Today's Headlines and Commentary

Quinta Jurecic, Staley Smith
Thursday, July 2, 2015, 2:19 PM

ISIS has successfully incorporated itself into a “large network of looters” plundering and destroying archaeological sites for profit as well as propaganda value, the New York Times writes.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

ISIS has successfully incorporated itself into a “large network of looters” plundering and destroying archaeological sites for profit as well as propaganda value, the New York Times writes. Be sure to check out the Times’ detailed map of world heritage sites that have been destroyed by the group or are at risk given their proximity to ISIS territory.

The Washington Post examines ISIS’ entrenchment in Ramadi. Since capturing the city in May, ISIS has consolidated its power by implementing strict regulations on daily life in the besieged city. The Post’s story recalls the New York Times’ earlier reporting on ISIS’ activity in Raqqa and other cities under ISIS control, where the group has situated itself as a local government as well as a jihadist fighting force. In Ramadi, ISIS forces have enforced strict dress codes, attempted to reopen a closed hospital, and forced employees at Ramadi’s gas plant to arrive at work on time.

As Arab refugees flee ISIS from across Iraq, Kurdistan is experiencing a significant change in demographics---and many Kurds aren’t happy about it. The Wall Street Journal studies how the dramatic increase in Arab refugees seeking shelter in the region may “reshape Kurdistan’s very identity,” perhaps even to the point of imperiling the prospect of an independent Kurdistan.

The United Nations released figures yesterday indicating that an “absolute minimum” of almost 1,500 Iraqis---including nearly 700 civilians---were killed in June, as Iraqi security forces continue to battle ISIS. These numbers represent a 40% increase in deaths from last month.

A British woman has been charged with “inciting terrorism” for her tweets last year in support of ISIS. The case comes only weeks after another British ISIS supporter was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for her prolific pro-ISIS Twitter account. along the same lines, Europol plans to create a new unit designed to “discover and dismantle” social media accounts used by extremists for propaganda and recruitment purposes. The Times has the story.

The BBC rejected a petition from a number of members of the British Parliament requesting that the broadcasting company refer to ISIS as “Daesh,” a term favored by some enemies of ISIS. The Guardian writes that, according to the head of the BBC, using “Daesh” “would not preserve the BBC’s impartiality” but would instead give an “impression of support for the group’s opponents.”

Meanwhile, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon is urging Parliament to allow British airstrikes over Syria, says the BBC.

Al Jazeera reports on the dire situation of Syrian Druze, who are reconsidering their alliances in the midst of the conflict in Syria. Though the Druze have allied themselves with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad for the past several years, some Druze leaders are reportedly considering switching sides to ally with anti-Assad Sunni rebels in order to better ensure their survival.

The European Parliament has decided to allow a public display of photographs documenting the Assad regime’s “systematic torture and killing” of rebels detained by the Syrian government, reversing a previous decision that the photographs were too “offensive and disturbing” to showcase.

In response to yesterday’s attacks on Egyptian military checkpoints by a militant group affiliated with ISIS, Egypt has once again launched air strikes in the Sinai Peninsula. 23 extremist fighters were killed in the strikes, according to the Guardian. The AP provides a detailed report of the attacks yesterday, confirming that nearly 100 militants and many soldiers were killed in the fighting.

No surprise here: the AP also reports that the Muslim Brotherhood has called for rebellion against the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi after a raid in Cairo that killed nine Brotherhood leaders. The raid occurred just hours after the terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula and a day after President Sisi promised to strengthen Egyptian anti-terror policies, blaming the Brotherhood for the recent assassination of a top state prosecutor.

Houthi rocket fire killed 18 civilians and 13 anti-Houthi fighters yesterday afternoon in Aden, just as the United Nations declared Yemen to be in the midst of a top-level humanitarian emergency, Al Jazeera tells us. While Saudi Arabia continues to lead airstrikes against the Houthis, Reuters reports that Iran has intensified its propaganda campaign in opposition to the Kingdom’s efforts in Yemen.

Speaking of Iran: The clock continues to tick on the nuclear negotiations between six world powers and Tehran. The Post gives us the scoop on the negotiators’ “final push.” The AP writes that a confidential U.N. report, issued by International Atomic Energy Agency, indicates that Iran has acted on a “key commitment” to reduce its store of enriched uranium, a sign that some are interpreting as boding well for a possible deal. As of this morning, however, British Energy Secretary Philip Hammond stated that negotiations had not yet reached a “breakthrough moment.”

In the National Interest, Alireza Nader of RAND considers the surprisingly complicated question of who will benefit from the lifting of sanctions on Iran in the event of a nuclear deal. The Wall Street Journal suggests that one beneficiary of the deal may be a major private Iranian oil shipping company, which is in talks to sail its enormous fleet of oil tankers into “western waters” if the deal goes forward.

The Guardian pays a visit to Iran’s “macabre” memorial museum of “nuclear martyrs,” those individuals involved with the Iranian nuclear program who, the Iranian government has claimed, were assassinated by the Mossad.

Fighting broke out yesterday between Afghan and Pakistani security forces along the border shared by the two countries, leading to at least one death.

Elsewhere on the sub-continent, according to a Pakistani official, the leader of al Qaeda in Pakistan was among those killed in a raid earlier this week in Lahore. Pakistan’s Daily Times writes that the official identified the deceased al Qaeda leader only as “Abdali.”

In Bangladesh, state forces have apprehended two leaders of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), though Bangladeshi officials did not confirm where, when, or how the militants were captured. Mawlana Mainul Islam, the head of al Qaeda’s branch in Bangladesh, and his chief advisor Mawlana Zafar Amin have been detained along with ten other AQIS members.

Yesterday, two suicide bombers detonated explosives on the outskirts of the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, just as Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osibanjo arrived in the city to visit a camp for those displaced by Boko Haram’s military campaign. In Chad, security forces arrested one of Boko Haram’s leaders and have detained 74 other fighters. The Christian Science Monitor has the story.

Given the rise of Boko Haram, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that the U.S. Army’s 3rd Special Forces group is shifting its focus from Afghanistan and Iraq back to northern and western Africa. Military Times has more.

A new National Military Strategy has been released, and General Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has some strong words of advice. Defense One describes General Dempsey’s contribution to the report and notes his warning that, in a rapidly changing world, the United States is now “more likely to face prolonged campaigns than conflicts that are resolved quickly.” Point well taken: As the Air Force notes, the United States military has now seen 5,000 continuous days of war since the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

The National Military Strategy also singles out Russia and China as the biggest threats to U.S. security interests, describing a “low but growing” probability of America fighting another war with a major power. The document is available here for interested readers.

A Ukrainian intelligence document sent to the U.S. government accuses six high-ranking Russian military officers of secretly coordinating separatist forces within Ukraine. BloombergView, which obtained the document, writes that the report confirms what has been long suspected about Russia’s intimate involvement with Ukrainian separatists.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative presents us with aerial views of Beijing’s almost-completed 3,000m airstrip on the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea. The runway will be the China’s first on the disputed islands in the area and includes two helipads, up to 10 satellite communications antennas, and one possible radar tower. China’s territorial claims and aggressive actions have the region and the United States on high alert. Ships from the Phillipines and Vietnam report they have been increasingly harassed by Chinese vessels.

Back in the States, the Daily Beast’s Shane Harris continues his coverage of the OPM hack, this time bringing us news that the FBI is warning U.S. companies to beware of Chinese cyberattacks. The bureau’s warning strongly implies that the FBI, at least, believes China to be responsible for the OPM data breach.

New WikiLeaks revelations have reopened an old wound between NSA and Germany, with the latest documents published revealing that the NSA was spying on more than just German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. The Guardian tells us that the NSA targeted 69 phone numbers associated with officials in the ministries of finance, economy and agriculture. Merkel’s chief of staff has summoned U.S. Ambassador John Emerson to a meeting to discuss the latest reports. The news comes only one month after Germany’s federal prosecutor dropped an investigation into allegations of eavesdropping on one of the Chancellor’s phones, the New York Times says.

After refusing to decide last week whether GCHQ had illegally surveilled communications from Amnesty International, the British Investigatory Powers Tribunal has released a correction acknowledging that the communications belonging to the human rights organization had been illegally obtained and examined. The Guardian has the full story.

Vice examines FBI Director James Comey’s concerns over criminals’ ability to “go dark” online, using encryption that renders law enforcement officials unable to track their activity. The story suggests that encryption has proved to be only a minor problem for the bureau in the past, and there’s no reason to believe that will change.

U.S. officials informed the Washington Post that the CIA has paid more than $10 million to the consulting firm McKinsey & Co to assist in the restructuring of the organization. The agency is believed to operate on a budget that exceeds $12 billion annually. CIA Director John Brennan detailed the new blueprint of the reorganization that will include “hybrid units that combine analysts and operators in centers focused on specific regions, such as the Middle East, or security issues including weapons proliferation. The new units are modeled on the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.”

Yesterday, President Obama announced that the United States and Cuba had struck a deal to open embassies in each other’s capital and to restore diplomatic relations. Attention is shifting to Americans with property claims, who are wondering if they will be compensated for their lost equity. Cuba does not have the financial resources to reimburse Americans, and the question remains what sorts of alternatives Havana will offer to settle outstanding claims. Al Jazeera has the story.

The “Grexit” saga continues, with Greece Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis vowing to resign if his country votes ‘yes’ to the bailout plan proposed by international lenders. But according to the New York Times, many Greek citizens remain unsure of the potential consequences of their vote.

In the event that Greece leaves the Eurozone, it will retain its member status in the European Union and NATO, Foreign Policy explains. However, its economy will almost certainly continue in a downward spiral, which may affect how much Greece is willing to contribute to NATO operations, EU missions, humanitarian projects and refugee rescues.

Parting Shot: Like so many things these days, the Greek bailout is now being crowdfunded. Kind souls have donated over €1 million to the cause, but given that Greece needs €1.6 billion to reach financial solvency, the IndieGoGo page still lists funding for the project as 0% completed.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Aaron Zelin posted a statement from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’s Leader Uthman Ghazi.

Ingrid Wuerth reminded us of the 110th anniversary of Secretary of State John Hay’s death.

Ben pondered FBI Director James Comey’s concerns over the agency’s potential inability to intercept ISIS communications that have “gone dark.”

Finally, Ben announced the Lawfare Drone Smackdown… Part Deux. He put it best: “If you're a drone maker, send us a drone. If your robots are too big or too expensive to part with one blithely, bring one by... We'll sit down and talk through what it does and how. And we'll play with it.” Send in the drones!

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.

Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Staley Smith previously was a National Security Intern at the Brookings Institution. She spent the past year studying in Jordan and Israel and will graduate from Johns Hopkins University in 2016 with a major in political science.

Subscribe to Lawfare