Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tara Hofbauer
Wednesday, September 3, 2014, 2:34 PM

Yesterday, Ben Bissell and Cody shared news of a video, depicting the murder of American journalist Steven Sotloff by a jihadist representing the Islamic State. According to the Associated Press, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden confirmed the authenticity of the footage in a statement this morning. The Telegraph informs us that the Islamic State was apparently “caught off guard” by the release of the video. The SITE Intelligence Group, which had discovered the footage on a file-sharing site, preempted the extremists in distributing the video. The Telegraph notes that “the apparent leak of the Sotloff video is in stark contrast to the carefully choreographed release of the video showing the killing of James Foley, another American journalist, on August 20.”

In light of the recent killings, USA Today’s Editorial Board considers America’s refusal to pay terrorists for the release of U.S. hostages. Meanwhile, Time reflects on the asymmetric warfare waged by the Islamic State.

In a statement this morning from Tallinn, Estonia, President Obama promised to “degrade and destroy ISIL.” The Washington Post highlights the President’s “tougher tone,” but notes that “Obama gave no clear details on whether the United States planned to escalate its pressure on the group beyond the current wave of limited airstrikes and efforts to forge a stronger international coalition against the militants.”

President Obama has authorized an additional 350 U.S. troops deployed to Iraq in order to ensure security at U.S. diplomatic compounds there. Navy Times has more on the President’s decision.

Meanwhile, members of Congress are considering legislation authorizing military action against the Islamic State. According to Time and Politico, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, intends to introduce legislation next week that would authorize U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria. Additionally, Congressmen Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced that they intend to hold hearings regarding U.S. strategic plans against the Islamic State. According to Chairman Royce, “We anticipate there will be a vote on authorization of the use of force for such a plan. That would come within the 60-day window.” The Daily Beast has more on their statements.

Iraqi forces have enjoyed a number of successes against the Islamic State recently. The New York Times shares that a combination of Iraqi and Iranian troops, supported by U.S. air power, successfully repelled jihadi militants from their siege of the town of Amerli. According to the Guardian, Iraqi troops have reclaimed control of a strategic road connecting Baghdad to northern Iraq. Meanwhile, the Navy Times reports that, according to Pentagon spokesperson Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Islamic State continues to pose a threat to the Mosul Dam.

Protesters in Baghdad managed to shut down Parliament yesterday. The Wall Street Journal shares details.

The Wall Street Journal examines the reasons for the Islamic State’s overall success this summer. In a Foreign Policy opinion, J.M. Berger examines the struggle between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State for dominance in the jihadi movement.

Meanwhile, as a number of U.S. forces reenter Iraq, the Atlantic considers the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in a series of photographs. The AP also examines the end of NATO missions in Afghanistan.

President Obama is in Estonia today, ahead of a NATO summit in Wales. The Guardian notes that the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine has left Estonia and the other Baltic states feeling unsettled and “vulnerable.”

At the NATO meeting, Western leaders are expected to discuss a coordinated response to Russian aggression, reports the AP. The Times also considers the Western reaction to Russia. According to the Wall Street Journal, the European Union may increase sanctions on Russian companies.

According to Reuters, pro-Russian separatists have announced that they are close to regaining control of the airport in Donetsk. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has stated that the Ukrainian government will likely need a greater cash infusion if the fighting in the east continues. The AP has more on the projected figures.

However, the Post reports Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to the broad outlines of “a seven-point plan for a peace settlement.” In a statement today, President Obama noted his concern about whether Russia will “follow up.” The Wall Street Journal has the story.

Yesterday, Ben Bissell and Cody highlighted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim during a telephone conference that, “If I wanted to, I could take Kiev in two weeks.” Putin has objected, insisting that his words were taken out of context. According to USA Today, the Russian leader is prepared to release the full audio and transcript of the contested call. The Times shares a roundup of Putin’s statements since March with regard to Ukraine.

Reuters informs us that Syrian military forces have launched a new offensive on Jobar, a rebel-held district of Damascus.

According to the AP, Iranian air defense chief Gen. Farzad Esmaili yesterday announced the inauguration of new radar systems and surface-to-air missiles.

The Times informs us that, according to a senior Israeli Defense Forces intelligence official, Operation Protective Edge significantly weakened Hamas. Meanwhile, as part of a strategy to force Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will pursue several international remedies, including accession to the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. The Times shares that story, too.

NPR reports that Major Jason Wright, one of the lawyers for 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, has resigned from the Army, having refused orders to voluntarily remove himself from the defense team in order to attend a mandatory graduate program. Cody shared the news with Lawfare.

Yesterday, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that photos and video of Mohammed al Qahtani, a Guantanamo detainee thought to the 20th 9/11 hijacker, may remain classified. A three-judge panel found that if the al Qahtani materials were released, they “could logically and plausibly be used by anti-American extremists as propaganda to recruit members and incite violence against American interests at home and abroad.” The AP, the Miami Herald and the Guardian share the story.

The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals also heard oral argument yesterday in the ACLU’s case against the National Security Agency (NSA)’s bulk collection of telephony metadata under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The Post recounts the proceedings. USA Today notes that the judges “expressed skepticism... about the government’s continued monitoring of Americans’ phone records.” Josh Gerstein of Politico also comments on the “surprisingly chilly reception [given]... to the government’s arguments for the legality of the surveillance.”

Defense One considers new appointments to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

Reuters informs us that in a briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated that, “Securing the release of U.S. citizens [in North Korea] is a top priority.”

The Post highlights an article written by Air Force Captain Joseph O. Chapa on the public relations war in the use of drones.

The Post describes new armored exoskeletons developed by defense contractor Lockheed Martin for use by the U.S. military.

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