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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2016
ISIS SUICIDE BOMBING IN DAMASCUS KILLS AT LEAST FIFTY, THREATENS TO DERAIL PEACE TALKS
ISIS claimed responsibility for a triple suicide bombing in a government-controlled Shiite suburb south of Damascus on Sunday that killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 100 others. The attack took place near the Sayeda Zeinab shrine, a revered Shiite site that leaders have often cited in their efforts to recruit Shiite militia members from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon to fight in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Guardian, Reuters

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition leaders met for the first time with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura on Sunday to discuss their preconditions for participating in formal peace negotiations. Rebel leaders have demanded the implementation of earlier UN Security Council resolutions to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, the release of political prisoners, and a halt to the bombing of civilian areas. However, the Assad regime’s rhetoric casts doubt on whether the opposition’s participation would lead to a breakthrough in resolving the conflict. Bashar al-Jaafari, head of the Syrian government’s negotiating team, said the opposition was “not serious” about wanting peace. “We don’t know yet who will be sitting with us… we don’t deal with terrorists,” he added. The opposition and government delegations are scheduled to meet with de Mistura again today. Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Associated Press

Related:
Reuters: Kerry Urges Syrian Peace Talks to Continue Despite Attack
The Atlantic: Deadly Explosions in Syria
Vice News: Meet the Syrian Rebel Commander in the Besieged City of Madaya
Yahoo News: Saudi Arabia, Turkey Voice Support for Syrian Opposition
Lawfare: The Strange Sectarian Peace of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Guardian: Latest Islamic State Killing Video Features Blond Frenchman
SENATE INVESTIGATORS UNCOVER CIA PRACTICE OF “EYEWASHING”
Details about how the Central Intelligence Agency intentionally deceives employes have emerged as part of a five-year Senate investigation into the CIA’s interrogation program, according to a report published in the Washington Post on Sunday. The practice, known as “eyewashing,” involves sending intentionally incorrect or false information to an “outer circle” of employees in order to protect assets and mitigate risks of counterintelligence. According to officials familiar with the investigation, eyewashing was used in the lead up to an operation against alleged al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. While some officials claim that the practice is “just another form of compartmentation,” Senate investigators found no internal agency mechanisms for monitoring or managing the use of this practice. Without safeguards, critics argue that eyewashing could cause dangerous confusion and lead to widespread dissemination of false information within the intelligence community and to the White House. Washington Post

Petraeus: In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Ash Carter sided with the Army’s recommendation not to demote Gen. David Petraeus. In April of last year, the former CIA Director and retired four-star general was fined $100,000 and given two years probation by a federal court for mishandling classified information. Petraeus resigned from the CIA in 2012 after it was revealed that he had been having an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Petraeus admitted to sharing two notebooks containing classified information with Broadwell, which included information about the identities of covert officers, intelligence capabilities, and notes from National Security Council meetings. Washington Post, Reuters, The Hill

Related:
Foreign Policy: Petraeus to Escape Further Punishment

Oregon: In U.S. district court on Friday, Magistrate Stacie Beckerman denied bail to Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the leaders of the armed militia group that has occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon since early January, on the grounds that they might attempt to reoccupy federal property if released before their trial on federal conspiracy charges. Ammon maintained in court that his intention “was to preserve freedom for the people” and disputed the notion that his group had engaged in an “armed standoff” with law enforcement. The Bundys are among several suspects who have been charged with impeding U.S. officers from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats, which carries a maximum sentence of six years.

During Friday’s proceeding, Ammon also reiterated his earlier call for protesters to leave the refuge. “I must insist that everyone go home… the process is working,” he said. The four remaining protesters at the refuge continue to negotiate with the FBI to allow them leave without arrest. New York Times, Guardian, Reuters

Related:
Reuters: Family of Slain Oregon Protester Challenges FBI Account of His Death
Washington Post: Bundy Clan Leader Unrepentant Even as Oregon Protest Collapses
NY Mag: Oregon Standoff Leader Ammon Bundy Calls for Refuge Holdouts to Leave
STATE DEPARTMENT CONFIRMS CLINTON EMAILS CONTAINED TOP SECRET INFORMATION
The State Department confirmed on Friday that 22 messages stored on the private email server Hillary Clinton used during her tenure as Secretary of State had been labeled “Top Secret” and, therefore, would be withheld from release via an ongoing Freedom of Information Act review. “These documents were not marked classified at the time that they were sent,” said State Department spokesperson John Kirby. He added that President Obama had claimed executive privilege to prevent the release of an additional 18 emails he exchanged with Secretary Clinton. The FBI is currently investigating Clinton’s potential mishandling of classified information. New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press, The Hill, CNN

Related:
New York Times: Republicans Attack Hillary Clinton Over Classified Emails
Foreign Policy: State Dept. Won’t Release Clinton Emails Marked Top Secret
The Hill: Clinton: ‘I Take Classified Information Very Seriously’
UNITED STATES INCREASES AIRSTRIKES AGAINST ISIS IN AFGHANISTAN
Over the last three weeks, the Obama administration has expanded its fight against ISIS from Iraq and Syria into Afghanistan, according to an article in the New York Times on Sunday. In that period, there have been at least a dozen commando raids and airstrikes against ISIS-held targets in the country’s east. President Obama recently simplified the approval process for military action against ISIS-affiliated militants. Previously, targets had to have significant links to al Qaeda. “The new authority gives us the ability to take the gloves off to hold them in check,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in Afghanistan. American commanders estimate that 90 to 100 ISIS militants have been killed by the operations in Afghanistan so far. New York Times

Related:
Guardian: Kabul Police Station Hit by Deadly Suicide Attack, Afghanistan Says

Turkey: The Turkish Foreign Minister issued a statement on Friday alleging that a Russian fighter jet had strayed once again into Turkish territory despite repeated warnings to alter its course. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss what Ankara has characterized as Moscow’s “escalatory behavior.” In November of last year, the Turkish military shot down a Russian fighter jet that had crossed into the Turkey’s airspace, exacerbating tensions between the two countries and complicating diplomatic efforts to bring the Syrian civil war to an end after nearly five years of conflict. In response to the November incident, NATO agreed to provide Turkey with Airborne Warning and Control Systems to bolster the country’s air defenses. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian

Nigeria: Gunmen and female suicide bombers from Boko Haram, the Islamic State’s West African affiliate, carried out a series of attacks Saturday night on villages and refugee settlements near the northeastern city of Maiduguri, resulting in as many as 86 civilian deaths. In unrelenting operations last year, the Nigerian military put Boko Haram on the defensive, prompting the militant group to go after soft targets. About 20,000 people have died and another 2.5 million have been displaced from their homes during the six-year conflict. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

Related:
The Atlantic: Boko Haram Strikes Again
United Kingdom: On Friday, a British court convicted Tareena Shakil, a 26-year-old former health worker, of belonging to a banned terrorist organization and inciting others to commit terrorism. According to the British government, Shakil traveled to ISIS-held territory with her infant son in late 2014 and spent a number of months living there alongside other women who were also waiting to be married to ISIS fighters. During her two-week trial, Shakil claimed that she had traveled to Syria out of a simple desire to live under sharia law, but prosecutors countered her contention by showing jurors social-media posts in which the Briton celebrated jihad and encouraged others to fight. She will be sentenced today. Wall Street Journal, Guardian, BBC

Germany: In a meeting with regional leaders of the Christian Democratic Union on Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to assure her party that Syrian refugees would have to leave Germany as soon as the Syrian conflict is resolved. “We need… to say to people that this is a temporary residential status and we expect that, once there is peace in Syria again, once IS has been defeated in Iraq, that you go back to your home country,” Merkel said. These comments aside, the German Chancellor has rebuffed calls to cap the number of refugees and migrants that will be allowed into the country this year after 1.1 million arrived in 2015. Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Deutsche Welle

Related:
Washington Post: For Better or Worse, a Refugee Assembly Line in Germany

Saudi Arabia: U.S. officials said on Sunday that they did not believe any Americans were among 33 individuals detained on terrorism charges in Saudi Arabia last week. Reports from a local newspaper, the Saudi Gazette, had claimed that nine Americans were being held by Saudi authorities. This comes after recent ISIS-led attacks against Shiite mosques in Saudi Arabia, including an attack on Friday which killed four people. Reuters, Guardian

Europe: The Paris attacks have caused European leaders to question the logic of continuing austerity programs as the continent struggles to prevent ISIS-related terror attacks and absorb millions of refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East and North Africa, according to a report published Sunday in the New York Times. In the wake of the attacks, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s head, exempted France from continent-wide budget deficit measures so that it could divert funds to shore up its counterterrorism capabilities. Belgium, Britain, and Germany are weighing whether to join France in increasing their respective security and intelligence budgets. New York Times
The United States Should Admit It No Longer Has A Middle East Policy: “One thing is clear: The playbook we’ve been using since the 1940s isn’t going to cut it anymore,” writes Stephen Walt in Foreign Policy. “We still seem to think the Middle East can be managed if we curry favor with local autocrats, back Israel to the hilt, constantly reiterate the need for U.S. ‘leadership,’ and, when all else fails, blow some stuff up. But this approach is manifestly not working, and principles that informed U.S. policy in the past are no longer helpful.”

What’s Wrong With Stripping Terrorists of Citizenship?: “Essentially, Hollande wants the power to strip dual citizens of their French citizenship should they engage in acts of terrorism… supporters of this proposed law are interested in removing French citizenship from someone who was born with it,” writes Heather Horn in The Atlantic. “Except you can’t just revoke the citizenship of anyone who engages in terrorism, because creating stateless persons is legally problematic.”

Bernie’s Foreign Policy Deficit: “With a recent NBC poll showing that only 16 percent of Democratic primary voters call foreign policy or terrorism the most important issue to them, it may be that Sanders can afford to put off the task of building his national security profile,” writes Michael Crowley in Politico. “But it is an axiom of presidential politics… that candidates must pass the proverbial ‘commander in chief test’ if they hope to be elected.”
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For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Iran Emerges from Isolation.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, KAREN J. GREENBERG, DIRECTOR, CENTER ON NATIONAL SECURITY, FORDHAM LAW SCHOOL
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