Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech before a joint session of Congress on a potential U.S. nuclear treaty with Iran. During the address, he declared, “This is a bad deal – a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.” NPR shares further analysis of Netanyahu’s speech.
Partisan drama has surrounded the event, organized by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), because Netanyahu accepted the Speaker’s invitation without coordinating with the Obama administration. Yesterday, Netanyahu attempted to tamp down concerns about his address before Congress during a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He noted that he intended no “disrespect” to President Obama, but felt he had a “moral obligation” to inform Congress of the perils of a bad nuclear deal. The Washington Post has more on his statements from yesterday.
In advance of Netanyahu’s speech, Reuters interviewed President Obama. He discussed nuclear negotiations with Iran and the potential terms of a P5+1 agreement. He also reaffirmed the “depth of the U.S.-Israeli relationship” and noted that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech is not “permanently destructive,” but merely “a distraction from what should be our focus.” Find the transcript of the interview here.
Given the drama surrounding the speech, tickets for the event are extremely popular in Washington. Indeed, according to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), “the tickets are hotter than fresh latkes.” The New York Times shares more.
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg answers questions about the speech, the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and a potential nuclear deal with Iran.
In an op-ed in the Post, Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to President Obama, explains the divide between the positions of the U.S. and Israel on Iran. He goes on to articulate ways in which the Obama administration may address Israeli concerns related to monitoring Iranian compliance with any nuclear treaty.
Today, the Iraqi military and Shia militias continue their fight to retake the city of Tikrit. Previous efforts to recapture Saddam Hussein’s hometown have failed, and Iraqi troops “made little headway” today. According to the Associated Press, the battle will likely hinge on the Iraqi forces’ ability to counter bombs detonated by Islamic State militants.
Iran has played in an important role in this most recent attempt at retaking Tikrit. The Wall Street Journal informs us that the Islamic Republic has provided Iraqi forces with “drones, heavy weaponry, and ground forces.” Meanwhile, according to the Daily Beast, the Tikrit offensive has caught the United States “by surprise,” a move that may be in retaliation for the Pentagon’s comments on the planned Mosul offensive that some Iraqi leaders found premature. Indeed, American airstrikes are not part of the operation against Tikrit and it has been weeks since coalition planes bombed ISIS positions in the city.
Some fear the decision to move forward without American support could be a sign of coming sectarian violence as Shiite militias lead the charge in a city symbolic for Sunni resistance. Speaking on the prospect for sectarian conflict in the city, one U.S. defense official said, “If this becomes a sectarian battle…the coalition will come apart.”
During a keynote speech yesterday at the Atlantic Council, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Gen. John Allen noted that although the Islamic State has ceded territory and proven to be a poor governor, Iraq itself “is not yet ready to hold ground in key areas like Mosul.” After retaking strategic cities, the Iraqi forces must work immediately to rebuild “infrastructure” and “civil government.” Defense One writes, “In other words, the liberation of the city of 1.5 million would expose a humanitarian crisis that the fragile Iraqi government may not yet be ready to manage.”
The U.S. military is reviewing its stockpile of bombs and munitions. After months of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, American forces seek to “ensure that the weapon supply in the U.S. and overseas is adequate to meet current and future strikes against Islamic State militants.” Defense One reports the story.
According to a report released by the United Nations, this past month’s fighting in eastern Ukraine has killed over 800 people and wounded some 3,400 more. The U.N. also noted that weapons and fighters continue to flow into Donetsk and Luhansk from Russia. The Times reports the story.
U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno has expressed some concerns that recent defense spending cuts in the U.K. could hamstring Britain’s ability to adhere to its commitments “as a vital military ally.” His statements are not the first on the subject. According to the Telegraph, “the [British] Army has been cut by a fifth, the RAF now has just seven combat squadrons, compared with the 30-odd it had in the first Gulf War, and the Navy barely has enough warships to fulfill its international duties.”
During 2014, the Afghan Army lost over 20,000 soldiers as a result of deaths, desertions, and discharges. This sharp decline from 190,000 to 169,000 forces has called into question the country’s ability to defend itself, following the withdrawal of American troops. The Times shares more.
The Times also profiles Afghan women’s shelters, which serve as a defense against honor killings and “are one of the most successful — and provocative — legacies of the Western presence in Afghanistan.”
Yesterday, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi proposed the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh as a potential venue for peace talks with the Shia Houthi rebels, who have overrun much of northern Yemen and the state’s capital of Sana’a. The AP reports the story.
Yesterday, China released a list of 14 military generals suspected of corruption. The Times shares more.
The Daily Beast profiles a covert CIA operative who is suing the agency and seeking $25 million in damages for what he calls a “smear campaign to tarnish his stellar CIA career, run him out of the agency, and keep him from marrying the woman he loves.”
ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare
Ben informed us that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) has approved the extension of the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program.
Jennifer Daskal and Ben noted the broad intellectual consensus surrounding the parameters of a draft Islamic State AUMF.
Wells highlighted Lawfare’s almost-live coverage of yesterday’s motions hearing in United States v. Al-Nashiri.
Cody shared footage from a talk given by Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper at the Council of Foreign Relations yesterday.
Amy Zegart compared the DNI’s recently released 2015 Annual Threat Assessment with the one from 2014.
Cody posted video of Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Gen. John Allen’s keynote address at the Atlantic Council.
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