Today's Headlines and Commentary

Cody M. Poplin, Sebastian Brady
Friday, April 10, 2015, 2:16 PM
The Saudi-led coalition conducting airstrikes against Houthis in Yemen carried out its most intense series of strikes last night, Agence France-Presse reports. The strikes reportedly hit Houthi-held areas around the southern port city of Aden and the predominantly Sunni city of Ataq, which rebels captured yesterday.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

The Saudi-led coalition conducting airstrikes against Houthis in Yemen carried out its most intense series of strikes last night, Agence France-Presse reports. The strikes reportedly hit Houthi-held areas around the southern port city of Aden and the predominantly Sunni city of Ataq, which rebels captured yesterday. The Associated Press provides a useful run-down of the countries involved in the coalition and the nature of that involvement. But thus far the coalition campaign seems to have made little progress. The Washington Post writes that the airstrikes have not made the return to power of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi any more likely; moreover, the conflict has allowed advances by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula while reducing food and water supplies for civilians. Hugh Naylor writes that “For the Saudi government and its allies, the military operation in Yemen may be turning into a quagmire.” Furthermore, the conflict is worsening an already fraught relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In remarks yesterday, Iran’s Supreme Leader called Saudi airstrikes both “a crime” and “genocide.” The New York Times notes that such a deterioration of relations is especially dangerous because the two countries are already engaged in proxy conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain. However, according to Al-Monitor, it is not entirely clear that the map of alliances has followed expectations with regards to the Saudi military operation. Hamas, a group supported by Iran, has issued a statement of support for the political legitimacy of Yemen. Meanwhile, Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas said that the war “enjoyed an Arab consensus” and noted that the Palestinians were part of that consensus. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Children’s Fund have successfully landed two planes in Sanaa, delivering more than 30 tonnes of medical equipment to the embattled country. According to the Times, their arrival came two days after two boats of emergency medical aid and teams of surgeons docked in Aden, a port city in the south. A U.N. spokesman called the situation in the country “unprecedented.” Reuters brings us news that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has placed a bounty on the head of the leader of the Houthi rebels and his ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. At the same time, the Saudi-loyal paper Asharq al-Awsat claims that Houthi forces have committed “massacres” in Aden, killing more than 22 people and injuring more than 70 in indiscriminate shellings. In an effort to avoid getting caught in between the two rivals, Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution against military intervention in Yemen. While the the resolution pledged to defend Saudi Arabia, the Times writes that analysts are calling the move a setback for Saudi Arabia. The country had requested planes, ships, and troops from Pakistan for the campaign, and even mistakenly announced that Pakistan had taken part in the campaign’s initial volley of attacks. Pakistan shares a long border with Iran, and appears to have feared that entering the conflict in Yemen could inflame its own sectarian tensions at home. Instead of engaging in the conflict, Pakistan said it would defend Saudi Arabia’s territory while serving as a neutral arbiter to “bring about an immediate ceasefire in Yemen.” Interestingly, the decision follows yesterday's announcement that China will build a pipeline to bring natural gas from Iran to Pakistan in hopes of curbing Pakistan’s energy crisis. The pipeline will connect at the Gwadar Port, which China has also financed. ISIS militants killed 52 men at the al Qaim border crossing between Iraq and Syria this week, the majority of whom were Iraqi police officers. CNN reports that the men, who had been held by the militant group since it captured the area last year, were shot Monday, though officials only confirmed the deaths Thursday. The news comes as the U.S.-led training program for moderate Syrian rebels faces increasing skepticism. The AP reveals that two months after the United States and Turkey agreed to train and arm these rebels, Turkish officials have signalled that the program will be delayed while the U.S. Department of Defense is decreasing the number of fighters to be trained. According to one former administration official, "I think the most it does now is that it checks a political box here in the United States.” But Vice President Joe Biden took a different tone yesterday, praising the “significant and growing” progress made in the fight against ISIS. The Times writes that Vice President Biden, speaking before an audience at the National Defense University, asserted that Iraqi government forces, with the assistance of the United States and others, had halted ISIS’s expansion. Moreover, he discounted claims of Iranian influence in Iraq as not “represent[ing] the circumstances on the ground.” ISIS also appears to be facing stronger resistance on social media. The Times reveals that, according to a company representative, Twitter suspended around 10,000 accounts suspected of being affiliated with ISIS in just one day last week. The claim has not been verified by outside sources, but would represent the largest single removal of ISIS-related accounts by Twitter, who has been consistently criticized for not doing more to prevent ISIS from using Twitter’s network to recruit fighters and spread propaganda. At the Daily Beast, Jesse Rosenfeld writes that U.S. advisers in Iraq may be working with fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group the State Department lists as a foreign terrorist organization. According to a PKK commander, U.S. military personnel working with the Kurdish peshmerga in Iraq have provided information and coordinated with his PKK unit. A U.S. Central Command spokesman didn’t explicitly deny these claims, but rather said that the commander’s description was a “mischaracterization.” Earlier today, a suicide bomber struck a U.S. military convoy in eastern Afghanistan, killing four Afghan civilians and wounding 10 others. The Post reports that the attack, which harmed no U.S. soldiers, was followed by a roadside bomb attack on a minivan in Ghazni province that killed all 12 people in the van. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the first attack and are suspected in the second. Reuters adds that another suicide bomber attacked a car carrying foreigners in Kabul, injuring three nearby Afghans. The Post describes a recent wave of violence against ethnic minority Hazaras in Afghanistan. Some suspect that a rogue Taliban faction that has aligned itself with ISIS is behind the violence, and local Hazaras fear that it could signal a return to the violent persecution they faced under Taliban rule. In Pakistan today, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people was released from prison. The Wall Street Journal explains that the trial of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is still ongoing, but that Lakhvi was released on bail. Lakhvi posted bail in December but had been detained under the Pakistani government’s emergency detention powers. A Pakistani court struck down his detention Thursday, leading to his release. The response from India was rapid. After the order came down yesterday, an External affairs ministry spokesperson said "The fact is that known terrorists not being effectively prosecuted constitutes a real security threat for India and the world." NATO conducted the first test of its new rapid-response force in Europe this week, the Wall Street Journal reports. The test, which lasted from Tuesday to Thursday and involved some 1,500 troops, was meant to determine whether the force could prepare to fly in just 48 hours. The previous response time was between five days to two weeks; in light of renewed Russian aggression, NATO decided to lower the acceptable response time. In other NATO news, the Russian mission to NATO will now be capped at 30 members; its current mission is over 50 members. The Times reveals that the move comes after an alliance report found that some members of the Russian mission were Russian intelligence agents. The same day that China publicly detailed its plans for the islands it is currently constructing in the South China Sea, President Obama expressed concern that China is using its size to bully countries with conflicting claims in the Sea. Speaking in Jamaica, President Obama said, “Where we get concerned with China is where it is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules and is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions." Reuters has more. The AP reports that in the lead-up to a face-to-face meeting between President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas this weekend, the two leaders spoke on the phone. It was just the second such call in 50 years. The Wednesday call was followed by a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and the Cuban foreign minister, the highest-level meeting between the two countries since severing ties decades ago. These developments come as the President, according to the Post, prepares to announce the removal of Cuba from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Parting shot: Foreign Policy describes efforts by Pentagon officials to increase cybersecurity for U.S. weapons systems.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Yishai considered the separation-of-power ramifications in a case that the Supreme Court may soon decide to hear. Wells linked us to the newest installment of the Lawfare Research Paper Series, a paper from Nathan Wood entitled “The Ferguson Consensus is Wrong: What Counterinsurgency in Iraq & Afghanistan Teaches Us About Police Militarization and Community Policing.” Ben posted video and prepared statements from Wednesday’s meeting of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. 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.

Cody Poplin is a student at Yale Law School. Prior to law school, Cody worked at the Brookings Institution and served as an editor of Lawfare. He graduated from the UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012 with degrees in Political Science & Peace, War, and Defense.
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.

Subscribe to Lawfare