Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Rishabh Bhandari
Thursday, August 25, 2016, 2:50 PM

Turkey has sent more tanks across the Syrian border, in what Reuters writes is not only a sign of Turkish determination to defeat the Islamic State but a signal that Ankara aims thwart any Kurdish efforts to seize additional territory. Turkey has demanded that Kurdish forces retreat from the town of Jarablus, a former ISIS stronghold seized by Turkish forces and Syrian rebels yesterday. The New York Times reports further on Turkey’s decision to send tanks, warplanes and special operations forces into northern Syria yesterday, which marked Ankara’s deepest plunge into the civil war that has raged for more than five years on its border.

The Associated Press examines the rising tensions between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds as Kurdish forces continue to win battles and gain territory in northern Syria. Turkey has viewed the political and territorial ambitions of Syria’s Kurds with great suspicion as it battles a Kurdish separatist insurgency in the Turkish southeast. While visiting Ankara yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden warned that the United States would cut all support to Syrian Kurdish forces if they do not comply with Turkish demands to withdraw to the east of the Euphrates River.

Hürriyet Daily News reports that Turkey’s post-coup purge is continuing with little sign of slowing down. More than 2,800 prosecutors and judges were fired on Wednesday. Turkey has sacked or suspended around 80,000 people from the civil service, judiciary, police forces and courts following the attempted coup. The Wall Street Journal offers an in-depth view of how Turkey’s educational system has changed since the coup.

An independent report released to the United Nations Security Council reveals how both the Syrian government and the Islamic State have used chemical weapons during the country’s ongoing civil war. The report’s authors identified nine cases where chemical weapons were used but could only name the culprit on three occasions; the six other cases were inconclusive. The Syrian regime unleashed chlorine gas against its own population twice in the province of Idlib, while the Islamic State has deployed mustard gas in Aleppo.

Frustration over Saudi Arabia’s controversial air campaign in Yemen has reached Congress, the New York Times reports. A group of lawmakers are urging the White House to retract its request for Congressional approval for a $1.15 billion sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia until Congress is able to debate U.S. military support for the KSA. Doctors Without Borders withdrew from Yemen earlier this month after four of its medical facilities were hit by Saudi airstrikes.

Thirteen people, including seven students, were killed by gunmen in an attack on the American University in Kabul, Afghanistan. Another 35 students and nine police officers were injured, while both attackers were killed by security forces arriving at the scene. No group has claimed responsibility for the strike yet. The attack comes two weeks after the kidnapping of two university faculty, whose whereabouts remain unknown. The BBC has more.

The Times’ Scott Shane offers an in-depth examination of the contradictory roles Saudi Arabia plays in the fight against extremism. While the Saudi government has pumped billions of dollars across the globe to promote Wahhabism, it has also proven to be a key counterterrorism ally of the United States. In the words of Will McCants of the Brookings Institution, the Saudis are “both the arsonists and the firefighters.”

A group of British MPs have produced a report criticizing social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for “consciously failing” to combat the use of their platforms by Islamic extremists. Keith Vaz, the committee chair, said the companies’ failure to tackle this threat had left some parts of the internet “ungoverned, unregulated and lawless.” He urged these corporations to partner with police in shutting down terrorist activity online.

Colombia’s government and FARC have announced a deal to end more than 50 years of conflict. This deal, which must be ratified by a national referendum, marks the end of the longest-running war in the Americas and the conclusion of four years of peace negotiations. But questions still persist regarding how FARC fighters will integrate into civilian life and whether the organization retains links to the drug trade it currently controls.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered snap military drills on Thursday to test his military’s combat-readiness on the country’s western flank. The exercises come as tensions between Moscow and Kiev have reached fever pitch, with Russia sending tens of thousands of troops to its border with Ukraine.

U.S. fighter pilots will conduct joint air patrols with their Bulgarian counterparts, according to military officials from both countries. These operations aim to open up a new front in the NATO’s alliance efforts to deter Russian military aggression. Russian officials have criticized NATO operations in the Baltic and Black Sea regions as evidence that the alliance is primarily fixated on containing Russia.

The Associated Press disclosed that the UN Security Council agreed to an emergency meeting on Wednesday to consider issuing a statement on the latest North Korean missile launch. In March, the Security Council issued its harshest sanctions on North Korea in two decades in response to Pyongyang’s missile program. But the Hermit Kingdom has doubled down on its nuclear activities despite hopes in Moscow and Beijing that the sanctions could have relaunched the six-party talks that ended in 2008.

The New York Times relays Kim Jong Un’s boast that his country’s test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile had achieved “the greatest success.” According to the North’s state media, Kim said the continental United States and American military bases in the Pacific were both within the striking range of the new missiles. But analysts and defense officials said North Korea wouldn’t gain this capability for at least several more years.

The Wall Street Journal reported that four Iranian vessels harassed the USS Nitze, a U.S. destroyer, near the Persian Gulf. The vessels ignored repeated warnings by the Nitze that they were on a dangerous course, with two of the boats comingwithin 300 yards of the destroyer. A spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet called it a dangerous incident that could have led to further escalation.

Detailed plans for stealth submarines built by a French military manufacturer for the Indian navy have been leaked to an Australian newspaper. Officials in both Paris and New Delhi are scrambling to assess the damage from the leaks. According to The Australian, the leak included an entire 22,400 page report detailing the submarine’s “secret combat capabilities.” India was expected to launch the first of these submarines later this year. The New York Times has more.

In the Washington Post, Jeffrey Lewis and Scott Sagan encourage the White House to declare that the United States would not use nuclear weapons against any target that could be reliably destroyed by conventional means. Rumors are circulating that President Barack Obama is considering announcing a “no first use” pledge, a declaration that the United States would not be the first state to use nuclear weapons in any conflict. U.S. allies such as Britain, France, Japan, and South Korea have all registered their concern about the shift with the administration.

Wikileaks’ editor-in-chief Julian Assange announced that he plans to release “thousands” of documents pertaining to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, and the upcoming presidential election. Though Assange did not indicate a timeline for the documents’ release, he promised that they would have “significant” impact.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Elizabeth McElvein continued her coverage of the role national security is playing in the 2016 presidential polls.

Nick Weaver revealed the questions he would ask the NSA following the recent hack and leak of agency information.

Federica Fasanotti proposed that only partition might bring stability to Libya.

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