The Early Edition: November 8, 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.

SYRIA

Assad regime forces fought rebels for control of a strategically important district of Aleppo today, Reuters reports, suggesting it may be the most important advance by government forces in the city in weeks.

The US promised that US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces will only be involved in the siege of Raqqa and will not enter the city itself, Turkey’s foreign minister said. [AP]

Small advances were made in the push toward Raqqa by Kurdish-led Syrian fighters yesterday, who are aiming to isolate and encircle the city, Bassem Mroue reports at the AP.

Differences between the Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) and Syria could complicate the battle to retake Raqqa, Philip Issa writes at the AP, taking a look at the SDF.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed dismay at the “weakening taboo” against the use of chemical weapons in Syria, according to a letter circulated yesterday. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

IRAQ

The Islamic State abducted 295 former Iraqi Security Forces members near Mosul and took 1,500 families with them as they retreated from the town of Hammam al Alil toward Mosul airport, a UN human rights spokesperson said today. [Reuters]

A mass grave containing dozens of decapitated bodies was found by Iraqi military and police forces near a small town south of Mosul that was recaptured from the Islamic State over the past three days, William Booth and Karen DeYoung report at the Washington Post.

Distrust abounds in the town of Qayyarah, retaken from the Islamic State by Iraqi troops on Oct. 25, where suspected militants are being arrested and oil wells continue to burn after they were set alight by the Islamic State as it retreated, Al-Monitor reports.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces are finding it had to cope with the volume of explosives left behind by the Islamic State in Mosul, including heavily rigged bomb factories, John Beck writes at Al Jazeera.

Up to 700,000 people will be displaced in the campaign to dislodge the Islamic State from Mosul, the US anticipates, and has positioned stocks of food and supplies on the outskirts of the city, Felicia Schwartz and Ben Kesling report at the Wall Street Journal.

American medics are helping to treat the wounded in Mosul. The AP speaks to Derek Coleman about his experiences at a front line field clinic.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 18 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Nov. 6. Separately, partner forces conducted 12 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

TURKEY

Turkey will speak with all interested parties, including Russia, over its plans to develop a long-range missile defense system, a top defense official said today. [Reuters]

Turkey accused Germany of supporting the Kurdish militant PKK and far-leftist DHKP-C, both of which have conducted armed attacks in Turkey, by allowing them to operate on German soil, Reuters reports.

The EU called on Turkey to resume political dialogue with opposition groups to safeguard its democracy amid recent events it called “extremely worrying,” Alastair MacDonald reports at Reuters.

President Erdoğan’s crackdown on the HDP last week could be the last hurdle to achieving an executive presidency, analysts expecting a new constitution to be drafted in January that is likely to give Erdoğan the presidential powers to chair cabinet meetings and introduce legislation. [Financial Times’ Mehul Srivastava]

Erdoğan’s efforts were under way well before July’s failed coup, which merely gave him the pretext to quicken his pace, according to the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israel formally rejected France’s invitation to take part in a Middle East peace conference in Paris later this year yesterday, Reuters reports.

A Palestinian teenager was sentenced to 12 years in jail for his role in an Oct. 2014 stabbing attack that left an Israeli boy wounded, Isabel Kershner reports at the New York Times.

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Ukraine’s membership of NATO is likely to prove elusive on account of the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine with Russian-backed militants despite the country’s 600-point plan to reform in line with NATO standards in consultation with advisers from NATO itself, Rahim Rahemtulla reports at Kyiv Post.

Russia is “tightening the screws” on dissenting Crimeans, Amnesty International said. [KyivPost’s Alyona Zhuk]

US-ASIA RELATIONS

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered police to cancel plans to purchase US-made assault rifles after a US senator warned they could be used in his government’s campaign against illegal drugs, he said yesterday. James Hookway reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Are the US’ allies in Asia defecting to rival China? Both the Philippines and Malaysia have now signed defense agreements with China, and Manila is exploring a 25-military deal, but a more careful analysis, suggests Richard Javad Heydarian writing at Al Jazeera, reveals an “ephemeral strategic recalibration” among US allies seeking to maximize their own room for maneuver.

 

THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

How will the US election affect Middle East policy? Whoever wins today’s election, one thing is clear, according to Megan O’Toole at Al Jazeera, citing analysts: the US will continue to meddle in the conflicts of the Middle East.

Leaders in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria are losing sleep as they wait the results of the US presidential election, suggests Zvi Bar’el at Haaretz.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

WikiLeaks released another batch of emails from the D.N.C. early yesterday at the same time as it suffered a distributed denial of service attack designed to knock its site offline, it said. The Hill’s Joe Uchill reports.

All 50 states asked for federal help with cybersecurity to help them stop election day hackers, Shane Harris reports at The Daily Beast.

Concern that the 2016 US presidential election may be hacked could be “a whole load of worry over nothing,” but the risk that the election process could be compromised should be taken very seriously, the BBC reports, citing security experts.

Under Director James Comey and his predecessor the FBI has transformed its domestic intelligence in the name of fighting terrorism, assembling an army of around 15,000 informants and deploying them for aggressive sting operations and to collect intelligence not tied to any particular criminal case, two internal policy documents obtained by The Intercept’s Cora Currier reveal.

France’s CNNum digital watchdog has called for the suspension of a database that could end up storing the biometric details of 60 million people, the BBC reports.  The French government announced a decree to create the Secure Electronic Documents database, which stores the names, digital fingerprints, photos, eye colors and addresses of almost the entire population, on Nov, 30, explains France 24.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

An Ohio man was arrested at the Columbus airport on suspicion of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State, the Justice Department said.

German police detained Abu Walaa and four other members of the Islamic State who are suspected of recruiting German fighters this morning, DW reports.

An explosion killed a child and injured 32 Indian peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s city of Goma today, the UN mission there said. [Reuters]

Iran signed a preliminary $4.8 billion agreement with French oil company Total, its first such deal since the nuclear accord with world powers removed international sanctions, the AP reports.

US military scientists successfully tested electrical brain stimulators to enhance the mental ability of staff in research aimed at boosting the performance of air crews, drone operators and others, the Guardian’s Ian Sample reports.

A decommissioned US nuclear bomb missing since 1950 may have been found off the coast of Canada by diver Sean Smyrichinsky, the BBC reports. 

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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