Today's Headlines and Commentary

Clara Spera
Friday, June 13, 2014, 9:52 AM
All eyes are on Iraq as we head into the weekend. The New York Times reports that insurgents are continuing to press towards Baghdad, and that Iraq's highest-ranking Shiite cleric has asked Iraqis to assist in the country's defense.

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All eyes are on Iraq as we head into the weekend. The New York Times reports that insurgents are continuing to press towards Baghdad, and that Iraq's highest-ranking Shiite cleric has asked Iraqis to assist in the country's defense.  The Washington Post supplies further details on Iraq's disintegration, and on the Iraqi government's weak military resistance. Regarding the latter, former U.S. military personnel have blamed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who "purged the Iraqi army of some of its most capable leaders."  Here’s an explanation of the current Iraq-ISIS crisis in maps, pictures and video. The Times covers the reactions of Iraqi civilians to the current situation. It turns out residents of Mosul---a city recently overtaken by insurgents---are pretty ambivalent, and have even returned home after fleeing for only one night. In one Mosul resident's words: “What can you do?” CNN tells us that President Obama has said that the situation requires immediate assistance---and that, as for what such assistance might look like, he doesn’t “rule out anything." The Post takes a closer look at President Obama’s reaction, pointing out this irony: the war that Obama once called “dumb,” and had essentially written off as over, now could threaten his presidential legacy.  Also in the Post: the Secretary of State has said that the White House soon will respond to the growing violence in Iraq. What could the appropriate U.S. reaction be?  Greg Botelho at CNN lays out four potential options, which include everything from increasing a military presence in the country to trying to effect policy change from the outside. The Times Editorial Board dubs the situation in Iraq a “disaster” and wonders how billions of American dollars, spent training the Iraqi military, could be so wasted:
After disbanding Saddam Hussein’s army in 2003 after the invasion by coalition forces and dismantling the government, the United States spent years and many billions of dollars building a new Iraqi Army, apparently for naught. The militants have captured untold quantities of American-supplied weaponry, including helicopters, and looted an estimated $425 million from Mosul’s banks.
The piece strongly urges President Obama not to take further action in the country. Afghanistan is preparing for Saturday’s presidential election. The Times reports that security has been heightened across the country in response to an increased Taliban threat. The United States is watching the election closely, as the Obama Administration will want the eventual winner to sign a key security pact---which current President Karzai has refused to sign. The AP informs us that Sgt. Bowe Bergdhal is back in the United States. According to a Pentagon spokesperson, Bergdhal is currently at the Brooke Army Medica Center in San Antonio. Iran's government says it would take years for the country to build a working nuclear weapon---not months, as some previously thought.  Read more in the Times An article in the Hill explains that there’s a lot of displeasure over President Obama’s national security team on Capitol Hill. According to the piece, “Republicans are calling for heads to roll and Democrats have been slow to defend Obama’s national security team after a string of questionable performances.” The Guardian reveals that the Department of Defense has been partnering up with several universities to “to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world.” The Minerva Initiative was created to “to improve DoD's basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.” Among the projects funded for the 2014-2017 cycle, is a study led by Cornell and managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research; it aims to develop an empirical model "of the dynamics of social movement mobilization and contagions." The Post covers a rather unsettling story: apparently, a recent government audit has found that U.S. embassies across the world have not complied with vetting requirements when hiring security contractors. The report is set be released later today, and was ordered in response to the 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.  Reportedly, six embassies were reviewed; none of them fully complied with vetting rules. Secretary of State John Kerry is in London today, attending the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The Post covers Kerry’s comments there, including his vocal commitment to ending the “pandemic” of rape. 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.

Clara Spera is a 3L at Harvard Law School. She previously worked as a national security research intern at the Brookings Institution. She graduated with an M.Phil from the University of Cambridge in 2014, and with a B.A. from the University of Chicago in 2012.

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