Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Rishabh Bhandari, Caitlin Gilligan
Wednesday, July 6, 2016, 3:41 PM

After seven years of investigation, the official inquiry regarding Britain’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq has finally been published. The report is scathing in its conclusion that “Britain’s decision to go to war in Iraq was a failure born of flawed intelligence, lack of foresight and ‘wholly inadequate’ planning.” Conducted by the Iraq Inquiry Committee and overseen by retired civil servant John Chilcot, the inquiry accuses then-Prime Minister Tony Blair of going to war on “far from satisfactory” legal footing. In response to the report, Blair said in a press conference that he accepted “full responsibility without exception and without excuse” for the decision to invade Iraq and maintained that given the information at his disposal at the time, the decision was the right one. The Wall Street Journal has more.

The report also identifies issues with Blair’s relationship with President George W. Bush during the Iraq War, revealing that Blair overestimated his ability to influence U.S. decision-making in Iraq: “Blair went to war to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Britain’s main ally, only to find the U.K. excluded from most important decision making about military campaign and its aftermath.” The Associated Press breaks down the report—which analyzed more than 150,000 documents and heard testimonies from 150 witnesses before reaching its conclusions—here.

FBI Director James Comey declared yesterday that he would recommend that no criminal charges be brought against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server system during her time as Secretary of State. But he harshly criticized Clinton and her team at the State Department for being “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” The investigation dogged Clinton’s campaign as critics characterized the imbroglio as an example of illegal or incompetent behavior by either her or her top aides. The Washington Post has more.

By the time he leaves office in January, President Obama is planning on cutting the expected number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 8,400 from its current level of roughly 9,800. Though Obama had previously planned to make even more drastic cuts, the AP reports that “Taliban resurgence has forced Washington to rethink its exit strategy.” ABC News has President Obama’s remarks here. In early June, Obama authorized plans to expand the military’s authority to conduct airstrikes against the Taliban.

The Syrian government has called for a “regime of calm” to last 72 hours, spanning the Eid al-Fitr holiday. This temporary ceasefire is the first countrywide truce since February. But according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, fighting has continued north of Aleppo and in the town of Maydaa despite the announced truce.

The Islamic State warned through a video that last Friday’s attack on a cafe in Dhaka, which claimed 20 lives, “was merely a glimpse of what is to come.” In the video, a Bangladeshi fighter pledged that such attacks would recur until “we win and the sharia is established throughout the world.” But the Bangladesh government rejected the Islamic State’s claim of involvement. Local law enforcement and government officials have instead blamed domestic militant groups such as Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh. Both Reuters and the BBC have more.

The death toll from Sunday’s attack on Baghdad has risen to 250, “making it the deadliest such attack since the 2003 US-led invasion,” according to the BBC. The attack—which happened in a mostly Shia Muslim area—has triggered both widespread mourning in Baghdad and the resignation of Iraq’s Interior Minister Mohammed Ghabban. Ghabban described checkpoints dotted around Baghdad as “absolutely useless.”

Turkish authorities continue to search and jail suspects thought to be involved in last week’s triple suicide attack at Istanbul’s main airport. Currently there are 30 suspects in jail and awaiting trial, while authorities are actively seeking two suspected IS militants thought to be hiding in the Yayladagi area of the southern Hatay province. While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed Islamic State militants from the former Soviet Union for the attack, earlier today the Kremlin said it “believed the Istanbul airport attack could be a result of Turkish and European security services ignoring Moscow’s signals about suspected terrorists hiding in Turkey and Europe.” Reuters has more here.

Earlier today, a double car bomb at a military base in Aden killed at least 10 Yemeni soldiers and wounded dozens. At least 20 militants were killed in the lengthy gun battle that ensued. Al Jazeera reports that no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though the Islamic State may be responsible. Reuters has more.

In response to three recent attacks in Medina, Jeddah and a mosque in the eastern part of the country, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman promised to clamp down against extremist efforts to "mislead the minds and ideas of our youth.” The Wall Street Journal reports that even the Afghan Taliban condemned the bombing in Medina, which was next to one of Islam’s holiest sites.

If you’re 26, use social media, still live with your parents and are looking for marriage online, you might be an American ISIS supporter. A report from the Center on National Security at Fordham Law discovered commonalities between the almost 100 U.S. residents accused of trying to join or help ISIS. The New York Times breaks down the report, noting other shared characteristics including social alienation, dissatisfaction with American society and harboring “resentment over the oppression of Muslims worldwide.” Many of the accused appear to have been strongly influenced by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric who was famously killed in an American drone strike.

Lawmakers in France are calling for a “shake-up of intelligence services” following the series of deadly attacks in Paris last year. A committee of lawmakers are investigating the attacks and have so far cited a “lack of coordination among intelligence agencies” as allowing potential terrorists to slip through the security net, even after being identified as threats. Some of the possible solutions being considered are the merging of overlapping intelligence agencies and “the creation of a national counterterrorism center to foster better cooperation.” The Wall Street Journal discusses other intelligence reform proposals.

Karim Mohammed-Aggad, the brother of one of the attackers of the Bataclan theater in November 2015, has been sentenced by a French court to nine years in prison for “traveling to Syria to train as a militant fighter.” Mohammed-Aggad had been charged along with 6 others for “taking part in an Islamist recruitment network and receiving training from the Islamic State group,” Reuters reports.

Reuters also reports that NATO leaders will head to a two-day summit in Warsaw beginning Friday. The meeting, which comes on the heels of Britain’s exit from the European Union, is designed to demonstrate to Moscow that the alliance remains strong and relevant. Though the agenda will also include points regarding a resilient Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal, Russia and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine will likely be at the forefront of discussions. In Foreign Affairs, Frank Cilluffo and Sharon Cardash explore the dangerous implications of ‘Brexit’ for NATO in light of both Russian aggression and the specter of terrorism.

Beijing hit back after U.N. authorities chastised China last week for arbitrarily detaining an American businesswoman who is accused of espionage. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that the detention of Sandy Phan-Gillis, who was held for more than a year without formal charges under suspicion of spying and stealing state secrets, constituted a violation of human rights norms. But Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, dismissed these concerns as “irresponsible remarks.” Phan-Gillis—who has not been permitted to speak to either lawyers or family members—has been hospitalized after a recent heart attack. Reuters has more.

The Silicon Valley firm Palantir is suing the Department of Defense for the Pentagon’s alleged unwillingness to utilize the company’s publicly available data management platform Gotham. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker obtained a copy of Palantir’s complaint, wherein the startup pledged that its data management platform could outperform the Pentagon’s in-house and costlier indigenous counterpart.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Julian Ku advised the Philippines to goad China into challenging the forthcoming arbitral award over the two countries’ disputes in the South China Sea.

Rishabh Bhandari highlighted FBI Director James Comey’s entire statement after Comey had announced the Bureau would not recommend prosecution charges be leveled at Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server.

Benjamin Wittes offered a quick and dirty analysis of Comey’s statement.

Susan Hennessey parsed Comey’s statement to reveal the Bureau’s strong rebuke of the State Department’s information security culture.

Paul Rosenzweig shared a few disparate developments in the cybersecurity world.

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