Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Zachary Burdette, Quinta Jurecic
Tuesday, September 27, 2016, 4:22 PM

Russian and Syrian airstrikes on Aleppo continue following the collapse of the ceasefire agreement last week, reports the Wall Street Journal. The aerial bombardment may have been accompanied by a ground offensive: Syrian state-run media claims that government forces have retaken key areas in the center of Aleppo, although rebel groups disputed the extent of the government’s advance. The New York Times has more.

The bombing campaign is one of the most intense thus far in the civil war, notes the Times. It has also disproportionately impacted densely populated urban areas, prompting American accusations of Russian “barbarism” against Syrian civilians. The Russians appear undeterred by these accusations as they expand their support for the al-Assad regime and continue to blame the United States for the collapse of the ceasefire.

American officials may have had advance knowledge of Syrian government plans to strike civil defense centers based in Aleppo, writes the Daily Beast. The White Helmets, a local Syrian civil defense group, intercepted a radio transmission that revealed the government’s plan two days before the strike. When they shared this information with the U.S. special envoy to Syria, however, American officials declined to do anything to prevent the attack.

The United Nations and Jordan are negotiating an agreement for the distribution of humanitarian aid to 75,000 Syrian refugees contained in zones that the Jordanian military has sealed, observes the Financial Times. The Jordanian government is concerned that the Syrians are a security threat, and the military has only allowed U.N. workers to deliver water to the refugees.

Three bombings in Baghdad killed at least 17 civilians in Shiite neighborhoods. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks—a tactic to which the group has increasingly turned as it loses territory to the U.S.-led coalition. Reuters has more.

Two Afghan soldiers defected to the Taliban today, killing a dozen colleagues in a base near Kunduz before they left, reports the Wall Street Journal. The incident is the most recent in a long-running series of “insider attacks” by Afghan soldiers on fellow troops that stretches back for years, and highlights the lingering difficulty of turning the Afghan National Army into an effective fighting force.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is threatening to increase India’s water use of three rivers that flow from India to Pakistan, the Financial Times comments. The move represents an unorthodox retaliatory move after a Pakistani-sponsored terrorist group attacked an Indian military base. Modi faces domestic political pressure to respond and has condemned Pakistan at the United Nations, but has been reluctant to escalate the dispute with a military response, the AP reports. Increasing India’s water use would be a legal and lower-risk option that would undermine Pakistan’s development. The Journal has more.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has decided not to allow former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to compete in Iran’s presidential elections next year, writes the Financial Times. Ahmadinejad would represent the hardliners in an attempt to reclaim power from President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who has worked to improve Iran’s relationship with the West. The Supreme Leader cited concerns that Ahmadinejad’s participation in the election would “polarize the country.” The AP has more.

The Journal comments that the post-coup crackdown in Turkey is expanding to include the country’s Kurdish minority, with 11,285 teachers and 24 mayors dismissed for alleged links to Kurdish separatist movements. The AP also notes that the government has issued 121 new warrants to arrest people allegedly connected to Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based cleric accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of orchestrating the coup.

European Union member states are considering deeper military cooperation. Some states—notably including the United Kingdom—have argued that EU military cooperation would undermine NATO, which they feel should remain the chief European security institution. But following the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU, proposals have been put forward for a multinational military headquarters and coordinated defense spending. The Journal has more.

Two explosions in Dresden targeted a mosque and the International Congress Center late last night, the Journal writes. No one was injured in the bombings, which German police say were likely due to anti-refugee sentiment.

The Obama administration has filed criminal charges and implemented new sanctions against a Chinese executive, her company, and her colleagues for engaging in money laundering to assist North Korea in evading nuclear sanctions. Chinese authorities recently opened a separate criminal investigation into the company, the Times reports.

The Times also takes a look at the official North Korean explanation for the country’s testing of a rocket engine last week: that Pyongyang is developing a rocket to go to the moon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the United States believes instead that North Korea is doing its best to build a delivery system to bomb American cities with nuclear weapons.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stated Monday that his country had reached a “point of no return” with the United States and that he will seek to “open alliances” with Russia and China. Duterte has become increasingly hostile to the United States and has made gestures toward warmer relations between the Philippines and China in recent weeks. A State Department spokesman clarified that the United States will continue cooperating with the Philippines, Reuters tells us.

Colombia’s government formally signed a peace deal ending the decade-long conflict with the Marxist guerrilla group FARC. The agreement marks the conclusion of the longest-running war in the Western hemisphere. But despite the pomp and circumstance of the signing ceremony, the deal will not come into effect until it is ratified by Colombian voters in a referendum scheduled for this coming Sunday. The Times has more.

The International Criminal Court handed down a sentence of nine years in prison to a former militant Islamist leader involved in the destruction of shrines in Timbuktu, the Guardian reports. Ahmad al-Faqi al-Madi, a member of the Ansar Dine group affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was the first defendant to plead guilty before the ICC and the first to be prosecuted solely for cultural destruction.

The Senate appears ready to override President Obama’s veto of JASTA, a bill that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its role in the attacks. The Hill notes that the vote would be the first veto override of the Obama administration. President Obama vetoed the bill on the grounds that it would set a dangerous precedent that might make the United States vulnerable to lawsuits from citizens of other countries in the future.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Paul Rosenzweig highlighted the risks of prosecutors working on cases related to technologies that they do not understand.

Elena Chachko reviewed the status of Hamas and the Tamil Tigers on the EU terrorism sanctions list.

Dan Byman outlined the challenges that the United States will face following the collapse of the Islamic State.

Jack Goldsmith and Benjamin Wittes posted a reminder about a Hoover Book Soiree with Rosa Brooks tomorrow.

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