Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic, Staley Smith
Monday, June 29, 2015, 2:21 PM

“Grexit” may be on the horizon, as Greece holds a nationwide referendum on whether to accept an extension of the European Union’s promise of continued bailout funds in exchange for harsh austerity measures. The Guardian’s ever-present liveblog suggests that the referendum is, at heart, a struggle over whether Greece will remain in the eurozone---and possibly the European Union. French President Francois Hollande has reportedly been in contact with President Barack Obama about the looming crisis. The New York Times has more on this developing story.

More news has come in from across the globe on the string of terror attacks that struck France, Tunisia, and Kuwait on Friday. In France, the chief suspect in the beheading of power plant employee has admitted to the killing, after sending a selfie of himself with the severed head. The Wall Street Journal reports that French authorities are investigating a possible connection to ISIS in Syria after learning that the selfie was sent to a cell phone whose holder is believed to be in Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold.

The manhunt is on in Tunisia for accomplices in the attack on a resort hotel and beach the AP tells us. A Tunisian student killed at least 38 people through bombing and gunfire before he was later shot and killed by police. The Times writes that the student sought to kill tourists in the attack, warning Tunisians to stay away. Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid has described the violence as a “lone wolf” attack, though ISIS has claimed responsibility.

30 British tourists are among the dead in Tunisia, and Britain is struggling to figure out how best to respond. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged a “full spectrum” response, but, the Guardian writes, many in Parliament are unsure what that would entail and how it would augment current British efforts against ISIS.

Meanwhile, Kuwaiti authorities have identified the suicide bomber who attacked a Shiite mosque as a Saudi citizen. Al Jazeera reports that one other individual has been arrested in connection with the bombing, and that a search for a third is ongoing. ISIS has also claimed responsibility for the attack in Kuwait, though no evidence has emerged connecting that the three attacks in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait are linked.

The Times’ Rukmini Callimachi published a deep-dive story on ISIS’s online recruiting strategy. Her reporting focuses on the case of an isolated young woman in Washington State who was shepherded into extremism by ISIS operatives who befriended her on Twitter.

On Saturday, ISIS fighters attacked the Syrian city of Kobani in a suicide mission, killing 200 civilians. Kobani, on the Turkish border, has remained a Kurdish stronghold even under prolonged ISIS attacks. TIME quotes an activist at the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as stating that the killings represent ISIS retaliation for a recent series of Kurdish military victories in Syria.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Syrian President Bashar al Assad has publicly acknowledged recent “setbacks” in his battle to control Syria, stating that “gains and losses and ups and downs” are normal in war. While pressure mounts from Kurdish, ISIS, and other rebel forces, President Assad may not have much to fear from the U.S. government’s rebel training program: According to the AP, fewer than 100 moderate Syrian rebels are currently involved in U.S. training. Nevertheless, General Martin Dempsey of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has stated that it may be “a little too soon to give up” on the program.

The Washington Post tells the story of migrants fleeing the chaos in Syria along the “Black Route” to Europe. A near-constant stream of refugees relies on smartphones and a network of smugglers, in order to illegally cross borders in search of asylum.

A Pakistani raid on a home in the country’s eastern Punjab Province has left four militants confirmed dead. The men were reportedly planning a terrorist attack, according to an anonymous Pakistani official. In northwest Pakistan, airstrikes have killed a total of 34 extremist fighters, largely along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Recent months have seen the success of a Pakistani military effort against militants in the northern Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Yesterday, the Long War Journal brought us news that Mansur al Harbi, a Saudi citizen and al Qaeda leader, was killed in an American drone strike in Afghanistan. U.S. officials have refused to confirm reports of Harbi’s death.

Reuters reports on the emerging struggle between ISIS and the Afghan Taliban. ISIS fighters have seized significant amounts of territory from the Taliban in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, burning poppy fields in an effort to limit the Taliban’s income from opium smuggling and production. The Taliban acknowledged its losses but refused to admit that the victorious enemy fighters were ISIS affiliates.

In a turn of events that will likely surprise few, the Iranian nuclear negotiations will likely continue past the June 30 deadline, the Post writes. The delay is partly due to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who has briefly returned to Iran, likely to discuss details of the deal with Iran’s leaders. The Journal describes how secret negotiations between Iran and the United States, dating back to 2009 and facilitated by Oman, have made possible a potential nuclear deal.

A roadside bomb has killed Hisham Barakat, a top Egyptian public prosecutor, the Journal writes. Mr. Barakat is the highest-level Egyptian official to be killed in the wave of attacks conducted by Islamist groups in response to the rise of President Abdel Fattah al Sisi’s military government. A group called the Popular Resistance in Giza initially claimed responsibility but later retracted the claim; no other group has come forward to take responsibility for Mr. Barakat’s death.

While U.N.-sponsored talks for a peace deal in Libya have not yet lead to a united Libyan government, U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon has stated that he is optimistic about the possibility of a deal. Reuters has more details on the potential agreement, which appears increasingly crucial as extremist fighters gain footholds among the chaos within Libya.

Fighting between al Shabaab and Somali forces killed at least fifteen this morning when the militant group attacked a base in southern province of Somalia. The attack comes days after the terrorist group took over another military base manned by African Union forces in Somalia (AMISOM), which resulted in the death of as many as 80 soldiers. The International Business Times has the story.

Meanwhile, eleven people were killed earlier today when two suicide bombings were carried out in Chad’s capital, describes USA Today. The attack, which killed five police officers and six militants, is believed to have been carried out by the militant group Boko Haram. It comes one day after the arrests of 60 militants believed to be involved in the June 15 bombings that killed 38 in N'Djamena, Chad’s capital.

The Washington Post reports that military prosecutors have uncovered a collection of 14,000 photographs depicting CIA “black sites,” which they found when reviewing evidence collected for a Senate investigation of the rendition and interrogation program.  The cache of photographs---apparently taken to document costs for budgetary purposes---allegedly includes pictures of the interior and exterior of black sites in Thailand, Poland, and other countries, including the notorious “Salt Pit” outside Kabul. This discovery will likely cause further delay for military commissions at Guantanamo, as both the government and the defendants review the material.

Pro-Russian separatists are blocking access to the Ukrainian crash site where Malaysian jetliner MH17 was downed almost a year ago, preventing Dutch investigators from collecting potentially crucial data from local cell phone towers. Russia has stated that it will oppose a potential Malaysian plan to call on the U.N. Security Council to create a tribunal for trying suspects in the downing of the plane.

Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket suffered a catastrophic blow yesterday when it disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean 2 minutes into its cargo mission to NASA’s space station. The SpaceX corporation has been lobbying the Pentagon to launch military and spy satellites, going head-to-head with the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that has long had a lock on such military contracts. The explosion likely represents somewhat of a setback, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Parting shot: A Californian man, Eric Joe, was ordered to pay $850 by a court late last month after shooting down a drone hovering near his property, Ars Technica tells us. The homemade device was being operated by a neighbor who claims the drone was in fact hovering over his own property. Joe says he “thought it was a CIA surveillance device" and has so far refused to pay the damages.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Ben posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring his recent speech at George Mason University on privacy, porn, and pregnant teens.

Aaron Zelin provided two translations of jihadist writing: a letter from the Taliban to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and an article on ISIS from Shaykh Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, an independent jihadi ideologue. 

Herb Lin pondered what the DOD Law of War Manual has to say on the creation and use of botnets.

Paul posted about how the Supreme Court’s recent decision in City of Los Angeles v. Patel might affect looming debate over the constitutionality of Section 702 data collection.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Raphael S. Cohen of RAND considered the the possible sources of the U.S. military’s “morale crisis.”

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