Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Ritika Singh
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 12:59 PM

Headlines on the crisis in Iraq dominate again today. In breaking news, Iraqi politicians are vying to oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki---with possible American support. American officials have met with other candidates for prime minister in recent days.

As Jane noted yesterday, ISIS militants seized the country’s largest oil refinery in Baiji. Today, Iraqi government officials claim to have retaken the oil refinery, although it is unclear whether the military is fully in control.

The New York Times holds that cooperation between the militants and members of Saddam Hussein’s former Baath party seems to have given the former an edge in taking over large swaths of Iraq.

Speculation about the American role in the conflict continues: The Iraqi government has formally asked the United States to launch air strikes against ISIS. Foreign Policy quotes chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, who yesterday told senators, “We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power.” According to the Hill, the Senate Armed Services Committee will today hold another closed hearing on the matter. The Washington Post, however, flags the Obama administration’s reluctance to intervene given the complications that could ensue. Indeed, a Daily Beast article reports that even General David Petraeus, who designed the successful 2006 surge in Iraq, agreed that any American involvement in an Iraqi civil war could be problematic.

The Hill covers the president’s meeting with the top four leaders in Congress yesterday. It seems unlikely that the White House will seek new congressional authorization for the use of force in Iraq, as Jack described.

The Washington Post reports that the disintegration of Iraq has caused differences between the U.S. military and the civilian government to bubble to the surface.

The conflict in Iraq has major ramifications for its neighbors, who funneled money to Sunni rebels in Syria and are now worried about blowback. The Associated Press has more on the complex web of sectarian rivalry in the region.

Nuclear talks between Iran and the West have returned to the front seat, says David Sanger of the Times. Iran is pushing for a nuclear deal with the United States, if the latter wants cooperation on resolving the Iraq crisis. Reuters has more on the current state of the possible nuclear agreement. A fifth round of talks is being held in Vienna this week; one of the biggest disputes between Iran and the West concerns how long it would take for the former country to produce highly-enriched, bomb-usable uranium.

And, the elephant in the room: What does the current crisis in Iraq mean for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan?

Apropos, the latest from the election front lines concerns Abdullah Abdullah’s boycott of the entire election process. The candidate, one of two front-runners for the presidency, is calling for an investigation into ballot-box stuffing and corruption.

Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected ringleader of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, is now aboard the USS New York. Former CIA deputy director Mike Morell thinks he’ll be there until he starts talking, reports The Hill. The Post describes Abu Khattala’s background and activities leading up to his capture.

Libya is unhappy with the violation of its sovereignty, Reuters and BBC inform us.

Steve has a piece in the Post about kidnapping high-level terrorists. He discusses the legal justification in U.S. law for the tactic, and concludes that it “is almost certainly the best way to nab terrorism suspects who take refuge in countries that won’t arrest them—even for them.”

Charlie Savage points us to a letter from Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to the United National Security Council outlining the Obama administration's legal justification for the Libya raid. Jack's piece from yesterday is quoted in the story.

Per Reuters, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan has mentioned efforts by Qatar's government; the latter, according to the diplomat, is keeping tabs on the five Taliban prisoners swapped for U.S. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

As the Pakistani military continues its own offensive in North Waziristan, a U.S. drone strike killed five people in the area yesterday. The compound that was targeted apparently belonged to the Haqqani Network.

Yemen’s Interior Ministry says it has arrested Abu Musab, a top Al Qaeda leader.

Remember that guy Edward Snowden? A new trove of documents has been published by Der Spiegel about the NSA’s activities in Germany, and its cooperation with German intelligence agencies. Andrea Peterson of the Post describes one of the documents---a report that sheds light on XKeyscore training.

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