Today's Headlines and Commenary

Rishabh Bhandari
Monday, June 27, 2016, 4:33 PM

The fight for Fallujah is finally over. Flanked by triumphant senior Iraqi military officials, Iraq Prime Minister Haider al Abadi disclosed on Sunday night that the country’s security forces had recaptured the Islamic State stronghold. He called on Iraqis to celebrate in the street and pledged that the army would next recapture Mosul, the largest city the Islamic State controls in Iraq.

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The fight for Fallujah is finally over. Flanked by triumphant senior Iraqi military officials, Iraq Prime Minister Haider al Abadi disclosed on Sunday night that the country’s security forces had recaptured the Islamic State stronghold. He called on Iraqis to celebrate in the street and pledged that the army would next recapture Mosul, the largest city the Islamic State controls in Iraq. Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim city, lies 40 miles west of Baghdad and was a key launching pad for Islamic State attacks on the capital since the terrorist organization first seized the city in 2014. A spokesman for the U.S. military said the United States would continue providing support as the Iraqi Security Forces oversee the resettlement of refugees into their homes. Both the Wall Street Journal and Al Jazeera have more.

While Iraqi military officials have publicly aimed to recapture Mosul by the end of the year, the Associated Press reveals U.S. counterparts believe this is not a realistic timeline. The U.S.-led coalition has trained roughly 23,000 Iraqi soldiers, but military analysts said thousands more are needed for the operation to retake Mosul. U.S. Army Colonel Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said, “Mosul can be a nastier fight than what we saw in Fallujah. If that’s the Iraqi capital of the caliphate one would expect them to fight hard to maintain that.”

Mark Mazzetti and Ali Younes write in the New York Times that Jordanian intelligence officers systematically sold CIA weapons earmarked for Syrian rebels on the black market. According to an FBI investigation, some of the stolen weapons were used in a shooting last November that killed five people, including two Americans, in a police training facility in Amman. The revelation underscores the unanticipated consequences of arming rebels and comes just six months after the Pentagon halted a much-maligned program to train anti-Islamic State fighters in Syria that cost roughly $50 million but only produced a handful of soldiers.

Al Jazeera tells us the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a car bomb suicide attack last week on the Jordanian-Syrian border that killed seven Jordanian troops and injured 13 others. The organization also posted a video of the car speeding towards the army post as a form of verification. In response to the attack, Jordan vowed to respond with an “ iron fist” and closed the border, cutting off about 70,000 Syrian refugees stranded in the area from international aid delivery. Aid officials say little food and water has reached these refugees in the last two weeks.

The Associated Press reports that suicide bombers killed five people and wounded at least 15 in the northwestern Lebanese village of Qaa near the Syrian border on Monday. Qaa is a mostly Christian town but no organization has yet claimed responsibility. Violence from the Syrian civil war has extended into Lebanon in the past, stoking political and sectarian tensions in the small country of 5 million, a fifth of whom are refugees from the crisis.

Priyanka Gupta pens a profile in Al Jazeera of the abuse and torture Syrian refugees have faced in government-run prisons. She shares the bone-chilling stories of five refugees and their experiences in these prisons. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, more than 12,000 Syrians have been killed under torture in detention since the beginning of the civil war.

Reuters discloses that 25 children were killed in airstrikes that hit dense urban areas of al Quria, a town in eastern Syria, on Saturday. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights attributed these strikes, which killed dozens of other civilians, to Syrian and Russian forces. Al Quria lies in the province of Deir al Zor, which is mostly under Islamic State control and links the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria with the Iraqi territory under the so-called caliphate.

While Russian warplanes remain engaged in Syria, MarketWatch fills us in on how Russia’s nuclear-powered icebreakers are a sign of Moscow’s intent on dominating the Arctic Ocean and expanding its navy’s projection capabilities.

The Guardian notes that Russia’s lower parliament passed harsh new anti-terrorism measures that human rights and civil liberties advocates including Edward Snowden claim will roll back personal freedoms. The bill, which passed 325 to 1, made it a crime not to warn authorities of “reliable” information about planned terrorist attacks among other crimes. Expressing approval of terrorism on the Internet is also punishable with up to seven years in prison. Another amendment restricts missionary work to specially designated areas, drawing criticism from Muslim, Jewish and Russian Orthodox organisations. The bill was proposed in the aftermath of the October bombing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt.

The New York Times records U.S. officials’ concerns that Britain’s exit from the European Union will hurt Washington’s ability to influence Brussels. According to the article, Britain is viewed as the United States’ closest partner and often helps tilt the EU in a pro-American direction on a number of key issues such as trade, a unified line against Iran, and the response to a resurgent Russia.

Michael McFaul, a U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama, wrote an editorial in the Washington Post lamenting that ‘Brexit’ was a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin. McFaul claimed that Britain’s vote to leave the EU marks the most significant milestone in the transnational institution’s ongoing diminution in influence and size. It also comes as Russia is consolidating its alliances, multilateral institutions, and spheres of influence. Britain was also one of the sternest voices against Russian aggression and served as the bridge between Europe and the United States vis-a-vis Russian affairs. Still, according to POLITICO, Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, dismissed these concerns. She said she expects “relatively few” security implications in the immediate weeks following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

The Intercept’s Jenna McLaughlin writes that the FBI earmarks “hundreds of millions of dollars” to spend on developing technologies for use in both national security and domestic law enforcement investigations. Though the FBI doesn’t disclose the exact amount, the Intercept uses both prior reporting by the Washington Post and its own calculations to estimate that the Bureau will spend nearly $1 billion for its operational technology and cyber divisions. This year, the FBI requested over $38 million to counter the problem encryption and similar anonymity software poses during investigations through technological means. Government watchdogs have lambasted the Bureau for its budgetary opacity.

The Associated Press reveals U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s call for all parties in Yemen to reach a peace deal. Ban made the plea in Kuwait where delegates have been in the midst of peace talks for two months. He warned that “time is not on the side of the Yemeni people,” and urged both sides to release all prisoners, including journalists, activists, and other political detainees, as a goodwill gesture ahead of the Eid holiday next week, a celebration that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Yemeni officials said at least 55 people were killed and 70 wounded this weekend as fighting flared up in the provinces of Taiz, Bayda, and Marib.

The Guardian reports that Edward Snowden’s lawyers will lobby President Obama to issue a presidential pardon for their client, who received sanctuary in Russia after fleeing the United States. Their campaign comes after Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder, conceded last month that Snowden “actually performed a public service” and said: “I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate.”

India became the 35th member of the Missile Technology Control Regime, an exclusive group of nations controlling exports in missile technology, just a day after New Delhi bemoaned its continued exclusion from a similar group that regulates international nuclear fuel and technology. Admission in the MTCR is the next step in India’s pursuit to legitimize its nuclear and missile programs after it conducted its first nuclear tests in 1998 to the international community’s alarm. It also marks a milestone for New Delhi as it seeks to play a larger role on the global stage. New Delhi was excluded from the nuclear counterpart to this group after Beijing raised procedural hurdles. Indian diplomats said India would continue pushing for accession, an effort which is boosted by the United States’ support. The Associated Press has more.

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Rishabh Bhandari graduated from Yale College with degrees in History and Global Affairs. His senior thesis focused on the decision making of the Nixon administration in response to the 1971 Bengali Genocide. He is pursuing a doctorate in international relations at Oxford University.

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