Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic
Monday, October 3, 2016, 3:28 PM

On Sunday, Colombian voters unexpectedly rejected a historic peace deal reached by the government with the Marxist guerrilla group FARC. Though FARC and the government had signed the deal, ratification was required through a nationwide referendum—a hurdle that many thought the deal would easily jump. But instead, the “no” vote squeaked ahead with a narrow victory of 50.2%. The Washington Post examines why the referendum failed, suggesting that a combination of low turnout and opposition to the deal’s perceived leniency to FARC doomed the agreement.

What happens now? The New York Times reports that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the ceasefire with FARC will remain in effect, and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño expressed willingness to continue peace negotiations.

The United States has formally suspended talks with Russia over the fate of Syria, the Times writes. Secretary of State John Kerry had threatened to suspend the ongoing talks last week in the midst of mutual recriminations over the collapse of the Syrian ceasefire. A State Department spokesman announced that the U.S. suspended talks because “Russia failed to live up to its own commitments” and instead “pursue[d] a military course, inconsistent with the cessation of hostilities.” The spokesman pointed specifically to Russian and Syrian attacks on civilians and medical facilities and to Russian unwillingness to secure the safety of humanitarian convoys.

Meanwhile, the battle for Aleppo continues. The Syrian military called for rebels in Aleppo to surrender on Sunday as regime forces tightened their grip around the besieged city by capturing the al-Shuqeef hill to Aleppo’s north. Airstrikes also hit rebel headquarters in the city of Hama, the AP reports.

The Russian and Syrian regime bombing of Aleppo has decimated the city’s medical services. CNN tells us that Aleppo’s largest hospital was destroyed on Monday after being bombed for the third time in the past week, this time with bunker-buster bombs. The Post has more on the relentless bombing of the hospital, known as M10. The regime’s tactic of bombing hospitals has not been confined to Aleppo, as a hospital in a cave near Hama was hit by a bunker-buster bomb and forced to cease operations earlier on Monday.

Rebel troops and U.S.-led coalition forces are pushing toward the ISIS-held village of Dabiq, Syria, which ISIS holds to be the site of an apocalyptic battle that will one day herald the end of the world. Though the village holds little strategic significance, Reuters writes that coalition forces hope seizing Dabiq will hurt the Islamic State’s morale.

The Times takes a look at why some wars get more American attention than others—or to put it another way, why the devastation in Syria has seized the spotlight rather than that in Yemen. In short, the story of Yemen’s war is more complex and poses less of a threat to U.S. interests, making it less appetizing for U.S. media.

As Libyan forces struggle to flush out the few ISIS troops remaining in the city of Sirte, a Dutch photojournalist was killed by an ISIS sniper. While ISIS has largely been pushed out of Sirte, the Post provides a photoessay on the terrorist organization’s legacy in the city.

An Afghan airstrike mistakenly killed five Afghan commandos and a police officer in the country’s western Farah province on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports. Afghan officials initially blamed the United States for the attack, but acknowledged culpability on Sunday. The error comes after a string of U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan that have killed civilians and Afghan officials. An airstrike conducted last week is currently under investigation by the U.S. military after conflicting reports as to whether the strike’s 15 victims were civilians or ISIS fighters.

Reuters tells us that the Afghan Taliban has launched an offensive against the city of Kunduz, taking control of the city center. The group briefly held control of Kunduz in 2015. Taliban attacks also intensified elsewhere in the country, particularly near the provincial capital of Helmand Province.

Tensions remain high between India and Pakistan, with troops from the two countries exchanging fire in the disputed Kashmir region on Monday. Both countries claim that their troops were responding to an initial attack by the other, the AP writes. On Sunday, militants attacked an Indian army camp in northern Kashmir, killing one guard—the second attack of this kind after the initial militant raid on an Indian camp that sparked the ongoing crisis two weeks ago.

Indian authorities took two pigeons—yes, you read that correctly—into custody on Monday after the birds were discovered in the Punjab province with notes written in Urdu. One pigeon carried a message addressed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and signed with the name of the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, while the other sported the days of the week written on its feathers. The Journal tells us that the Indian army has not commented on the pigeon situation.

The Times takes a closer look at the “surgical strikes” conducted by India against militants in Kashmir in response to the the initial September 18th attack on an Indian military base. India claims that the strikes were conducted across the de facto border between India and Pakistan within Kashmir, reaching into Pakistani territory. But both Pakistani officials and villagers on Pakistan’s side of the border are now questioning whether the strikes really took place at all.

Indian police have arrested six men suspected of planning an ISIS-inspired attack in Kerala during the upcoming Diwali festivities. ISIS has struggled to develop a presence in India, as has al-Qaeda before it. Newsweek has more.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that in Iraq between 2004 and 2011, the Pentagon hired a U.K. PR firm to produce fake al-Qaeda propaganda videos used to track individuals who watched them, along with pro-government television ads and fake Arabic-language news broadcasts. The PR firm, Bell Pottinger, has previously become controversial for partnering with repressive governments and associated individuals, such as the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkish authorities have detained the brother of Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of orchestrating the failed coup in July. Turkey has sought to extradite Gulen from the United States, but has not yet been successful. The Guardian has more.

The Times examines the newly prominent role of women inspired by or affiliated with ISIS who have attempted terrorist attacks within France. In three terror attempts foiled in France within the last month, women played a key role in spearheading and orchestrating each plot. The origins of this shift remain unclear, as is whether the change is a strategy on the part of ISIS or a spontaneous expression on the part of the women involved.

Hungarian voters chose overwhelmingly to reject EU measures to require refugee relocations under a quota system—that is, among those who went to the polls. Only 40% of voters cast their ballot, making the referendum’s results unbinding. The vote is a setback for Hungary’s anti-immigrant government, which had sought to take a stand against the EU plan, the Journal writes.

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that formal negotiations on Brexit will begin between the U.K. and EU by March, the Times reports. Under May’s schedule, the talks will have a two-year deadline that can be waived by the mutual agreement of all parties involved. May also advocated a “hard Brexit,” which would put greater distance between the U.K. and the bloc, over a “soft Brexit,” which would allow the U.K. to maintain close economic ties. Meanwhile, the Journal tells us that EU officials were happy to hear that Brexit talks will soon begin.

Russia has withdrawn from a treaty with the United States on the disposal of plutonium, a major agreement on nuclear security that represented an important step in defusing the arms race. According to the Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his withdrawal from the treaty was necessitated by the “radically changed environment” between the U.S. and Russia and the United States’ “hostile actions.”

 

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Zachary Burdette reviewed Lawfare’s week.

Quinta Jurecic posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview with Rosa Brooks at the Hoover Book Soiree.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Paige Pascarelli examined how the personal and the political interact in “lone wolf” terror attacks.

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