Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Cody M. Poplin, Sebastian Brady
Monday, February 9, 2015, 1:36 PM

Jordan hit ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria with airstrikes 56 times over three days, the BBC reports. The uptick in strikes, focused on the ISIS center of Raqqa, come after the militant group burned a Jordanian pilot to death. U.S.-led coalition forces also continued their air campaign against ISIS over the weekend, launching a series of sorties that included a dozen attacks on the Iraqi city of Mosul, CNN adds. On the ground, Syrian Kurds continue to push ISIS away from the Syrian town of Kobani, Al Arabiya reports. Kurdish forces reclaimed the city two weeks ago and now control over one-third of the outlying settlements.

In the other theater of battle, Iraqi forces appear to be planning a major offensive against ISIS, France24 notes. And, according to Asharq Al-Awsat, an Iraqi official claims that an Iraqi offensive to wrest Tikrit from ISIS is imminent. In the Washington Post, Missy Ryan and Mustafa Salim argue that these ground offensives to reclaim territory will force the Iraqi army into risky urban warfare, which will test the strength of Iraqi forces while possibly straining sectarian relationships. Both Tikrit and Mosul are majority Sunni.

The clampdown on travel and support to the Islamic State continues. Japanese authorities have seized the passport of a journalist who planned to travel to Syria, Al Jazeera reports. The authorities cited concerns for the reporter’s safety as grounds for the seizure. In France, six people have been arrested on suspicion of transferring money to and recruiting fighters for jihadist groups in the Middle East, France24 reveals. The Telegraph shares that British authorities are detaining suspected terrorists every day and removing more than 1,000 web pages displaying extremist content every week. In the United States, the Department of Justice announced that it has charged six people with attempting to aid terrorists. Five of the six defendants have been arrested, but the sixth remains at large overseas.

A former member of the Taliban who recently pledged allegiance to ISIS has been killed by a drone strike in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, the BBC reports. The commander, Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, who was once held at Guantanamo Bay, was killed along with several other militants, Pajhwok adds. The Afghan government has opened an investigation into the police in Kunduz province, where officers have allegedly sold ammunition to Taliban fighters and informed them of upcoming police operations. The New York Times has more.

More details are also emerging on the nuclear liability deal the United States and India reached during President Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi in January. The Hindu reports that India’s Ministry of External Affairs has clarified India’s stance on nuclear liability under the deal, saying that the government will not be amending the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Act of 2010, but will read the law to mean that liability will flow to the operator of the nuclear reactor, and not the supplier. This reading is expected to make it more likely for American suppliers to agree to do business in India.

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany will meet Wednesday to discuss a route to peace in Ukraine, Reuters reports. Simultaneously, the United States is considering arming Ukraine, a move that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized. The Wall Street Journal reveals that President Obama has agreed to delay any decision on the matter until after meeting with Chancellor Merkel today. In the Times, John Mearsheimer argues that the United States should not arm Ukraine, as it will only lead Russia to further escalate the conflict. Also in the Times, Alison Smale describes how opposing lessons from the Cold War are dividing NATO on its response to the crisis in Ukraine.

For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting Egypt in an attempt to show that Russia is not isolated as a result of the Ukrainian crisis, according to Al Jazeera.

Ayatollah Al Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has claimed that he could accept a nuclear deal between his country and the P5+1. Asharq Al-Awsat explains that this statement represents the strongest expression of support for the negotiations so far by the Supreme Leader. The Guardian contends that negotiations are inching forward on the issues of enrichment capabilities and sanctions relief. A June 30th deadline for an agreement looms over the negotiations, and Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC Sunday that the talks would not be extended again unless the two sides can agree on a framework before then. Also on Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed that the current negotiations are the best, and perhaps last, chance for a nuclear deal to be reached, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Moves by Houthi rebels in Yemen to reassure regional powers who backed the previous government, including a decision to appoint four key ministers from the previous government to the newly formed national security committee, have fallen flat, the Times shares. Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region condemned the Houthis’ recent actions as a coup and asked the United Nations Security Council to bring an end to ongoing political upheaval in the country.

Israel’s PM is facing increasing criticism over his planned speech before Congress decrying the talks. After Vice President Joe Biden announced that he would not attend the because of a previously scheduled trip abroad, opponents in Israel’s parliamentary elections seized on the statement as evidence that Netanyahu’s planned address has deeply angered the Obama administration and profoundly damaged Israel’s ties with the leadership of its most important regional ally.

The Nigerian government has announced that it will delay national elections for six weeks, saying that it cannot remove enough troops from the military’s ongoing campaign against Boko Haram to ensure safe elections. The Wall Street Journal reports that this move has been roundly criticized by both the domestic opposition and the international community. The Associated Press adds that Boko Haram continues to broaden the geographic range of its attacks. The group conducted a nighttime assault on a town inside Niger this weekend, just hours before a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a market in the same town.

On Sunday, North Korea launched five short-range missiles off the country’s coast, the Times reports. The launches came a day after North Korea announced that it also tested a new anti-ship missile.

The British court tasked with overseeing intelligence agencies in Britain has ruled that GCHQ, a British intelligence agency, broke the law by retrieving information provided by the NSA through December 2014, according to the Times.

Adel Abdul Bary, an Egyptian tied to Osama bin Laden and the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill two Americans and two other counts related to making threats, according to the Times. Bary was sentenced to 25 years but, if he receives credit for time served, could be released in just eight years.

The national security strategy the Obama administration released on Friday laid out a broad policy vision emphasizing the importance of alliances while maintaining that the United States cannot and should not try to shape all global events. The Post covers the document and National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s remarks here at Brookings on Friday.

The head of the Information Innovation Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said in an interview on Sunday that the U.S. military faces cyberattacks every day and that the attacks are becoming both more frequent and more sophisticated. The Hill has more.

As Guantanamo hearings in the 9/11 case begin, the Miami Herald reports that pre-trial issues continue to slow the trial proceedings. The issues before the military court in this series of hearings have nothing to do with the actual crime the detainees are accused of.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Wells shared the chief prosecutor’s statement on this week’s hearing in the 9/11 case.

Alex Ely reviewed highlights from the recently released ODNI 2015 Signals Intelligence Reform Report.

Mira Rapp-Hooper provided an overview of the latest installation of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, which focuses on confidence-building measures.

The Foreign Policy Essay featured Joshua Rovner, who provided a defense of the hidden victories in American foreign policy.

In light of Jordan’s expanded role in the coalition against ISIS, Ashley Deeks asks, is the Hashemite Kingdom attacking on a new legal theory?

The Lawfare Podcast features Robert S. Litt, General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence the status of U.S. surveillance policy one year after PPD-28.

As the President decides whether to arm Ukraine, get smart fast by reading the ongoing debate on the main Brookings website between Strobe Talbott, Steven Pifer, Jeremy Shapiro, Tim Boersma, Fiona Hill, and Clifford Gaddy.

Sean Mirski linked us to his latest piece on the crowded waters in the South China Sea.

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