Today's Headlines and Commentary

Tara Hofbauer
Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 1:59 PM
Today, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for its first attack on U.S. soil. The militant group says it was behind the shooting in Garland, Texas on Sunday.

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Today, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for its first attack on U.S. soil. The militant group says it was behind the shooting in Garland, Texas on Sunday. Via its official radio station, the group announced, “Two of the soldiers of the caliphate executed an attack on an art exhibit in Garland, Texas, and this exhibit was portraying negative pictures of the Prophet Mohammad." The Islamic State further declared, “We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter, and that you will see the soldiers of the Islamic State do terrible things." Agence France-Presse reports. Meanwhile, Islamic State militants are pressing against Iraqi forces currently holding position at the country’s largest oil refinery, located in the northern city of Baiji. According to one policeman there, “we are surrounded... from all sides.” He says that he and the 200 other security forces maintaining the compound “are running short of ammunition, food and drinking water.” Reuters notes that they are requesting government reinforcements in order to maintain control of the refinery. An internal investigation at the Defense Department has concluded that airstrikes conducted by U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State have so far resulted in two civilian casualties. The Daily Beast describes “the opaque nature of the battle, fought largely from the air with uncertain outcomes.” Yesterday, Amnesty International released a report chronicling the “appalling human rights violations” being perpetrated by the Syrian government and armed rebel groups in the conduct of that country’s civil war. BBC News breaks down some of the document’s most important findings. AFP reports that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are holding their annual summit today in Riyadh. This meeting precedes GCC leaders’ visit to the United States next week, where they are expected to ask the American government for new arms systems and further security promises in exchange for backing an international nuclear agreement with Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the requests pose problems for U.S. officials who want to demonstrate support for Arab allies, many of whom host American military bases, while also ensuring that Israel maintains a military advantage in the region.” In Defense One, James Kraska, a professor in the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College, discusses “Iran’s disingenuous approach to maritime law” and notes that Tehran’s seizure of a ship flying under the flag of the Republic of the Marshall Islands exemplifies the Islamic Republic’s “desire to pick and choose what international rules it follows.” Al-Arabiya reports that Saudi Arabia has extended its program granting Yemeni refugees temporary stay in the country. Such news comes as the Saudi government considers a ceasefire in Yemen, in order to allow for humanitarian relief. Saudi-led airstrikes continue throughout Yemen, though. Many have targeted airports throughout the country. Lebanon’s the Daily Star describes the current situation in the civil war-torn nation. Furthermore, Senegal announced yesterday that it will send troops to join the Saudi coalition in Yemen. The government in Dakar confirmed that 2,100 soldiers would be deployed to Saudi Arabia in order to assist the international alliance currently battling Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Washington Post shares more. The Post also reports that after the conclusion of closed-door meetings in Qatar between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives, the Taliban has announced on its website that it is open to peace talks, but with a few stipulations. The group wants U.S. and coalition troops to withdraw completely from Afghanistan and asks that the U.N. take Taliban leaders off its terrorism blacklist. The Post describes how negative attitudes toward the United States are “going out of style” in Pakistan. This change comes as American troops withdraw from neighboring Afghanistan and sectarian tensions engulf a number of Muslim nations. Boko Haram appears to be disintegrating, reports Reuters. Over the past week, the Nigerian military has freed some 700 women and children, who had been abducted by the militant group over the past year. The survivors’ stories indicate that Boko Haram is running short on supplies, creating friction between the organization’s soldiers and leaders. The Post describes some of the traumas experienced by the abductees. The Council on Foreign Relations provides a helpful Nigeria Security Tracker, which “documents and maps violence in Nigeria that is motivated by political, economic, or social grievances.” Yesterday, three Chinese guard ships invaded Japanese territorial waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. International Business Times describes the intrusion. In Overt Action, Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst, describes how the production of methamphetamines in North Korea has “become a serious transnational drug trafficking issue,” as the Kim Jong Un regime uses narcotics revenues to finance itself and its operations. The Post’s Walter Pincus considers why the public is so much more concerned by drones than it is by manned airstrikes. According to the New York Times, President Obama is set to nominate the current commandant of the Marine Corps to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Joseph Dunford “led a regiment into combat during the 2003 invasion of Iraq” and served as a commander of American and coalition troops in Afghanistan, before becoming commandant of the Marine Corps. He has been described as “unflappable in [even] the most stressful situations.” Gen. Dunford will replace Gen. Martin Dempsey, who has served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the past four years. President Obama will reportedly tap Air Force Gen. Paul Selva to serve as vice chairman. The Post considers who will succeed Gen. Dunford as commandant of the Marine Corps and proposes four likely contenders: Gen. John Kelly, Gen. John Paxton, Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, and Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey. The Canadian government has asked for an emergency stay of a Canadian judge’s decision to grant bail to former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr, as he appeals his war crimes conviction in U.S. court. Khadr is currently serving his sentence in an Alberta prison. The Associated Press reports the story. Defense One informs us that the Obama administration’s annual threats to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) might just come to fruition this year, as language in the House Armed Services Committee’s draft of the bill “would extend current restrictions and impose onerous additional ones” on the President’s ability to close down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

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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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