Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Clara Spera
Monday, April 6, 2015, 9:15 AM

A story that broke on Thursday became all the more horrific as details poured in over the weekend: Somali militants associated with the Shabab slaughtered 147 students at Garissa Univeristy College in Eastern Kenya on Thursday, the worst terrorist attack the country has seen since 1998. The Times reports that the militant Islamic group claimed responsibility for the attack, justifying it by saying that the university was educating too many Christians. President Obama is scheduled to visit Kenya in July, his first visit to the country since taking office; there has been no word if the attack will affect his scheduled visit.

In response to the attack, Kenyan fighter jets bombed two Shabab militant training camps in Somalia earlier this morning. The Times has the details.

On Friday, we focused on President Obama’s announcement of a pending and historic deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Over the weekend, the details of the deal developed, and, as the Times points out, it seems as though the details are different depending on whom you’re talking to: “A careful review shows that there is considerable overlap between the [American and Iranian] accounts, but also some noteworthy differences — which have raised the question of whether the two sides are entirely on the same page, especially on the question of how quickly sanctions are to be removed.”

Though a real, concrete explanation of what the preliminary deal entails is hard to come by, the Economist features a good primer about the deal, the history leading up to it, and what has to happen next.

President Obama sat down with Thomas Friedman of the Times to staunchly defend the Iranian deal, calling it America’s “best bet” to prevent a nuclear Iran. He also sought to assuage Israel’s fears, promising that the United States would continue to defend Israel against a hostile Iran.

Over at Politico, meanwhile, Samuel Berger has a pointed message for those who would argue that the U.S. should hold out and wait for a "better deal" with Iran: it won’t come, and we should take what we can get. Berger argues that any deal that would further decrease Iran’s centrifuges would first necessitate increasing sanctions on Iran and that’s unlikely to happen because the European community—on which the United States relies to cooperate with any Iranian sanction regime—would not agree to it.

Brookings’ E.J. Dionne, Jr. has written about the Iran deal over at the Washington Post, presenting a very measured approach to thinking about strengths and weaknesses of the proposal.

Perhaps a sign that the United States is not fully confident that a deal with Iran will come to fruition, the Pentagon has upgraded and tested a “bunker-bomb” that is powerful enough to disable Iran’s most fortified nuclear facilities. The Wall Street Journal notes, however, that the testing and upgrading of the bomb took place in January, before the most recent round of talks with Iran.

The Islamic State has seized a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. The Times reports that there are over 18,000 residents of Yarmouk refugee camp, which is located in the middle of a Syrian region—near Damascus—that has been under fire for almost two years. The move could signify that IS is inching closer and closer to the Syrian capital, but, at the same time, that the group is moving more inward within Syria, losing ground in Iraq and areas in the northeast of Syria. The Independent also covers the story, highlighting the terrible conditions of the Yarmouk camp.

The Los Angeles Times’ Editorial Board argues that it should be Congress, rather than the President, cracking down on cybercrime. The Times applauds Obama’s efforts to defend the country against cybercrime—most recently threatening financial and trade sanctions against countries that sponsor individual hackers that penetrate American networks—but argues that Congressional action would be more effective than President Obama’s slower, executive order by executive order, approach.

The Daily Beast has an interesting piece about the psychiatric and therapeutic care retained by American intelligence agencies. While we often associate trauma and depression with those involved in combat operations, the piece reminds us of the emotional and mental toll that comes from siphoning through thousands of terrorist-related materials daily:

Watching these horrific films often triggers a visceral, sickened sensation, according to those who’ve routinely viewed them. Periods of depression and grief are common. So is a feeling of anger and a sense of urgency to track down and stop those responsible for so much human misery. […] The NSA also says it has made caring for analysts’ mental health a priority, and that this counseling is part of a broader set of programs that address all manner of stressful situations for employees at the country’s largest intelligence agency.

 ICYMI: This Weekend, On Lawfare

 Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault and Tricia Bacon penned this week’s Foreign Policy Essay, proposing a more nuanced approach to “terrorist safe havens,” and arguing that eliminating them in their entirety may not be the best counterterrorism policy.

In our most recent Podcast episode, Fiona Hill joined Ben to discuss her recent book, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, and answer the perennial question: who is Vladimir Putin?

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