The Early Edition: November 3, 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 Special Forces consolidated their gains in eastern Mosul yesterday, laying the groundwork for the next stage of the operation: entering Mosul’s more urban central neighborhoods, likely to contain booby traps and roadside bombs, Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports at the AP.

Forces entering eastern Mosul were able to see first-hand what life in the city had been like under the Islamic State, also catching a glimpse of the challenges that lie ahead in establishing government authority, Tim Arango reports from Mosul for the New York Times.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi broke almost a year’s public silence to release an audio recording urging his forces to stay firm in the face of the US-backed Iraqi offensive on Mosul, expressing confidence in a final victory for the militants, Rukmini Challimachi reports at the New York Times.

Al-Baghdadi also called for the invasion of Turkey in the 30-minute recording, the authenticity of which could not be verified, Al Jazeera reports.

The fight to retake Mosul is going to be “tougher before it’s easier,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend told CNN’s Michael Holmes during one of his regular tours to visit US troops in Iraq.

Hundreds of civilians have fled Mosul through heavy fighting to seek shelter in nearby towns, Fazel Hawramy reports at the Guardian.

SYRIA

Rebels fighting in Aleppo rejected Russia’s demand that they leave Syria by tomorrow evening, one rebel fighter telling Al Jazeera that “this is completely out of the question” and “we won’t surrender.”

The rebel offensive on government-held districts in western Aleppo has failed to break through the siege, the Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov said, calling on the rebels to “cease hostilities and leave Aleppo with their weapons” along two corridors Friday, one leading to the Turkish border, the other to Idlib. Nataliya Vasilyeva and Sarah El Deeb report at the AP.

While Assad’s forces hold the upper hand militarily, there are few signs that they can deal a decisive blow to Syria’s rebels, writes Louise Loveluck at the Washington Post, reflecting on a rare press trip to Damascus this week that turned into “the crest of a PR wave” during which President Assad presented “a different reality” of the situation in Syria.

The attack on Raqqa could be six months away, one US official told The Daily Beast’s Nancy A. Youssef, walking back on Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s statement that an offensive could happen in “weeks.”

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance of Kurdish and Arab armed groups said it would reject Turkish involvement in the operation to oust the Islamic State from Raqqa today, Reuters reports.

A senior al-Qaeda leader was killed in a US airstrike in Syria last month, the Pentagon announced yesterday.

Two steps are needed to advance the US’s Syria policy, argues Steven Heydemann at the New York Times. The first is to move beyond a discussion limited to no-fly zones or increased rebel support. The second is a “fact-based” assessment of the risks of future American involvement.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out zero airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Nov. 2. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

YEMEN

Cautious support for a UN plan to end the war in Yemen from Saudi Arabia has raised hopes of peace in among diplomats, Noah Browning and Michelle Nichols report at Reuters.

AFGHANISTAN

NATO reports that two US service members were killed and 2 wounded fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province. [AP]

At least 22 Afghans were also killed today in the heavy fighting around the northern provincial capital of Kunduz, officials and residents said. Najim Rahim and Rod Nordland report at the New York Times.

International support to Kunduz remains essential, the UN said, the security situation in the region remaining tense since the provincial capital was briefly overtaken by the Taliban late last year and was attacked again this October. [UN News Centre]

THE PHILIPPINES

Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D., Md) opposition to the sale of assault rifles to the Philippines on humanitarian grounds prompted President Duterte to lash out at Washington yesterday, reports Chris Larano at the Wall Street Journal.

Duterte will consider continuing to acquire weapons and defense equipment from the US if his military recommends it, he said in the same speech yesterday, the AP’s Bullit Marquez reports.

The Philippines’ deal with China has poked a hole in US strategy in the South China Sea, creating a gap in what was a fairly united front against China’s expanding territorial claims from Japan to Malaysia, Jane Perlez writes at the New York Times.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israeli planning authorities issued building permits for 181 new homes in east Jerusalem yesterday, drawing rebuke from the US, Daniella Cheslow reports at the AP.

The British government remains unrepentant over the Balfour Declaration and “what it has done to the Palestinians” since it was made on Nov. 2, 1917, writes Ramzy Baroud at Al Jazeera.

U.N. FORCES in SOUTH SUDAN

Kenya is pulling out its 1,000 troops deployed to South Sudan as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in protest of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s firing of the force’s Kenyan commander, Tom Odula reports at the AP.

TURKEY

Turkey’s Interior Ministry dismissed 1,218 military personnel from the gendarmerie as the post-July 15 coup crackdown continues, the AP reports.

The Obama Administration has stayed “mostly quiet” during Turkey’s crackdown and continues to entertain Ankara’s request to extradite Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, shirking the West’s obligation to denounce President Erdoğan’s repression because they believe their fellow NATO member is needed to fight the Islamic State in Syria and curb the flow of refugees to Europe, argues the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

EUROPE

Refugees from the Middle East have been banding together to hunt terror suspects and war criminals hiding among them in Europe, mostly in Germany, a help that has been both a blessing and a burden for officials, Ruth Bender and Mohammad Nour Alakraa write at the Wall Street Journal.

A man was arrested in Berlin, Germany, on suspicion of membership of a terrorist organization late last night, the AP reports.

France has ordered the closure of four mosques that allegedly promoted “radical ideology,” the latest in a string of closures since the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris last year, the AP reports.

INDIA and PAKISTAN

Pakistan named eight Indian diplomats it accuses of espionage and terrorism today, fueling escalating tensions between the two nations after days of artillery clashes on the border dividing the disputed Kashmir region, Asad Hashim reports at Reuters.

The closure of hundreds of schools has been ordered by authorities in India-controlled Kashmir after days of deadly shelling in areas close to the militarized border with Pakistan, the AP’s Aijaz Hussain reports.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was given a “heads up” by a senior Justice Department official about new developments related to Clinton’s use of a private email server, hacked emails published by WikiLeaks yesterday reveal. [POLITICO’s Matthew Nussbaum]

Microsoft Windows’ Chief Terry Myerson accused previously Russia-linked hackers Strontium of exploiting a flaw in its operating system, but why did the tech company take the unusual step of revealing a software flaw? Leo Kelion explains at the BBC.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A US naval base in western Japan locked down briefly today after reports of gunshots, Reuters reports.

American citizens are under threat of possible Islamic State-related attacks in India, the US Embassy in New Delhi warned. Karan Deep Singh reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Two people have been arrested by counterterrorism police in Australia on suspicion of fighting in Syria for militant groups and planning to join the Islamic State in that country, Rob Taylor reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The exact nature and extent of the Russian threat to the West is still being debated in Europe and the US, a change of focus after a decade and a half of concentrating on the threat of international terrorism, observes the Guardian’s Natalie Nougayrède.

The international community should redouble efforts to strengthen the International Criminal Court’s mandate and its mission instead of allowing it to wither in the face of recent defections, writes the New York Times editorial board, acknowledging this will be no easy task given the court’s complex history. 

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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