Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Elina Saxena, Cody M. Poplin
Tuesday, November 24, 2015, 6:02 PM

Editor’s Note: Today’s Headlines and Commentary will be in a turkey coma for the remainder of the week. We’ll see you back here on Monday, November 30th. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet this morning after the warplane ignored repeated warnings that it was violating Turkish airspace. The New York Times reports that Turkish forces fired on the Russian Su-24 after repeatedly warning the pilot of airspace incursions. An official statement from the Turkish military said that “the aircraft entered Turkish airspace over the town of Yaylidag, in the southeastern Hatay Province” and that “the plane was warned 10 times in the space of five minutes before it was taken down.” Turkey also released flight data tracking the Russian jet in order to corroborate its claims. Both pilots managed to eject, but Reuters reports that both apparently died. At least one of the airmen was killed by rebel Turkman forces in Syria. The incident comes after Turkey warned Russian forces against bombing Turkmen villages close to the Turkish border over the weekend.

The Washington Post tells us that the last time a Russian jet was shot down by NATO forces was in 1952 during the final months of the Korean War.

Following the incident, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu consulted NATO and the United Nations. President Barack Obama stated that “Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace” and urged Russia to redirect its efforts in Syria and to target Islamic State forces exclusively. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the incident “a stab in Russia’s back delivered by terrorist accomplices” and said it would "serious consequences for Russia's relationship with Turkey."

The Associated Press has more and the Guardian provides live updates on the situation.

Agence France Press writes that a map presented by the Russian military on state television “appears to show that some Russian artillery contingents could be operating on the ground in central Syria's Homs region.” Another source suggested that “Russian military forces have been providing cover for T-90 tanks” while Russian air support has attacked multiple strategic targets held by rebel forces in Idlib and Latakia. In September, the New York Times described Russia’s military build-up and the presence of T-90 tanks to Latakia.

In what Iranian media labeled as a “meeting of the titans,” Vladimir Putin met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during his visit to Tehran. Both men defended Syrian President Bashar al Assad and announced their opposition to “‘external attempts’ at regime change.” Putin also continued to push for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

As he is wont to do, “Khamenei alleged there was a Western conspiracy that he said is dangerous to both Iran and Russia.” Khamenei also accused the United States of trying to divide Iraq along sectarian lines and urged Iraqis to oppose any such U.S. efforts. During his visit, Putin reaffirmed Russia’s interest in exporting nuclear technology to Iran. Russia is also expected to supply Iran with S-300 surface-to-air missile systems.

While Putin was in Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Arab leaders in the White House’s latest attempt to counter critics’ claims that the administration lacks a solid plan for defeating the Islamic State. On Monday, Kerry “outlined a strategy in which the Saudis would convene the so-called moderates in the next few weeks, and come up with some common principles for negotiating with Mr. Assad’s government.” Kerry also expressed hope for a ceasefire between moderate rebel groups and the government of Mr. Assad in “the next few weeks.”

The U.S. military has intensified its efforts against the Islamic State’s economic ties to the global financial system by targeting the group’s oil infrastructure in recent weeks. U.S. intelligence officers are relying on “access to banking records that provide insight into which refineries and oil pumps are generating cash for the extremist group” to determine targets. The BBC reports that U.S. strikes hit 238 Islamic State oil trucks in north-eastern Syria over the weekend. The strikes were similar to earlier U.S. attacks which destroyed another 116 tankers. No civilian casualties have been reported.

The BBC also shares that France has launched its first strikes against the Islamic State from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef write that analysts are accusing senior officials at CENTCOM of not only altering intelligence reports in order to portray the U.S. campaign against ISIS in a more positive light, but also of trying to cover up any evidence of the “selective editing.” This revelation comes as President Obama and other Pentagon officials look into the allegations of the doctored intelligence reports.

As Russia intensifies its efforts against the Islamic State in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that Russian strikes have killed some 1,300 people since they began in September. Of those killed, 381 have been Islamic State militants, 547 have been various rebels opposing the Assad regime, and 403 have been civilians. Meanwhile, a rebel group reportedly brought down a Russian helicopter with a U.S. Tow missile.

French President François Hollande visits Washington today as “France is pressing hard for its allies and friends to step up their efforts against the Islamic State.” Hollande met with British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday and will travel to Moscow after meeting with President Obama. In the wake of the Paris attacks, Hollande has pushed both for a coalition to fight the Islamic State and for a quick political solution to the Syrian crisis. As the French seek to “intensify cooperation,” the New York Times tells us that “Mr. Obama is expected to give Mr. Hollande fervent rhetorical support, but Washington is not likely to get into anything like a ‘coalition’ with Russia.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that “an explosive vest suspected of belonging to a Paris attacker still at large was discovered on the French capital’s outskirts Monday, while Belgian authorities said they would keep Brussels on lockdown for a fourth day as they try to head off what they called a similar attack.” The suicide vest was found in the same area where a cellphone belonging to Saleh Abdeslam, a primary person-of-interest in the Paris terror attacks, was found. Belgian authorities have announced that Brussels will remain on the highest terror alert for at least another week as authorities search for Abdeslam. The New York Times has more from Brussels.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, the New York Times writes that “concern is rising, particularly in Muslim communities being singled out, that France now runs the risk of tipping steeply in favor of security at the expense of individual freedoms and of instigating tension with a Muslim population.” French police have been “breaking down doors, conducting searches without warrants, aggressively questioning residents, hauling suspects to police stations and putting others under house arrest” as they investigate.

The State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert “amid concerns that terror groups and individuals plan more attacks after the Paris massacres.”

At Defense One, Shadi Hamid asks if ISIS is rational, in light of its recent attacks on external states that have provoked international outrage and have prompted countries to double down on their targeting of the group.

As the attacks in Paris have sparked concern about the security risk posed by refugees, Sweden and Canada have tightened policies for refugees and asylum seekers. The Guardian writes that “Canada will accept only whole families, lone women or children in its mass resettlement of Syrian refugees while unaccompanied men – considered a security risk – will be turned away.” The restrictions come after newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced criticism for his plan to accept 25,000 refugees into the country. Meanwhile, Sweden will tighten its borders in an effort to reduce the number of refugees and asylum seekers who reach the country. Norway is expected to follow suit. Reuters suggests that “the move by Stockholm is a huge blow to Swedes' view of their country as a humanitarian superpower and a team player in international organizations.”

The Washington Post explores the tensions that arise when free speech supports the Islamic State, and potentially even encourages young men to leave their homes in the West to join the group. Mizanur Rahman, one of the most prominent promoters of the Islamic State, resides in the relative security of London, where he laces his pro-ISIS tweets with just enough ambiguity to provide legal cover for himself. While Rahman claims to be an outspoken preacher who is unaffiliated with the Islamic State, his Twitter account serves as a “beacon” offering inspiration and justification for potential jihadists, according to U.K. and U.S. authorities. Read the full story at the Post.

As authorities continue to investigate the attack on a Malian hotel, Mali TV released photos of the gunmen who were killed and appealed to the public for information regarding their identity. The attack, which killed twenty, has been claimed by jihadist groups Al Mourabitoun and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), as well as the Massina Liberation Front.

More bad news out of Afghanistan this morning, as Reuters shares that Taliban insurgents captured 13 Afghan government security forces after their helicopter crashed in the northern province of Faryab, which is currently under Taliban control. At least three soldiers were killed in the crash. Security forces have launched an operation to rescue the men, according to Afghan officials.

The New York Times reports that militants attacked a hotel in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula today, launching explosives and gunfire and killing at least three people. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. The Times confirms that the hotel was hosting a group of judges who were monitoring Egypt’s parliamentary elections.

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry touched down in Israel today, a Palestinian motorist rammed his vehicle into a group of Israeli soldiers, wounding three before the attacker was shot and wounded. It is Kerry’s first visit to the country in more than a year, the Associated Press notes that the secretary did not even mention the potential for a two-state agreement, instead choosing to focus on the more modest goal of de-escalating tensions between the two sides.

Russia announced earlier today that it will cut of gas supplies to Ukraine and halt the country’s deliveries of coal in response to a dispute over a power blackout in Crimea. According to Reuters, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak accused the Ukrainian government in Kiev of refusing to rebuild power lines into Crimea. The lines were blown up over the weekend. Authorities have not yet determined who was behind the attack. Last week, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called the ceasefire in the east of the country “very shaky”.

During a Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, the United States and China reached what U.S. officials are calling “meaningful” commitments designed to limit trade-secret theft and commercial espionage. The Hill calls the new measure “another small step forward” in the United States’s attempt to challenge China’s “massive cyber theft campaign.” Under the new agreement, China will give U.S. companies new legal tools in China to defend against “the misuse of their trade secrets.”

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a decision unsealed yesterday that the Department of Justice can conceal internal Office of Legal Counsel memos related to the targeted killing program. Charlie Savage of the New York Times covers the ruling, while in Lawfare, David Ryan walks us through the Court’s reasoning and the opinion’s broader implications for FOIA lawsuits.

The Guardian reports that ten Republican U.S. senators have penned a letter to Pentagon and military chiefs asking why the Joint Chiefs of Staff withheld approval of Shaker Aamer’s recent release from Guantanamo Bay. The Joint Chiefs were not listed in the official authorization of Aamer’s release notification; however, the Pentagon released a statement confirming that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was “part of the six agency Guantanamo Review Task Force” that unanimously approved Aamer for release.

Parting shot: Holidays can be dangerous. Wired walks us through how to deep-fry a turkey without killing yourself.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Ben wrote on the “Trump-Carson blood libel” against Muslim Americans wherein both candidates are peddling events that never happened.

Paul Rosenzweig outlined the renewed importance of homeland security following the Paris attacks.

Ben shared DC Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s opinion on the Section 215 metadata program as outlined in the Circuit’s decision to reject a rehearing en banc of Klayman v. Obama.

Ashley Deeks analyzed an unprecedented provision in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249, which condemns ISIS and calls on all states to prevent and suppress the group’s activities.

Bruce Schneier explored the policy repercussions of the Paris attacks, arguing that the “politics of surveillance is the politics of fear.”

Aaron Zelin shared the latest Jihadology Podcast, which features Charles Lister on the history of the Syrian jihad.

Cody linked us to an upcoming event on December 1st at Intel on the investments and policy framework necessary to close the cybersecurity gap.

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