Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tara Hofbauer
Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 2:29 PM

This afternoon, Greece requested its third European bailout in five years. According to the Wall Street Journal, the proposal calls for €29.15 billion from the European Stability Mechanism to cover Greek debt repayments from 2015 to 2017. European leaders are considering the request, but “many officials don’t trust... [Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras and his government to implement” the economic reforms and “austerity measures [which] lenders want.” The current bailout program is set to expire at midnight tonight.

The Washington Post notes that today’s request throws into question the Greek referendum to take place on Sunday. Greek citizens are to vote on whether or not to accept the terms of a bailout deal, but Sunday’s vote is seen as a referendum on whether Greece should remain part of the eurozone. “Rejection of the bailout terms by voters could set Greece on a course to be pushed from the euro common currency,” though Greece’s finance minister claims that the country has “excellent legal grounds” to resist any expulsion.

Still, despite tumbling U.S. stock prices yesterday, the Post claims that we are not headed for another “global financial panic” if a deal is not reached. For one, the Greek economy is relatively small, limiting its impact on the rest of the world. Additionally, because the country’s financial issues and the bailout negotiations have been so well documented, Greece’s potential collapse will not take banks and investors by surprise. Furthermore, the European Union has taken steps to counter any crisis by establishing the European Stability Mechanism. Of course, “none of this means that Greece’s plight will be painless for outsiders... [but] most of the pain will be felt by the 11 million Greeks.”

Also this afternoon, nuclear negotiators agreed to extend discussions on a final accord between Iran and the P5+1 group. According to the Joint Plan of Action announced earlier this year, diplomats were to have reached a final agreement by midnight tonight. However, they now have one more week to continue talking. According to the New York Times, negotiators hope to have a deal worked out by July 9. After that date, Congress’ review period of the agreement would double from thirty days to sixty, giving potential opponents more opportunity to mobilize against it.

Politico notes that, though sticking points between the two sides remain, “one potential obstacle appeared to recede” today. In accordance with the terms of the Joint Plan of Action, Tehran has reduced the size of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. “Reduction was a requirement for a final deal,” and there had been some concern that the Islamic Republic would not comply.

This morning, a Taliban suicide bomber carried out an attack against a NATO convoy near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. According to an Afghan interior ministry spokesperson, one civilian died, and twenty others were wounded. No NATO or U.S. embassy personnel were harmed, according to Bloomberg.

The Kabul attack came just hours after a car bombing in the southern Helmand province killed two civilians and injured fifty-one others. CNN reports that the bomb was meant to hit the nearby police headquarters, but detonated too early.

Meanwhile, American troops in Afghanistan may be involved in military action there that exceeds “their publicly stated role of advising the Afghan forces and carrying out targeted counterterrorism operations.” U.S. troops yesterday conducted a raid on the home of Jan Ahmad, an area strongman in the northern province of Parwan. Though not linked to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, Ahmad apparently held a large weapons cache threatening to the nearby U.S. military base. Local Afghans protested the raid, chanting and burning tires. The Times reports.

The Times also shares a sobering and eye-opening video about the online recruitment tactics that an Islamic State operative used in an attempt to convert an impressionable young girl, living in rural Washington state.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an overnight car bomb in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. Reuters reports that the attack wounded at least twenty-eight people. Meanwhile, in response to Saudi-led airstrikes that have rocked the country, the Yemeni military today launched a Scud missile at a Saudi base. A spokesperson for the Yemeni military affirmed that, unlike a similar attack earlier in June, this one hit the base, located just 280 miles from the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

The State Department announced yesterday that the U.S. will be lifting current restrictions on the amount of military aid available to Bahrain. Such limits were instituted following Manama’s crackdown on Arab Spring protesters, and have been in place for the past three years. Although the Bahraini government’s human rights record remains of concern, the country “is an important and long-standing ally on regional security issues, working closely with us on the counter-ISIL campaign and providing logistical and operational support for countering terrorism and maintaining freedom of navigation,” according to State Department spokesperson Rear Adm. John Kirby. Bahrain serves as the base of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Defense One notes that “though Washington and Manama have maintained strong military-to-military ties throughout three years of reduced aid, the full restoration shows how the U.S. puts a premium on defense relations.” The Wall Street Journal provides background on the U.S.-Bahrain relationship.

Almost immediately after take-off today, an Indonesian military transport plane crashed in the city of Medan. All 113 people aboard - 101 passengers and 12 crew members - died, and at least three people on the ground were killed. According to Agence France-Presse, the downed aircraft created a wake of destruction with “buildings... left in ruins and cars reduced to flaming wrecks.”

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) suspended the federal background check system yesterday, following the discovery of a “vulnerability.” The agency did not detail the nature of the problem, but the “E-Qip” system will reportedly be offline for four to six weeks. According to the Post, this latest issue is not related to the recent and widely publicized cybertheft perpetrated against OPM. Indeed, the agency asserts that hackers have not exploited the E-Qip vulnerability. “Rather, OPM is taking this step proactively.” Delays are expected for those seeking federal background checks.

Meanwhile, the American Federation of Government Employees filed suit yesterday against OPM, its director Katherine Archuleta, its chief information officer Donna Seymour, and agency contractor KeyPoint for failing to heed the recommendations, made by the agency’s Inspector General, in relation to cybersecurity. The union hopes to hold OPM accountable for the recent breach of federal employees’ sensitive information. The Post reports.

The Post also shares an interview with P.W. Singer, a scholar at the New America Foundation, who has co-authored a new novel that considers what future warfare between the U.S. and China might look like.

Parting Shot: Walmart won’t bake a cake with the Confederate flag on it, but it will create one with the Islamic State flag - or at least that was the message sent last week to a Louisiana customer, who asked initially for the former but, when Walmart refused, opted for the latter. The MegaChain has since apologized, saying its bakery associate was unaware of the design’s meaning. Check out photos of the Islamic State flag cake here at ABC News.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Laurie Blank discussed the ways in which the U.N. Human Rights Council’s report on the 2014 conflict in Gaza “contorts or misapplies” the law of armed conflict with relation to “warnings, civilian vs. military objects, and the role of context and policy... in analyzing a party’s... compliance.”

Ben highlighted David E. Pozen’s paper “Privacy Privacy Tradeoffs” on the ways in which privacy clashes with itself in myriad contexts.

Bobby informed us of the third annual Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, which will take place at Oxford next week.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.