Today's Headlines and Commentary

Elina Saxena
Wednesday, March 30, 2016, 2:15 PM

The U.S.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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The U.S. government has ordered families of diplomats and military members in Turkey to leave the country amid fears of rising security threats in the region. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the Pentagon and State Department said on Tuesday they had directed family members of most military and diplomatic personnel in Turkey to leave the country, which has been hit by four major attacks this year.” With more than 650 Americans expected to leave Turkey as a result of the decision, Reuters adds that “100 military dependents in Ankara and Istanbul were not affected by the departure orders because of security measures in place there.” According to the Washington Post, the decision will primarily affect “family members of officials posted to the U.S. consulate in Adana, near the Mediterranean coast in south-central Turkey and in Izmir and Mugla provinces on the western coast.” Additionally, official travel within the country has been limited to “mission critical.” Commander of European Command Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove said that the “decision to move our families and civilians was made in consultation with the Government of Turkey, our State Department, and our Secretary of Defense.” The Daily Beast has more.

Over in Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that Iran would continue its ballistic missile program, suggesting that “those who say the future is in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors.” In a post on his official website, the Ayatollah said that “it’s the time of both missiles and dialogue.” Iran began its latest round of missile testing at the end of last year despite the historical nuclear agreement and rising international pressure. In a joint letter to Spain's U.N. Ambassador Roman Oyarzun Marchesi and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. and European officials suggested that Iran’s “recent ballistic tests involved missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and were ‘inconsistent with’ and ‘in defiance of’ council resolution 2231,” Reuters writes. For his part, Ban Ki-moon noted that Iranian missile tests had caused “alarm and concern” but maintained that the Security Council had the final say in deciding what to do about Iran’s missile program.

President Bashar al Assad suggested on Russian state media that "independent forces, opposition forces, and forces loyal to the state" could form a new government but has so far resisted calls for him to step down. Responding to Assad, opposition politicians argued that Syria “needs a transitional ruling body with full executive powers and not a participatory government under President Bashar al-Assad.” This is the latest disagreement in a series of over the political future of Syria, as the BBC notes that “the major powers backing rival sides in the war agree that there must be a political transition process, a new constitution and elections in Syria, but so far the talks in Geneva have not produced any signs of progress.”

Politico reports that “U.S.-backed Syrian opposition leaders want President Barack Obama to push harder for an agreement that bids farewell to Assad” as some members of the opposition “worry that if a deal on a political transition isn't reached soon, the U.S. presidential election could distract the administration and sap its resolve.”

The Washington Post sheds light on the Russian elite special forces, also known as Spetsnaz, who have helped shape the fight in Syria. Despite Russia’s drawdown of forces in Syria, Reuters tells us that Russia is shipping more to the country than it is removing, suggesting that “Russia is working intensively to maintain its military infrastructure in Syria and to supply the Syrian army so that it can scale up again swiftly if need be.”

Foreign Policy tells us about how the Free Syrian Army is leveraging backlash against al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, after the latter shut down a nationalist protest in Maarat al-Nu’man earlier this month.

Turning to Israel, after footage surfaced of an Israeli soldier shooting and killing a wounded Palestinian attacker over the weekend, Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot issued a memo to Israeli security personnel reinforcing the "purity of arms" code of conduct. According to the New York Times, the memo confirmed that “the military would continue to support any soldier who errs in battle but will also punish those who stray from its moral code.” The Times adds that the soldier involved in the incident was arrested “after an initial inquiry concluded he acted improperly but protesters and right-wing politicians have come to his defense and accused the army of abandoning him.”

Yemeni forces backed by local fighters have pushed militants back from areas of Aden held by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The militant group has developed a stronghold in the southern port city as the country’s civil conflict continues. Meanwhile, a new report from Unicef says that “children are paying the highest price" in the Yemeni conflict as "at least 934 children have been killed [...], 61 percent of them in airstrikes,” in addition to 1,356 who have been wounded. The report also noted that at least 51 schools have been hit by airstrikes since the conflict began and that children are increasingly being recruited by armed groups involved.

Over in Afghanistan, Taliban militants killed 15 Afghan security personnel during a gunfight in the country’s southern Uruzgan province. The Associated Press tells us that “the fighting took place late Tuesday during an operation to reopen an important highway in the province” and that Afghan security forces gained control of the highway after the fighting.

Brussels' Zaventem airport remains closed today as officials continue temporary restoration of the departure hall which was torn apart in last week’s blasts. Meanwhile, investigators are still searching for a third suspect in the airport bombing and a second suspect in the metro attack but have not “ruled out that a third man seen in the airport video was also the second assailant at the metro.” The Journal writes that “the Monday release of the only suspect charged with direct involvement in the Brussels attacks has dealt investigators a major setback—forcing them to revisit leads from the immediate aftermath of the explosions.” After accidentally double counting 3 victims, Belgian officials also revised the official count of those killed in the attacks to 32.

In neighboring France, President François Hollande dropped his proposal to amend the French constitution, stating that “parts of the opposition have been hostile to any revision of the constitution.” Under his proposed amendments, French nationals who hold dual-citizenship and are convicted of terrorism would be stripped of their French nationality. Hollande initially proposed the constitutional changes following the November attacks in Paris, but his proposal has been met with fierce resistance with critics suggesting that such measures would create a discriminatory, “two-tiered” system of French nationality.

NATO is ramping up its presence in Eastern Europe in efforts to increase U.S. military deterrence against Russian aggression in the region. “The Pentagon has drawn up plans to position American troops, tanks and other armored vehicles full time along NATO’s eastern borders to deter Russian aggression, in what would be the first such deployment since the end of the Cold War,” the Journal tells us. Russian officials suggested that the United States is “using false pretexts to continue a military buildup on Russia’s border.” Foreign Policy adds that “the move will add hundreds of the Army’s most advanced tanks, cannons, and other ground vehicles to the force,” including “250 tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Paladin self-propelled howitzers as well as more than 1,700 additional wheeled vehicles and trucks.”

Two vehicles exploded in the Dagestan region of Russia, leaving one police officer dead and two injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Reuters, "Dagestan, where Kremlin critics say widespread poverty and corruption help feed religious extremism, last saw similar attacks on police in February," and some militants in the region have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State.

Elsewhere in the country, some 20 Islamic State supporters attempting to recruit fighters were arrested in Moscow during a joint operation between the FSB and Russian Police. Reuters cites Russia's RIA news agency as saying that the majority of the arrested suspects are citizens of the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan and were found with numerous fake documents.

Amid the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Philippines is considering building a submarine. Agence France-Presse writes that the Philippines, “which has never before operated submarines and until now relied largely on US surplus ships, has been ramping up defence spending in response to China's military expansion in the region.”

Also in the South China Sea, the New York Times takes a look at U.S. naval activity in the region, shedding light on the interactions between U.S. patrol vessels and the Chinese military in the region.

A Minnesota man, Abdul Raheem Habil Ali-Skelton, was charged with three felony counts of making terroristic threats after he allegedly threatened to "shoot up" a Walgreens. Elsewhere in the United States, Jaelyn Young, the Mississippi woman who attempted to join ISIS with her husband last August, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Her husband pled guilty to similar charges earlier this month. The Daily Beast notes that “more than 80 people have been charged with ISIS-related crimes in the U.S. since 2014.”

Parting Shot: ABC News’ Bob Woodruff takes us inside of China’s “ISIS breeding ground” in China’s western Xinjiang province. With increasing outbreaks between the local Muslim Uyghur population and the Han Chinese, “Beijing has increasingly become worried as ISIS has trained a crosshair on China and Xinjiang.”

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Susan wagered that the FBI will tell Apple how it accessed the San Bernardino iPhone, but for reasons not related to the Vulnerabilities Equities Process.

Ben predicted the imminent return of the encryption debate.

Laura Dean took a look at Syrian and Iraqi Kurds who fear being returned to Turkey.

Matthew Wein considered the immigration debate and argued that "a wall is not going to deter those seeking a better life, nor those wishing to do us harm."

Ben invited readers to a lunch debate on "Using Data to Secure Networks: Optimizing Individual Privacy While Achieving Strong Security."

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.

Elina Saxena was a National Security Intern at The Brookings Institution. She is currently a senior at Georgetown University where she majors in International Politics with a concentration in Security Studies.

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