Today's Headlines and Commentary

Tara Hofbauer
Friday, March 13, 2015, 11:26 AM
Yesterday, the Islamic State accepted Boko Haram’s pledge of loyalty. On Saturday, the West African jihadist group released a statement, saying, “We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims ...

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Yesterday, the Islamic State accepted Boko Haram’s pledge of loyalty. On Saturday, the West African jihadist group released a statement, saying, “We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims ... and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah." An Islamic State spokesperson acknowledged this pledge of allegiance and declared that the Islamic State caliphate has expanded to West Africa. The Associated Press shares the story. In its campaign against Boko Haram, the Nigerian government has apparently begun employing South African mercenaries. Voice of America notes that “the decision to bring private military contractors to the fight is a critical one for the government of [Prime Minister Goodluck] Jonathan, who is locked in a tight election campaign.” Yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi affirmed that victory over the Islamic State in the battle for Tikrit was nigh. However, “that major step for the Iraqi government has come with an emphasis on Shi[a]... militias and Iranian military officials in a leading role.” The prominence of these Shia forces has the potential to reopen sectarian wounds and ignite international friction. The New York Times considers the delicate balance that the Iraqi Prime Minister must strike. The AP reports that U.S. leaders are increasingly skeptical regarding the possibility of political reconciliation among Iraq’s sectarian groups. Indeed, despite pledges of inclusivity last year, Prime Minister al-Abadi’s Shia-led government has not taken any concrete steps to work with the country’s Sunnis. According to the Times, despite the relative success of the Iraqi military’s battle for Tikrit, the Islamic State, “while marginally weaker, is holding its own.” The jihadist group has begun putting small quantities of chlorine gas in its roadside bombs. BBC News informs us that the use of such chemical weapons is designed largely to panic Iraqi civilians and soldiers. The AP analyzes the U.S.-led coalition’s air campaign against the Islamic State, noting that “since the bombing... began, American warplanes have handled 80 percent of the 2,780 airstrikes carried out... in Iraq and Syria” The Wall Street Journal explains how cooperation with different Syrian rebel groups is further straining already tense U.S. relations with Israel. The Times shares a series of graphics that explain how the Syrian civil war has “dismembered” the country. Retired U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, who currently serves as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and was formerly NATO’s 16th supreme allied commander, has an op-ed in the Washington Post, explaining how the Islamic State could attack Italy and articulating ways to protect the “soft underbelly” of Europe. During a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Gen. John Kelly, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, expressed concern over Islamic State foreign fighters, who hail from the Caribbean and could easily make their way into the U.S. along drug trafficking routes after returning home from the Middle East. Defense One shares his statements. Wired offers ways in which the U.S. can successfully wage war with the Islamic State over Twitter. One recommendation: “Turn the trolling up to 11.” Yesterday, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a response to a letter sent to his country by 47 Republican U.S. Senators. The supreme leader called the missive “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.” He pointed out that “all countries, according to the international norms, remain faithful to their commitments even after their governments change, but the American senators are officially announcing that at the end of the term of their current government, their commitments will be considered null and void.” However, the Times notes that Khamenei’s response still expressed support for the continuation of nuclear negotiations. The Post parses linguistic nuances and explains the importance of not referring to any final agreement between the P5+1 group and Iran as a “treaty.” Yesterday, al-Shabaab militants attacked a government administration building in Baidoa, Somalia. CNN reports that nine people, including four jihadists, are dead. Meanwhile, a U.S. drone strike in Somalia yesterday appears to have killed Adan Garar, a senior leader of al-Shabaab, who allegedly helped orchestrate the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya. The AP shares the story. Ukraine has formally requested that the U.N. send a peacekeeping mission to the country’s eastern region in order to monitor a ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists. The AP notes that such a mission would have to receive the approval of the U.N. Security Council - including permanent member Russia. Meanwhile, as a result of lower global oil prices, reduced tax revenues, and increased defense spending, the Russian government’s budget deficit more than doubled during the month of February. Because of international sanctions, however, Russia is unable to borrow money. The country will have to issue more rubles to meet its budgetary needs.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the Russian economy “is expected to contract by 3% in 2015.” The British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee yesterday released a report, calling the country’s bulk online data collection program necessary and insisting that bulk collection “does not equate to blanket... [or] indiscriminate surveillance.” Still, the committee called for a new law to “clearly set out the intrusive powers available to agencies, the purposes for which they may use them, and authorisation required before they may do so.” The Post has details. Finally, for your long-form read: Military Times shares the second installment in a five part series on MARSOC, the Marine Corps’ special operations command.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Jack explained how a U.N. Security Council resolution could turn a P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran into a binding obligation under international law. He later flagged an article, which noted that the U.S., in fact, does not intend to use the U.N. Security Council to turn said nuclear deal into a binding international obligation. Yishai Schwartz explained what would happen once a nuclear deal with Iran eventually expires. Cody posted documents recently released by the Justice Department in the trial of Abid Naseer. Ben brought us the latest installment of the Rational Security podcast. 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.

Tara Hofbauer previously was an intern with Lawfare. She is majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, with a minor in Legal Studies and History.

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