The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2016
OBAMA STANDS BY HIS COUNTERTERRORISM STRATEGY

President Obama defended his targeted, pragmatic strategy in fighting terrorism on Monday in an exclusive interview with Peter Bergen. President Obama said that he expects the next president will likely follow his lead on counterterrorism, saying “the kinds of Special Forces and intelligence-gathering that we saw in the bin Laden raid is going to be, more often than not, the tool of choice for a president in dealing with that kind of threat.” Obama added that large scale interventions in the War on Terror are “counterproductive” and “feed the kinds of ideology that we're fighting.” CNN

Related:
The Atlantic: Five Years After bin Laden's Death, al-Qaeda Lives On
PBS Newshour: How al-Qaida has changed since bin Laden’s death
Wall Street Journal: Five Years After Osama Bin Laden’s Death, al Qaeda Remains a Threat
BBC News: Does Bin Laden's death leave a lasting legacy?
 

FEDERAL JUDGE DISMISSES TWITTER REQUEST TO RELEASE SURVEILLANCE STATISTICS
A federal judge in California dismissed Twitter’s effort to publish the number of orders it receives from the government to provide its customers’ information to authorities. U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Rogers ruled that the details Twitter seeks to release are classified. However, Twitter may re-file the case, claiming that the statistics were not “properly classified.”` The Hill, Politico

Florida bomb plot: 40-year old James Medina was charged on Monday with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction at a synagogue in Aventura, Florida. Medina, a Muslim convert who also goes by the name James Muhammad, was arrested last Friday when he tried to detonate a fake explosive device as part of an FBI undercover operation. There was no evidence that Medina was directed by a terror group to carry out the attack. According to authorities, Medina wanted to leave behind a “clue” to “make it look like” ISIS or al-Shabab were responsible. Miami Herald, Reuters, Associated Press

Airport security: TSA officials expect airport security lines to become even longer, as the agency faces insufficient staffing levels to handle an expected increase in travelers this summer. Officials said the main reason for the longer lines was an increase in passenger traffic. The TSA is also facing tighter budgets and new checkpoint procedures to address widespread safety lapses identified by the Homeland Security inspector general. New York Times


KERRY ATTEMPTS TO SALVAGE CEASEFIRE IN SYRIA TO PROTECT ALEPPO
Secretary of State John Kerry said he is working with Russia to delineate “safe zones” for opposition fighters and negotiate an extension of a truce over the embattled northern city of Aleppo, on Monday. At least 250 civilians have been killed in Aleppo over the past week. The Syrian government has been accused of intentionally bombing civilian targets, including hospitals and first responders, in airstrikes during the week. New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters

Also, Norway will send approximately 60 troops to Jordan, including special forces, to train, advise, and provide operations support to Syrian fighters battling ISIS. Norway previously deployed 120 forces to Iraq to assist and train Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS. Reuters

Related:
New York Times: Wartime Damascus Preserves Tenuous Air of Normalcy Amid Syria’s Ruin

Turkey: Turkish authorities prevented 85 “major incidents” of terrorism since January, according to government officials on Monday. Of the 85 thwarted attacks, 45 reportedly involved live bombs. The announcement comes a day after a suicide bomber killed two police officers and wounded at least 22 in the city of Gaziantep. Reuters

Afghanistan: On Monday, Afghan security forces began an operation to defend a critical highway through Oruzgan Province from Taliban attacks. Tirin Kot, the capital of Oruzgan Province, has been cut off from surrounding districts, as the Taliban have laid siege to the city over the last week. New York Times


United Kingdom: The UK government has begun a secret propaganda campaign to prevent young British Muslims from joining extremist groups, according to a report in the Guardian. The Research, Information and Communications Unit (Ricu) has developed a program aimed at “attitudinal and behavioural change” as part of counter-radicalization efforts. Guardian, The Independent

Canada: The Canadian government plans to sign a UN anti-torture agreement over ten years after it was first passed by the UN. The UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture calls for the establishment of systems for inspecting detention centers where torture may take place. The UN protocol currently has 81 parties and 75 signatories, not including the United States, which is party to the larger convention but not the optional protocol. Huffington Post

Eastern Europe: NATO is considering rotating four battalions of troops through Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland in an effort to deter Russian aggression. There are increasing concerns that Russia may target the Baltic states after having annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Reuters
TOP OP-EDS
The Giant Al Qaeda Defeat That No One’s Talking About: “The United Arab Emirates, under the banner of a Saudi-led coalition, late last month delivered a major blow to the most lethal Al Qaeda group on the planet—Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the primary Islamic extremist group operating in Yemen,” writes Michael Morell on Politico. “The implications of the Emirati operation are significant. It is the kind of military capability and willingness to act against terrorists that should become a model for other countries in the region.”

Turbulent Politics in Baghdad: “Depending on his next moves, Mr. Sadr could either deepen the country’s political polarization or advance Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s fledgling efforts to form a functional government,” writes The Editorial Board of The New York Times. “The latter possibility, admittedly very slight, is the only one that would give Iraq a fighting chance of recapturing territory from the Islamic State and confronting an economic crisis brought about by the low price of oil.”

How the Paris Attacks Changed Us: “In the aftermath, Paris is a different place. “Changed” may be too strong a word, but the optic on our world has shifted. In a city usually swarming with tourists, many thousands of visitors have stayed away,” writes Vivienne Walt in TIME. “Soldiers patrol the streets, rifles in hand. We instinctively open our bags before entering department stores, and spread our arms for magnetic wand searches. Inside, we take furtive glances around.”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Iran’s Election Strengthens Moderates


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