Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Ritika Singh, Tara Hofbauer
Friday, June 27, 2014, 1:14 PM

Today’s news coverage begins with Syria for a change. The Associated Press reports that President Obama has requested $500 million from Congress to arm and train vetted, pro-Western members of moderate Syrian opposition groups. The Hill notes that the $500 million is part of the $58.6 billion of wartime funding that the Department of Defense has proposed for FY 2015. Politico, the New York Times and the Washington Post also have the story.

President Obama’s decision to equip moderate rebels comes as the Guardian shares the story of 186 kidnapped Kurdish schoolboys from northern Syria. While the students were traveling on buses after taking their exams on May 30, jihadists belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) abducted them. Two managed to escape, but the rest remain in captivity. Foreign Policy says that the humanitarian crisis in Syria could become “much worse.”

Sylvie Kauffmann writes in the Times about France's many homegrown terrorists; France has provided Syria with the largest number of foreign fighters from Europe.

An Egyptian commander, formerly with the Al Nusra Front, defected to ISIS earlier in the week. His decision could allow ISIS to “cement its control of both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border along the Euphrates River,” say Bill Roggio and Oren Adaki at the Long War Journal.

Meanwhile, across the Syrian border, the Iraqi military initiated an airborne attack on militant-occupied Tikrit. However, insurgent fire caused at least one army helicopter to crash-land in a university stadium there. Reuters has the details.

The New York Times writes about the fragmentation of the country into three sectarian regions, finding that the “division of Iraq---while it may prove irreversible in the end---...is [not] likely to better address the Middle East’s sources of political and social failure.”

In an interview with BBC News, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that, after trying unsuccessfully to buy U.S. jet fighter planes, he has instead turned to Russia and Belarus, saying, “We were deluded when we signed the contract” with the U.S. The Hill also reports the story.

According to the New York Times, the first American predator drones took flight over Baghdad yesterday. They are intended to provide increased protection to U.S. military advisors deployed in the city. Reuters indicates that U.S. intelligence officials are still trying to construct a clearer picture of the ongoing situation in Iraq.

The Hill notes that in an interview yesterday, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) called American airstrikes in Iraq potentially “counterproductive.” However, his opinion may not affect any decisions made by the Obama administration. In a letter to Congress, which Wells posted here, the President stated that U.S. action in Iraq is being conducted “pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.” Defense News has more.

ABC News indicates that Secretary of State John Kerry met yesterday with foreign ministers from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to discuss a Middle Eastern response to the crisis in Iraq. The Washington Post shares more.

A former Guantanamo Bay detainee by the name of Lahcen Ikassrien was arrested in Spain earlier this month. He is suspected of sending jihadists to fight with ISIS. Thomas Joscelyn of the Long War Journal details the man's initial capture in Afghanistan in 2001, the evidence against him---which was ruled inadmissible by a Spanish court---his time at Guantanamo, and his eventual resettlement.

Reuters gives us the latest from Yemen, where a suicide bomber killed four soldiers at an army base. Militants also took control of an international airport, and the ensuing clashes killed many.

The Treasury Department added two senior Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Speaking of terrorist groups based in Pakistan, we learn that the Pakistani military’s continuing offensive in North Waziristan has displaced huge numbers of civilians. The military shelled Miram Shah yesterday, and a major ground offensive is on its way. 456,000 people have registered for aid, in a quickly-exploding humanitarian crisis. Pakistan is chiding Afghanistan for not doing enough to prevent militants from escaping, in the midst of this offensive, across the porous border between the two countries.

FOX News reports that yesterday, the Senate confirmed Stuart Jones as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and Robert Beecroft a the U.S. ambassador to Egypt. Meanwhile, the Hill notes that a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded that American diplomatic compounds abroad “still lack adequate or uniform security standards.” Read more on their findings here.

Goodluck Jonathan, the President of Nigeria, assured the world in an op-ed in the Washington Post that his top priority remains finding the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls and bringing the terrorists to justice.

Ahmed Abu Khattalah, the suspected ringleader of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, who was snatched up by U.S. special forces and is being held on the USS New York, could be stateside as soon as this weekend. He will be prosecuted in federal court in Washington.

In other news, the Supreme Court’s decision in Riley v. California has prompted some members of Congress to push for stronger privacy laws. The Washington Post indicates that the House’s proposed Email Privacy Act now has the support of 220 cosponsors and the Justice Department. It would force police officers to obtain a warrant before gaining access to a suspect’s emails.

Meanwhile, Facebook is in dispute with the Manhattan district attorney’s office over prosecutors’’ demands to see the complete account data of over 350 Facebook users. The New York Times has details.

In a Washington Post editorial, Gen. John Abizaid (ret.) and Rosa Brooks, the co-chairs of the Stimson Center Task Force on U.S. drone policy, argue that the U.S. should transfer the responsibility for executing drone strikes from the CIA to the U.S. military. Read more on their recommendations here.

And, because it is Friday, and because it's Ritika's last roundup, we're bringing back the Moment of Zen---and we have not one, but two. President Obama finally called for funding moderate Syrian rebels, and this is the Moderate Syrian Rebel Application Form they are going to have to fill out. And, guess where two episodes for the next season of House of Cards might be filmed?

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