Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Cody M. Poplin, Sebastian Brady
Thursday, January 29, 2015, 1:08 PM

Members of the Iranian parliament have introduced a bill that would nullify a 2013 interim nuclear deal if any new sanctions---which have already been proposed in the US Congress---are imposed on the country, the Associated Press reveals. In the US, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech before the US Congress further threatens to scuttle nuclear talks with Iran, The Hill reports. The New York Times explains that this speech, and the partisan way in which it was organized, is actually helping President Barack Obama unite Democrats against new sanctions on Iran, at least temporarily. A senior official in the White House has also criticized Israel’s ambassador to the US, saying that Ambassador Ron Dermer has consistently put Prime Minister Netanyahu’s domestic political considerations ahead of the US-Israeli relationship, according to the Times.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Netanyahu blamed Iran for the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Hezbollah, the worst since the two sides fought a war in 2006, the Times reports. In response to Hezbollah anti-tank missiles fired from Lebanon, Israel shelled southern Lebanon; the shelling left a Spanish UN peacekeeper dead, and the UN states that it has opened an investigation into the death. Later on Thursday, Israel claimed it had received a message from Hezbollah stating a desire to avoid further violence, Reuters reports.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) has released a new draft AUMF against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, The Hill notes. The proposed bill will ban the use of ground troops in the conflict, change language in the 2002 Iraq AUMF, and sunset itself and the 2001 AUMF in three years.

ISIS has set a deadline of sundown today for the release of an ISIS militant held by Jordan, who would be exchanged for a Jordanian pilot currently held by ISIS, according to the Guardian. The AP reports, however, that Jordan is still demanding proof that its pilot is alive before releasing the ISIS militant. In another report, the AP notes that Japan is trusting Jordan to help free a Japanese hostage also held by ISIS as it negotiates the exchange. Reuters reports that on Monday, at least 72 unarmed Iraqis were killed. Survivors have revealed that the killings were perpetrated by Shiite militias backed by Iran, and that Iraqi security forces stood by and watched.

The Wall Street Journal reports that militant groups claiming allegiance to ISIS are cropping up throughout the Middle East, including in Egypt and Libya. At the same time, the group is pushing east; this week the group announced that it is opening operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and named former a Pakistani Taliban commander as its leader in the region. The Hindustan Times covers the story. In Afghanistan, however, the Taliban has reportedly captured a key ISIS ally, Mullah Rauf, and 45 of his followers. Pajhwok has more.

As ISIS tries to move into Pakistan, among other places, Pakistan’s military has pushed many Pakistani militants out of the country. This push, the Wall Street Journal reports, has forced militants to cross into Afghanistan, where their presence threatens the already-fragile Afghan state. All of this comes as the US continues to its drawdown in Afghanistan. But the details of how the US is using its resources to help stabilize the country, once mostly public information, are now considered classified. The Times explains that this move means much of the US effort to leave a stable, safe Afghanistan will be conducted in darkness.

US operations do continue in the region, however. In a drone strike across the border in Pakistan, seven suspected militants were killed, according to the Express Tribune. The Afghan National Security Forces have also reclaimed the central district of Maidan Wardak province for the first time in 13 years, TOLOnews reports, pushing the Taliban out of what was considered its provincial center. The AP notes that elsewhere in Afghanistan a Taliban suicide bomber struck a funeral procession and killed 16 people while wounding 39 others.

Under a renewed Defense Framework Agreement agreed to during President Obama’s visit to India, the US will co-produce weapons with India within India. While the cooperation will begin with low-end weapons, analysts do not expect the co-production of advanced weapons for some time. Defense News has more.

Boko Haram is conducting major violent offensives throughout northeastern Nigeria, and Nigerian troops have not engaged the rebel groups or attempted to protect civilians, the AP reports. The Islamic extremists are burning and looting villages while abducting or killing any civilians in their path.

Satellite images analyzed by a US think tank shows that North Korea may be restarting a nuclear plant that it shut down last August, the AP reveals. The plant has produced the plutonium used in past North Korea test explosions. However, the research institute said that, because the images analyzed were only from a brief period, it could not state definitively what the activity indicates.

Cuban President Raul Castro has demanded that the US return the Guantanamo Bay base to Cuba before the two countries can normalize relations. The Guardian reports that Castro also demanded an end to the US embargo of Cuba and compensation from the US for damages.

In other Guantanamo news, the defense lawyer for Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a former al Qaeda commander, has asked a military judge at Guantanamo to broaden the reach of the judge’s previous no-female-touching policy beyond just legal meetings. Female guards at the base have now filed a gender discrimination complaint against the same judge. Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald covers the story.

The Hill shares that the House Intelligence Committee is shuffling its organization to focus more on cyber security and oversight of the intelligence community. The Committee announced four new subcommittees yesterday: one on the CIA, one on the NSA and cybersecurity, one on the Defense Department’s intelligence agencies, and one on Emerging Threats. After a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on cybersecurity, the committee’s top members both indicated that a bill facilitating information sharing between the public and private sectors on cyber threats may be forthcoming, according to The Hill.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Cody explained that, despite some faulty arguments to the contrary, terrorist safe havens do still matter. A lot.

Cody also shared the new draft AUMF against ISIS in Iraq and Syria that Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) released.

Ben brought us video footage from last weekend’s cybersurveillance conference at Washington & Lee’s law school, which included a speech by General Michael Hayden and some stand-up comedy by Ben and Daily Beast reporter Shane Harris.

This week’s Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast featured a debate between Thomas Rid and Jeffrey Carr over the attribution of cyberattacks.

Yishai Schwartz analyzed Senator Bob Corker’s push for legislation that would force the president to bring any nuclear deal with Iran before Congress for a vote, saying that such legislation seems to be a good way of ensuring a satisfactory deal for the US.

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