Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Cody M. Poplin, Benjamin Bissell
Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 1:19 PM

In Washington, analysts and pundits are continuing to pick apart the resignation yesterday of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. In Foreign Policy, David Rothkopf argues that sacking Hagel is not a cure for President Obama’s foreign policy woes; Hagel's supposedly rocky performance was, instead, “a symptom of the disease.” Several news sources have written about why Hagel was dismissed, with an unnamed senior administration official saying he was not up to the job---and other figures disputing that account. At Politico, Josh Gerstein writes that part of what alienated Hagel from Obama was the former’s reluctance to whittle down Guantanamo’s detainee count. The New York Times reports that if no other senior national security staffers are fired, Hagel’s dismissal only tightens the foreign policy grip of the White House, which has long been accused of micromanagement. And while Hagel might be the most recent Secretary of Defense to clash with the White House, he was certainly not the first, as the Wall Street Journal notes.

Speculation continues to swirl over who Hagel’s successor will be. Foreign Policy writes that finding a candidate that can deal with the multitude of existing challenges will be difficult. The Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman asserts that, regardless of who is tapped, the incoming Defense chief will face major challenges in revamping the Pentagon’s budget, mission and culture. Defense News quotes a Senate source as saying that it is “logistically impossible” to move a nomination this year. The Hill reports that Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), whose name has been mentioned in the past for the post, is not interested.

A nuclear deal between the P5+1 powers and Iran appears to have slipped away again. The New York Times has more on why no agreement was forged by the November 24th deadline. BBC reports that there is “optimism” as all sides nevertheless have agreed to a seven-month extension in talks. According to the report, the parties are aiming to reach a “high-level political agreement” by March 1st and confirm the full technical details by July 1st. Relatedly, Reuters reports that Iran is taking action to comply with an interim nuclear deal.

Some are more pessimistic than this though; in Foreign Policy, Jeffrey Lewis asserts that the Iran nuclear extension is a “death sentence” due to hardliner pressure on both sides. If that is true, it may be time for another reminder: The cost of a war with Iran over its nuclear stockpiles would be incredibly high.

McClatchy brings us news that in the battle for Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has toughened its tactics in Anbar, carrying out its own “counterinsurgency campaign” intended to root out any local tribes that may be sympathetic to the U.S.-led coalition. In its most recent attack on Ramadi, ISIS did not rely on local Sunni tribes for support, instead launching the attack on its own.

According to Reuters, the United States and allies have conducted 24 airstrikes against the Islamic State since Friday, with several strikes aimed at halting the ISIS advance on Ramadi.

Turkey has begun sending weapons to Iraqi Kurdish forces engaged in the fight against ISIS militants. The aid comes in addition to Turkey’s decision to train Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Turkish newspaper Hurriyet writes that 230 Kurdish militants have been trained so far.

In the National Interest, Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon asks if it is time for a formal U.S.-Iraqi alliance.

A second airstrike hit Libya’s last functioning commercial airport today, reports Reuters. It was the second airstrike in as many days. An armed group led by General Khalifa Haftar claimed responsibility for the strikes.

In another country once at the center of the Arab Spring, Tunisian secularist leader Beji Caid Essebsi has narrowly edged out incumbent President Moncef Marzouki in the first round of presidential elections. However, the two will meet again in a December run-off. Reuters has more on the elections.

Mashable carries a story on the rise of the Egyptian Cyber Army, a group loyal to Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that is tracking and hacking ISIS propaganda.

In an unprecedented move, an Israeli cabinet panel has rejected a plan by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to buy an additional 31 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, limiting the procurement number for Israel’s second batch of F-35s to 13. Aviation Week has more on the story.

The BBC reports that a raid in Yemen by Yemeni Special Forces has freed seven Yemenis and a US military expert who were taken hostage by a group linked to al Qaeda.

The Afghan Intelligence agency has blamed the Haqqani militant network for the deadly bombings in eastern Afghanistan this weekend that targeted spectators at a volleyball match. 61 people were killed in the attack and more than 50 were injured.

Elsewhere, the Express Tribune in Pakistan writes that Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah narrowly escaped a US drone strike on Monday. The strike killed five others.

The Associated Press reports that the Kremlin is consolidating and expanding its control over the Black Sea region with the Crimea annexation and its recent moves in Abkhazia.

Foreign Policy reports that NATO’s rapid response strategy to counter Russia is beginning to “take shape.”

The Los Angeles Times quotes Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as saying that Ukrainians will vote on joining to NATO years from now. Poroshenko further asserted that such a vote, which would be bitterly opposed by Moscow, would only be undertaken after “necessary reforms” have been completed.

The New York Times reports that the long-simmering Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is in danger of blowing wide open. Armenia announced yesterday that it would hold ceremonial funerals for three soldiers who were killed this month; Baku’s forces had shot down a helicopter over the “fiercely disputed territory.”

The Japan Times writes that Chinese coast guard vessels returned to the disputed Senkaku Islands for the first time since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

Abe is also facing problems at home. Deutsche Welle reports that amid snap elections, the Japanese leader will be hard-pressed to rejuvenate his country’s economic fortunes.

At Foreign Policy, Justine Drennan interviews leading Thai scholar Thongchai Winichakul, who believes that “Thai democracy is gone and won’t return anytime soon.”

The Times of India reports that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Kathmandu today with a mission to promote the SAARC regional bloc and deepen India’s relations with its neighbors.

A major counterterrorism and security bill is scheduled to be unveiled in the United Kingdom this week. Both the Guardian and the BBC have readouts on the legislation, which will give new powers to police and security services that are attempting to confront what authorities call an unprecedented terror threat. This bill will be the seventh major counterterrorism law introduced in the country since 9/11.

A new report claims that US drone strikes that targeted only 41 men actually ended up killing 1,147 people. Using this and other new data provided by NGO Reprieve, the Guardian analyzes whether or not the intelligence guiding “precise” strikes is as accurate as claimed.

Have you met “Regin?” Symantec, an American technology company, features an overview of the highly advanced cyberbug that is stealthily invading computer systems across the globe. While the makers of Regin remain unclear, Symantec, pointing to Regin’s “capabilities” and the “level of resources” required for its development, believes that it was probably created by a state. The bug has spied against governments, infrastructure operations, businesses, researchers and private individuals, with the majority of its infections located in Russia and Saudi Arabia. The Financial Times and Foreign Policy have more on the malware.

ICYMI: Yesterday, On Lawfare

Jack Goldsmith analyzed Senator Paul’s proposed declaration of war against the Islamic State.

Mieke Eoyang offered a new idea of electronic surveillance reform, suggesting the FISA Amendments Act become the exclusive means for conducting surveillance when the information is in the custody of an American company.

Alex Ely provided a quick summary of oral argument in In Re Directives.

Paul Rosenzweig linked us to a story that Chinese firm Huawei will provide the WiFi for the suite level at FedEx Field. He asks, how many high-level Washingtonians check their emails while at the game?

Diane Webber asks whether its a good idea to begin confiscating passports in order to stop citizens from joining jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

Wells shared a Wall Street Journal report that previewed the expected draft FAA rules for commercial use of small drones.

Benjamin Wittes offered a few comments on Charlie Savage’s scoop regarding a little legal loophole in the Patriot Act sunset provisions, and what that might mean for NSA reform.

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