Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Elina Saxena, Quinta Jurecic
Friday, October 2, 2015, 4:26 PM

Following growing frustration on the part of the United States and allies concerned with Russia’s seemingly exclusive targeting of non-ISIS enemies of Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria, Russian airstrikes have finally targeted Islamic State controlled areas. The Washington Post reports that Russian planes struck ISIS targets in the Raqqa province Thursday night. The New York Times also writes about the shift in Russian targets since it began airstrikes two days ago in an initiative that the Wall Street Journal suggests could last for months.

The Economist describes Russia’s pivot to Syria and the varying reactions its operations have garnered from international audiences who condemn the indiscriminate attacks responsible for civilian casualtiesThe Post cites sources who claim that Russia was using “dumb bombs” as opposed to precision guided munitions in stark contrast to America’s caution in selecting targets. As Russia installs itself as an important actor in this conflict, France, Turkey, the United States, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Britain have issued a joint statement condemning Moscow for fueling “more extremism and radicalisation.”

If the Kremlin’s goal is to restore Assad to power, Putin must now “attempt what no other power has dared,” the Times writesShort-term political benefits notwithstanding, Syria is a “cauldron” from which the Russian military is likely to have difficulty extricating itself. It’s a situation that, for many Russians, uncomfortably recalls the Soviet Union’s quagmire in Afghanistan. And even as the Russian economy falters, Samuel Greene at the Atlantic suggests, Putin is doing his best to make a “guns-for-butter” tradeoff in order to shore up domestic support.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the West for waging “informational warfare” in its reports of civilian casualties resulting from Russian strikes. Bloomberg examines the countervailing Russian media portrayal of the intervention, which shows Putin as “protecting the values of humanity and taking a stand against the most extreme forms of obscurantism and terror;” they suggest “Russia is halting World War III” with its activities in Syria.

During a discussion originally set to cover UkrainePutin and French President François Hollande discussed the situation in Syria and the French conditions that Russian forces “attack ISIS and Al Qaeda and no other targets, ensure the safety of civilians, and put in place a political transition that will see the departure of Russia's ally Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.” The meetings highlighted the continuing differences that exist between the West and Russia, the Post tells us.  

In Defense One, former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Edward Djerejian weighs in on the ongoing conflict and notes what may be an increasing U.S. openness to negotiating with Iran in order to resolve the crisis.

French initiative to bar the five veto-wielding powers on the Security Council in cases of mass atrocities has met with approval from dozens of states but not from the other four permanent members, the Post reports. The initiative comes in part as an effort to address the vetoes from Russia and China that have blocked resolutions pertaining to Syria.

Over at the PostKevin Sullivan has a five-part series on life under ISIS rule. Take a look at his long-form study of the self-declared Caliphate over the weekend: parts onetwothreefour, and five.

Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour has declared a Taliban victory in the battle for Kunduz. Mullah Mansour spoke with AP, claiming that “the group's three-day occupation of the northern city of Kunduz was a ‘symbolic victory’ demonstrating the insurgents' strength” despite struggles over leadership following the reveal of Mullah Omar’s death.

Despite Mansour’s promises to the contrary, Amnesty International describes the “killings, rapes and other horrors meted out against the city’s residents” in Kunduz since the city was overtaken by the Taliban on Monday. Defense One updates us on the conflicting reports emerging from the city, as Afghan forces claim victory over the city while the Taliban refutes the claim.

Reuters reports that the Taliban took Afghanistan’s Warduj district on Thursday night, indicating yet another blow to the Afghan security force. The Journal explains the role that NATO forces are playing to support Afghan security personnel. Stars and Stripes reports that a U.S. C-130 transport plane crashed in Jalalabad late yesterday, killing six American troops and five contractors. While there were no accounts of shots fired, the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the crash.

The Times reports that the Yemeni government retracted statements made claiming that they were cutting off ties with Iran. Iran has admitted responsibility for “supporting and advising” the Houthi rebels with whom the government is fighting. The United Nations also supported a resolution to investigate human rights violations in the country.

The Journal announced that the Supreme Court will “consider an appeal by Iran's central bank seeking to prevent terrorism victims from collecting nearly $2 billion in frozen Iranian banking assets.” The bank’s position centers around the argument that Congress violated the separation of powers by Congress when in 2012 it passed legislation allowing victims to claim the money. As ever, SCOTUSBlog has the details on the case, Bank Markazi v. Peterson.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the international community for accepting the Iran Deal, punctuating his remarks with a long moment of silence. While Netanyahu addressed the U.N. in New York, Israel sent hundred sof troops to the West Bank following the murder of a settler couple.

The refugee crisis continues in Europe as a riot erupted between refugees in a German town. The incident puts into relief the impact that the influx has had on local communities in Germany. Voice of America added that the “U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says 700,000 asylum-seekers will reach Europe via the Mediterranean this year and it projected that approximately the same number will arrive in 2016.”

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has conducted a series of suicide bombings that have killed 15 in Maiduguri and 11 in AdamawaThe BBC suggests that the suicide bombers in Maiduguri may have been children. Meanwhile, in the north east part of the country, 80 Boko Haram militants surrendered to Nigerian military personnel. AllAfrica has more.

Continuing violence in the Central African Republic has led to a delay in elections previously scheduled for October 18th, the Times reports. Officials hope that the elections will take place later this year, enabling a transfer of power away from the current transitional

Following last week’s breakthrough in peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has expressed hope that the two parties will reach a lasting accord by this March. The Journal has the story.

Yesterday, the European Court of Justice ruled in favor of the Hungarian data protection authority in what may prove to be a landmark case for Internet companies operating across the E.U.’s internal borders. The Guardian provides a rundown on the ruling, which held that “if a company operates a service in the native language of a country, and has representatives in that country, then it can be held accountable by the country’s national data protection agency despite not being headquartered in the country.” Previously within the E.U., companies were only understood to be within the jurisdiction of local data protection agencies if the company was headquartered within that country.

Reuters brings us a special report on the stalled 9/11 trial. A translator’s five-minute phone call to Yemen, passing along a defendant’s message to his nephew to study hard in school, led to a botched FBI effort to turn a member of the defense team into an informant and a subsequent stalemate between the FBI, military prosecutors, and defense lawyers. More than a year after the FBI first learned of the call, the trial is still halted.

Parting shot: A new day, a new entry in the unofficial Lawfare series of animals interacting with drones---this time from Norway. As Reuters describes it, a Norwegian cameraman caught footage of a “curious moose” that “expressed polite interest” in his drone.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Stewart Baker posted the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast, this week featuring a discussion of the U.S.-China agreement on cybersecurity and economic espionage.

Alex Loomis questioned what lies ahead for the safe harbor framework, the arrangement that allows U.S. companies to work within E.U. data privacy laws.

Cody alerted us to his new piece with Dr. Rani Mullen in Foreign Affairs on “the new great game” between India and China in the Asia-Pacific.

Michael Knapp recapped oral arguments in United States v. Ganias.

Bobby asked whether Article II might provide domestic legal authorization for the use of force to defend U.S.-backed Syrian rebels from Russian airstrikes.

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