Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Staley Smith, Cody M. Poplin
Friday, June 12, 2015, 3:22 PM

The Obama administration’s trade agenda suffered a massive blow earlier today, according to Politico, as the House of Representatives voted against the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill, a $1.8 billion measure designed to assist workers displaced by trade deals. House approval of the bill was required before a vote on expanding trade negotiating powers could take place. Yesterday, Obama implored House Democrats to support his efforts to increase trade powers, which he claimed he needed to secure the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a complex global trade deal.

The US is expanding its presence in Iraq. The New York Times reports that the Pentagon is considering the creation of a “lily-pad like” base network in Iraq, following the recently announced deployment of 450 additional US troops. The move would likely bring American troops closer to the front lines of the war. While the Obama administration is quick to call the situation “very hypothetical,” it is open to expanding the current training and advise-and-assist operations that “have been an effective element of our strategy.”

The price tag of America’s war against ISIS has reached $2.7 billion in the 10 months of fighting, according to the Pentagon. The daily cost of U.S. operations, on average, is more than $9 million. Even so, in a press conference on Monday, Obama acknowledged that the United States does not have a “complete strategy” for training Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS.

Yesterday on Lawfare, Nathalie Weizmann and Rebecca Ingber asked “Whatever happened to Umm Sayyaf?” Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef of the Daily Beast explain that Sayyaf is being interrogated in an undisclosed location in Iraq, and that although her future is uncertain, officials say they are working to determine a resolution which will be in the best interest of U.S. national security and consistent with domestic and international law.

The New York Times describes the difficult choice the Syrian Druze, a minority sect in Syria, currently face. As the threats inch closer, the Druze leaders must decide how best to protect their friends and family: Should they abandon their traditional protector, the Assad regime, or should they support the rebel Sunni insurgents hoping to topple Syria’s embattled president?

Iran is increasing support for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal writes that Tehran is intensifying its supply of weapons and funding to the Taliban and has recently begun recruiting and training fighters. Yesterday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper cleared up any confusion by confirming that Iran and Hezbollah remain threats to U.S. national security, and that Iran remains the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism." The Wall Street Journal says Clapper's letter to Congress came following criticism from GOP senators about a possible omission in the global threat assessment.

Reuters reports that a group of gunmen stormed the Tunisian consulate in Libya earlier today, kidnapping 10 workers. No group has claimed responsibility for the assault but the Tunisian Foreign Ministry has called it a “blatant attack on Tunisian national sovereignty and a flagrant violation of international laws.” Tunisia is one of the few countries that has kept its embassy open in Libya.

In anticipation of the upcoming release of the U.N. Human Rights Council report on last summer’s Gaza war, the Israeli military cleared its soldiers in the death of four Palestinian children killed in Israeli airstrikes while playing on a Gaza beach. The New York Times informs us Israel released the report in an effort to counter anticipated backlash from the upcoming U.N. document.

The BBC brings us news that five African countries, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin, have agreed to establish a joint military force to fight Boko Haram. Elsewhere, the New York Times traces how the militant group courted and eventually teamed up with the Islamic State.

A short raid into Myanmar by the Indian army has sparked alarm in Pakistan. Reuters reports that some in Pakistan fear that their arch-rival is now setting a precedent that it will engage in more cross-border raids, potentially into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with China’s highest-ranking general yesterday to discuss the recent disputes between the two countries in the South China Sea. In a largely conciliatory statement, Bloomberg reports that General Fan Changlong told Carter that the disagreement represents “just one episode in Sino-U.S. relations” and that the two countries should “climb high and gaze far,” suggesting that “big waves appear small” if you “look from high” above.

Speaking of China, it seems hackers working for the Chinese government have defeated technical protections for the authors and readers of websites that Chinese Officialdom doesn't like. Read more in the New York Times.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, North Korean officials claim the United States targeted it with anthrax. The letter also requests an investigation into “the biological warfare schemes of the United States.” Reuters has more.

According to the BBC, Germany has also closed the investigation into allegations that the United States tapped Angela Merkel’s phone. The office of the federal prosecutor in Berlin said that there was not enough evidence to justify legal action.

In a significant military commissions case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned a conspiracy conviction against Ali al Bahlul, a Guantanamo detainee and Bin Laden's former propagandist.

Yesterday, the Senate rejected the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) of 2015 by a vote of 40 to 56. The Times notes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had attempted to attach the bill to the National Defense Authorization Act ("NDAA"), but Senate Democrats objected to the move and voted against the measure.

The House of Representatives has approved the NDAA, an annual defense authorization bill. In its current form, the bill provides the Pentagon with $579 billion. It also includes funding for the A-10 Warthog and raises pay for members of the military by 2.3 percent. The Hill has more.

Parting Shot: The AFP shares an infographic depicting all UN peacekeeping operations worldwide.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Yishai shared the results of an Israeli Military Advocate General’s investigation into the deaths of four children killed on a Gaza beach.

Jack posted a new essay from Willy Stern on the “Dabla,” the Israeli Defense Forces' elite operational lawyers.

Wells linked us to a new study by the United Kingdom’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, which calls for a significant overhauling and radical simplification of the U.K.’s surveillance policies.

Ben welcomed our soon-to-be robotic fruit ninja overlords.

Paul gave us an update on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, on which the “Democrat caucus ha[d] ‘declared war[.]’”

Nathalie Weizmann and Rebecca Ingber explored the question, “Whatever happened to Umm Sayyaf?”

Finally, the Lawfare Book Review took aim at the Weapons and the Law of Armed Conflict by William Boothby.

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