Today's Headlines and Commentary

Sebastian Brady
Friday, February 6, 2015, 1:59 PM
ISIS claims that Jordanian airstrikes have killed a U.S. hostage held by the group, the New York Times reports. However, a senior U.S. official said that Jordan’s targets had been carefully vetted beforehand, with no indication that any hostages were present.

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ISIS claims that Jordanian airstrikes have killed a U.S. hostage held by the group, the New York Times reports. However, a senior U.S. official said that Jordan’s targets had been carefully vetted beforehand, with no indication that any hostages were present. Shane Harris reports that Jordanian officials have disparaged the claim, calling it “just another PR stunt” by the group. The airstrikes were launched in retaliation for the execution of a Jordanian pilot held by the group, and are part of Jordan’s increased involvement in the conflict. “We are going after them … with everything we have,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told CNN. The Daily Beast reveals that, according to local sources, airstrikes that hit ISIS’s proclaimed capital of Raqqa on January 1st may have been part of an attempted rescue operation for the the Jordanian pilot captured by ISIS. The operation failed, however, and the group later burned the pilot to death. The BBC reports that thousands of Jordanians marched in the capital of Amman today in support of their government’s fight against ISIS. The Associated Press provides a summary of Jordan’s past involvement in the campaign, what it can add to the fight, and how its involvement may be received in the region. At the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer argues that ISIS’s goal in executing the Jordanian pilot may have actually been to draw Jordan into the conflict, so as to create internal domestic divisions. After rebels struck the Syrian capital of Damascus yesterday, Reuters reports that the Syrian government launched dozens of airstrikes on rebel-held regions near the city, killing 82 people. Reuters also notes that the defeat of ISIS in the Syrian town of Kobani signals that the group is under significant pressure in the country, though it is far from being defeated. And the Kurds, who pushed ISIS out of Kobani last week, still face an uphill battle to secure their autonomy in northern Syria, the Post explains. Despite its recent defeat, ISIS continues to perpetrate atrocities, now focusing on children: CNN reports that the group is using children as suicide bombers and is selling them as slaves. In Benghazi, a car bomb killed two people and wounded 20 others, Reuters reports. The violence comes as two rival governments continue to battle for control of the country. As French Prime Minister Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled from Ukraine to Russia in an effort to end the crisis in eastern Ukraine, Chancellor Merkel lowered expectations of reaching an accord, according to the Financial Times. The AP notes that Prime Minister Hollande explained that a ceasefire was a prerequisite in the process, but Chancellor Merkel said that it was “completely open” whether a ceasefire could actually be reached. In another report, the AP reveals that some progress was made, however, as the Ukrainian military and Russian-backed separatists opened a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to escape the town of Debaltseve, which is currently at the center of a rebel offensive. As debate over whether to arm Ukraine continues, Reuters shares that European defense ministers publicly opposed providing weapons to the Ukrainian military and said that a U.S. decision to do so could create a transatlantic split. In the Post, Brookings scholars Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy argue that arming Ukraine would push Russia to escalate the conflict into a regional war. At the same time, NATO announced that it will create a 5,000-troop European rapid response “Spearhead Force,” backed by two additional rapid response forces. The Wall Street Journal shares that NATO has also completed plans for command centers in Eastern Europe in response to Russian aggression in the region. The AP reports that Boko Haram responded to Cameroon’s involvement in an offensive against the militants by massacring nearly 100 villagers and wounding 500 more in northern Cameroon. African Union forces met the same day to complete plans for a 7,500-troop multinational force to take on the militant group. According to Reuters, the United Nations is pushing for greater regional military cooperation in West Africa to fight Boko Haram. The Times describes the group’s massacres, in which militants imprison and forcibly marry women and behead men, all while trying to buy civilian support with looted goods. The United Nations is also calling for 1,000 more peacekeepers to be deployed in the Central African Republic to quell fighting between Christians and Muslims that has left more than 5,000 people dead since beginning in 2012. The AP covers the story. Britain’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled that the British intelligence agency GCHQ’s use of information obtained by the NSA was illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights until last year, the Guardian shares. At the same time, British officials have threatened to stop sharing intelligence with Germany if it continues its parliamentary inquiry into British intelligence activities. According to the Telegraph, Germany is taking the threat seriously. The Wall Street Journal explains that domestic debate over an Iranian nuclear deal is much the same in both the United States and Iran. In both countries’ legislative bodies, some hard-liners are vehemently opposed to any potential deal. Over at DefenseOne, Derek Chollet argues that all the talk of political fallout over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech before Congress on the danger of Iranian nuclear negotiations misses one key fact: under President Barack Obama, the security relationship between the United States and Israel is stronger than ever. The speech was the result of an invitation by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made without the support of Congressional Democrats or consultation with the White House. But an Israeli officials now claims that the Prime Minister was led to believe that the invitation had the support of Congressional Democrats, Reuters shares. Reuters reveals that U.S. officials are pressuring Cuba to let the United States open an embassy in Havana by this April. Cuba, however, is demanding that the United States remove it from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror before allowing the embassy to open. In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, a Defense Department official testified that proposed legislation to restrict the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to other countries would effectively bar all transfers, and that the Obama administration would oppose any such bill. The Miami Herald covers the hearing, which featured fiery debate and vocal protests from the audience. The Herald also reports that the first conviction by military commission of a Guantanamo detainee is standing on weak ground. In a legal filing, prosecutors of Australian David Hicks say that Hicks’s 2007 conviction may no longer be valid, but should be upheld nonetheless. President Obama releases his second and final National Security Strategy report today, in which he will chart a course for U.S. leadership in the next two years while noting that United States does not have unlimited power to shape international affairs. The Times shares that the president will justify his conduct in international conflicts and assert the importance of addressing longer-term risks like climate change and cybersecurity. Foreign Policy notes that the report will make a case for “strategic patience,” a policy of restraint and strategic forethought rather than rash aggression. Foreign Policy also explains that these documents are as a rule underwhelming, and that President Obama’s newest report is unlikely to offer much in the way of actual strategy. The BBC reveals that a bank that enables money transfers between the United States and Somalia is planning to stop this service out of fears that the transfers are funding Al Shabaab militants in Somalia. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told reporters yesterday that he expects Secretary of Defense nominee Ash Carter to be confirmed by the Senate next week, perhaps even as soon as Tuesday, according to the Hill. As the tussle over funding the Department of Homeland Security continues in Congress, Democrats are using fears of terrorism to pressure Republicans to remove immigration-related amendments and pass a clean funding bill. The Post covers the story.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

In response to Ben’s earlier piece on what closing Guantanamo might actually look like, Gabor Rona argued that bringing detainees to the United States could flout both constitutional order and our responsibilities to international human rights laws. Steve Vladeck responded by pointing out that bringing detainees to U.S. soil would actually probably legally benefit the detainees, a point that Gabor overlooks in his argument. And Jack noted that Republican attacks on one of the Obama administration’s arguments for closure--that Guantanamo is a recruiting tool for terrorist groups--ignore the fact that the Bush administration made essentially the same argument during its second term. Ben and Cody outlined some of the responses to Ben’s previous questioning of the wisdom of the Intercept’s SecureDrop system. In particular, they pointed out that the evidence many of these responders refer to does not actually say what they claim it does. Jack explained that, if Congress wishes to reassert its role in the fight against ISIS, it must include a sunset provision in any new AUMF. 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.

Sebastian Brady was a National Security Intern at the Brookings Institution. He graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a major in political science and a minor in philosophy. He previously edited Prospect Journal of International Affairs.

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