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News Roundup and Notes: July 3, 2014

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

Iraq and Syria

In a “surprise move,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has offered a general amnesty for Sunni tribesmen who have fought against the government, in an effort to reduce support for the militant organization, ISIS [Al Jazeera; CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq]. Maliki also expressed hope that lawmakers would choose their leaders at the next parliamentary session scheduled for next week.

President Obama discussed the Iraq crisis with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah yesterday, when both “reaffirmed the need for Iraq’s leaders to move expeditiously to form a new government capable of uniting all of Iraq’s diverse communities.” Writing in Politico Magazine, Sen. Dianne Feinstein also reasons that “[t]he first step in defeating [ISIS] is recognizing that [Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] is part of the problem.”

Ishaan Tharoor [Washington Post] reports on the Iraqi politicians who are being presented as possible replacements for Maliki.

The BBC (Jonathan Marcus) reports on the strong evidence that suggests Iran has supplied Iraq with fighter jets to help Baghdad counter the Sunni-led offensive.

ABC News (Alan Gathright) reports that the FBI has detained a 19-year-old woman from Colorado on suspicion of attempting to support ISIS. And the Associated Press covers how the rise of a young Chechen man within the ISIS leadership “illustrat[es] the international nature of the movement.”

Experts warn that gaining control of rivers and dams has become a tactical move for ISIS, and could determine the outcome of the conflict [The Guardian’s John Vidal].

Meanwhile, in Syria, Reuters reports that fighters from al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front have retreated from two towns in eastern Syria, allowing ISIS to take control of most of the border province of Deir al-Zor.

Surveillance, privacy, & technology

ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero has said that journalist Glenn Greenwald is set to publish new information about NSA surveillance, which will reveal spying on Muslim Americans [The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf].

Seven international Internet service providers have filed claims against UK’s GCHQ, alleging that the spy agency uses malware to intercept their networks [The Guardian’s Owen Bowcott].

Pakistan’s Foreign Office has condemned the NSA’s reported surveillance of the Pakistan People’s Party, calling it a violation of international law [Dawn’s Mateen Haider].

The Wall Street Journal (Dion Nissenbaum) reports that the DHS has awarded a $190 million contract to U.S. Investigations Services, the company accused of widespread fraud while carrying out background checks on millions of people for the government, including former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Ukraine

The BBC reports that the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France have agreed on steps aimed at ending hostilities in eastern Ukraine and achieving a bilateral ceasefire.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has nominated a new defence minister and appointed a new armed forces chief, in a move described as a “shake up” of the military currently engaged with Russian separatists in the east of the country [Reuters’ Natalia Zinets].

Iran

Laura Rozen [Al-Monitor] reports on the “air of uncertainty and mutual resolve” surrounding the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries in Vienna. Sources say that the two sides remain divided over the size of Iran’s enrichment program in a possible final deal.

The New York Times (David E. Sanger) covers how key negotiators—Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif—have engaged in public finger pointing in the build-up to the latest round of negotiations.

Israel-Palestine

The Washington Post editorial board calls on the administration to use its influence to help ease the escalating tension between Israel and Palestine. On the other hand, Sen. Rand Paul, in an op-ed in the National Review, calls on the U.S. to end aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Haaretz covers the latest developments in the region, where Palestinian militants and the Israel Air Force have traded airstrikes overnight along the Gaza Strip.

Other developments

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he has directed the Transportation Security Administration “to implement enhanced security measures in the coming days at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States.” U.S. officials said that the measures are in response to intelligence reports of an increased threat from Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt].

Siobhan Gorman [Wall Street Journal] provides a behind-the-scenes account of the clash between CIA Director John Brennan and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the committee’s report on the agency’s post-9/11 interrogation program.

In a Reuters exclusive, Phil Stewart reports that the U.S. has maintained a secret military presence of up to 120 troops in Somalia since around 2007. According to officials, the U.S. plans to expand its military assistance to help Somalia counter threats from extremist group al Shabaab.

As expected, a federal judge ruled that Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the suspected ringleader of the 2012 Benghazi attack, must remain in detention pending his terrorism trial [Politico’s Josh Gerstein].

The New York Times (Somini Sengupta) reports that the United Nations has utilized unarmed drones to assist in peacekeeping missions in Africa, although it insists upon calling the drones “unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles” due to the negative connotations associated with armed drones.

A growing number of Pakistani refugees have fled to Afghanistan as a result of Pakistan’s military offensive in the North Waziristan region targeting the Taliban and other militants [The Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff]. The Wall Street Journal (Saeed Shah) reports on the experience of refugees who have fled to Bannu, Pakistan from North Waziristan, who have described their nightmare encounters with the Taliban.

Libya’s acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has declared the country’s oil crisis over after reaching a deal with a rebel leader controlling oil ports [Al Jazeera].

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that his country intends to lift some of its current sanctions on North Korea, following negotiations over the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea [CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki and Jethro Mullen]. Meanwhile, North Korea has vowed to keep testing its missiles, despite criticism from the U.S. and other countries [Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Cheng].

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About the Author

is Associate Editor at Just Security. Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).