Violence and confusion rages on between Israel and Gaza. Apropos of the latter, accounts differ as to whether and to what extent Israeli Defense Forces have taken responsibility for the shelling of a U.N. school in Gaza. USA Today and Time report that Israel has acknowledged striking the school, while CNN and the New York Times declare that Israel has not.
Yesterday, President Obama spoke over the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and called for “an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.” For the most part, Israel suspended operations last night. Today, however, bombs fell on a major hospital in Gaza, resulting in a number of casualties. The Washington Post shares that while Hamas has blamed Israel for the attack, Israel claims that the explosions are a result of “failed rocket launches from Gaza.” The Times examines why it has been so difficult for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to achieve an end to the hostilities, while Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic explains why Israel is losing in the court of public opinion.
Iraq: the Times reports that on Friday, a gang of Shiite militiamen in eight black S.U.V.s abducted a Sunni politician and his four bodyguards, holding them in a secret location and beating them for hours under accusations that the politician was preparing to support an invasion of Sunni militants into Baghdad. According to the Times, the incident is just one vivid portrayal of the new gangland nature of Iraqi politics. At the same time, the Post writes that Maliki’s days at the helm in Iraq seem to be coming to an end, as his own party released a statement advising politicians not to “cling” to their positions and instead to “adhere to the principle of sacrifice.”
There was lots of news on the AUMF this weekend. Writing in Politico, Josh Gerstein reports that Lisa Monaco, the White House’s counterterrorism czar has called on Congress to pass new legislation to support the Administration’s ability to combat terrorists groups not clearly linked to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Citing the emergence of “other actors,” Monaco said the White House needed to statutory authority to “take the fight to these evolving terrorists.” Bobby, Jack, Matt, and Ben shared their thoughts on Monaco’s remarks, and what they might mean for proposed reform, on Lawfare yesterday. At Just Security, Steve said the four had over-read Monaco’s comments.
On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that seeks to prevent President Obama from sending forces to Iraq in a “sustained combat role” without Congressional approval, the Associated Press reports. Before the vote, Susan Rice, National Security Adviser, had written a letter to Speaker Boehner supporting the repeal of the 2002 AUMF for Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has quietly moved an additional 62 military advisers to Iraq over the past three weeks, bringing the total number of advisers in the country to 242. In June, Obama authorized a total of 300 advisers. For those counting along at home, there are now 807 U.S. forces deployed in Iraq. The Hill has more.
All this comes as the Daily Beast tells us that ISIS’s black flags are flying in The Hague. Did the Dutch government authorize what it knew to be a pro-Islamic State rally?
The Wall Street Journal brings us a report into the ongoing investigation of photos of more than 10,000 dead taken at Hospital 601 in Damascus. The facility, not far from the presidential palace, is suspected to have stored the bodies of political opponents whom the Syrian regime systematically tortured and murdered in its sprawling network of prisons.
The Post writes that along the Turkey-Syria border, the United States has finally ramped up its effort to arm the moderate Syrian opposition. The Free Syrian Army, as the group is called, is now fighting on two separate fronts—one against the Assad regime, the other against Sunni Islamists.
According to the Times, Taliban militants are gaining ground near the Afghan capital, casting doubt on whether Afghanistan will be able to defend itself once U.S. troops pull out. Indeed, the U.S. News and World Report assesses that “weapons are once again at risk of falling into the wrong hands in Afghanistan.”
The Times reports that U.S. diplomats in Libya have evacuated the embassy there, amid fighting in Tripoli.
Yesterday, shortly after the Malaysian government reached a deal with Ukrainian insurgents that would ensure access to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the Ukrainian military began an operation to retake the area. According to the Times, this action has further delayed international attempts to secure and investigate the plane’s downing. As fighting continues in east Ukraine, the Obama administration released photos yesterday that allegedly show that Russia has been firing across its Ukrainian border in support of the rebels. The Post reports that the pictures come as Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke over the phone on Sunday about the conflict, the need for a ceasefire, and the flow of Russian weapons into Ukraine.
In an interview with CNN yesterday, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes announced that the U.S. and Europe will be issuing tougher sanctions on Russia later this week. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Berlin government is attempting to prepare the German public for the consequences of the sanctions.
Meanwhile, the Times shares that the U.S. is working on plans for potential intelligence-sharing with Ukraine. In a Post op-ed, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko outlines why Ukraine needs greater assistance from the U.S. and the West.
A Cameroon spokesperson announced that in separate attacks yesterday, Boko Haram militants kidnapped the wife of Cameroon’s vice prime minister, killed three people, and abducted a local religious leader and five members of his family. The Post shares further details.
Police in Norway have stated that the risk of a terror attack in the country has fallen slightly, but that a high level of security remains necessary. The Wall Street Journal has more.
State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf announced Friday that China has designed and tested an anti-satellite missile system. The AP shares details.
Meanwhile, in a speech yesterday, a North Korean military leader declared that if the U.S. continues to imperil North Korean sovereignty, “our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon— the sources of all evil.” Agence France-Presse has more on the statements.
In a Post op-ed, Fred Hiatt examines the effects of a more withdrawn U.S. foreign policy:
We have witnessed as close to a laboratory experiment on the effects of U.S. disengagement as the real world is ever likely to provide… Obama thought he would engineer a cautious, modulated retreat from U.S. leadership. What we have gotten is a far more dangerous world.
It would appear that the Times Editorial Board has obtained a copy of Senator Patrick Leahy’s surveillance bill. In an editorial published yesterday, the Board states that the bill will be introduced on Tuesday, and that it marks a “significant improvement over the halfhearted measure passed by the House in May.”According to the Hill, the Senate bill limits how much data the NSA can request, creates a panel of advocates to argue in support of privacy rights and civil liberties in front of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and requires the court to issue public summaries of its decisions.
Relatedly, the NSA is looking for someone to lead its communications shop. If you’d like to work for a high-profile brand that is continually in the news and currently looking to re-craft its global and local image, the Hill has information on the dream job for you.
The Post comes to us with a worrisome story. It seems federal law enforcement and intelligence authorities are increasingly unable to conduct court-ordered wiretaps on suspects because of a surge in chat services, instant messaging platforms, and other online communications that are not required by law to build in the technical means to facilitate interception. FBI officials said that a “large percentage” of wiretap orders are not being fulfilled. On that point, over the weekend, Carrie wrote a piece about, among other things, the increasingly adversarial relationship between government surveillance officials and the private sector.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden has signaled that he will consider invoking a seldom used procedure to declassify an Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture by the CIA, if the White House does not move quickly to get parts of the report out to the public. Roll Call has more specifics on the procedure.
The Times reports that former CIA director George Tenet has quietly led a counterattack against the Senate Committee’s report, attempting to discredit its findings before they become public.
The AP writes that the ongoing fight over the report is coming to a head, as several former officials named in the report have been notified that they will not be able to review it before it becomes public.
And, in the latest battle between the Senate and the CIA, McClatchy reports that the CIA obtained an email between whistleblower officials and lawmakers this spring, prompting fears that the CIA may have been intercepting communications of officials who handle whistleblower cases and raising questions about the holes in existing whistleblower protection systems.
The Miami Herald informs us that the Periodic Review Board has approved the repatriation of Guantanamo detainee Fawzi al Odah to his home country, Kuwait. The Los Angeles Times also has the story.
War Is Boring shares details of a new U.S. Army drone that can remain in the air “forever.”
U.S. lawmakers have reached a bipartisan agreement to fix the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The AP has more on the deal.
The Times reports that the Justice Department has temporarily stopped an anti-Iran advocacy organization, United Against Nuclear Iran, from having to disclose “its donor list and other internal documents” during a defamation case brought by a Greek shipping fleet owner.
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