Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic
Monday, October 10, 2016, 3:26 PM

On Friday afternoon, the United States formally accused the Kremlin of hacking and releasing Democratic Party information to interfere with the U.S. election. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the Department of Homeland Security released a statement declaring that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” The New York Times reports that the administration had debated over whether to formally accuse Russia of the hacking for weeks, eventually deciding to act out of concern that an announcement any closer to Election Day would appear politically motivated. Anonymous officials indicated in July that they had “high confidence” of the Kremlin’s involvement in the hacking, and the ranking Democratic members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees recently released an open letter requesting that the White House acknowledge Russia’s role.

What happens now? The Times takes a look at the government’s options for responding to the Kremlin’s hacking. While a range of responses are available, from sanctions to a counter-cyberattack, it appears that the White House has not yet settled on a method to hold the Kremlin accountable.

In a further blow to the already worsening relationship between the U.S. and Russia, Secretary of State John Kerry called for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Russia and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in attacking hospitals across Syria. The mechanics of such an investigation remain unclear, as Russia and China vetoed a 2014 U.N. Security Council resolution that would have allowed the International Criminal Court to examine investigate war crimes in Syria.

Kerry’s comments came only a day before the Security Council voted on a French resolution calling for a ceasefire in Aleppo and the grounding of warplanes above the city. On Saturday, Russia used its vote to veto the resolution—the fifth time that Russia has vetoed a Security Council resolution on Syria since the civil war began, the Washington Post writes. The United States, France, and the United Kingdom also vetoed a Russian resolution that called for humanitarian aid but did not mention a ceasefire. The Wall Street Journal has more.

Doctors Without Borders released a statement on Monday pleading with the Syrian government to allow humanitarian access to Aleppo, the AP tells us. In the wake of the regime’s intentional targeting of hospitals and other medical facilities, only 35 doctors remain to serve an estimated 275,000 people trapped in the besieged rebel-held area of Aleppo.

The Post takes a look at the Obama administration’s Syria policy and concludes that the White House has yet to reach a consensus as to how to save Aleppo. U.S. intelligence officials believe that the city could fall to regime control in “a matter of weeks” due to the systematic targeting of civilian infrastructure.

In yesterday’s second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Republican nominee declared a split between himself and his running mate Mike Pence on Syria policy, saying that he rejected Pence’s proposal to use military force to strike regime targets in Syria if Russia and the regime do not cease their bombardment of Aleppo. Trump also suggested that Russia may not be responsible for the hacking recently attributed to the Kremlin, suggesting that “maybe there is no hacking”—though an intelligence official told NBC that the candidate had been informed of the Kremlin’s responsibility in his August security briefing.

An airstrike conducted by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen killed over 140 people attending a funeral on Sunday, the Post reports. The attack was one of the deadliest airstrikes yet in the war in Yemen and was “unequivocally condemned” by the United Nations, which called for an investigation into the strike. While the coalition has received U.S. military support in the form of training and refueling for the Saudi Air Force, the National Security Council announced that the United States will begin an “immediate review” of U.S. assistance to the coalition, saying that “U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check.”

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Riyadh expressed “deep regret” for the airstrike and announced that it would release the results of an internal investigation, though the Wall Street Journal notes that the Kingdom did not explicitly claim responsibility. The Times writes that the devastating strike may be a turning point for Yemen, again focusing international attention and opprobrium on a conflict that had long since faded from the global view.

Missiles from an area of Yemen held by Houthi rebels were fired at at a U.S. Navy destroyer on Sunday night, according to the Post. The ship was not hit. A Houthi commander denied having targeted any ships in the area and claimed that the reports were intended as a distraction from Sunday’s airstrike.

Two suicide bombers detonated themselves on the outskirts of Ankara, Turkey on Saturday, though no one else was killed. The bombers killed themselves after refusing to surrender to the police, who believed that they were planning a suicide car bombing within the city. The AP reports that at least one of the bombers was likely linked to the PKK. On Sunday, a car bomb in southeast Turkey killed 18 people in an attack that the Turkish government has also linked to the PKK.

The Post examines how the Turkish government’s continuing crackdown has targeted Kurds. Authorities have recently arrested Kurdish local leaders and closed down pro-Kurdish media outlets—perhaps a sign that the crackdown, which was originally aimed at targeting enemies of the current government following the July coup attempt, has expanded to attack other areas of Turkish society as well.

Turkey appears to be continuing its rapprochement with Russia, the Wall Street Journal reports, as the two countries queue up a series of trade and energy deals at a summit in Istanbul. Relations between the two countries have been frosty for over a year after Turkey shot down a Russian plane that it claimed had violated its airspace in November 2015, but have recently begun to warm again. Turkey is now seeking Russian support for the creation of a no-fly zone along the Turkish-Syrian border.

A Palestinian shooter killed two Israelis and wounded others in an attack in Jerusalem on Sunday, only to be killed himself by police, the Post writes. Hamas released a statement claiming that the shooter was a member of its organization and calling the attack “heroic.” Since October 2015, the region has struggled with a series of stabbings and similar attacks by Palestinians against Israelis.

14 people were killed by a suicide bombing in Lakshar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, which has been under siege by the Taliban in recent weeks. Afghan security forces indicated that the Taliban have yet to breach Lakshar Gah, though a Taliban spokesman stated that his organization was advancing on the city. The Post has more.

German police have arrested a Syrian national suspected to have been planning a bombing attack, the Times reports. Police had been searching for Jaber el-Bakr in a two-day manhunt before several Syrians in the area recognized el-Bakr from photos distributed by the police, tied him up, and called the authorities. El-Bakr had been under police surveillance for a month when security officials stormed his apartment to find materials for a suicide vest and several pounds of the same explosives used by ISIS-affiliated terrorists in attacks in Brussels and Paris, precipitating the manhunt.

The French television network TV5 was nearly destroyed by a Russian cyberattack in April 2015, the BBC writes. The attack, which took the network entirely off the air for several hours, was initially claimed by an organization calling itself the Cyber Caliphate and claiming affiliation with ISIS. New evidence, however, suggests that the attack was carried out by a Russian group known as APT28, though investigators remain unsure why the network was targeted.

South Korea has lodged a formal complaint with China over an altercation off the Korean coast on Friday, in which a group of Chinese fishing boats rammed and sank a South Korean coast guard vessel.In recent years, numerous clashes have taken place as Chinese fishing boats enter into waters exclusively for South Korea’s economic use. The AP has more.

The Times looks back on the legacy of torture and enhanced interrogation in CIA prisons and at Guantanamo Bay, telling the stories of several men whose lives were shaped by their time in detention. The story examines the lasting mental health effects of torture long after the experience itself has passed.

 

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview with Stephanie Leutert on violence in Mexico and Central America.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Kristen A. Harkness argued that the West should focus on reforming African militaries in order to promote democracy on the continent.

Jack Goldsmith examined the United States’ options for cyber deterrence in the wake of accusing Russia of hacking the DNC.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues.Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.