News Roundup and Notes: December 3, 2013

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.

China’s new ADIZ

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is set to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today, before flying to China as part of his Asia trip [Reuters’ Elaine Lies]. Biden has stated that the U.S. remains “deeply concerned by [China’s] announcement of a new Air Defense Identification Zone” and that “this latest incident underscores the need for agreement between China and Japan to establish crisis management and confidence building measures to lower tensions.” The New York Times (Mark Landler and Martin Fackler) and Wall Street Journal (Yuka Hayashi) also cover Biden’s efforts to manage the crisis in the region.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney said yesterday that the trip “is an opportunity for Vice President Biden to raise our concerns directly with policymakers in Beijing and to seek clarity regarding the Chinese intentions in making this move at this time. We do not accept the legitimacy of China’s requirements” [The Hill’s Julian Pecquet]. And State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated, “the fact that China’s announcement has caused confusion and increased the risk of accidents only further underscores the validity of concerns and the need for China to rescind the procedures.”

Meanwhile, a Chinese envoy to the Philippines has stated that China has the sovereign right to decide “where and when to set up [a] new air identification zone” over the South China Sea [AP]. U.S. ambassador to Manila, Philip Goldberg expressed concern, stating that any such move “will create tension and the possibility of miscalculations and that’s never good.”

And the U.S. Navy has deployed two new reconnaissance planes to Japan to rebalance its resources in the Pacific [CNN’s Security Clearance’s Jamie Crawford].

Iran

In a recent survey taken for Americans United for Change, 63 percent of respondents favored the deal with Iran when provided with a clinically worded description of the agreement [Politico’s Alexander Burns].

Foreign Policy’s The Cable (John Hudson) reports that according to aides, senators from both parties are closing in on legislation to impose new sanctions against Iran. The bill being negotiated is likely to include an option to delay the imposition of sanctions if agreement on a final deal with Iran appears promising.

The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart argues why “legislating new sanctions now, even if they don’t immediately take effect, could destroy Rouhani’s nuclear diplomacy.” In an opinion in the Wall Street Journal, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz outline how a “credible agreement [with Iran] must dismantle or mothball the key parts of Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure.” They argue, “American diplomacy now has three major tasks: to define a level of Iranian nuclear capacity limited to plausible civilian uses and to achieve safeguards to ensure that this level is not exceeded; to leave open the possibility of a genuinely constructive relationship with Iran; and to design a Middle East policy adjusted to new circumstances.”

And U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague has confirmed that U.K.’s new envoy to Iran is scheduled to visit Tehran today:

Syria

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has stated that a team of expert UN investigators have “produced massive evidence” pointing to war crimes committed in Syria, which “indicates responsibility at the highest level of government, including the head of state” [Al Jazeera America]. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad dismissed Pillay’s allegations.

CNN (Frederik Pleitgen) covers how the war between rebel and regime forces is “creeping closer and closer” to Damascus. Al Jazeera reports that as Syria’s civil war spills into Lebanon’s coastal city of Tripoli, the Lebanese government has decided to place the city under army control for six months to contain the growing sectarian clashes. And Turkey has deported over 1,000 European citizens who were in the country to allegedly join al-Qaeda linked rebel groups in Syria [MINA]. Reportedly, the majority of the fighters came from Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

Speaking on “Talk to Al Jazeera,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appealed to the Gulf Arab states to work together “to end violence to bring about a political solution” for regional stability, particularly in Syria.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, David Ignatius warns that “ousting Assad may only be the beginning” as “a second Syrian war against al-Qaeda is ahead.”

Surveillance

In an opinion in The Guardian, UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson QC argues that contrary to some claims, there is “nothing in the Guardian articles that could be a risk to national security.” He warns that if the U.K. intelligence agencies “wish to pursue an agenda of unqualified secrecy, then they are swimming against the international tide.” Emmerson is launching an investigation into the surveillance powers of American and British intelligence agencies today, and will report to the UN General Assembly next fall.

House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Rogers has told Fox News that evidence suggests that Edward Snowden “used someone else’s help” in accessing U.S. classified information (Catherine Herridge).

Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that NATO would have to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 if Afghan President Hamid Karzai fails to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States [Al Jazeera].

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has reiterated that deferring the signature until after next year’s election in Afghanistan is “not viable”:

It would not provide Afghans with the certainty that they deserve regarding their future in the critical months leading to the elections, nor would it provide the United States and NATO allies the clarity necessary for a potential post-2014 military presence.

The Wall Street Journal (Margherita Stancati and Nathan Hodge) covers the concern in Afghanistan over the “real possibility that American support may completely vanish in the coming months—potentially precipitating the collapse of a state that has few other sources of sustenance.”

Egypt

The police in Egypt have arrested the head of the legal defense team representing the women and girls who were sentenced for protesting in Egypt last month [CNN’s Sarah El Sirgany].

The Associated Press reports that investigators are looking into possibly putting ousted President Mohammed Morsi on trial for links to jihadis. During his time as president, Morsi reportedly “cultivated ties with Islamic radicals, making them a key support for his rule by pardoning dozens of jailed militants, restraining the military from an all-out offensive against jihadis in Sinai and giving their hard-line sheiks a platform to spread their rhetoric.”

Other developments

The European Court of Human Rights is hearing oral arguments today in the cases brought against Poland on behalf of Al Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah. The case will examine Poland’s role in the CIA’s rendition and detention program. The hearings can be followed online from 9.30am EST.

Wired (David Kravets) reports on the case brought by Rahinah Ibrahimis to challenge her inclusion on the U.S.’s terrorism watchlist in the first case of its kind. The case is likely to review the Obama administration’s position that the basic issue of whether an individual is on a watchlist or not is a “state secret.”

The Washington Post (Kathy Lally) explains the protests in Ukraine, where thousands of pro-Western demonstrators have reacted angrily to President Viktor Yanukovych’s failure to sign an agreement with the European Union last Friday. The New York Times (David M. Herszenhorn) and Wall Street Journal (James Marson and Alexander Kolyandr) provide more detail on the latest developments. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki reiterated the U.S. position yesterday, stating that “European integration is the surest course to economic growth and strengthening Ukraine’s democracy.”

Following the findings of an inspector general report last month, Sen. Tom Coburn, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee criticized the Department of Homeland Security yesterday [Washington Post’s Josh Hicks]. He stated that the report “shows major gaps in DHS’s own cybersecurity, including some of the most basic protections that would be obvious to a 13-year-old with a laptop.”

The UN is set to use unarmed surveillance drones for the first time; the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo will use the technology to monitor the country’s troubled eastern border, “long suspected to harbor the main arms-supply routes for dozens of rebel groups in eastern Congo” [Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Bariyo].

Hundreds of Boko Haram militants attacked an Air Force base and a military checkpoint in Nigeria’s northeast yesterday, according to government officials [CNN’s Vladimir Duthiers].

If you want to receive your news directly to your inbox, sign up here for the Just Security Early Edition. For the latest information from Just Security, follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and join the conversation on Facebook.  To submit news articles and notes for inclusion in our daily post, please email us at news@justsecurity.org.  Don’t forget to visit The Pipeline for a preview of upcoming events and blog posts on U.S. national security. 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).