The Early Edition: November 1, 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 forces entered the outskirts of Mosul this morning, an Iraqi special forces general said. [AP]

The Islamic State put up fierce resistance as the Iraqi troops set foot in Mosul for the first time in almost two years, the AP reports.

“Surrender or die,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told the Islamic State inside Mosul. [BBC]

A US airstrike killed eight members of one family in their home a few miles outside Mosul, Fazel Hawramy and Emma Graham-Harrison report at the Guardian.

The possibility of chemical weapons use is looming as Iraqi forces close in on Mosul, Al Jazeera reports.

Both sides on the battle for Mosul are assembling “exotic, often jury-rigged” arsenals to attack each other with, David Axe writes at The Daily Beast.

Reports from civilians inside Mosul suggest the Islamic State is ramping up its brutality, executing dozens of people and herding thousands into position to form a human shield, Ben Kesling and Tamer el-Ghobashy write at the Wall Street Journal.

The Islamic State set fire to over a dozen oil wells as they were driven from Qayyara, causing hundreds of civilian injuries. Benedetta Argentieri reports at Al Jazeera.

SYRIA

The rebel assault on government-held parts of Aleppo slowed yesterday in the face of fierce resistance from government forces, Al Jazeera reports.

Peace talks in Syria have been indefinitely delayed due to a Western failure to rein in violent Islamists in Syria, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said today. [Reuters]

Secretary of State John Kerry will work “to the last moment” to achieve a lasting cease-fire in Syria, he said yesterday. [Washington Post’s Griff Witte and Carol Morello]

Aleppo is at risk of being “bombed to smithereens” by Russia unless a fresh ceasefire can be agreed with Russian President Putin, Kerry said. Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

The UN Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) responsible for determining who is responsible for confirmed chemical weapons attacks in Syria by two weeks yesterday, Michael Astor reports at the AP.

Officials racing to plan the operation to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State acknowledge a range of problems that could derail the offensive, but also that they are “not in perfect control,” Missy Ryan and Karen DeYoung report at the Washington Post.

Who controls what in Aleppo? Yarno Ritzen explains at Al Jazeera.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out seven airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Oct. 30. Separately, partner forces conducted nine strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

YEMEN

The US called for an end to Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen at a UN Security Council meeting, Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

Yemen will collapse if the warring parties do not reach a peace deal soon, the UN humanitarian chief said yesterday. Michael Astor reports at the AP.

RUSSIA

A worsening of relations between the US and Russia is not in the interests of either nation, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said today. [Reuters]

“Russian-American relations are going to be bad for a good long spell.” Daniel W. Drezner recounts this and other observations made during a visit to Sochi along with a large portion of the Russian foreign policy elite at the Washington Post.

Russia poses an increasing threat to the UK and is using all the tools at its disposal to achieve its aim, the director general of MI5 told the Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill and Paul Johnson.

Responding to tensions with Russia, NATO member Estonia has stepped up training for members of the Estonian Defense League, teaching them how to become insurgents, Andrew E. Kramer reports at the New York Times.

CHINA

Malaysia’s prime minister arrived in Beijing Monday to purchase Chinese military hardware, a deal which Jane Perlez at the New York Times suggests will rattle his country’s relationship with the US.

Significantly closer defense ties were promised with the purchase of Chinese naval coastal patrol ships by Malaysia yesterday, echoing the pro-China outreach by Philippine’s President Duterte two weeks ago, Simon Denyer writes at the Washington Post.

Japan lodged a protest with China over drilling activity in the East China Sea today, the AP reports.

China’s revised draft of a new cybersecurity law targets foreign hackers and could introduce new rules about how citizens’ data are stored and widen data access and censorship powers for law enforcement, writes the AP.

THE UK

Terror plots intercepted by UK authorities have increasingly involved would-be attackers trying to get hold of firearms to carry out Paris-style mass shootings, a senior police officer said yesterday. Alexis Flynn reports at the Wall Street Journal.

“There will be terrorist attacks in Britain,” the director-general of MI5 told Paul Johnson and Ewen MacAskill at the Guardian in what is the first newspaper interview given by someone in his position.

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL INVESTIGATION

The Justice Department is dedicating “all necessary resources” and proceeding “as expeditiously as possible” in the review of newly uncovered emails potentially relevant to Hillary Clinton’s private email server, it said yesterday. Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

The department signaled it now intends the investigation to follow standard procedures, including strict limits on official comments about the probe and the provision of updates to Congress through routine channels, Sarah Horwitz, Tom Hamburger and Ellen Nakashima at the Washington Post suggesting that it may, however, prove impossible for Justice to regain control over such an unusual disclosure from FBI Director James Comey.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes pushed the FBI for more information on its Clinton investigation, the Hill’s Joe Uchill reports.

Comey’s disclosures on Friday set the stage for a public interest exception to secrecy, suggests Alex Emmons at The Intercept.

The claim that Comey’s disclosure was “contrary” to Justice Department policy is “flatly wrong.” William Barr writing at the Washington Post says Comey did “the right thing.”

Did the timing and style of Comey’s announcement make it illegal? Lauren Hodges asks at NPR.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

FBI Director James Comey argued against publicly disclosing that Russia was behind hacks of US political institutions, David J. Lynch and Sam Fleming report at the Financial Times.

Cellebrite was not the third party that helped the FBI decrypt the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers earlier this year, though more interestingly the company is the FBI’s go-to hackers for mobile forensics, Kim Zetter writes at The Intercept.

Online voting set up by dozens of states to enable US citizens abroad to cast ballots presents hackers with a new target, warns Darren Samuelson at POLITICO.

A £1.9 billion UK government cybersecurity strategy will give a boost to automatic defenses to stop hackers, the BBC reports.

Sven Olaf Kamphuis, accused of launching an unprecedented cyberattack in 2013 that “almost broke the internet,” goes on trial in the Dutch city of Dordrecht today, AFP reports.

South African company VASTech SE Pty Ltd best known for selling Muammar Gaddafi’s regime spy equipment claims it can intercept communications on a scale that rivals a governmental spy agency, The Intercept’s Jenna McLaughlin writes.

THE ICC

Many nations pledged support for the ICC Monday following the announcement by South Africa, Burundi and Gambia, however Kenya – currently being investigated by the tribunal – was critical and questioned its long-term survival, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

The International Criminal Court is “under assault from within,” but it has never been in America’s interest to see the court succeed, writes John Bolton at the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The US military is sending nuclear-tipped ballistic missile-carrying submarine the USS Pennsylvania to Guam for the first time since the 1980s, Barbara Starr and Brad Lendon report at CNN.

The Taliban’s ex-chief negotiator Sayed Muhammad Tayeb is urging the insurgency to reshape itself and consider peace, Mujib Mashal reports at the New York Times.

Pakistani shelling in Kashmir today killed seven civilians, according to Indian officials, as cross-border firing between Pakistani and Indian troops escalates in the disputed region. [AP]

The 911 calls of gunman Omar Mateen made during his siege of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12 have been published, Les Neuhaus and Alan Blinder report at the New York Times.

Activists in Palestine have called on the British government to apologize for the Balfour Declaration which promised a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine almost 100 years ago, Al Jazeera reports.

NATO and EU allies are increasingly worried that Turkey’s President Erdoğan is becoming an ever more unpredictable partner over whom they have decreasing leverage as he sacks or suspends thousands in his homeland, launches a military incursion into Syria and threatens to do the same in Iraq, Humeyra Pamuk and Nick Tattersall report at Reuters.

The US Defence Department’s School of the Americas “has led to the destabilization of many Latin American countries.” Al Jazeera’s Medhi Hassan asks if it is time to close down this “anti-communist” counterinsurgency program to train Latin American military personnel.

Michel Aoun has been elected as president of Lebanon 26 years after the Syrian Air Force targeted him in air strikes on the Lebanese presidential palace in Baabda with US approval, Alex Rowell writes at The Daily Beast. 

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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