Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tara Hofbauer, Cody M. Poplin
Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 1:04 PM

In the Intercept today, Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussein published a long-awaited piece on the surveillance of Muslim Americans by the NSA and FBI. In response, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement, arguing that the U.S. does not monitor its citizens' activities “solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government.” Ben also gave his thoughts on these most recent disclosures.

Violence between Israel and Palestine continues this morning, as revenge attacks escalate without any clear exit plan for either side. Al Jazeera reports that Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have launched more than one hundred air strikes in the last 24 hours. The IDF claim that the airstrikes target key Hamas command centers and rocket launchers. At the same time, Israel continues its controversial policy of warning, by means of telephone or leaflet, the occupants of buildings which are about to be bombed. The New York Times shares the story.

The Washington Post has graphic footage of the airstrikes in the Gaza Strip where at least nine Palestinians have died. The strikes come after more than 160 rockets were fired against Israel; the rocket strikes were reported well north of Tel Aviv near Haifa. The Times and Fox News have more details.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon condemned the attacks on Tuesday, saying that he is “extremely concerned” by the surging violence. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council over the “dangerous Israeli escalation.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet ruled out a ground operation after authorizing the armed forces to mobilize 40,000 reservists. According to Al Jazeera, a source in his office quoted Netanyahu as saying, “the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) must be ready to go all the way. All options are on the table, including a ground invasion.” See Reuters for more.

On to Iraq: The Post reports that Iraq’s parliament will convene on Sunday, amid growing pressure to form a new government that can deal with current security threats. The announcement comes as Reuters tells us that the existing government has lost control of a former chemical weapons facility to “armed terrorist groups;” and the Post shares that infighting between Shia groups in the south has flared up. The Daily Beast has more on why simply eliminating ISIS would not fix the problems the Iraqi government faces. Iran is also getting in on the action, as the Times notes.  Iran has deepened its involvement in the crisis, sending three SU-25 combat aircraft---which are similar to the American A-10---to the Maliki government.

On Tuesday, Senators vented frustrations after a Senate Armed Services Committee briefing on Iraq. According to the Hill, Senator John McCain suggested that the Obama Administration has “no strategy” to deal with the current situation there. Senator Rand Paul called the assessment that ISIS was a threat to the United States a “conjecture.” Defense News has the story.

Meanwhile, CNN reports that ISIS militants have seized control of the Abu Kamal border crossing between Syria and Iraq, thereby consolidating territorial gains in both countries. A spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army declared that “all the cities between Deir Ezzor city and the Iraq border... have fallen to ISIS.”

Al Jazeera shares news that the Western-supported Syrian opposition group National Coalition has selected a new president, Hadi al-Bahra. Bahra served as the organization’s chief negotiator during the Geneva peace talks, and according to the Syrian National Coalition’s Facebook page, he won the presidency by 62 votes. BBC News also reports the story.

In Afghanistan, preliminary results of the presidential election brought on outrage. Now the U.S. has urged all parties to remain “calm.” During phone calls with candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, President Obama focused on “the need for political dialogue.” The New York Times shares news on the two candidates’ statements and actions.

Whatever the identity of Afghanistan's true leader, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen indicated that Afghanistan in any event will have to sign security agreements by September---or risk problems in establishing a Western alliance. Defense News has more.

On a different subject, Rasmussen also warned on Tuesday that Russia was playing a ‘double game” in Ukraine and that countries should not be duped by conciliatory statements---which mask Moscow’s “hybrid war” of military action, covert operations, and disinformation campaigns. The Times covers the story.

According to the Associated Press, Ukraine’s government has announced new plans to encircle and capture the rebel-held stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. But Ukraine also said that, so as not to terrorize the populated city, Ukraine's military would not use the same air and artillery strikes in Donetsk that it previously used to drive rebels from other towns.

The International Civil Aviation Organization has determined that Crimean airspace still belongs to Ukraine, despite Russia’s annexation of the territory earlier this year, the Post reports.

In a Post editorial, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski shares his thoughts on the three different options Putin has with regard to Ukraine.

As the July 20 deadline for an Iran nuclear agreement approaches, new developments may make achieving a compromise difficult. BBC News indicates that disagreement seems to have arisen among the Western powers. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that “in recent days, representatives in the negotiations have put forward a certain number of different approaches.” Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that in a speech Monday, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei declared that in the years to come, the Islamic Republic will need more uranium enrichment capacity than the West might like. According to Mark Fitzpatrick, former acting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Non-proliferation, Iran’s Supreme Leader has now “made it harder to get a deal.”

Yesterday, Clara shared news that Bahrain's government asked U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski to leave the island nation immediately. While the State Department noted that it is “deeply concerned” by the action, Malinowski tweeted that the decision was “not about me but [about] undermining dialogue.” BBC News and the AP have more.

In an op-ed in the Times, Michael Cohen argues that despite recent global crises, it has actually been “a pretty good couple of weeks for American foreign policy.”

The “Strategic and Economic Dialogue” between U.S. and Chinese officials began in Beijing today. The AP shares remarks from Secretary Kerry and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Meanwhile, Defense News reports that as part of a series of tests, North Korea appears to have launched two short-range missiles off its eastern coast today.

The Times indicates that when President Obama called German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, he was unaware that a German intelligence officer had just admitted to sharing information with the CIA. The Daily Beast has more on the episode.

In a closed hearing yesterday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted 12-3 to approve the Cyber Information Sharing Act, a bill intended to allow private companies to share cyberthreat information with the government. Forbes and the Post have more details.

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