The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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THURSDAY, APRIL 21, 2016
SUPREME COURT RULING ALLOWS TERROR VICTIMS TO RECEIVE IRANIAN FUNDS

In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that American victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism can collect nearly $2 billion from Iran’s frozen assets. More than 1,300 relatives of terror victims, including family members of those killed in the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing in Lebanon, can now recover damages from Iran’s Central Bank that were awarded to them in a series of prior lawsuits. New York Times, BBC, Reuters

Related:
New York Times: C.I.A. to Pay Death Benefits to Relatives of Terror Victims
The Atlantic: What the Supreme Court's Ruling on Iranian Assets Means
Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court rules against Iranian bank over frozen assets

REPUBLICAN SENATOR BLOCKS TOP SANCTIONS NOMINATION
On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) blocked the confirmation of Adam Szubin as President Obama’s nominee for a key Treasury post responsible for imposing sanctions. Cotton cited concerns over the Obama administration’s plans to lift restrictions on Iranian access to U.S. currency following last year’s nuclear agreement. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) responded, saying that Republicans “need to stop holding our national security apparatus hostage to political demands.” ABC News, The Hill

Related:
New York Times: Iran Not Seeking Entry to U.S. Financial System, Envoy Says

Gitmo: The Obama administration has proposed holding parts of Guantanamo Bay trials over video conference in an effort to speed up court proceedings. The Pentagon submitted a request to Congress on April 14 asking for permission to outsource some legal decisions to secondary military judges via video in order “to improve the efficacy, efficiency, and fiscal accountability of the commission process.” Miami Herald

Customs mishap: The leader of Syria Rescue Group, a Western-backed organization that searches for bombing survivors in Syria, was denied entry into the United States while on his way to an award dinner for his organization’s work. Raed Saleh was told his visa was cancelled upon arrival at Washington’s Dulles International Airport from Istanbul. The State Department explained that “the U.S. government’s system of continual vetting means that traveler records are screened against available information in real time,” but did not provide details as to why Saleh was denied entry. Saleh claimed that “in any airport, the treatment we get as Syrians is different.” New York Times, Business Insider
 

U.S. MILITARY REPORTS BOKO HARAM AND ISIS WORKING TOGETHER
On Wednesday, U.S, military officials said that ISIS and Boko Haram have started to collaborate more closely, raising concerns about potential attacks on U.S. allies in North and Central Africa. Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc said that a weapons convoy from ISIS in Libya seized earlier this month was headed to the Lake Chad region, where Boko Haram conducts operations and attacks. New York Times, Military Times

Related:
Reuters: U.S. pledges $40 million to countries affected by Boko Haram
New York Times: Abducted Nigerian Girls Have Not Been Abandoned, U.S. Says

Syria: Russian and Syrian forces have shifted troops and artillery units from their recent operations in Palmyra back to areas in northern Syria near the city of Aleppo, raising concerns that the Assad regime will resume full-scale fighting against opposition groups, according to U.S. defense officials. The development threatens to completely collapse the U.S.-Russia-brokered ceasefire which began in February. Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

Pakistan: Seven police officers who were guarding a polio vaccination campaign were shot and killed in two separate attacks in Karachi on Wednesday. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attacks. New York Times, Wall Street Journal


United Kingdom: Over the next year, British police plan to train one million citizens on what to do in the event of a major terrorist attack. The National Association of Police Chiefs will provide training, including how to spot and report suspicious activity, to individuals working in high-risk sectors such as retail, hospitality, entertainment, and travel. Vice News

Refugee crisis: The United Nations said on Wednesday that as many as 500 people may have died after a large boat packed with refugees from the Middle East and Africa capsized in the Mediterranean Sea between Libya and Italy. If confirmed, it would be the worst accident since more than 800 people drowned last April on a similar route to Italy. New York Times, Washington Post
TOP OP-EDS
Trump’s Putin Fantasy: “It is not hard to see why Trump might choose Putin as his fantasy friend. Putin is the real world version of the person Trump pretends to be on television,” writes Timothy Snyder in The New York Review of Books. “Trump’s financial success (such as it is) has been as a New York real estate speculator, a world of private deal-making that can seem rough and tough—until you compare it to the Russia of the 1990s that ultimately produced the Putin regime.”

Saudi Arabia Is a Great American Ally: “On face value, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that Saudi Arabia is an engine of global Islamist extremism. But the fact is that Washington needs Saudi Arabia today more than ever if it is to defeat the so-called Islamic State, al Qaeda, and their global offshoots,” writes Michael Pregent on Foreign Policy. “The truth is plain: Americans are safer today because the kingdom has foiled numerous al Qaeda terrorist plots targeting the U.S. homeland.”

A key shift on shielding torture from lawsuits: “While President Obama acted quickly to dismantle the CIA’s torture program when he took office, his administration has consistently shut the courthouse doors to the victims,” writes Dror Ladin in The Boston Globe. “But a recent government filing in a lawsuit against the two psychologists who designed the torture program — and profited enormously from it — suggests that this policy may finally be changing. For the first time, the government will not try preemptively to shut down accountability for those legally responsible for torture.”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Collapse of Syria’s Ceasefire?

ANNOUNCEMENTS
The Center on National Security at Fordham Law will host a full-day conference “Hindsight: Reflections on 15 years of The War On Terror” on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The event is currently full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist please send an email here.




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