Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic, Cody M. Poplin
Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 1:25 PM

And so, with the close of nuclear negotiations with Iran, we begin to slog through the text of the deal itself and consider its implications. The UN Security Council will consider a resolution endorsing the deal next week, the BBC reports, in a vote that will begin the process of implementing the agreement. In Tehran, festivities continued through yesterday, described by one observer described as “like World Cup celebrations”---Iranian hardliners remain far from happy.

Politico discusses the Pentagon’s significant victory in ensuring the delay in lifting the embargo on conventional arms and ballistic missiles. While these sanctions represented a “sticking point” in concluding negotiations, the Pentagon’s influence helped prevent them from being lifted as immediate relief to Tehran. Pentagon officials worried that lifting the embargo and allowing Iran to rearm before it had proven any level of commitment to the agreement would be extremely destabilizing.

It would be a rare deal that exacted concessions from only one side, however. The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris writes that within the thicket of sanctions relief that makes up a large portion of the final agreement, there’s a provision lifting sanctions on the notorious Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. Soleimani is responsible for commanding anti-American Shiite militias within Iraq and for aiding Syrian President Bashar al Assad. While the State Department first argued that the Soleimani listed in the document wasn’t the general, but instead someone with a similar name, a Treasury Department official has confirmed that the real Qasim Soleimani--the bad guy---is indeed included in the deal.

Over at Opinio Juris, Julian Ku also notes an important exception to the deal’s much-discussed “snapback” provisions, which provide for the reinstatement of sanctions if Iran fails to hold up its end of the deal. All agreements Iran makes in the interim between the deal’s implementation and a potential snapback would be exempted from the reinstated sanctions.

Iran’s Arab neighbors are wary of the deal, the Wall Street Journal reports, leery of the regional effect that the lifting of sanctions may have. The Post also examines wariness among Arab nations, chiefly Saudi Arabia. Sanctions relief will likely allow Iran to provide greater support to its nearby allies---good news for Iraq, since the two countries have found a common enemy in ISIS. For that reason, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi welcomed news of the deal, saying that it represented “a common will to bring peace and security to our region.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to Twitter yesterday, and Foreign Policy has a helpful roundup of his tweets. President Rouhani’s message? “Don’t listen to Israel.” Or, to use a direct quote, “Do not be deceived by the propaganda of the warmongering Zionist regime.” Good to see we're all friends now.

Russia is already doing its best to take advantage of the deal, moving to capitalize on strategic benefits and the potential for contracts to develop Iran’s nuclear energy program. The Times has the story.

As far as politics within the United States are concerned, President Barack Obama is now saddled with the unenviable task of trying to sell the deal to a reluctant Congress. Over at the Times, former Assistant Secretary of State James P. Rubin has some advice for the president, suggesting that the Obama administration try to “justify the deal exclusively on narrow national security grounds” rather than in context of efforts to reshape American-Iranian relations and the diplomatic situation in the Middle East. Nevertheless, Leslie Gelb suggests at the Daily Beast that President Obama’s efforts to secure a deal stem from his desire to “convert… Iran from foe to friend.”

Reuters reports on the path the deal must take through Congress, which now has 60 days to debate and vote under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. DefenseOne also weighs in, pointing out that despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s description of the deal as a “hard sell,” the Obama administration will likely prevail.

2016 Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle are doing their best to appear tough on Iran, Radio Free Europe writes. Meanwhile, Politico considers what the deal means for the Republican presidential primary now that foreign policy is a top consideration.

Finally in Iran news, the deal has brought no relief for Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post journalist detained in Iran. Rezaian has been imprisoned along with several other Americans, and the Post reports that the diplomatic breakthrough does not appear to have touched on their detention.

McClatchy reports that Iraqi troops and Iran-backed militias have surrounded the city of Fallujah---often considered the heart of the Sunni insurgency in the country---and have initiated operations to take back the city from the Islamic State. Iraqi military officials told reporters that the initial assaults were greeted with heavy resistance, marked by at least five suicide car bombs. The operation in the city of 500,000 is expected to last weeks if not months and is likely to result in heavy casualties on both sides. Observers will remember the intense fighting that accompanied the 2004 U.S. operation in Fallujah to take the city from ISIS’s predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq. More than 100 Americans died during that assault. McClatchy notes that Iraqi troops, which “have shown little ability to fight effectively in urban areas,” are likely to suffer much higher casualty numbers.

General John Allen, the special envoy to the coalition against ISIS, called for the United States to adjust its tactics in recruiting people to fight the Islamic State, noting that the coalition needs to more effectively fight the group’s message online. Perhaps as part of that effort, the United States and the United Arab Emirates have officially launched a new counterextremism communications center, called SAWAB or “the right path”, in order to counteract ISIS’s propaganda in the region. State Department Spokesman John Kirby called the center “an important arrow in the quiver on the communication side.”

Almost 500 Assyrian artifacts recovered by U.S. Special Forces during the Abu Sayyef raid, including coins and royal seals, were put on display today at the Baghdad National Museum, the AP reports.

In a newly released statement, Taliban leader Mullah Omar called the ongoing peace talks between the group he leads and the government of Afghanistan “legitimate.” You can read the full statement here on Lawfare. Daud Khattak in Foreign Policy takes a look at just who is talking for the Taliban. The Long War Journal tacks a different approach to the letter, noting that Mullah Omar takes aim at ISIS through “thinly-veiled references” that “insist upon the unity of Jihadi front in Afghanistan.”

Yesterday at a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, Air Force General Paul Selva called Russia a greater threat to the United States than ISIS, echoing earlier comments from General Joseph Dunford. General Selva is President Obama’s nominee to become the next Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DefenseOne has more on the hearing.

India’s defense ministry has approved the purchase of $4.74 billion in military equipment, including four long-range Boeing P-81 patrol aircraft, according to the AFP.

The Associated Press brings us news of that a Japanese parliamentary committee today approved legislation that expands the role of its military amidst protests from opposition members and citizens alike. The bills will allow Japan to respond not only to aggression against itself, but also allow it to defend its allies as part of collective self-defense. According to the wire, about 80 percent of the Japanese public dislike the legislation, with a clear majority saying the expanded powers are unconstitutional.

Elsewhere in the Northeast Pacific, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced earlier today that hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese Uighurs have traveled via Southeast Asia to Iraq and Syria for training in order to execute terrorist attacks in China. Uighurs are a largely Muslim ethnic minority that calls the western Chinese province of Xinjiang home. Human rights groups have accused China of inflating the extent of the violence carried out by Uighurs extremists in order to justify continued suppression of their religion and culture. Reuters carries the story.

No surprise here, we suppose, but the ACLU has asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to block the reinstatement of the NSA’s bulk metadata program, which was reauthorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court pursuant to the 180-day transition period provided in the USA Freedom Act.

“This is what we call preparing the battlefield.” In the National Journal, Dustin Volz explores just how much damage can be done with the million fingerprints hijacked from the Office of Personnel Management.

Now you see me, now you don’t. Watch as “El Chapo” literally disappears from his prison cell in Mexico.

Parting shot: When the Yellow Ribbons Fade---David Barno and Nora Bensahel write in War on the Rocks about reconnecting our soldiers and citizens.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

The Iran Deal dropped yesterday and if you’re looking for primary sources, Lawfare’s got you covered. Click here for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the five annexes.

After the announcement of the deal, Jack reminded us to thank the Iran Review Act for the upcoming debate about the accord. Later he explained the complicated politics of the Iran Review Act, but why he thought they ultimately cut in favor of the Act.

Charles Lister wrote on the implications of the recent outreach of Syrian Islamists to the United States and the serious issues that remain in the way of on-the-ground cooperation.

Earlier in the day, Aaron Zelin shared the latest Jihadology Podcast on the role of Western women in ISIS.

Quinta linked us to the FOIA request of Laura Poitras, who is demanding information on why she has been subjected to “secondary security screening and/or detention and questioning” during travel.

Sean Mirski explained the opening statement of Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario in his country’s UNCLOS case against China.

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