Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By David Hopen, Quinta Jurecic
Thursday, July 21, 2016, 2:39 PM

Turkey has declared a three month state of emergency, giving President Erdogan and his loyalist cabinet the power to make laws by fiat, impose curfews and restrict public gathering. The move, which Erdogan likened to France’s state of emergency in the aftermath of last year’s terror attacks in Paris, will bolster Erdogan’s escalating response to last week’s failed coup. Already, his government has detained at least 9,000 individuals and tens of thousands of civil service workers have been fired or suspended. Moments before the announcement, Erdogan insisted in an interview with Al Jazeera that the crackdown remains consistent with “a democratic parliamentary system.”

French military intelligence releases estimates today that roughly 100 foreign fighters continue to enter Syria from Turkey each week in order to join the Islamic State, raising questions as to whether Turkey is a viable partner in the battle against the Islamic State in Syria. France’s foreign minister announced his intention to discuss the issue in a coalition meeting in Washington later this weekend. Reuters has more.

And while fighters continue to stream in, German newspaper Der Spiegel reviewed exit forms of former ISIS fighters departing from the Islamic State. The files, which contain information about some 400 jihadists who have left Islamic State territory, provide important evidence to investigators currently pursuing over 130 cases, allowing them to prove that returning jihadists were indeed members of ISIS. According to the news outlet, many of the forms specify why a jihadist left the group’s territory, and while they most often reference family or medical reasons, other entries are marked “secret mission.”

And earlier this morning, Brazilian authorities arrested 10 individuals allegedly linked to the Islamic State. Federal police told reporters that the 10 Brazilians were planning to commit terrorist attacks during the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The Wall Street Journal notes that in recent months, “Islamic State militants have begun posting digital propaganda in Portuguese on the Internet. The disappearance of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab, after he had resettled in the neighboring Uruguay, has also put the region on edge.” Officials said that at least one suspect attempted to purchase an assault rifle in Paraguay.

U.S.-backed fighters surrounding Manbij have given Islamic State militants 48 hours to evacuate the town in a last bid effort to protect civilian lives, reports the Associated Press. According to Kurdish forces, the initiative is the “only and last” opportunity for the militants, who have been accused of using civilians as human shields, to “leave the town alive.” The move follows allegations that a U.S.-led coalition airstrike earlier this week in Manbij may have killed 73 civilians, most of whom were women and children. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said that the Pentagon will launch an investigative report into the airstrikes. The capturing of Manbij, an ISIS hub and a critical element in the Islamic State’s supply route to Raqqa, would mark the largest Islamic State defeat in Syria since the loss of the border town Tal Abyad.

Two districts in northern Afghanistan came under sustained attack by Taliban fighters, killing at least 1 police officer and wounding four. U.S. airstrikes were called in to assist in repelling the Taliban, which has launched waves of attacks this week and taken over much of Kunduz district. The AP has more.

Iranian authorities arrested 40 suspects linked to the discovery of an underground tunnel near the Pakistani border. According to Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, the suspects belong to an unidentified terrorist group, who designed the tunnel for the purpose of “carrying out attacks and militant activities.” The discovery of the tunnel comes after four Iranian border guards were killed by gunmen in the area earlier in July.

Yesterday, the United States blacklisted three al Qaeda members living in Iran who helped the militant group on the battlefield and with various logistical affairs, such as finances and mediations with Iranian authorities. The blacklist freezes any property the three men own in the United States and bars U.S. citizens from dealing with them.

According to the U.N.-backed Libyan government, France failed to coordinate with the government over the presence of French troops in Libya, three of whom were recently killed in “dangerous intelligence operations.” The Libyan government released a statement expressing “deep discontent at the French presence in eastern Libya without coordination” and insisted that there can be “no compromise” over Libyan sovereignty. Reuters has more.

According to the AP, following the ruling of an arbitrial tribunal on China’s claims in the South China Sea, China may exhibiting early signs that it is willing to take a more flexible approach towards cooperating with the Philippines to jointly develop the waters’ natural resources. Chinese officials have indicated in recent days that China is willing to enter into “provisional arrangements of a practical nature,” echoing the language used in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that sets aside issues of sovereignty in order to promote joint development of resources. Such a move would be the first instance in which “the idea of provisional arrangements has been proposed as policy” and would mark a new approach for China, which previously insisted that the Philippines recognize Chinese sovereignty should any joint development occur.

A joint report issued by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned both Ukrainian authorities and separatist rebels for using widespread torture, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances on civilians. The report, which based its findings on the interviews of former victims, suggested that civilians have been abused on the basis of supporting varying sides of the conflict, which began in April 2014 and has seen more than 9,400 people killed.

Mali’s government announced that it has extended its state of emergency for an additional 10 days after an attack on an army base earlier this week killed 17 soldiers and wounded 30 more. The extended state of emergency will ban all protests and allow Malian police to search homes without a warrant.

Nigeria’s military rescued 80 kidnapped women and children and killed 42 members of Boko Haram after troops stormed a remote militant camp, the AP reports. The military has reported freeing some 10,000 Boko Haram captives this year amid the Islamic insurgency that has spread across Nigeria’s borders.

Armenia’s capital remains in the midst of an ongoing hostage crisis. On Sunday, gunmen seized a Yerevan police station and took several police officers hostage, demanding the release of an opposition figure who had been imprisoned for illegal weapons possession. Anti-government protesters soon set up camp nearby. Clashes between police and protesters have led to the hospitalization of 51 people, including 28 police officers. The Guardian has more.

According to the New York Times, a New York federal appeals court “threw out a lower-court ruling that had upheld the government's move to seize a landmark Manhattan building on charges that it was a front for Iran.” The ruling marks a setback for relatives of victims killed in terrorist attacks tied to Iran, who would have been permitted to collect proceeds from the sale of the property. The New York Times has more.

Mohamadou Ould Slahi, a Guantanamo prisoner made famous by his memoir of his time in captivity, has been cleared for release from the detention center. According to the Washington Post, Slahi’s native Mauritania has said that it will accept him back into the country. Including Slahi, 31 of Guantanamo’s 76 remaining detainees are now cleared for release.

In an interview with the New York Times, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump expressed skepticism regarding the United States’ commitment to NATO, stating that the United States should honor its Article 5 commitment to come to fellow NATO members’ defense only if the countries in danger had “fulfilled their obligations to us.” Trump’s comments have created a flurry of alarm among both American commentators and U.S. allies abroad. Over at the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg writes that the interview shows Trump to be “a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” And responding to Trump on Twitter, Estonian President Toomas Ilves reaffirmed his country’s commitment to NATO. The full transcript of the Times’ interview with Trump is available here.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Robert Chesney introduced a new series called “Beyond the Border,” which will focus on the complex array of security challenges that have wracked Mexico in recent years. Stephanie Leutert, who will be the principal author of “Beyond the Border,” launched the series by explaining the purpose of the column and her goal of taking Lawfare readers on a serious intellectual journey through Mexico’s violence and governance failures.

Benjamin Wittes posted the newest episode of Rational Security, the “It was 29 pages all along” edition.

Kevin Cieply reviewed William C. Banks and Stephen Dycus's Soldiers on the Home Front: The Domestic Role of the American Military (Harvard, 2016).

Stewart Baker posted the newest episode of the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast, wherein he interviews Jeremy and Ariel Rabkin.

Jack Goldsmith flagged Alex Loomis’ paper on Congress’s power to define offences against the law of nations. Steve Vladeck responded to Alex’s paper, arguing that the Article I questions he addresses do not resolve the analytically distinct Article III authority questions in Al Bahlul.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.