Today's Headlines and Commentary

Staley Smith, Quinta Jurecic
Wednesday, August 5, 2015, 3:03 PM

With about a week or so to go until the halfway point of the congressional review period, President Obama is intensifying his campaign to rally support for the nuclear deal with Iran. In a speech at American University today, Obama defended the international accord.

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With about a week or so to go until the halfway point of the congressional review period, President Obama is intensifying his campaign to rally support for the nuclear deal with Iran. In a speech at American University today, Obama defended the international accord. According to the New York Times, the President used "the speech to frame Congress’s choice as the most consequential foreign policy decision since the vote to go to war in Iraq," saying the deal’s opponents are the same people who supported that military conflict.

The AP notes that the backdrop for Obama's speech links the nuclear accord to a long tradition of American diplomacy, particularly with adversaries. He spoke at the same university where President John F. Kennedy made a famous call for Cold War diplomacy and nuclear disarmament.

Obama warned American Jewish leaders that it was likely Israel would be attacked if the nuclear deal was blocked and military action ensued, Reuters explains. Meanwhile, in a separate appeal to American Jews, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce opponent of the nuclear agreement, “pushed back in a webcast on Tuesday against the Obama administration's argument that the agreement was the only way to avoid eventual war with Iran.”

In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, John Kerry warned of the dangers of “screwing” Ayatollah Khamenei. A congressional rejection of the deal could “prove the Ayatollah’s suspicion, and there’s no way he’s ever coming back. He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point.” He went on to say that the nuclear deal is “as pro-Israel as it gets.”

While Americans continue to fight over the nuclear deal, EU government ministers and business leaders in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere “are racing to open up a new era of diplomatic, trade, investment and possible future military cooperation with Tehran,” the Guardian reveals.

Burgess Everett of Politico depicts Obama’s pursuit of Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as an example of how far the president is willing to go for a legacy-defining nuclear pact. Unlike most Republicans, Flake is undecided on the nuclear pact and his support would “bless the agreement with a measure of bipartisanship.”

Details are emerging about an internal split within the Taliban. Tayeb Agha, the commander of the insurgents’ official diplomatic delegation in Qatar, publicly resigned on Monday. The Times informs us that “some senior Taliban figures have accused the new leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, of keeping Mullah Omar’s death a secret for nearly two years, until its confirmation last week, in order to tighten his own grip over the movement.”

The Anadolu News Agency reports that U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan have killed at least 66 Taliban and ISIS fighters. No civilians were killed in the strikes according to Afghan officials. Yesterday, two prominent Taliban leaders were killed in another U.S. drone strike in a southern province of Afghanistan. Separately, the Afghan government claims “to have killed 88 militants across the country over the past 24 hours.”

According to a United Nations report released earlier today, civilian deaths and injuries from the Afghan conflict remain at “record high levels” during the first half of this year, causing 1,592 civilian deaths and leaving 3,329 injured between January and June. Though the Taliban is responsible for most of the deaths, the report also indicates a concerning 60% increase in deaths caused by pro-government forces.

Al Nusra Front militants have captured another five U.S.-trained Syrian rebel fighters, bringing the total member of U.S.-backed rebels kidnapped by Nusra fighters to thirteen. For those keeping track, this means that roughly a fourth of the rebels who have completed the U.S. training program (54 in total) are now in the unfriendly custody of the Nusra Front.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the U.S.-led coalition will soon begin using Turkish airfields to launch a “comprehensive battle” against ISIS. The Syrian government has demanded that the anti-ISIS efforts within Syria be coordinated with the regime in Damascus---lest the coalition forces be guilty of a breach of Syrian sovereignty.

The United Kingdom will bring charges against the radical U.K. cleric Anjem Choudary for “inviting support” for ISIS, the BBC tells us. Charges are also being brought against Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, who was arrested alongside Choudary last year on suspicion of ISIS membership.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Yemen’s Houthis may be running out of money. Though the Houthis have effectively taken over Yemen’s government in recent months, the anti-Houthi Saudi coalition has blocked Houthi forces from selling Yemen’s most important export: oil. In the absence of revenue, Houthi military successes may not be enough to keep the movement afloat.

Israel has detained a suspected Jewish extremist for unspecified “involvement in violent activities and recent terror attacks,” the Guardian writes. Mordechai Meyer is the first Israeli since 2006 to be held under administrative detention, a measure which allows an individual to be detained without trial for an extensive period of time and which the Israeli government has generally used only against Palestinian suspects. Yesterday, Israeli authorities also arrested the radical activist Meir Ettinger for his suspected involvement in the recent arson of a Palestinian house in the West Bank, though Ettinger is not being held under administrative detention.

U.K. authorities investigating the recent attack on a Tunisian beach resort have linked the attack to a shooting at a Tunisian museum in March. The museum shooting, like the attack at the resort, also largely targeted foreign tourists. The Guardian has the story.

In Egypt, younger members of the Muslim Brotherhood are unhappy with the organization’s nonviolent direction. The Times reports that, though the Brotherhood has renounced violence for over four decades, its younger cohort is becoming increasingly drawn toward violence in response to the government’s anti-Brotherhood crackdown. The story quotes one young member as writing to an older member, “What you’re describing isn’t called ‘peacefulness,’ it’s called, ‘shame and humiliation.’”

Boko Haram militants conducted a raid last night along the Nigeria-Cameroon border, killing eight people and kidnapping about 100. Reuters tells us that the village targeted in the attack was the location of a series of Boko Haram suicide bombings last month.

Deutsche Welle indicates that NATO will soon cut down on its air patrols over the Baltic states---though the remaining patrols will still be double the number that took place before the crisis in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Brian Whitmore of Radio Free Europe writes at the Atlantic that the Ukrainian peace process may be nearing a “deadlock,” with Russia increasingly unable to reach its goal of a “hyper-federalized Ukraine” and unwilling to accept anything else---that is, except a further escalation of the conflict.

Politico reports that Kosovo has agreed to participate in a war crimes tribunal over unaddressed atrocities committed during the Kosovar war with Serbia roughly two decades ago. Former members of the Kosovar Liberation Army will be tried for war crimes.

Attending a forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Secretary of State John Kerry requested that China cease its “problematic actions” in the South China Sea. Though Secretary Kerry reported a “good talk” with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the two appear to have reached no conclusion over China’s controversial island-building program. The Times writes that the ASEAN forum has been “marked by concern” over Chinese activities in the area. According to Minister Wang, however, China’s maritime building projects have already been halted.

War on the Rocks’ Robert Haddick argues that the Obama administration must soon decide whether or not to view China as an “adversary,” while Defense One notes that military-to-military relations have been increasing between the U.S. and China even as cyberattacks and tensions over the South China Sea ramp up.

The Hill tells us that Senator Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) efforts to speed the passing of a cybersecurity bill have failed in the face of Democratic opposition. Senate Democrats resoundingly rejected Senator McConnell’s offer to waive procedural requirements in moving the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) to the Senate floor. Disagreement over CISA’s privacy implications has left the legislation stalled.

Also at Defense One, Brandon Valeriano and Ryan C. Maness consider why governments tend to avoid responding to cyberattack. The U.S. Government’s lack of response to the OPM data breach, they write, may be representative of an emergent norm of state behavior.

According to the Washington Post, the FBI will examine the security setup of Hillary Clinton’s personal email account. The Bureau has become concerned that “classified or sensitive information” was present in some emails and that the server may have been vulnerable to security breaches.

The Post also has an extensive examination of the Obama administration’s foreign policy decision-making process. Complaints abound over the size and micromanagement of the more-or-less 375 member National Security Council, which is often repetitive and inefficient on key issues. The unwieldy NSC, which has expanded dramatically since the days of Jimmy Carter’s 25-member Council, has become “widely seen as the place where policy becomes immobilized by indecision.”

Parting shot: “Want to smuggle drugs into prison? Buy a drone.” That’s the headline of this Foreign Policy piece, which really says it all.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Aaron Zelin posted the Jihadology podcast. This week: an interview with Jacob Zenn about Boko Haram.

Ashley Deeks alerted us to a new piece of hers available on SSRN, considering how “checks and balances from abroad” can constrain the U.S. president in the national security arena.

Paul helpfully provided a guest post from Nicholas Weaver, who argues that the iPhone may not be quite as secure as the FBI seems to think.

Quinta considered the now-familiar implications of ISIS’s looming conflict with the Taliban on the Obama administration’s use of the 2001 AUMF to fight ISIS.

Wells let us know that the IANA Stewardship Transition Group has released its proposal to transfer the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority away from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

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.

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.
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.

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