Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tara Hofbauer
Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 1:55 PM

Following an American special forces raid on the compound of Islamic State operative Abu Sayyaf, U.S. interrogators, who are part of the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, have flown to Iraq in order to question Umm Sayyaf, the wife of Abu Sayyaf, who was taken during the operation. Umm Sayyaf was allegedly involved in the workings of the Islamic State and could possibly have played a role in “the enslavement of women in Iraq and Syria.” U.S. interrogators plan to talk to Umm Sayyaf about U.S. hostages held by the militant group. However, according to the Washington Post, officials have yet to determine whether Umm Sayyaf will remain in Iraq or will be brought back to the U.S.

Shia troops are deploying to Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, which fell to the Islamic State over the weekend. However, the Anbar province represents “Iraq’s Sunni heartland,” and sending Shia forces there could inflame sectarian tensions, reports the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, “the decision to send mostly Shiite irregulars into Sunni-dominated Anbar signals the failings of Iraq’s government and its security forces in fending off Islamic State gains.” The forces are meant to protect Baghdad from the militant group’s forward march and ultimately help retake the provincial capital.

The Associated Press informs us that Iraqi security forces and allied Sunni tribesmen helped stop an Islamic State attack on an Anbar town, just west of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Islamic State has established a significant presence in Libya. According to one quoted U.S. military official, “Libya is part of their terror map now.”

The militant group took credit today for a suicide bombing in the Libyan town of Qubbah. One person was killed and seven others were injured when a “car packed with explosives hit a checkpoint” in the eastern part of the town, according to Reuters.

The New York Times details the Islamic State’s financial situation, finding that oil is not the group’s main source of income. Instead, the militant group takes in about a million dollars a day through extortion and taxation. Furthermore, the Islamic State “invests in people, not infrastructure,” while managing to minimize costs “by looting military equipment, appropriating land and infrastructure, and paying relatively low salaries.” Ultimately, the Times concludes that the militant group’s is strong financially.

Reuters reports that after a humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen came to an end Sunday night, Arab coalition jets today resumed bombing targets in the capital, Sana’a. According to the Post, over 1,600 people have died in the conflict so far.

Following a personal intervention by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, rebels in eastern Ukraine have freed two American aid workers, who had been held hostage there. According to Bloomberg View, Secretary Kerry appealed to his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “asking him to use Moscow’s influence over the Donetsk separatists to secure the release of the two Americans.”

Defense One explains why the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will actually not improve security in the South China Sea.

A group of technology corporations, including Apple, Google, and Facebook, have sent a letter to President Obama, arguing for the importance of privacy rights and digital security. The main point of the letter is articulated here:

“We urge you to reject any proposal that U.S. companies deliberately weaken the security of their products. We request that the White House instead focus on developing policies that will promote rather than undermine the wide adoption of strong encryption technology. Such policies will in turn help to promote and protect cybersecurity, economic growth, and human rights, both here and abroad.”

The Post shares more.

Defense One describes the role drone warfare will play in the upcoming presidential election and offers questions that should be asked of the 2016 candidates.

Defense One also informs us that the Air Force has decreased the number of unmanned combat air patrols it operates from sixty-five to sixty. The reduction comes so that the Air Force can focus on “get[ting] the community and the enterprise healthy for that long-term sustainment that we want to be able to do,” says Col. James McCluff of the 432nd Wing and the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing.

The Hill reports that the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2016 defense authorization bill could reach the floor by June. The Post’s Walter Pincus explains why President Obama should make good on his veto threat of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.

The Post shares some reflections from retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal on his retirement after a controversial profile of him was published in Rolling Stone.

A federal grand jury has charged six Chinese nationals with economic espionage. The Post reports details.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Yishai Schwartz updated us on the annual defense authorization bill and its language regarding the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Ben commented on some statements made in Iowa by potential presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in relation to drone strikes.

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