The Soufan Group Morning Brief



CIA Director John Brennan said on Wednesday that he would resign if the next U.S. President asked him to resume waterboarding terror suspects. Brennan said “I can say that as long as I'm director of CIA, irrespective of what the president says, I’m not going to be the director of CIA that gives that order. They’ll have to find another director.” Brennan said he was personally opposed to waterboarding and that “it’ll be up to the director of CIA and others within CIA to decide whether or not that, that direction and order is something that they can carry out in good conscience.” Reuters, CBS, The Hill

Washington Post: How a modest contract for ‘applied research’ morphed into the CIA’s brutal interrogation program
The Intercept: CIA Director Says Next President Could Order Agency to Torture And It Might Comply

On Wednesday the State Department named two Russian militants to a list of “specially designated global terrorists,” for their suspected links to ISIS terror attacks. Airat Vakhitov, also known as Salman Bulgarsky, was arrested last month by Turkish authorities for his suspected connection to the recent attacks on the Istanbul Airport. Vakhitov was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001 and then held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay until being released and returned to Russia in 2004. The other man, Aslan Avgazarovich Byutukaev, also known as Amir Khamzat, is allegedly the leader of Islamic State’s local affiliate in Chechnya. Voice of America, Wall Street Journal

Combatting ISIS: The number of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria has dropped in half over the past year to around 12,000, according to a classified intelligence report obtained by NBC News. The report warns of increased attacks by the group outside of the Middle East, as ISIS encourages returned fighters and other supporters of the group to carry out attacks across the world. NBC

Cleveland city officials have ramped up plans to deal with thousands of protesters and demonstrators at next week’s Republican National Convention, including preparing jail facilities for mass arrests and the collection of intelligence on extremist groups to identify possible threats. The FBI has reportedly been investigating possible domestic or foreign terrorism threats on the convention, but has found no direct threat from any group. New York Times

The mastermind of the December 2014 attack on a Pakistani school that killed 130 children was killed in a U.S. drone strike last week, the Pentagon confirmed on Wednesday. Khalifa Omar Mansour, the leader of the TTP or Pakistani Taliban, and four other “enemy combatants” were killed on Saturday in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Washington Post

Iraq: On Wednesday, ISIS claimed that its “minister of war” Omar al-Shishani was killed in combat in the town of Shirqat, south of Mosul in Iraq. The Pentagon had previously said al-Shishani, also known as “Omar the Chechen,” died from injuries sustained in a U.S. airstrike in Syria in March. Reuters, BBC

South Sudan: A ceasefire between soldiers loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his rival Vice President Riek Machar appears to have held since it was announced on Monday evening. The United States has sent 47 additional troops to help protect the American embassy in South Sudan. Over 270 people, including 33 civilians, have been killed in the fighting which broke out last week. New York Times, Washington Post, AP

France: French President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday that France will send an aircraft carrier to assist in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. A naval battle group that includes the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier will be deployed in the fall. NBC

Iran: The House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that prohibits the United States from purchasing heavy water from Iran. Under last year’s nuclear agreement, the U.S. planned to purchase the reactor material from Iran to ensure Iran meets its obligation to reduce its supply of heavy water, which can be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. The Hill

New York Times: Iran Sticks to Terms of Nuclear Deal, but Defies the U.S. in Other Ways
Washington Post: Assessing the Iran nuclear deal one year after it was reached
Why the U.S. Military Can’t Fix Syria: “The biggest problem with the arguments for that it would lead to boots on the ground. Assuming Mr. Assad were to escalate attacks in response to the airstrikes, a virtual certainty, the option of a limited response would no longer be available,” write Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson in The New York Times. “Direct military action against the Syrian government would ignore the primary lesson of Libya: that regime change, absent the willingness and capacity to engage in subsequent stabilization operations, opens the door to extremist groups.”

It’s Time for America to Distance Itself From Saudi Actions in Yemen: “U.S. assistance to Saudi Arabia in Yemen has come about almost as a reflex. If Riyadh requests U.S. military capabilities, the U.S. agrees with barely any questions asked,” writes Daniel Depetris on Defense One. “This no-strings-attached aid, however, has merely made the situation in Yemen worse by providing the Saudis with the false sense of confidence that Washington’s unique military capacity will be available regardless of how it conducts the war.”

NATO faces up to Russian challenge: “The alliance is correctly moving forward to strengthen its eastern frontier, even as it engages Russia to reduce tension. But the credibility of NATO's diplomatic overture will be largely shaped by the alliance's enhanced forward presence,” writes Ian Brzezinski on CNN. “Whether this latest commitment is truly a steely reflection of alliance commitment to its collective defense mission will soon be readily apparent -- not least to a closely watching Moscow.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: One Year Since the Iran Nuclear Deal

Out Now: Karen Greenberg's newest book, Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, is the definitive account of how America's War on Terror sparked a decade-long assault on the rule of law, weakening our courts and our Constitution in the name of national security.


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