Tuesday, August 30, 2016

This is Cyber "War" Today -- Information Operations

This is Cyber "War" Today -- Information Operations

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The New York Times has a report today that is a comprehensive look at Russian disinformation campaigns.  It begins: 
With a vigorous national debate underway on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on social media, confusing public perceptions of the issue.  The claims were alarming: If Sweden, a non-NATO member, signed the deal, the alliance would stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil; NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval; NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges. They were all false, but the disinformation had begun spilling into the traditional news media, and as the defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, traveled the country to promote the pact in speeches and town hall meetings, he was repeatedly grilled about the bogus stories.
While we continue to wait for the first true destructive cyber war, we should contemplate how cyber connectivity has allowed disinformation campaigns to operate on steroids.  The megaphone of social media, the seeming credibility of internet sourcing, and the difficulty of proving falsity all combine to make this sort of operation the norm of the future.

Today's Headlines and Commentary

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Turkey has continued to move farther and farther into northern Syria, with Turkish forces no longer targeting ISIS but pushing into regions controlled by Syrian rebel forcesincluding the Kurdish YPG, Reuters reports. Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy against ISIS, stated that the United States finds Turkey’s military actions “in areas where ISIL is not located… unacceptable and a source of deep concern.” The Department of Defense also warned that “uncoordinated” actions in northern Syria could hinder the fight against ISIS and be a help to the terrorist group.
Turkish forces have increasingly clashed with the YPG as Turkey seeks to push Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates River in Syria. In Turkey’s first fatality of the offensive, a Kurdish rocket attack killed a Turkish soldier on Saturday. On Sunday, Syrian rebels backed by Turkey pushed Kurdish forces out of towns along the west bank of the Euphrates, supported by Turkish airstrikes. At least 35 civilians were killed. The Associated Press has more.
The Washington Post examines the tangle of alliances at work in northern Syria. Both the Kurds and the Syrian rebels, which are now fighting each other, are backed by the United States, and the US considers Turkey to be an important ally in the fight against ISIS. The Post suggests that Turkey’s newly aggressive posture in Syria may represent a further “widening” of the already complex Syrian conflict.
Meanwhile in Aleppo, Syrian regime airstrikes over the city’s rebel-held east killed at least 25 civilians attending a funeral on Saturday. The first airstrike hit the funeral procession while the second targeted rescue workers responding to the initial attack.
The Washington Post reports that the United States and Russia are nearing an agreement on a U.S. proposal to coordinate airstrikes against ISIS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and to stop Russian and Syrian regime bombings of civilian- and rebel-held areas. On Friday night, Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov said that, though no pact had yet been reached, they would continue working to ensure that this nascent agreement will not once again break down over mutual distrust and competing agendas between Washington and the Kremlin.
Iran has surrounded its nuclear facilities in Fordow with Russian-made S-300 missiles, according to Russian state media. Iranian state TV on Sunday aired footage of deployment of the recently delivered missile system to the nuclear site in the central Iran. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei boasted of Iran’s new defensive system, saying that“the Americans did their utmost to prevent Iran from getting it.”
The Wall Street Journal writes that Iran has arrested an unnamed man involved in negotiating the country’s nuclear deal on charges of espionage, though Iranian authorities did not reveal whom the individual was accused of spying for. Under the deal, Iran agreed to scale back its disputed nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions. While the deal is still popular, its support has faded in recent months as the expected economic gains have yet to arrive in Iran.  
A suicide bomber killed at least 54 people when he drove a car bomb into a militia compound in the city of Aden in southern Yemen. At least 67 others were wounded in the attack. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the strike. The so-called caliphate and other extremist groups have exploited the ongoing civil war in Yemen to gain a presence, attract recruits, and attack senior officials, religious figures, and compounds of the Saudi-led coalition.  
According to Saudi defense officials, a rocket fired from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen killed two girls in the Saudi Arabian border town of Najran. Both Houthi and coalition attacks have intensified following the breakdown of peace talks between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels earlier this month. Humanitarian groups and the United Nations have criticized both sides for causing unnecessary civilian deaths.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb that killed at least 15 people and injured 16 at a wedding party near the holy Shiite city of Kerbala. The bombing is the first in the Kerbala region since Iraqi forces dislodged Islamic State militants from their stronghold in Fallujah, 50 miles north of Kerbala. Reuters has more.
The Wall Street Journal tells us that Iraq has formally requested that Saudi Arabia recall its ambassador from Baghdad following his comments criticizing the Shiite militia groups working with Iraqi forces against ISIS. Iraqi officials said Saudi ambassador Thamer al-Sabhan is interfering with domestic politics. Iraq’s Shiite-majority government enjoys warm relations with Iran, the region’s primary Shiite power and a major rival for the KSA.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for Bangladesh to step up its efforts to fight extremist violence while also protecting human rights. A recent spate of militant attacks have raised concerns that the Islamic State’s footprint is growing in the South Asian nation. Two days before Kerry’s visit,police in Bangladesh killed three suspected militants in a shootout on Saturday, including the Canadian citizen considered to have been a key organizer of a deadly terrorist attack last month that claimed 20 lives. Counterterrorism officials said the Canadian man had played a key role in organizing and fundraising for Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, a local terrorist organization affiliated with the Islamic State.
NATO’s deputy secretary general Alexander Vershbow announced that Russia is increasingly staging unannounced military exercises, warning that the continuation and escalation of Russia’s snap drills will only harm Moscow’s relationship with NATO. The Russian army has held roughly a dozen unannounced exercises in the past two years.
The New York Times tells us about a Russian propaganda campaign in Sweden that sought to persuade Swedish voters to protest a proposed military partnership between Stockholm and NATO. Western security and intelligence officials have blamed their Russian counterparts for launching misinformation campaigns to distort public debates in other countries to further Moscow’s interest. Though misinformation campaigns have been a staple of Russian foreign policy, such efforts have been amplified by the growth of new technologies such as social media.  
The Washington Post reports on how European and U.S. military personnel remain committed to building an independent, professional Afghan defense force. While most NATO forces withdrew in 2014, U.S. troops remain tasked with the mission to “train, advise, and assist” their Afghan counterparts. But U.S. efforts have been hampered by endemic corruption, encouraged dependence, and the ongoing resilience of the Afghan Taliban.
The New York Times reveals that the Taliban scored a crucial victory after overrunning a border district in the Afghan province of Paktia. Local officials are concerned that the Taliban is looking to secure a foothold in the country’s southeast to help reintroduce the Pakistani-based Haqqani network into Afghanistan. The Haqqani network is rumored to enjoy close ties with Pakistan’s official intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, and some analysts view it as a vehicle to project Islamabad’s influence into its western neighbor.
Foreign Policy notes that the recent leak of data on India’s newest fleet of submarines highlights the growing naval arms race in Asia. China’s rapidly modernizing military has prompted its regional rivals to invest disproportionately in submarines that are capable of bypassing Beijing’s naval cordon, due to said China’s relatively weak anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
Japan Times reports that President Barack Obama is slated to become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Laos when he joins other global leaders for an Asian summit next week. Obama is expected to use this opportunity to underscore the United States’ pivot to the Asia-Pacific under his presidency, while Laos is looking to build closer ties with Washington as its leaders grow apprehensive about China’s rising stature.
An ISIS-inspired would-be attacker armed with an ax and a bomb intended to wreak havoc during a packed Sunday Mass celebration in Madan, Indonesia, when his bomb burst into flames instead of detonating as anticipated. The man, who was carrying items branded with the ISIS insignia, was able to wound the church’s priest with the ax before congregants subdued him until local authorities arrived. The incident marks the second Islamic State-inspired attack in Indonesia this year.
Former French president Nicholas Sarkozy—who is running for the office again—said he would amend the country’s constitution to ban full-body burqini swimsuits if he is elected. At a time when the French public is growing increasingly apprehensive about Islamic terrorism and mass immigration,Sarkozy has positioned himself as the candidate representing quintessential French values, including strong limits on religious activity in the public sphere. Reuters has more.
Brazil’s suspended president Dilma Rousseff appeared in front of the country’s Senate to defend herself against allegations she broke budget laws. Rousseff’s impeachment trial is expected to conclude with her dismissal from office this week. Interim president Michael Temer is expected to serve in a permanent capacity until the current presidential term ends in 2018.
The South Sudanese government is requesting $300 million in aid and loans from the international community to support its next budget. Juba is looking to stabilize the country in response to the civil strife that has scarred South Sudan development since the young country achieved independence in 2011.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare
Paul Salem examined the fragility of the Lebanese state and reasons it may or may not survive.
Quinta Jurecic posted an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring Dave Aitel and Matt Tait’s take on how everything you know about the Vulnerability Equities Process is wrong.
Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us onTwitter 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.
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The Early Edition: August 30, 2016 

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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.
The Pentagon has called on both Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria to “stand down immediately and take appropriate measures to de-conflict,” press secretary Peter Cook issuing a written statement yesterday. [The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel]
Defense Secretary Ash Carter called on Turkish and Kurdish forces in northern Syria to stop targeting each other and focus on fighting the Islamic State in a statement yesterday. [Al Jazeera]  Refusing to heed what was the US’s first criticism of its NATO ally since it launched its military operation in Syria, Turkey’s President vowed to press ahead until both the Islamic State and Kurdish Syrian fighters no longer posed a security threat to Turkey, reports the AP’s Suzan Fraser and Zeina Karam.
Turkey carried out 61 artillery strikes around the Syrian town of Jarablus in the space of 24 hours, hitting 20 targets, the Turkish military announced yesterday. [Hürriyet Daily News]
Syrian rebels backed by Turkey and the US pushed further toward also-US-backed Kurdish positions yesterday, Turkey warning the Kurds to “immediately” pull back east of the Euphrates River or face further assaults. [Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan]  The US should “keep its word” and “use its influence” to force the Kurds to withdraw to the east of the Euphrates, Turkey’s deputy prime minister has said. [Hürriyet Daily News]
Cooperation between Turkey and the US broke down at senior levels when Turkish ground forces launched their sudden offensive in Syria last week, officials on both sides have said, belying public statements that the episode was an example of close US-Turkish cooperation. Turkey reportedly launched the operation without advance warning, reports Adam Entous et al at the Wall Street Journal.
US-led coalition warplanes hit Islamic State targets around the Syrian town of Jarablus overnight, the Turkish military said today. [Reuters]
“Everyone is pursuing their own interests, not Syria’s,” a rebel fighter interviewed by the New York Times’ Anne Barnard has said. Rebel groups are depending on outside backers who only partly share their goals, meaning they have not united in opposition to the Islamic State and the Assad regime.
The UN has awarded contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to people closely linked to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and whose businesses are under US and EU sanctions, as part of an aid program critics have complained is increasingly at the whim of the Syrian government, a Guardianinvestigation has revealed. Nick Hopkins and Emma Beals report.
Iraqi militias are recruiting children ahead of the Mosul offensive, reports the AP, citing a report from Human Rights Watch. The children are being taken from camps for displaced civilians.
The Islamic State has buried thousands of its victims in 72 mass graves documented by the AP, report Lori Hinnant and Desmond Butler. More graves are expected to be uncovered as the Islamic State continues to retreat.
Internal administrative documents apparently from the Islamic State show the organization is under strain from financial misappropriation, embezzlement, alleged infiltration by anti-Islamic State spies, and bureaucratic infighting, reports The Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss. 
President Obama will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the G20 summit in China next week, Carol E. Lee reports at the Wall Street Journal, their first meeting since the July 15 failed coup. Obama will also meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss US-China relations, separately.
Turkish police have arrested and detained 23 staff members in raids on Kurdish-language newspaper the daily Azadiya Welat in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Roy Greenslade reports at the Guardian.
Nicolay Mladenov, the UN’s envoy to the Security Council, called for a “radical overhaul” of the way the UN deals with the “problems of Gaza” yesterday.  Mladenov accused leaders on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of threatening the prospect of a two-state solution by shying away from the steps needed to reach it, Michael Astor reports for the AP.
An Israeli soldier who shot an unarmed Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank Friday is under investigation, the Israeli military said yesterday. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner]
The hackers behind the attack on the DNC appear to have targeted prominent Washington-based think tanks last weekDefense One‘s Patrick Tucker reports. Private Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike confirmed the hackers targeted fewer than five organizations, one of which was the Center for Strategic and International Studies. [The Hill’s Joe Uchill]
The Russians are not just hackers – they’re also hacks, writes Dana Milbank at the Washington Post. In some cases, documents hacked from the DNC and  state voter-registration systems were doctored before being leaked.
The process the federal government uses to designate classified information is “fundamentally broken and in desperate need of reform,” the House Oversight Committee’s leading Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a letter released yesterday. The process is the one used to decide which of the emails that passed through Hillary Clinton’s private email server were classified, reports the Hill’s Katie Bo Williams.
The death toll in an Islamic State-claimed car bomb attack on an army training camp in Yemen’s port city of Aden yesterday has risen to 70, reports Al Jazeera.
At least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s 18-month civil war so far, the UN said today, nearly twice the estimates of officials and aid workers. [Reuters]
An arson attack on a crime lab in Belgium at around 2:00 am yesterday has potentially destroyed evidence crucial to terrorism cases, officials have said. The New York Times’ Milan Schreuer reports.
“Can ISIS attacks be stopped?” NBC News’ Mac William Bishop examines the question of whether attacks like the one in Nice, France, on July 14, when an 18-ton truck was driven at speed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, leaving 86 dead, can be prevented in future.
North Korea called a UN Security Council statement condemning its recent ballistic missile launches a “hostile act” perpetrated by the US, warning that the statement could precipitate America’s “self-destruction.” [AP’s Edith M. Lederer]
US and North Korean experts and current and former officials met secretly several times this year, emerging from the “Track 2” dialogues believing Kim Jong Un’s regime is ready to begin talks about its nuclear program again, Josh Rogin reports at the Washington Post.
Iran has deployed a highly advanced Russian-made S-300 air defense system at its underground Fordo nuclear facility, according to state television, which did not specify if the system is fully operational. [AP]  The deployment is “of concern” to the US, which has “long objected to the sale of Iran – of these kinds of capabilities,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a press briefing yesterday. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]
The Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan was hit by a suicide car bomber today, killing the attacker and wounding at least three others, officials have reported. The blast has been described as a “terrorist” act, reports Reuters.  Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev has ordered his government to strengthen anti-terrorism measures following the attack. [Reuters]
Venezuela has accused the US and its political opposition of planning a coup for Thursday, when a march to demand a recall vote against President Nicolas Maduro is planned by the government’s opponents, reports Fabiola Sanchez at the AP.
The Taliban has appointed a new military chief, Mullah Ibrahim Sadar, as it tries to gain ground in Afghanistan, reports the AP. Sadar’s appointment heralds a commitment to confrontation over peace talks.
Secretary of State John Kerry called on Bangladesh to increase efforts to combat extremist violenceduring his first trip to the country yesterday, amid growing concern over terrorism there following a series of attacks. [AP’s Matthew Lee]
China will be the “loser” if it does not recognize the ruling of an arbitration court in The Hague which denies its territorial claims in the South China Sea, the Philippine’s foreign minister said today. [Reuters]
The permanent ceasefire in Colombia took effect yesterday, reports the AP’s Joshua Goodman, the FARC commander and President Juan Manuel Santos making announcements that their fighters would cease hostilities at 12:01 am.
What is the role of US diplomacy effective in the Middle East? While US foreign policy has focused on military action for over a decade, often-overlooked diplomacy, while slow and often frustrating, is crucial, writes Peter Kenyon at NPR.
Read on Just Security »
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67 Organizations Urge Justice Dept. to Improve Data Collection ... - Common Dreams (press release)

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67 Organizations Urge Justice Dept. to Improve Data Collection ... 
Common Dreams (press release) 
67 national and local criminal justice, civil rights, human rights, faith-based, immigrants' rights, LGBTQ, and open government organizations urged the 

and more »

US urges halt to Turkish, Kurdish clashes in northern Syria

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The U.S. on Monday urged Turkish troops and Kurdish forces in northern Syria to halt their fighting, saying it hinders efforts to defeat the Islamic State group.

U.S. Tries to Stop Feuding Allies From Unraveling Syria Strategy 

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By Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States scrambled on Monday to get its feuding allies, Turkey and Kurdish YPG militia, to focus their firepower on Islamic State instead of each other after clashes that have threatened to unravel America’s war strategy in Syria.
Turkey, which has long viewed Kurdish militants as its top security threat, upended U.S. assumptions about the conflict by launching a major push last week into northern Syria that has included areas controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes experienced Kurdish YPG fighters.
In turn, Turkey has blamed a rocket attack from a YPG-controlled area for the death of one of its soldiers on Saturday. Turkey said it killed 25 Kurdish militants on Sunday.
“We’ve called on both sides to not fight with one another, to continue to focus the fight on ISIL,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a Pentagon news conference, using an acronym for Islamic State.
White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said further Turkish targeting of the SDF, which also includes Arab fighters, would undermine efforts to forge a “united front” against Islamic State.
But experts say the Turkish offensive has again exposed the vastly different, often competing objectives of America’s allies in the five-year-old conflict in Syria, where the Islamic State is only one of many actors.
It has also raised questions over whether Turkey will attempt to thwart any more major advances by the SDF, just weeks after the Pentagon hailed the group’s victory against Islamic State in the town of Manbij, about 30 km (20 miles) south of Turkey’s border.
Carter signaled no change in U.S. strategy on Monday, stressing that both the SDF and Turkey were critical allies in Syria. The Pentagon hopes U.S.-backed forces can eventually retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State.
“We do understand that they (Turkey and Kurdish fighters) have historical differences with one another but American interests are quite clear,” Carter said. “We, like they, want to combat ISIL and we are calling on them now: ‘Let’s keep our priorities clear here.'”
Experts say the best-case scenario for defusing tensions would be for Turkey to accept U.S. assurances that the YPG is withdrawing east of the Euphrates river. Turkey, which wants to stop Kurdish forces from further extending their control near its border, has demanded such a withdrawal.
Carter on Monday described the river as a natural barrier that would separate Turkey and the YPG.
“What we can do and are doing with them is to clarify where the YPG elements of the SDF are and are not,” he said, adding YPG fighters were indeed withdrawing.
In a nod to Turkey, Carter also praised Turkish military advances against Islamic State in the past week, notably its seizure of the town of Jarablus.
Blaise Misztal, director of national security at the Bipartisan Policy Center think-tank, said the United States was witnessing the consequences of a strategy that heavily depended on Kurdish fighters to defeat Islamic State, despite explicit Turkish objections.
Turkey is battling a Kurdish insurgency on its soil.
“The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy,” Misztal said.
Experts warned that it was far from clear whether Ankara would back down, given that the United States was unlikely to side with Kurdish militia over NATO ally Turkey.
Turkey is host to important U.S. and NATO military facilities. They include Incirlik Air Base, from which U.S. fighters and drones hit Islamic State in neighboring Syria, U.S. listening posts and an early warning radar for NATO’s European missile defense system.
“When it comes down to: Do we alienate the Turks, or do we alienate the Syrian Kurds, there’s no doubt who’s going to be the loser,” said Bruce Riedel, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution and a former CIA analyst.
The United States is already walking on eggshells after accusations from Turkey that Washington was too slow to condemn last month’s failed coup there.
In a sign of the sensitivities, the top U.S. military officer, General Joseph Dunford, called his Turkish counterpart on Sunday and Carter told the briefing he would see Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik next week.
President Barack Obama will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sept. 4, the White House said.
(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali, Yeganeh Torbati and Ruthy Munoz in Washington and Nick Tattersal in Istanbul; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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Top Democrat urges FBI probe of allegations Russia seeking to influence U.... - Reuters

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Top Democrat urges FBI probe of allegations Russia seeking to influence U....
"The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War," Reid said in a letter to FBI Director James Comey. "It is critical for the ...
Harry Reid asks FBI to investigate potential Russian election tamperingThe Verge
Harry Reid Cites Evidence of Russian Tampering in US Vote, and Seeks FBI InquiryNew York Times
Reid asks FBI to investigate Russian election tamperingPolitico
ABC News
all 34 news articles »

Comey: FBI takes election tampering 'very seriously' - Politico

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Comey: FBI takes election tampering 'very seriously'
One day after reports the FBI had warned states of potential hacks on their election systems, Director James Comey declined to address the bureau's investigation, simply insisting he takes the mater "very seriously." The FBI alert — sent Aug. 18, but ...
Comey: FBI Wants 'Adult Conversation' on Device EncryptionABC News
FBI head: We're taking suspected political hacks 'very seriously'The Hill
FBI wants 'adult conversation' on encryption, Comey saysWKBW-TV

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Migrant arrivals to Greek islands jump to highest in weeks - Reuters

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Migrant arrivals to Greek islands jump to highest in weeks
Migrants who will be returned to Turkey demonstrate inside the Moria registration centre on the Greek island of Lesbos, April 5, 2016. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis/File Photo. ATHENS More than 460 migrants and refugees arrived on Greek islands from ...
The Latest: Turk reaches Greece saying he's fleeing purgeFox News
Turkish Judge Seeks Asylum in Greece After Fleeing from Erdogan RegimeGreek Reporter
Turkish Judge Seeks Asylum in GreeceWall Street Journal
all 42 news articles »

China's Passive-Aggressive Diplomacy

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Beijing’s castigation of Seoul’s plans for a missile shield sends a message to smaller countries that standing up for themselves places Chinese trade at risk.

High-rise tower being built in Abu Dhabi catches fire

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Firefighters in Abu Dhabi are battling a blaze that broke out in a high-rise building under construction in the United Arab Emirates capital.

Former EU commissioner enters Estonian presidential contest

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Former prime minister and EU commissioner Siim Kallas has entered Estonia’s presidential race for the second round of voting in the Baltic country’s Parliament.
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The Latest: Turkey asks US to drop support for Syrian Kurds

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The Latest on developments in the Syrian conflict, following Ankara’s incursion into the war-torn state last week (all times local):

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Ex-Istanbul police chief, others detained in anti-coup probe

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Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency says a former police chief and several governors and journalists have been detained as part of the probe into the movement allegedly behind last month’s abortive coup.

Succession looms in Uzbekistan amid uncertainty over leader’s condition 

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The government has been silent on President Islam Karimov's health as news reports claim he has died.

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Israeli ex-spy chief says Palestinian state crucial to peace

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The former head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency says the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is crucial to Mideast peace, joining the ranks of retired security men to urge the government to seek a two-state solution.

Composition Of New Abkhaz Government Unlikely To Mollify Opposition

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Raul Khajimba, the de facto president of Georgia’s breakaway Republic of Abkhazia, made several further appointments last week to a new cabinet. But he did not include a single opposition representative, despite growing demands from across the opposition spectrum for a coalition government of national unity.

U.S. and India Agree to New Counterterrorism Plan

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(NEW DELHI) — The United States and India agreed Tuesday to boost counterterrorism cooperation by expanding intelligence sharing about known or suspected extremists and terrorist threats.
Speaking after conclusion of the second U.S.-India strategic dialogue in New Delhi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said the two countries also renewed their commitment to track down and prosecute perpetrators of several terrorist attacks on Indian soil, including the 2008 strike in Mumbai that killed 172 people and a January 2016 attack on the Pathankot Air Force base. India has blamed Pakistan-linked groups for the attacks.
Swaraj, speaking at a joint news conference with Kerry as well as U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and her Indian counterpart, said the two sides had agreed on the “urgent necessity for Pakistan to disable safe havens and terrorist networks” and “on the need to Pakistan to do more to bring the perpetrators of (the two attacks) to justice quickly.”
She said she and Kerry had had a “meeting of the minds” on cross-border extremism that India and its neighbors face from militants in Pakistan. “We both agreed that nations must not maintain double standards, such as the categorization of good and bad terrorists, nor must they act as safe havens,” she said.
Kerry said the U.S. “stands with India against all terrorism no matter where it comes from.” But, he did say he had spoken recently with Pakistani officials about “the need for Pakistan to deprive any (terrorist) group of sanctuary.” He specifically named the Haqqani network that operates in Afghanistan as well as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has been blamed for attacks in India.
“It is vital that Pakistan join with other nations in tackling this challenge, and in fairness, in recent weeks and months they have been moving more authoritatively,” Kerry said.
The counterterror cooperation will include an expansion of the exchange of screening information and expediting the processing of requests from both nations for information about potential suspects, the ministers said.
Tuesday’s talks were being held against the backdrop of rising tensions in the disputed region of Kashmir, long a flashpoint between India and rival Pakistan. They came amid some of the largest protests in Kashmir against Indian rule in recent years. At least 68 civilians have been killed and thousands injured in the Himalayan region, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotguns at rock-throwing protesters since early July.
On Monday, Indian authorities lifted a curfew imposed in most parts of India-controlled Kashmir as part of a 52-day security lockdown. But they re-imposed the curfew in the region’s main city after anti-India protests and clashes erupted in several neighborhoods.
Swaraj said India remained ready to open discussions with Pakistan but that such dialogue was difficult while India remains a target of Pakistan-based groups.
The U.S. has consistently urged dialogue between India and Pakistan on the dispute and, in a meeting with Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval, Kerry reiterated that position, according to U.S. officials.
The two countries also agreed to restart a three-way dialogue with Afghanistan over its future, and signed an agreement to combat and counter cyberattacks.
The nations also reaffirmed pledges to boost cooperation on climate change and clean energy development, including pressing ahead with the previously agreed construction of six nuclear reactors by the U.S. firm Westinghouse.

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