Mosul, the Guardian’s Emma Graham-Harrison writes.

SYRIA

Rebel groups fighting in Aleppo stepped up attacks on the government-controlled western part of the city yesterday, CNN’s Schams Elwazer, Eyad Kourdi and Ralph Ellis report.

At least 41 civilians were killed during fierce fighting between Rebels and Assad’s forces on Aleppo’s western edges Sunday, the UN saying it was “appalled” by the number of rockets launched indiscriminately at civilian suburbs. [Al Jazeera]

The indiscriminate rocket launches “could amount to war crimes,” the UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said. [AP]

A mortar attack on the Russian Embassy in Syria’s capital Damscus was condemned in the “strongest terms” by the UN Security Council. [UN News Centre]

AFGHANISTAN

Dozens of Afghan soldiers surrendered to the Taliban in the past week in the southern province of Oruzgan, officials said, Taimoor Shah and Rod Nordland at the New York Times reporting that this is a trend occurring in other provinces as well.

The Taliban is increasingly relying on its front line fighters not only to gain territory and attack Afghan security forces but to record the moment and share it, drawing inspiration from the Islamic State’s “propaganda-first” strategy, writes Mujib Mashal at the New York Times.

The Kabul-Kandahar highway, once “the most visible sign” of efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, is now a cratered and dangerous symbol of the US’s failed intervention there, observes Erin Cunningham at the Washington Post.

SOUTH CHINA SEA

China has stopped harassing Filipino fishermen in contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea for the first time in years, aerial surveillance shows. Katie Hunt and Kathy Quiano report at CNN.

A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is involved in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons with its smaller neighbors, has been provided by the AP.

TURKEY

A further 10,000 civil servants were dismissed and another 15 media outlets closed over suspected links with Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and terrorist organizations in Turkey, Humeyra Pamuk reports at Reuters.

The chief editor and at least eight senior staff at Turkey’s opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper were detained today, Zeynep Bilginsoy reports at the AP.

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL INVESTIGATION

New emails have surfaced in an unrelated case which “appear to be pertinent into the investigation” into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for government work while serving as secretary of state, FBI Director James Comey told Congress in a letter sent Friday.

The “unrelated case” is an inquiry into former Congressman Anthony Weiner, whose estranged wife Huma Abedin is Clinton’s aide, Rebecca Savransky reports at the Hill.

Federal investigators obtained a warrant to examine the newly discovered emails to assess whether they are relevant to its probe into Clinton’s private server, Mark Hosenball and John Whitesides report at Reuters.

Comey sent a subsequent email to FBI employees encouraging the FBI to “take appropriate steps to obtain and review” the emails – suggesting he did not know what was in those emails at the time he wrote this and the letter to Congress, suggests Alan M. Dershowitz at the Hill.

FBI investigators knew early this month that messages uncovered through a separate probe might relate to the Clinton case, but waited weeks before briefing Director Comey, sources close to the case told Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima and Rosalind S. Helderman at the Washington Post.

The disclosure exposes tensions inside the FBI and the Justice Department over how to investigate Clinton, Devlin Barrett observes at the Wall Street Journal.

Did the FBI Director abuse his power on the Clinton emails? Richard W. Painter considers this issue at the New York Times.

Comey’s decision to write a vague letter to Congress about emails potentially connected to a matter of public interest was “incorrect,” according to former US attorney general Eric Holder writing at the Washington Post.

We may not know what is actually in the emails of Huma Abedin, but we can draw conclusions about FBI Director James Comey and his decision to issue the letter, which do no credit to him or the leadership of the Justice Department, Michael B. Mukasey writes at the Wall Street Journal.

If Comey acted out of fear that his “largely conservative” agents would leak against him, that would reflect “profound dysfunction” within the FBI, suggests E. J. Dionne Jr. at the Washington Post.

The FBI decision not to bring federal charges against Clinton is not likely to change as a result of the new emails, former prosecutors and legal experts believe. Ari Melber reports at NBC News.

What happens now? Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo answer this and other questions about the latest Clinton email trove at the New York Times.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

WikiLeaks will launch “phase three of [its] election coverage,” the site warned politicians Sunday via Twitter. Joe Uchill reports at the Hill.

The US is not ready for a cyber attack, warns Christopher Mims at the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Three Saudi-led coalition airstrikes late Saturday killed at least 60 people at a security complex in Yemen, including prisoners and staff, Houthi rebels said yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Asa Fitch and Saleh al-Batati]

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the murder of an Algerian police officer in Constantine Friday, Algerian authorities confirming the officer was killed by an unnamed “terrorist group” but providing no comment on the Islamic State, the AP reports.

The UN negotiated the release of 876 children detained at a Nigerian army barracks because it was suspected of collaborating with Boko Haram, the UN Children’s Fund announced Friday. Michelle Faul reports at the Washington Post.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson are hosting a meeting in London today during which they hope to break Libya’s political stalemate following the UN-backed government’s failure to win legitimacy, the AP reports.

The UN elected 14 states to the Human Rights Council by secret ballot on Friday, the UN News Centre reports.

Arguing over nuclear issues between the US and Russia has increased markedly in recent months in a war of words that is being matched by actions, David Welna writes at NPR.

A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “more distant than ever” in Israel, according to Roger Cohen at the New York 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