Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tara Hofbauer, Cody M. Poplin
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 12:45 PM

Yesterday, after Hamas refused to sign a cease-fire agreement with Israel, Secretary of State John Kerry declared, “I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas.” The Wall Street Journal notes the Secretary’s statement that “Israel has right to defend itself.” Indeed, according to the Associated Press, the Israeli Prime Minister vowed to use “great force” against Gaza. The Times reports  that 100,000 Gazans were encouraged to “flee” their homes. The Israeli offensive may soon force the U.S. to become involved in mediating an end to the violence. The Post describes the pressure the U.S. is soon to face.

Until then, it appears that the U.S. Congress is prepared to approve additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. Foreign Policy and Defense One have more.

The Post Editorial Board examines Hamas’ rejection of the cease-fire and concludes that “the Islamic movement calculates that it can win the concessions it has yet to obtain from Israel and Egypt not by striking Israel but by perpetuating the killing of its own people in Israeli counterattacks.”

From the Daily Beast: given recent developments in Iraq, officials within the Obama administration are concerned about the proposed withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Marine Corps. Gen. Joseph Dunford, John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, recommended “delaying the delivery of additional cargo planes” to the Afghan air force. The Wall Street Journal reports.

Just days after the announcement of a U.S.-brokered deal to resolve the Afghan election crisis, the ballot audit was “postponed indefinitely” as candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani disputed who---the U.N. or the Afghan Independent Election Commission---would conduct the audit. The Post has more on Afghanistan’s continued election troubles.

Despite “very real gaps,” Secretary Kerry said yesterday that nuclear negotiations with Iran had achieved “tangible progress.” According to the Times, the involved parties are likely to extend the Sunday deadline to reach a long-term agreement.

Meanwhile, a recent poll conducted by the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and the Program for Public Consultation indicates that 61 percent of Americans support cooperating with Iran on the situation in Iraq. The Post has details.

The Associated Press writes that on Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden called moderate Sunni lawmaker Salim al-Jubouri to congratulate him on his election as Iraq’s new parliamentary speaker. The Vice President pledged to work closely with him to tackle the threats the country faces.

The Times tells us that Iraqi forces have withdrawn from the rebel-held city of Tikrit after yesterday’s highly publicized attack met heavy resistance. The Long War Journal has the details of the battle, including images that rebels published of newly captured U.S. military vehicles. This was the Iraqi military’s second failed attempt to retake Tikrit.

The Times also has a new and disturbing recruitment video from ISIS that appears to target English speakers in the West. In the video, Canadian Andre Poulin notes that there is a place for everyone in the Islamic State. The video comes three days after Attorney General Eric Holder called the threat that Americans and Europeans will join the fight in Syria “something that gives us really extreme, extreme concern.”  (Jack highlighted Holder’s comments on Sunday.) Meanwhile, Vice has a story that raises a number of questions about the methods the FBI uses to deter, track, and arrest would be jihadists.

According to the Long War Journal, a newly released (but obviously old) video of Osama bin Laden is part of a major al Qaeda effort to push back against the foundations of the Islamic State and its sophisticated recruitment tactics.

Reuters reports that on Friday, as part of its anti-Taliban offensive, the Pakistani military captured Taliban commander Adnan Rashid in South Waziristan near the Afghan border. Today, Pakistani jets killed 35 alleged insurgents, while U.S. drones killed another 20. Reuters has more on that, too.

Despite such successes, the Times notes the “alarmingly rapid” growth of Islamist groups across Pakistan.

Stars and Stripes reports that after a recent spate of violence in Tripoli and Benghazi, the interim Libyan government may ask the international community to send forces to help ease the hostilities. Secretary Kerry has urged an end to the “‘dangerous’ levels of violence” in the country. Reuters has more.

The Post tells us that yesterday, Somali security forces in Mogadishu arrested over 200 people with alleged ties to militant groups. Meanwhile, the U.N. Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group has accused the Somali “president, a foreign minister, and a U.S. law firm of conspiring to divert Somali assets recovered abroad.” Reuters reports on that story, too.

The Wall Street Journal notes that as violence continues in eastern Ukraine, both Russia and Ukraine are condemning each other’s involvement in the dispute.

According to the AP, Washington is contemplating unilateral sanctions against Russia. The Obama administration is also encouraging the European Union to adopt tougher sanctions. Bloomberg shares more.

Yesterday, President Obama spoke over the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding “U.S.-German intelligence cooperation.” According to a White House statement, President Obama assured Chancellor Merkel that “he’d remain in close communication on ways to improve cooperation going forward.” The Times has details.

In a Time op-ed, John Rizzo argues that German outrage over U.S. spying is “just for show,” and intended to serve the German leadership’s own domestic political constituencies.

Just Security has post from Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, former Chief of Europe Division in the CIA.  He lays out the spies' “rules of the game," and argues that “threats are unpredictable, and any state’s interests can be incompatible with another’s under certain circumstances."   As such, “written no-spy agreements are inherently disingenuous.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the United Kingdom’s electronic surveillance policies were also in the spotlight on Tuesday, and on two different fronts.  First, parliament passed legislation that requires telecom companies to keep customer data for up to 12 months. At the same time, human rights groups met with a special tribunal and argued that British spying practices are overly broad and violate protections of privacy and free speech.

On this side of the Atlantic, the Hill reports that debate on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) is heating up.  Supporters hope that the bill will get a floor vote before the August recess. Today, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew came out in support of the effort, suggesting that “our cyber defenses are not yet where they need to be.” This statement comes a day after civil liberties advocates released a letter asking President Obama to veto the bill. The Hill has more.

According to Defense News, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert yesterday met his Chinese counterpart in Beijing to discuss cooperation between the two countries.

Meanwhile, senior American officials announced this week that in March, Chinese hackers attacked records from not only the Office of Personnel Management, but also from the Government Printing Office and the Government Accountability Office. The Times notes that it is unclear yet if the intruders were acting on behalf of the Chinese government.

Reuters brings news that North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un supervised rocket drills near the inter-Korean demilitarized zone yesterday.

The Post describes the new drones on display at the Farnborough International Airshow.  Apropos,  per the Wall Street Journalthe British and French governments have agreed to an extension of their defense cooperation strategy, Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS) program, which intends to develop a “high-end drone that would be radar evading and... able to drop bombs.”

According to Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congress may need to pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund the Pentagon until after the upcoming midterm elections. The Hill has details.

The Post shares news that a U.S. Navy nurse refused to force-feed Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Guantanamo prisoner on a hunger strike.

Roll Call examines a number of recent staff firings at the House Homeland Security Committee.

The Hill reports that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has retained Eugene Fidell, a Yale law school professor, as counsel.

A Norwegian man affiliated with al Qaeda has been added to the U.S. State Department’s list of global terrorists. Reuters shares the story.

Closing arguments began today in the case against the friend of the alleged Boston Marathon bomber. The AP has more.

USA Today describes Twitter’s recent hashtag #betterciatweets.

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