Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Rishabh Bhandari
Thursday, September 1, 2016, 4:01 PM

The death of the Islamic State’s chief propagandist, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, has removed the group’s most visible figure in its ongoing struggle to export terrorism abroad and expand its so-called caliphate in the Middle East. But The Guardian tells us that the Islamic State’s capabilities will not be significantly diminished by al Adnani’s death because of the decentralized nature of the operation he headed, which encouraged lone wolves to launch attacks in Europe and America.

The New York Times echoed these concerns, confirming that a U.S. military Reaper drone killed the Islamic State propaganda chief. William McCants, a Brookings fellow, told the Times that the Islamic State had a “deep bench” and a replacement for al Adnani would be found soon. Top Russian military officials had also claimed credit for al Adnani’s death yesterday, though a US official brushed off the claim as a “joke.”

The Syrian government launched a series of airstrikes against the rebel-held province of Hama as government forces sought to counter a major insurgent assault. The rebels’ attack in Hama marked the biggest coordinated rebel offensive in the strategically important province since 2014, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. The London-based human rights watchdog said at least 25 people, including seven children, were killed in the strikes, while Syrian state media maintained that dozens of terrorists were killed in a targeted attack.

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Kurdish forces said they worry the Islamic State will increasingly rely on chemical weapons as the U.S.-backed coalition nears capturing the city of Mosul. According to sources gathered by Al Jazeera, the Islamic State used chemical attacks fewer than 10 times in the first year and a half after its dramatic expansion in northern and western Iraq began in June 2014. But as its conventional losses have begun to pile up in 2016, the group has staged at least 13 chemical attacks against Kurdish forces.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Australia will step up its anti-ISIS airstrikes, and will newly allow its military to attack support facilities in addition to militant fighters. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivered this news in a major security address after explaining that the shift came at the request of the Australian armed forces. The Associated Press has more on how Turnbull also stressed that Australia’s renewed counterterrorism push should be balanced with a need to integrate the country’s existing Muslim population.

Turkey's disaster management agency AFAD has begun delivering aid to the Syrian border town of Jarablus. Turkish-backed Syrian rebels wrested control of the town from the Islamic State last week with the support of Turkish airstrikes, tanks, and special forces. Reuters has more.

The Pentagon’s decision to arm Syria’s Kurdish population initially appeared a winning strategy after the Kurds delivered a series of major losses to the Islamic State in northern Syria. But the Washington Post reports that Ankara’s surprise incursion into Syria is forcing the United States to choose between the Kurds, its most reliable regional ally on the ground, and Turkey, a major power that is propping up some of the major rebel groups that are fighting the Syrian regime. Both groups have expressed growing frustration with what they perceive to be a betrayal by the United States.

The Economist examines the ruthless attacks leveled by Syrian President Bashar al Assad against the country’s broken medical system. More than 265 medical facilities have been struck by airstrikes or other targeted attacks since the war began. Last month, a bomb hit a hospital or field clinic every 17 hours. Experts said this campaign against the medical field is both unprecedented and a deliberate effort to make life unbearable for civilian populations in rebel-controlled areas.

U.S. officials confirmed that an American journalist has been arrested by Turkish authorities and charged with violating a military zone. The BBC has more on the story and a profile of the detainee, Lindsey Snell. Snell had previously been captured by and escaped from Jabhat al Nusra, the former affiliate of al Qaeda now known as Jabhat Fateh al Sham.

The Hürriyet Daily News reveals that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will use the upcoming G-20 summit in China as an opportunity to brief other global leaders on the failed coup attempt that he survived in mid-July. According to Erdogan’s spokesman, the president will also inform the global community of Ankara’s ongoing effort to purge the country of supporters of Fethullah Gülen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric whom Erdogan has accused of orchestrating the coup.

Sixteen Yemeni civilians were killed in an airstrike conducted by the Saudi-led coalition, the Post reports. Yemeni officials also announced that the death toll from an ISIS suicide bombing on Monday has now risen to 72.

The last stockpile of chemicals that could potentially be turned into chemical weapons has been removed from Libya with international assistance, the Guardian tells us. The process of transporting chemicals out of the war-torn country began at the request of Libya’s internationally recognized government, out of concern that the potential chemical weapons could fall into the hands of militant groups.

Reuters tells us that the United States and the other parties that agreed to a nuclear deal with Iran allegedly allowed Tehran to evade some restrictions to reach economic sanctions relief at an earlier date. In a report issued on Thursday, the Institute for Science and International Security, indicated that Iran was permitted to exceed the deal’s limit on how much limited low-enriched uranium it could keep in its nuclear facilities. LEU can be upgraded to highly enriched uranium, a necessary component for a military nuclear weapon or a civil nuclear power program.

The head of the UN organization established to implement the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty indicated that Israel is likely to ratify the treaty within five years, according to the AP. Lassina Zerbo also indicated that while he believes Iran will ratify the treaty, the timing of ratification will depend on conditions within the country.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed an earlier ruling holding the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization liable for the deaths of Americans in terrorist attacks on Israel. The court held that Manhattan’s Federal District Court, which handed down the original ruling last year, lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The Times has more.

Fourteen congressional Republicans, including all 13 Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee, released a letter to President Obama criticizing the recent transfer of 15 Guantanamo detainees to the United Arab Emirates. The letter warns of the potential dangers of releasing the detainees, the Hill writes.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Steve Vladeck began Lawfare’s day of coverage of the Al Nashiri II case when he concluded that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision hinges on a problematic assessment of the military commissions’ legitimacy.

Benjamin Wittes pushed back on Steve’s argument and suggested there are still unresolved doctrinal and jurisdictional questions that will need to be answered one day.

Peter Marguiles noted that the Nashiri decision means the military commissions must step up to the plate and ensure its processes are efficient and fair.

Robert Loeb agreed with the court’s decision but noted that there appears a credible case for en banc review given the political tenor of the opinions delivered.

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