Today's Headlines and Commentary

Rishabh Bhandari
Friday, September 2, 2016, 3:31 PM

More than 300 Syrians were evacuated from Moadamiyeh, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, after a deal was struck between the rebels and the Syrian regime. The Syrian regime permitted rebel fighters to flee in return for gaining control over the area in the culmination of a brutal three-year siege. The Syrian army had cut off food supplies and targeted critical infrastructure such as hospitals to hasten the deal’s conclusion.

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More than 300 Syrians were evacuated from Moadamiyeh, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, after a deal was struck between the rebels and the Syrian regime. The Syrian regime permitted rebel fighters to flee in return for gaining control over the area in the culmination of a brutal three-year siege. The Syrian army had cut off food supplies and targeted critical infrastructure such as hospitals to hasten the deal’s conclusion. The Associated Press has more.

The Guardian tells us that the United Nations predicts more cities across Syria are likely to follow suit and reach similar pacts. The United Nations blamed an intensification of the conflict and the Syrian government’s strategy of refusing to allow aid agencies into the besieged towns with food and medicine. U.N. officials said the best chance of ending the war, however, does not come from a military victory by the regime, but from a political solution that would require the support of both Washington and the Kremlin.

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The Associated Press reports that the U.N. Security Council will hold a major meeting on September 21 to take stock of the Syrian conflict and discuss prospects for ending the civil war, which is now in its sixth year. New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, whose country currently holds the council’s presidency, will chair the meeting. Key called on his counterparts from the other 14 council members to join him “to shine a spotlight” on “the greatest crisis of our time.”

Reuters reveals that Turkey has deepened its involvement in Syria once again. Ankara launched another round of airstrikes as its forces pushed west in an offensive against both the Islamic State and the Kurdish YPG militia. Both the United States and Germany, Turkey’s two most important Western partners, have expressed concern at its presence in an already tangled conflict. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country has no intention of remaining in Syria after Turkey eradicates the threat posed to its border by the Kurdish YPG and the Islamic State.

Turkey’s newly ambitious foreign policy has extended to efforts to normalize its relations with Egypt and even eventually rebuild its ties with Syria. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told a televised briefing with ministers that “Turkey has started a serious attempt to normalize ties with Egypt and Syria." Though Yildirim did not disclose a timeline for these efforts, the attempt at normalization signals a renewed pragmatism in Ankara’s dealings with its regional neighbors.

Turkish forces clashed with militants affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK in the country’s southeast, leaving one Turkish soldier and dozens of militants dead. According to a statement made by the Turkish military, nearly 60 PKK fighters were either injured or killed. Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Ankara will not negotiate a peace deal with the insurgency.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the militia groups that first liberated the Libyan city of Sirte from the Islamic State and are now posing a major threat to the fragile internationally recognized Libyan government. Commanders of the Misrata militia, named for another major coastal city, said they will head for the Libyan capital Tripoli after fully consolditing control over Sirte, in order to lobby for more political power.

According to the Associated Press, Pakistani officials claim they rebuffed an attempt by the Islamic State to to expand its network into their troubled country. A military spokesman said officials arrested 309 people on Thursday including Islamic State members from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The remarks are notable because Islamabad is usually loath to admit that the country faces a major terrorism problem. Pakistan has denied previously that the Islamic State held any foothold within its borders.

A suicide bomber attacked a court in Mardan, Pakistan, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 50 others. According to local authorities, the attacker threw a hand grenade before rushing into the court area and detonating a bomb. The attack in Mardan follows a pattern of terrorist attacks that have targeted the country’s strained judicial system. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, the same group that claimed responsibility for the double-tap attack that killed 70 lawyers and judges in Quetta in August, took credit for the court bombing. Four suicide bombers also targeted a Christian neighborhood in Peshawar earlier this day before being shot dead by Pakistani security forces. The Hindu has more.

Brigadier General Charles Cleveland of NATO acknowledged that Afghanistan’s security forces remain hampered by leadership problems. Accordingly, Cleveland said NATO command needs the ability to regularly advise and train Afghan troops. The Afghan government’s recent struggles against a resilient Taliban insurgency recently forced NATO members to extend their mission in the country.

The BBC informs us that Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s strongman president, has died. Karimov, who had governed Uzbekistan for 27 years, was widely criticized by international human rights watchdogs for his authoritarian regime. Though the Uzbek government maintains that Karimov is alive but "critically ill" following a brain hemorrhage a week ago, international news agencies and the Turkish prime minister referred to his death as fact. Karimov has no obvious successor.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he did not know who was behind the hacking of U.S. Democratic Party organizations. But he said the information uncovered was important and should be disseminated for the public’s benefit. Most U.S. officials say Russia was behind the hack to influence the election, but Putin flatly denied this claim: “We have never interfered, are not interfering and do not intend to interfere in domestic politics.”

The Associated Press documents the first day of a 28-nation meeting between foreign ministers of EU member states. The summit has centered on the need for the European Union to speak with one voice on contentious issues ranging from the West’s deteriorating relationship with Turkey to developing a coherent counterterrorism strategy.

The Chinese Air Force is developing a new type of strategic bomber, the Associated Press writes. A top Air Force official said the bomber would significantly increase China’s long-range strike ability. China’s military has grown rapidly following perennial double-digit budget increases. Last year, Beijing announced a strategic bomber that could launch land-attack cruise missile strikes against targets as far away as Australia.

Chinese state media announced that Beijing will tighten its regulation of online maps to ensure their compliance with China’s territorial claims. China continues to stoke regional tensions over its claims in the South and East China Seas, despite an international tribunal ruling last month that thoroughly rejected Beijing’s claims. The Associated Press has more.

Thailand announced peace talks would begin with the Muslim separatists in the far south of the country but insisted both sides must observe a ceasefire. Separatists in the Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat are suspected of planting a string of bombs in tourist towns across the country that killed four people and wounded dozens. But analysts are skeptical of the talks because the government has not invited a major insurgent group to participate. The Guardian has more.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Nick Weaver highlighted how the information we give to Facebook can be easily accessed by would-be hackers.

David Bosco asked whether the International Criminal Court will investigate the Philippines after drug-related killings have surged following Rodrigo Duterte’s election.

Bobby Chesney flagged Operation Odyssey Lightning, an ongoing U.S. air campaign against Libya that has been neglected by the media.

Aleksei Lund examined how Russia’s mixture of political and economic intrusion has undermined Moldova’s stability.

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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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