News Roundup and Notes: April 7, 2014

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.

Drones

The New York Times (Mark Mazzetti) reports on the delays in the effort to refocus the CIA from its drone program, with “bureaucratic turf fights, congressional pressure and the demands of foreign governments” contributing to this delay. For further analysis, check out Ryan Goodman and Marty Lederman’s posts at Just Security.

A federal trial judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the relatives of three American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlak, who were killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen [Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin].

Syria

According to Seymour M. Hersh’s new report in the London Review of Books, Turkey was responsible for supplying Syrian rebels with the sarin used in the August chemical weapons attack. According to a former intelligence official, “We now know [the attack] was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line …  They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors were there.” For Just Security coverage, check out Ryan Goodman’s earlier post dissecting Hersh’s previous report alleging the rebels were responsible for the chemical attack in Ghouta.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group has told Lebanese newspaper, As-Safir that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime is no longer under threat of collapse [Al Jazeera America]. The comment came as at least 60 people were killed across Syria in continuing battles between regime troops and rebels.

Ukraine

Kyiv Post (Olga Rudenko) is reporting that pro-Russian separatist groups continue to control key administration buildings in Ukraine’s eastern industrial cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, while there are conflicting reports about developments in Kharkiv. Ukraine’s government has accused Russia of orchestrating the separatist riots. Ukrainian President Olexander Turchynov has called an emergency security meeting in response to the pro-Russian protests [BBC], and a Russian solider has reportedly shot dead a Ukrainian naval officer in eastern Crimea [Agencies].

Czech President Milos Zeman has said that the West should take strong action, including sending NATO troops to Ukraine, if Russia goes beyond Crimea [Reuters]. The Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Kaminski talks to Estonia’s President, Toomas Hendrik about how Russia’s actions in Crimea have changed “everything” and what NATO should do now. And The Economist notes that “[r]educing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas is possible,” but warns “it will take time, money and sustained political will.”

Israel-Palestine

A late night meeting on Sunday between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams with U.S. envoy Martin Indyk ended in a deadlock, according to officials [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]. Negotiators plan to meet today in an effort to salvage the peace talks [New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren].

Earlier yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for pushing a peace agreement “farther away,” and warned that any “unilateral steps on their part will be met with unilateral steps on our part” [Washington Post’s William Booth]. Netanyahu said, “We are prepared to continue the talks, but not at any price.” The Wall Street Journal (Nicholas Casey) also covers the developments.

“Cuban Twitter”

The Washington Post editorial explains why the “U.S. plan to help Cubans communicate should be applauded.”

Foreign Policy (Catherine A. Traywick) covers the “array of countries” that have “accused USAID of interfering in their domestic politics or attempting to undermine their power,” noting that “the new Cuba scandal won’t help USAID repair its tattered reputation.”

And The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald reports that the “‘Cuban Twitter’ scam is a drop in the internet propaganda bucket.” Greenwald covers how “discussions of how to exploit the internet, specifically social media, to surreptitiously disseminate viewpoints friendly to western interests … appear repeatedly throughout the archive of materials provided by … Edward Snowden.” 

Afghanistan

Early tallies of the Afghan presidential election point toward a runoff between the two front-runners, while the candidate viewed as President Hamid Karzai’s choice “appears to trail far behind,” reports the Wall Street Journal (Yaroslav Trofimov and Margherita Stancati). And the Washington Post (Kevin Sieff) reports that despite the high turnout, “early returns in Kabul pointed to the enduring power of ethnic politics.”

In an interview yesterday, NATO’s commander in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford rejected fears that the drawdown of NATO troops could lead to a collapse into civil war [Financial Times’ Michael Peel]. Gen. Dunford emphasized, “We are not leaving, we are transitioning–there’s a big difference.”

China and Japan

Ahead of his Beijing visit, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had an “uncharacteristically sharp” message for Chinese officials, when speaking at the Japanese Defense Ministry this weekend [Washington Post’s Ernesto Londoño]. Hagel is expected to be the first foreign visitor to take a tour of China’s first aircraft carrier, according to a U.S. defense official [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum].

The New York Times (David E. Sanger) reports that ahead of Hagel’s trip, the Obama administration “held an extraordinary briefing for the Chinese military leadership on … the Pentagon’s emerging doctrine for defending against cyberattacks against the United States—and for using its cybertechnology against adversaries, including the Chinese.”

And Hagel has announced that the U.S. will send two additional ballistic missile defense ships to Japan by 2017 “[i]n response to [North Korea’s] pattern of provocative and destabilizing actions, including recent missile launches in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

Other developments

Reacting to the Fort Hood shooting, House Homeland Security Committee chair Michael McCaul called for a “re-analysis of the force protection policies that we have at our military installations,” including allowing senior officers to carry weapons on military bases [Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallce]. Meanwhile, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would not argue for arming officers on base, which could “invite much more difficult challenges” [Politico’s Tarini Parti].

Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden said on Fox News Sunday (Chris Wallace) that Sen. Dianne Feinstein may have been motivated by “deep emotional feeling” on her committee’s CIA report, suggesting it may not lead to an “objective report.”

The Washington Post editorial covers “what the Air Force can learn from the nuclear cheating scandal.”

Iran’s top negotiator was quoted by state media as saying he hopes progress will be made with the “P5+1” countries at Vienna this week, so as to start drafting the text of a final nuclear agreement [Reuters]. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal (Laurence Norman et al.) reports that Iran has been unable to withdraw much of its oil revenue under the interim nuclear deal, “a possible complication for efforts to end the decadelong standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.”

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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