Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Elina Saxena, Quinta Jurecic
Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 3:01 PM

Russia has fired a series of medium range cruise missiles into Syria in what appears to be a coordinated effort to launch a major offensive alongside Syrian ground troops, the New York Times writes. The missiles were launched from warships in the Caspian Sea, and the Post reports that “a map from Russia’s Defense Ministry showed the path of the cruise missiles crossing Iran and Iraq — which would apparently require coordination from both nations and draw them indirectly into the Russian military intervention as gateways for attacks.” Russia’s use of the missiles represents a significant escalation of the Kremlin’s involvement in the conflict.

In a televised meeting with the Russian defense minister, President Vladimir Putin “said it was too early to talk about the results of Russia's operations in Syria and ordered his minister to continue cooperation with the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq on the crisis.” So says Reuters. But despite Russia’s offers to broaden discussions, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter remarked that there would be no cooperation with Russia in Syria due to the Kremlin’s "tragically flawed" strategy. Nevertheless, the United States and Russia will continue discussions on deconfliction in Syrian airspace.

Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing for a U.S. no-fly zone over Syria, CNN tells us. Kerry has been advocating for “more robust measures,” according to one senior official, despite White House reluctance to implement a no-fly zone.

Meanwhile, following Russian incursions into Turkish airspace, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has warned Russia. And NATO Secretary General Jan Stoltenberg has confirmed “a substantial buildup of Russian forces in Syria” including not only “air forces, air defenses, but also ... ground troops in connection with the air base they have.” The Times has the story.

Reuters suggests that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Soleimani's July trip to Moscow may have been a major factor in the Russian intervention in Syria. Soleimani’s visit (which violated a U.N. travel ban, and which the Kremlin denied as of August) points to the extent of collaboration between “Assad's two most important allies” in preparation for the Russian military campaign.

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi invited Russia to begin airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, and now other Iraqi Shiite officials are joining in. The Journal reports on the mood in Baghdad, which seems to be steadily warming toward the Kremlin in the wake of a freshly-announced intelligence-sharing arrangement between Iraq, Iran, Russia, and the Assad regime.

Over at Foreign Policy, Amos Harel of Haaretz studies how the escalating crisis in Syria may soon pull in Israel. Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to play down the effects of the Russian intervention on Israeli security, Russia’s deployment to Syria changes the strategic calculus, and efforts to avoid confronting Russia may compromise Israel’s commitment to action against Hezbollah.

Smugglers have attempted to sell radioactive material to extremist and terrorist buyers… including ISIS. The AP describes how criminal organizations “are driving a thriving black market in nuclear materials” in Moldova. Moldovan authorities reportedly shared their investigative files to “spotlight how dangerous the nuclear black market has become.”

ISIS may have shifted its online propaganda efforts from Twitter to the encrypted messaging app Telegram, the BBC reports. The app’s new function, introduced last month, allows users to “broadcast” to an unlimited number of members—providing an attractive alternative to Twitter, which has done its best to crack down on ISIS accounts.

President Obama has apologized to the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) over the U.S. bombing of a MSF-run hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz this weekend, ABC writes. In response to the bombing, MSF is calling for an independent probein addition to ongoing U.S., Afghan, and NATO investigations—into what MSF refers to as an "attack on the Geneva Conventions." Al Jazeera has more.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell stated that the strike on the MSF hospital was the result of “a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command” but added that U.S. forces “would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.” The Times suggests that Campbell may believe that U.S. forces did not follow proper rules of engagement. The AP agrees, pointing to Campbell’s order for the “entire force to undergo in-depth training in order to review all of our operational authorities and rules of engagement.”

General Campbell also addressed American troop presence in Afghanistan, urging policymakers to keep troops in Afghanistan after 2016. Defense One highlights Campbell’s statement that President Obama’s earlier commitment to a full U.S. withdrawal did not account for recent developmentssuch as the spread of the Islamic State into Afghanistan. The Post has more, pointing to Campbell’s observations on ISIS’s spread into Nangarhar province along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In Israel, the Times describes the continuing violence and fears of a Third Intifada. The newspaper reports on four Israeli citizens killed in two Palestinian attacks and four Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces, while wondering if the notion of a Palestinian uprising might be “outdated.”

The Post reports that, following the funeral of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who was shot by Israeli security forces, hundreds of Palestinian youths began throwing stones at Israeli forces in Bethlehem. And in two separate examples of escalating violence, two Palestinians were shot after stabbing attacks on an Israeli soldier and civilian.

In efforts to ease tensions, Israeli police lifted the restrictions on worship at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, AFP writes. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has expressed that he “wanted to avoid a violent escalation with Israel.” Over at the UN, Ban Ki-moon called on Israel to investigate the clashes in Jerusalem as well as into the killing of the Bethlehem teen to determine "whether the use of force was proportional."

The EU has announced plans to seize boats used by smugglers to transport migrants. Time reports that the operation “requires European ships to stay in international waters, but officials hope that they eventually will receive permissions to enter some foreign waters to intercept ships closer to shore.”

Desperate to flee terrible conditions in underfunded Jordanian refugee camps, many Syrian refugees in Jordan are now looking to head toward Europe or even back into their home country. The BBC has the story.

In response to the continuing refugee crisis, the White House has begun “its first social service campaign aimed at raising money for the United Nations refugee agency on behalf of Syrian refugees." After just over six days of operating, the campaign has raised almost $1 million, from over 15,000 backers.

Following the historic nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei imposed a ban on any future deals with the United States which could cause “economic, cultural, political and security influence.” Reuters points out that this ban contradicts several of the messages shared by more moderate Iranian politicians. The Times has more on Ayatollah Khamenei’s fear that negotiations could spread infiltration.

The BBC reports that “Yemen's Houthi rebels have confirmed in writing to the UN secretary general their commitment to UN resolutions aimed at ending the country's conflict,” which would mandate a ceasefire and return the official Yemeni government to the capital city of Sanaa. The Houthis committed informally to the peace plan last month. Houthi representatives described the commitment as a “fundamental step” to ending violence.

Yet violence continues. The Journal describes a series of attacks in the country’s port city of Aden, which killed 15 members of the Saudi-led coalition force. This marks the “first time an affiliate of the extremist group has directly hit the international force in Yemen.”

In Nigeria, two female suicide bombers killed 18 people in Damaturu, according to the Times. In a separate attack, Boko Haram extremists laid siege to a military camp; the group was repelled by troops who killed at least 100 from the insurgent forces.

The U.N. envoy for Mali confirmed that the peace process between the Malian government and Tuareg and Arab separatist rebels is “back on track” after a period of violence in August. The parties involved agreed to cease hostilities and return to peace talks, the Times writes.

After the announcement that 70 British troops would be deployed to Somalia to support the African Union mission in the country, al Shabaab militants have announced threats to “welcome them with bullets,” reports AFP. The British forces will have a non-combat role in the AU mission.

Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko has rejected Russian plans to build an airbase on Belarus’s soil, the BBC writes, although the Kremlin has already established a radar station within the country. Lukashenko’s statement may point to his desire to improve relations with the European Union even as he publicly maintains his loyalty to Moscow.

Australian authorities have arrested four suspects in a terror case involving the murder of a civilian employee of the Sydney police, AFP reports. The murderer, a 15-year-old, was heard by some to shout “religious slogans” after shooting the victim. Australia has been on high alert for terrorism offences following a string of lone-wolf attacks in recent months, some of which have been linked to ISIS.

Al Jazeera examines a proposal by the Thai government to implement even greater government controls over domestic Internet. The plan, unofficially dubbed “The Great Firewall of Thailand,” has faced a storm of popular protest and would likely return Thailand to the even more restrictive measures that held sway before Internet reforms in the late 90s.

Following reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency on possible increases in North Korean nuclear activity, South Korea has declared its intentions to “curb the enemy’s provocations.” Yonhap News has two stories.

Ars Technica takes a look at some freshly leaked details from the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord. New Zealand’s government revealed on Tuesday that the terms of the TPP mandate an extension of copyrights through the life of the creator to 70 years after their death, in accordance with current U.S. law. The TPP’s full text is set to be released by the end of 2015 at the latest.

A day after the European Court of Justice handed down its ruling in Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner, striking down a core features of the “safe harbor” framework for data protection between the U.S. and E.U., governments and tech companies are figuring out where to go from here. The Journal reports that many U.S.-based firms are looking into building data-storage centers within Europethus avoiding the situation at issue in Schrems, which focused on E.U. data stored within the United States. Meanwhile, The Hill writes that ongoing talks between the U.S. and E.U. to create a “Safe Harbor 2.0” will continue in the wake of the ruling.

The Senate voted yesterday to advance a controversial draft of the 2016 NDAA, essentially ensuring that the bill will make its way to the White House. President Obama has threatened to veto the legislation for its refusal to address sequestration cuts to the defense budget, instead opting to continue military spending through use of the Overseas Contingency Operation “slush fund.” The bill also strengthens restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay, contrary to the White House’s policy goals. Military Times tells us that the Senate’s final vote on the bill will likely take place on Thursday.

In other budgetary news, Defense One reports that the ongoing budget gridlock is causing serious problems for military acquisitions. Arms buyers from the Pentagon stated yesterday that, if Congress continues to fund the government for the next year with the same continuing resolution passed last week, major acquisitions projects will have to be canceled.

One more Guantanamo detainee has been cleared for release, the Miami Herald reports. Mohammed Khamin, who has been held in Guantanamo since 2004, will return to his home in Khost, Afghanistan. For those keeping track, this means that 54 of the remaining 114 detainees have now been approved for release.

Parting shot: С днем ​​рождения, Vladimir Vladimirovitch! Today marks the 63rd birthday celebration of none other than President Putin, who celebrated his special day by scoring seven goals against professional hockey players in what was doubtless a completely fair match. The Post also brings us pictures from the celebratory “Putin Universe” exhibit in Moscow, which depicts the president as a Greek god, Batman, and various other comic book heroes.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic pondered President Obama’s “moral muse” in relation to the drone program.

Jack pointed us to a new piece by Samuel Moyn in Dissent, which argues that civil libertarians in the U.S. have tacitly accepted “endless war.”

Samuel Cutler argued that the Iran Sanctions Act is legally irrelevant as far as U.S. ability to “snap back” sanctions on Iran is concerned.

Cody linked us to the General John Campbell’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on military operations in Afghanistan.

Ingrid Wuerth described the oral argument for the case OBB Personenverkehr v. Sachs, a Supreme Court case on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Alex Loomis notified us of the European Court of Justice’s decision invalidating the Safe Harbor framework.

Ammar Abdulhamid studied Russian rhetoric on the conflict in Syria as a “holy war.”

Timothy Edgar examined the implications of the ECJ’s decision on Safe Harbor.

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