Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic, Staley Smith
Tuesday, July 21, 2015, 1:11 PM

A new deadline appears: one day after the U.N. Security Council formally endorsed the nuclear deal with Iran, Iranian legislators have decided to wait at least 80 days to vote on the deal. The 80-day waiting period will give the Iranian Parliament time to gauge the reaction of the U.S. Congress, which will vote by early September. The New York Times notes that the Parliament technically has the power to turn down the deal but is unlikely to do so, given Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s endorsement of the agreement.

But Ayatollah Khamenei is sticking to his guns as far as criticism of the United States goes. On Friday, he stated that Iranian policy would not change against the “arrogant” United States, in comments that Secretary of State John Kerry today deemed “disturbing.” Politico has the story.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter continues on his tour of Middle East allies dismayed by the nuclear deal, meeting today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been one of the deal’s harshest critics, and his abrupt dismissal of reporters while shaking hands with Secretary Carter suggests the tensions between Israel and the United States. Despite all this, Secretary Carter’s visit to Israel is intended to demonstrate continuing U.S.-Israel security cooperation, according the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

Politico writes on what the Iran deal may mean for the Russian gas industry. With sanctions lifted, Iranian oil and gas companies will be able to export to European and Asian markets, providing Russia with either a competitor or a collaborator. Russia will likely invest significantly in the Iranian gas industry to try to gain a foothold within what’s sure to be a lucrative business.

Concerned over the IAEA’s ability to monitor possible Iranian efforts to build a bomb? Defense One runs through some burgeoning technologies that might come to the rescue, including devices using antimatter. These technologies won’t be put to use in North Korea, however, as Pyongyang has released a statement declaring that it intends to retain its nuclear weapons: “It is not logical to compare our situation with the Iranian nuclear agreement because we are always subjected to provocative US military hostilities.”

With the success of negotiations with Iran, the Washington Post has increased its campaign for the release of Jason Rezaian, a Post correspondent detained in Iran. Now, the Post reports that Rezaian’s trial may be nearing its end. It is not clear what the result of the trial will be.

In the wake of last week’s shootings at a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, the U.S. military is tightening security at recruiting centers around the country. The Wall Street Journal writes that the security measures involved include increased surveillance, though recruiters will not be authorized to carry weapons.

The Times continues what has become an unofficial series on ISIS’s aspirations to statehood, writing that the militant group is “transforming into a functioning state that uses extreme violence---terror----as a tool.”

ISIS may be cutting back on its famously violent tactics, however. The Post tells us that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi reportedly issued a statement on Friday banning the further release of the graphic execution videos for which the group has come to be known. Various experts have noted that hard evidence has yet to appear as to the supposed decrease in violence, a concern especially pointed due to the anonymous source of the story on al Baghdadi.

Speaking of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the Times describes the leader’s delegation of authority throughout a command structure that will allow ISIS to continue fighting if al Baghdadi is killed. The United States has long targeted the ISIS leader in airstrikes and he has been reported dead or injured multiple times. Interestingly, the Times story writes that ISIS has refined its strategy by studying both U.S. tactics against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden, distributing authority to counter harm done by U.S. drone strikes on militant leaders and using encrypted communications to counter U.S. surveillance. (Lawfare readers may recall debates over “going dark” in recent weeks, and may also be interested by Glenn Greenwald's criticism of the Times' claim over at The Intercept.)

Tajikistan’s former security chief has now reappeared repeatedly in ISIS propaganda videos. After receiving U.S. security training, Gumurod Halimov disappeared from his post in April, resurfaced in an ISIS video in May, and has been producing more videos for ISIS ever since. At Defense One, Paul Stronski of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace suggests that Halimov’s defection should raise red flags over the potential dangers of providing U.S. assistance to weak or failing states.

Speaking of ISIS propaganda, the Guardian reports on the case of two British men who have been charged with “preparing for terrorism” and planning to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Buzzfeed weighs in with a deep dive on the story of a young woman from Chattanooga who converted to Islam and traveled to join ISIS. Meanwhile, Foreign Policy examines contrasting U.K. and U.A.E. approaches to countering radicalization: while Prime Minister David Cameron is launching a campaign to promote liberal values in opposition to extremism, the U.A.E. has opted to simply jail those charged with “stoking religious hatred.”

According to the AP, the United States is seeking to revoke the citizenship of an Oregon imam who allegedly concealed his involvement in funding, recruiting, and training mujahideen fighters during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, among other things. Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman Kariye may have lied under oath about his past dealings with figures such as Osama bin Laden when applying for citizenship.

Foreign Policy notes Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s efforts to persuade U.S. troops to remain in the country by appeals to the threat posed by ISIS in Afghanistan. President Ghani has reportedly suggested to the United States that Afghanistan may be a valuable regional ally in the fight against ISIS.

Turkish authorities have identified a suspect in the recent bombing of the town of Suruc, along the Syrian border. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated that the ongoing investigation will focus on possible ISIS involvement in the bombing, the Journal writes.

Alongside Turkey, Israel is also struggling to keep the Syrian conflict from leaking across its borders. According to the Times of Israel, officials are doing their best to prevent fighters from the Nusra Front from receiving treatment at Israeli medical assistance programs dedicated to helping to victims of violence in Syria. An IDF official clarified the matter in response to a statement Hezbollah that Israel had been assisting Nusra Front members.

In Yemen, the first U.N. aid ship to arrive in four months docked in the city of Aden, providing sorely-needed food and pharmaceutical supplies. The ship arrived only days after government forces consolidated control over Aden after expelling Houthi fighters, though it is unclear if the government’s control of the city was a factor in allowing the U.N. ship to dock.

Violence continues elsewhere in Yemen, with ISIS claiming responsibility for a car bomb that exploded Monday night outside a mosque attended by Houthi fighters in Sanaa. Al Jazeera has the story.

Yesterday, President Obama met with his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari, the first meeting since President Buhari took office. President Obama pledged continued support for Nigeria in its struggles to combat Boko Haram. The United States has committed $5 million to Nigeria since President Buhari came to power. According to the BBC, “Mr. Obama did not give any indication after his meeting with Mr Buhari that the United States would provide military assistance to Nigeria.”

Tensions are high in Burundi today as voters head to the polls amid violent protests over President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third consecutive term. Pierre Nkurunziza is set to win disputed third term as president despite opposition. Critics say that the vote violates violates the constitution and Arusha Accords because he is only allowed to run for two terms. Gunfire and explosions were abound in the capital city of Bujumbura last night, the culmination of three months of anti-government protests. The BBC brings news that at least three people were killed in the violence, including a police officer and two civilians. Al Jazeera suggests that a member of the opposition party was also killed overnight, prompting a large protest in the streets this morning.

Earlier today, India’s Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal by Yakub Memon, the lone death row convict in the series of bombings in Mumbai in 1993, clearing the way for his execution after two decades in jail. The Times of India tells us that “a bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu dismissed Yakub's plea saying there is no merit in it. The curative petition was dismissed in chamber without presence of lawyers.” Memon is due to be hanged on July 30.

The Japan Times notifies us that the Japanese Defense Ministry has growing fears over China’s increasing aggression in the South China Sea, “particularly in the light of Chinese domestic trends.” The 2015 defense white paper, Defense of Japan 2015, which was approved earlier today by the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, cites China’s “one-sided” maritime actions as a significant concern to Japan, and the regional and international community as a whole. Following the approval of the white paper, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told a news conference “Our country needs to observe [China’s actions] closely.”

Also in its white paper, Japan called on China to terminate its construction of oil and gas exploration platforms in the East China Sea, close to territorial claims by both nations. According to the South China Morning Post, “Japan’s Defense Ministry added the demand to its annual defence review after hawkish members of the ruling party complained that its original draft was too soft on China, a ministry official said.”

Meanwhile, Filipino officials announced earlier today that the Philippines plans to spend a record $552 million next year on defense spending, mainly to bolster its claims in the disputed South China Sea. When asked whether the increase in defense spending was due to Chinese aggression, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad responded: "We need to protect what is clearly within our territorial jurisdiction.”

Yesterday, the United States and Cuba formally reestablished diplomatic relations, opening embassies after 54 years of enmity between countries. Nevertheless, Molly O’Toole of Defense One writes that “the U.S.-Cuba relationship may be thawing, but Congress may be the only one who can melt the iceberg that is the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” The obstacles are political and policy issues, not national security ones, according to military officials who oversee the detention center. A spokesperson for the U.S. Southern Command suggested that beyond serving as a location for the prison, “the naval station plays a key role as a logistical hub in support of disaster relief, migrant, contingency and counter-illicit trafficking operations by various U.S. federal agencies, including DoD.”

In the midst of rising concern over data breaches and cyberattack, the U.S. Department of Commerce is seeking to restrict export of technology that could potentially be used for hacking. Yet The Hill reports that cybersecurity experts are outraged by the proposal, which they say will cramp research on software vulnerabilities and negatively affect security around the world.

Lufthansa had a close call yesterday as one of its planes nearly collided with a drone on its approach into Warsaw’s international airport. The BBC reports that pilots immediately notified air traffic controllers, who redirected the plane’s route. As drone technology becomes widely available, in-air collisions with drones have become a growing concern for pilots---and, as Lawfare noted yesterday, for firefighters as well.

Parting Shot: Maybe think twice about that new, wired-in car. Wired collaborates with two hackers to demonstrate how zero-day exploits can be used to remotely take control of a car connected to the “Internet of Things” and run it off the highway.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Ben linked us to Marshall Erwin’s article on Just Security, "The FBI’s Problem Isn’t 'Going Dark.' Its Problem is Going Slowly."

Jack let us know why Congress is effectively powerless to stop the Iran Deal (and why the answer is not the Iran Review Act).

Benjamin Bissell provided an update on the sweeping changes in China under new national security law and and judicial purges.

Wells informed us of an upcoming hearing this week in United States v. Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a military commissions case.

Cody brought us the full text of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 on the Iran Deal.

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.