The Soufan Group Morning Brief



More than half of Americans, 52 percent, think the remaining 61 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay should either face trial or be released, according to a new survey by YouGov. The online survey of over 2,000 people was conducted shortly after last Monday’s transfer of 15 detainees to the United Arab Emirates. 20 percent of respondents said the remaining detainees should continue to be held without charge, while 28 percent were “not sure” of what to do. Of the remaining 61 detainees held at Guantanamo, 20 have been cleared for release. The Hill

Human Rights First: Opponents to Gitmo Transfers Distort the Facts

The Navy SEAL who authored a best-selling book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden agreed to pay the U.S. government at least $6.8 million in a deal to avoid prosecution for not receiving pre-publication approval. Matthew Bissonnette agreed to forfeit the money, earned through book royalties and speaking fees, for his work “No Easy Day: The Firsthand of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden,” under the pen name Mark Owen. He apologized for violating a non-disclosure agreement he had signed as a SEAL requiring him to submit any writing to the Pentagon for review before publishing. New York Times, Washington Post

Fighting ISIS: The new U.S. commander in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria said he plans to “pick up our pace of operations” to retake the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Raqqa. On Sunday, Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend took over command from Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland and said the military plans to intensify air and artillery strikes and to step up efforts to equip and train local forces in the fight against ISIS. Washington Post

ISIS in Illinois: Prosecutors are seeking a maximum 30-year sentence for a former Illinois National Guard soldier who pleaded guilty last December to two counts of conspiring to provide material support to ISIS. Prosecutors said that Hasan Edmonds, 23, deserves the maximum penalty because “betraying one’s country while in its service is a particularly grave crime.” Edmonds admitted to planning an attack on a military armory in Joliet, Illinois. AP

Navy: A Navy sailor who admitted to taking photos of classified areas on a nuclear submarine in 2009 was sentenced on Friday to one year in prison and six months of home confinement. The sentence for Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier, 29, was lighter than the more than the seven-and-a-half year sentence the Navy had recommended. Politico

On Friday, the U.S. military withdrew its personnel in Saudi Arabia who were coordinating with the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. According to U.S officials, the military also sharply reduced the number of staff elsewhere who were assisting in the “Joint Combined Planning Cell” to coordinate U.S. support for the air campaign. Saudi Arabia has recently come under sharp criticism for its targeting of civilians and hospitals in Yemen. Reuters

The Hill: Lawmakers amplify criticism of US support for Saudi bombing campaign

Iraq: Iraq executed 36 people on Sunday that had been sentenced to death over the mass killing of Iraqi soldiers in 2014. ISIS militants killed around 1,700 Shiites soldiers in the massacre in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya. New York Times, Reuters

Afghanistan: Afghan troops reportedly held off Taliban insurgents trying to take control of the northern city of Kunduz on Saturday. Residents had begun to flee the city after a nearby district, later retaken by Afghan forces, was overrun by Taliban fighters. New York Times, CNN

Somalia: Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a market in the town of Galkayo on Sunday that killed at least 20 people. Shortly after the explosion, a group of militants stormed a nearby government building and clashed in a shootout with security forces. New York Times

Libya: Libyan forces said they had seized the main mosque and a major jail in Sirte on Sunday, as they continued to push ISIS militants out of their entrenched positions in the city. Reuters

Turkey: A bomb attack on a wedding party in southeastern Turkey killed more than 50 people and wounded 69 others on Saturday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed ISIS for the suicide attack which occurred in the city of Gaziantep near the border with Syria. Erdogan claimed that a suicide bomber between 12 and 14 years old was involved in the attack. New York Times, NPR, BBC

New York Times: Syria’s Horrors Visit Turkey Again as Bomber Attacks Kurdish Wedding
The Hill: White House condemns terror attack in Turkey
VOA: Turkey's Erdogan Links Child Suicide Bomber to Wedding Massacre

Belgium: A breakthrough in the search for a key suspect in last November’s Paris attacks came after Belgian officials asked the National Security Agency for assistance, according to a report on BuzzFeed News. Belgian counterterrorism officials reportedly asked the NSA for help in tracking mobile phone records of several people linked to Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam. BuzzFeed News
The Social Terrain of Islamist Radicalization: Insights from Jordan: “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan stands on the front lines of the war against the Islamic State (IS). The country hosts thousands of US and British troops, and indeed is the logistical hub of joint Western-Saudi efforts to contain the Syrian civil war,” write Sean Yom and Katrina Sammour on Lawfare. “Most Westerners see Jordan as an oasis of stability: the government and military functioning well despite the influx of a million Syrian refugees. Yet this oasis hides a dark secret: Jordanian youth have proven extremely vulnerable to the clarion call of Salafist-jihadism, with thousands joining IS and other radical groups.”

Saudi Arabia Kills Civilians, the U.S. Looks the Other Way: “The Obama administration has in recent days insisted that it wants all sides in Yemen’s war to stop fighting. But as American tankers wait to refuel American-made fighter jets, loaded with American-made bombs destined for Yemen, the White House evidently doesn’t realize that it is waging a war,” writes Samuel Oakford in The New York Times. “The recent uptick in airstrikes and fighting across Yemen follows the collapse of United Nations-brokered peace talks that were being held in Kuwait. The possibility of a resumption of full-scale war and all the suffering that accompanies it could have been an opportunity for the Obama administration to reflect on its axiomatic support for the Saudi coalition.”

Why the Ayatollah Thinks He Won: “For all his complaints about American treachery, Mr. Khamenei and his allies recognize that the nuclear deal has produced significant benefits for their hobbled theocracy and may serve to further entrench the regime brought to power in the 1979 revolution,” writes Jay Solomon in the Wall Street Journal. “President Barack Obama defined the nuclear deal primarily as an arms-control exercise, designed to constrain Tehran’s nuclear program for at least a decade and to keep the U.S. from becoming embroiled in yet another Middle East war. But the White House and its top diplomats, including Secretary of State John Kerry, also quietly suggested that the agreement might open the door to a broader rapprochement between Tehran and Washington and empower Iran’s moderate political forces, particularly its elected president, Hassan Rouhani.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Tensions Build in Ukraine

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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