Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Rishabh Bhandari
Monday, July 25, 2016, 3:28 PM

In an unusual campaign season punctuated by scandals and high unfavorability numbers for both leading candidates, the latest turn might just be the most shocking. Top Democratic Party officials and cybersecurity experts accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails to interfere with the U.S. presidential elections in favor of Republican nominee Donald Trump. Though Trump’s skepticism about NATO and admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin has been well-documented, speculation regarding Kremlin meddling in the ongoing election reached a new high after Wikileaks released roughly 20,000 DNC emails on Friday. Motherboard breaks down the cyber evidence to conclude that Russia was indeed likely the perpetrator behind the attack.

Germany is reeling after yet another terrorist attack hit the country last night. A 27 year-old Syrian refugee, who had been denied asylum last year and was facing imminent deportation, blew himself up outside a music festival on Sunday. The bomb wounded 15 people. The Washington Post reports that the attacker had left behind a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and vowing to attack Germans.

This was the fourth high-profile act of violence linked with German immigrants from Muslim nations this past week. Last Monday, a young Afghan refugee wielding an axe and a knife on a passenger train wounded five people after pledging allegiance to ISIS. And in two incidents unrelated to ISIS, an 18-year old Iranian-German gunman killed nine people in Munich on Friday, and a 21 year-old Syrian refugee killed a woman with a machete on Sunday after she rejected his romantic advances. Reuters has more on the Munich shooting.

Reuters also discloses that a 16 year-old Afghan teen in Munich has been arrested in connection with Friday’s shooting. According to a police statement, the youth was under investigation for possibly having failed to report the gunman’s plans. He is also reported to have invited people via Facebook to meet near a cinema—the method by which the shooter lured his victims to a McDonald’s restaurant on Friday.

The recent spate of attacks in Germany and the Bastille Day attack in Nice have reverberated across Europe, intensifying debate surrounding Western Europe’s immigration and refugee policies. Many Europeans are grappling with the idea that risk may be inherent in even the most quotidian activities, the Wall Street Journal tells us.

The BBC discloses that the Turkish government has issued detention warrants for 42 journalists as part of an inquiry into the July 15 coup attempt. After the coup’s failure, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to purge state bodies of the "virus" he responsible for the revolt. The state has already fired, arrested, or suspended tens of thousands of soldiers, judges, and civil servants and seized more than 2,200 social, educational or health care facilities or institutions that allegedly pose a threat to national security in the wake of the coup.

Erdogan dismissed Western concerns over possible human rights violations in the sweeping purges the government has carried out. “We are duty-bound to take these measures. Our Western friends fail to see it that way. I cannot understand why,” he said in an interview on French TV.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Monday that Turkey is in no position to become a European Union member “any time soon and not even over a longer period,” and that all negotiations over Turkish EU membership will stop immediately if the country reintroduces the death penalty. In an interview with CNN, Erdogan refused to rule out the possibility of reinstating the death penalty to punish those responsible for the coup. Reuters has more.

In ISIS’s first attack on Afghanistan’s capital city, the group claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb that killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 230 others at a protest on Saturday. According to the New York Times, the protesters were mostly ethnic Hazaras, a Shiite minority group that has been largely treated as second-class citizens by the government and targets by the Taliban. Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani ordered Afghan forces to step up security in the wake of these attacks at a time when many worry that sectarian violence could break out.

The United Nations warned in a report on Monday that civilian casualties in Afghanistan are on pace to reach a record high this year. There were 1,601 civilian deaths and another 3,565 injuries to noncombatants in the first six months of 2016, a four percent increase in casualties over the same period the previous year. The report estimated that almost a third of those killed or wounded were children. The United Nations attributed 60 percent of the deaths and injuries to the Afghan Taliban, but the report also said an increasing number were the fault of forces loyal to the Afghan government and the U.S.-led coalition that is supporting Kabul. The Journal has more.

Airstrikes conducted by the Syrian government have hit at least five medical clinics in Aleppo, where violence has escalated in recent weeks amid an ongoing siege. At least five people were killed, including an infant. According to Physicians for Human Rights, 750 medical personnel have been killed in Syria so far, 698 of whom were killed in attacks carried out by government forces and their Russian allies. The United Nations has also warned that roughly 300,000 people in Aleppo lack access to food, medicine, and other essentials after the Syrian government cut off the last road that supplied the town.

Reuters reveals that the Islamic State has rejected a deal that would have allowed its forces to withdraw from the besieged Iraqi city of Manbij, though the group allowed a truce in order to ensure safe passage of sick civilians out of the city. Clashes with U.S.-backed forces resumed after the truce ended on Saturday.

Al Jazeera reports that a suicide attack in Iraq killed at least 15 and wounded 30 more in a town northeast of Baghdad. Though no group has yet taken responsibility, the Islamic State has frequently launched strikes in the area, including a suicide attack earlier this month that killed 292 people in central Baghdad.

Earlier today, National Security Advisor Susan Rice met with top Chinese officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping. Rice is the highest-level White House official to visit China since the July 12 ruling by an international tribunal comprehensively sided with the Philippines, a U.S. ally, in its dispute with China over territory in the South China Sea. Rice said that China and the United States needed to work together to tackle complex problems such as global warming, but should also be candid and transparent about their differences. Both she and her Chinese counterparts praised the salutary role military-to-military relations have played in improving U.S.-Sino relations. Both the Associated Press and Reuters have more.

The Associated Press also documents Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with his counterparts from the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian nations at a regional security conference in Laos. Though Kerry was silent on the recent South China Sea tribunal award, he praised ASEAN for endorsing “a rules-based international system that protects the rights of all nations."

The Wall Street Journal fills us in on heated deliberations within ASEAN as the member states debate whether to change the organization’s rules in order to allow smaller coalitions within ASEAN to make decisions on a non-consensus basis. Southeast Asian diplomats are increasingly frustrated over China’s alleged interference into the bloc’s politics, saying that China’s ally Cambodia has repeatedly blocked ASEAN statements concerning the South China Sea dispute. Five ASEAN nations, including the Philippines, have contested China’s claims of monopoly over these waters.

Charlie Savage writes in the New York Times that the Pentagon has revised its manual for interpreting the international laws of war by adding language that protects reporters who are working amidst ongoing conflict. But the Defense Department has also attracted criticism from scholars for what it has not changed — including rules for determining when it is permissible for U.S. soldiers to fire on a military target with civilians present. WNYC continues its coverage of the Law of War Manual, interviewing Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook and Pentagon general counsel Charles A. Allen.

For the Miami Herald, Carol Rosenberg reports on the mysterious battle over destruction of evidence that has led Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Guantanamo defense team to call for the prosecution and judge to step down from the 9/11 case. In May, the defense team cried foul over alleged destruction of evidence, but was unable to share the details of their suspicions due to classification procedures. Now, the defense has announced that the government removed certain equipment from a CIA “black site,” acting with the approval of the presiding judge.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri has called for the kidnapping of Westerners in order to force prisoner swaps. He advocated for the kidnappings in an interview posted online this weekend. Reuters has more.

Iran has detained yet another Iranian-American visitor to the country, the Post tells us. While Iran’s state news agency announced on Sunday that an unnamed individual had been arrested and detained, State Department reports suggest that the man in question may be Robin Shahini, who had been visiting family in Iran. Iran has arrested three dual nationals and one Lebanese citizen in recent months,

Under a newly proposed measure, Australia will be able to indefinitely detain individuals convicted of “terrorism-related” crimes, Al Jazeera writes. According to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the proposal would allow for the continued detention of individuals who have fully served their sentences if they “are still judged to present an unacceptable risk to the community.” A court would hand down decisions on indefinite detention and would provide regular review of cases.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic posted the latest episode of the Lawfare Podcast, in which Benjamin Wittes interviewed Steve Budiansky on Steve’s new book: Code Warriors: NSA Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union.

John Bellinger flagged an article by Sue Biniaz, a former State Department lawyer, that describes some practical devices used by international negotiators to reach international climate change agreements.

Gregory Kruczek explained why a safe haven for minorities in Iraq is not only unfeasible but may also be counterproductive.

Quinta also shone a spotlight on a sextortion report published by Legal Momentum, Orrick, Herrington & Suttcliffe LLP, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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