Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Cody M. Poplin
Friday, October 31, 2014, 5:09 PM

In a fast-moving situation, Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore has announced that he will resign and the military has seized power following violent protests in which demonstrators set fire to parliament. The news marks the end of Mr. Compaore’s 27-year rule. The New York Times has more on the breaking story while Foreign Policy has a stunning series of photos from the protests.

According to Reuters, Israel has reopened the Temple Mount, allowing Muslims to pray at Jerusalem’s Aqsa mosque; however, Israel has maintained tight security in the area, keeping over 1,000 police officers around the Old City.

A new report from the Washington Post suggests the barrage of airstrikes launched by coalition forces in Syria and Iraq does not seem to have affected the flow of foreign fighters into the region. The Post’s Greg Miller writes that more than 1,000 foreign fighters are joining groups in Syria each month, a rate that is largely unchanged since before the airstrikes began. If correct, that would put the total number of foreign fighters above 16,000.

To combat the growing number of militants, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, told reporters yesterday that the United States plans to empower Sunni Arab tribes in Iraq’s Anbar province so that they can take the battle to the Islamic State. Enlisting the help of the Sunni tribes is considered one of three elements to defeating ISIS, the other two being advising and assisting the Iraqi government and creating a national guard. The Associated press has more on the Chairman's comments.

Those comments come as McClatchy shares news that the Islamic State has executed more than 40 men from two different tribes that had attempted to fight and prevent the group from overtaking their city. The atrocities continue to mount in Anbar, as the group also expelled hundreds of elderly people, women, and children belonging to the Albu Nimr and Albu Assar tribes from Hit. In a statement that portends trouble in recruiting more Sunni tribes to rise against ISIS, an Albu Nimr sheikh was quoted saying, “this criminal thing is going on and there is a humanitarian disaster and the government doesn’t give us support to prevent this. This is a conspiracy against the province and against the Albu Nimr.” The New York Times has more the Islamic State’s “brutal revenge,” writing that one account from the scene put the death toll about the Albu Nimr tribe at 200 based on mass grave sites.

Turning to Syria: The battle for Kobani continues, and yesterday the first unit of Iraqi Kurdish fighters arrived to reinforce the city. McClatchy reports that the unit comprised of 10 Kurdish scouts, while the remainder of the force, estimated to number about 150, remained assembled at a Turkish military base near the border, ready to enter once the scouting unit prepares its brief of the situation. The Syrian regime has denounced the decision by Turkey to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the border into Syria as “disgraceful,” accusing Ankara of allowing “terrorist elements...to cross into Syrian territories.”

The Economist provides a glimpse into how a tiny town of little strategic importance has become “The Kurdish Stalingrad.”

Near Homs, ISIS claims that is has seized a gas field from the Syrian army, reports Reuters. Islamic State militants posted photos of the field, bodies of Syrian soldiers, and seized weapons to a variety social media sites, according to the SITE monitoring service.

In a departure with the White House on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel admitted that the Syrian regime “derives some benefit” from U.S. and allied airstrikes on ISIS, reports the Wall Street Journal. Last week, Secretary Hagel sent a memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice arguing that the United States should clarify its approach to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In Foreign Policy, Shane Harris asks where is the Khorsan group?

And with elections next week, John Hudson notes that if the Republicans win big on Tuesday, so will the CIA. For Brookings, Will McCants analyzes the roll that ISIS is playing on the midterm campaign trail.

According to the AFP, a top Iranian official said Wednesday that Iran wants all Western sanctions to be lifted as part of a nuclear deal, saying that a gradual lifting of the sanctions regime would be “unacceptable.” Whether or not a deal is reached by November 24, the Economist writes that “the revolution is over,” suggesting that changes inside Iran make a deal more and more likely in the long run.

AFP also provides more information on the drone strike that we noted yesterday, sharing that a Haqqani Commander was among the seven killed in a US drone strike inside South Waziristan yesterday.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, NBC News reports that the Pakastani Taliban has launched its own English-language magazine. The move is becoming a trend, as Al Qaeda has its own “Inspire,” and “Resurgence;” ISIS prints “Dabiq; and the Afghan Taliban writes in “Al-Somood.”

Reuters reports that the Russia-Ukraine gas spat appears to be resolved, as Gazprom will resume gas supply to Ukraine once the country pays $2.2 billion dollars in debt and prepayments it owes. The CEO of Gazprom noted that it would resume supply two days after Ukraine made the payment.

For Brookings, Ambassador Steven Pifer shares 7 things to know about Ukraine.

The Guardian carries a story on the world’s first counter-terrorism “bank,” which will begin providing funds for projects designed to stop violent extremism in five countries judge “at risk.” The group will provide grants of around $10-30,000 to programs in Mali, Pakistan, Nigeria, Morocco, and Bangladesh. Instead of focusing on boosting security in these countries, the grants will instead aim to stem extremism though empowering moderate communities.

Carol Rosenberg reports in the Miami Herald that the Guantanamo military commission has chosen to censor the word “female,” noting that a “security team blacked out the world ‘female’ and ‘male’ in a military defense team’s legal motion that asks a war court judge to order to prison to stop using female guards.” The Herald has more.

In a new survey, more people trust the NSA than Google with their data.

The Hill reports that in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holdier, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has urged reform in controversial FBI and DEA tactics. In reference to news stories of the FBI creating a fake Associated Press article and DEA agents using another woman’s identity to create a Facebook profile, the senator wrote “tactics such as these may ultimately prove counter-productive if they erode the public’s trust in the judgement and integrity of law enforcement officers.”

Parting Shot: Beijing has banned Halloween on the metro.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Jack Goldsmith provides his view on “How the Supreme Court Should Resolve Zivotofsky.”

Cody Poplin shares the news that Buck McKeon (R-CA) wants Secretary Hagel to suspend all detainee transfers.

And finally, Cody Poplin links us to a new project called “Dronestagram.”

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