The Soufan Group Morning Brief



On Wednesday, a federal appeals court in New York threw out a $655.5 million verdict against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The sum had been  awarded  to a group of American families of victims of terrorist attacks in Israel. The new ruling maintains that the United States lacks jurisdiction in the case. In February of last year, a federal jury found the two Palestinian political organizations liable over six attacks between 2002 and 2004 in the Jerusalem area that killed 33 people, including several Americans, and wounded more than 450. The lawsuit was brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows American citizens who are victims of terrorist attacks overseas to sue those responsible, including countries and individuals in U.S. federal court. Most other lawsuits brought by terrorism victims typically target foreign countries or banks. However, in this case the PA and PLO are not recognized by the U.S. as  sovereign entities, making the question of jurisdiction particularly challenging. New York Times, Reuters, Wall Street Journal

All 13 Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee criticized the Obama administration for the recent transfer of 15 Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United Arab Emirates, the largest single transfer under the current administration. In a letter to President Obama, the Republican members wrote, “as you continue to draw on the prisoner population at Guantanamo Bay, you are releasing increasingly dangerous terrorists who are more closely linked to Al Qaeda and attacks against the U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.” Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said that “about one third of previously released detainees have already resumed terrorist activities, and there is no reason to think this new group will be any different.” The Hill

WikiLeaks: Although American officials have said Julian Assange and WikiLeaks probably
have no direct ties to Russian intelligence services, Russia often benefits when the organization leaks state secrets, according to a report in The New York Times. The report cites the recent leak of Democratic National Committee emails as a key example of this trend. New York Times

A Danish-led team removed 500 tons of chemicals from Libya on Wednesday as part of an international operation to rid the country of chemical weapons and materials, and to keep the chemicals safe from militants. The Danish government said the chemicals were removed on Saturday from the port city of Misrata. AP, Reuters

Yemen: A Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed a Shiite imam and at least 16 members of his extended family in northern Yemen on Wednesday, according to local reports. Witnesses said missiles struck the house of Saleh Abu Zainah in the city of Saada. Reuters

Afghanistan: Two people were killed in a car bombing in front of the district governor’s office in Logar province east of Kabul early Thursday morning, according to an afghan official. AP

Syria: Turkey announced on Wednesday that it plans to clear a 50 mile stretch of ISIS-held territory along the Syrian border. A Turkish spokesman said “starting from [the city of] Jarablus, the cleansing of this region is our priority.” Reuters

Australia: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Tuesday that his country will expand its military operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria after amending its laws. Turnbull said Australia’s role in military operations against the group has been limited by domestic law, as Australian law currently only allows the targeting of people playing an active role in hostilities. Turnbull said that new legislation, if passed, would allow for operations against “a broader range” of ISIS targets. Reuters, Wall Street Journal

Malaysia: Malaysian police said on Wednesday that they had thwarted an ISIS terrorist plot against multiple sites in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on the country’s Independence Day. Police said they had arrested three individuals believed to be affiliated with ISIS. Among the targets was a popular Hindu temple and several police stations containing weapons and ammunition. TIME

Tunisia: Tunisian police killed two Islamist militants  and seized their weapons, including an explosive belt in the central province of Kasserine on Wednesday. The militants were suspected of planning a suicide attack in the region, according to the Interior Ministry. Reuters

Russia: On Wednesday, the Russian military said that its warplanes had carried out the strike in Syria that killed ISIS senior strategist and spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and as many as 40 other militants. The Pentagon dismissed Russia’s statement saying it had “no information to support Russia's claim that they also carried out a strike against Adnani.” New York Times

The Hill: Pentagon: 'No information' to support Russia's claim it struck ISIS leader

Germany: On Wednesday, German officials called on the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions against Syria for two chlorine gas attacks on civilians, despite a threat of veto from Russia. “Moscow is obviously more concerned about being seen as a friend of the criminal Assad regime than in taking joint action and sanctions against this provocative treaty violation,” said a German official of the inaction against the Assad government. Reuters
An Attack on Afghanistan’s Future: Most who died in the attack on The American University of Afghanistan were under 35. “Their adult lives had barely begun. This was not just an attack on an institution; it was an attack on the fabric of Afghan society, on a generation, on the country’s future,” writes Lael Mohib in The New York Times. “The university is a microcosm of the Afghanistan the next generation wants to live in — a place where people debate their differences instead of fight over them, where diversity is respected, and tolerance and understanding are freely expressed.”

Does Anyone in Syria Fear International Law?: “Nowhere has the supposed deterrent of eventual justice proved so visibly ineffective as in Syria. Like most countries, Syria signed the Rome Statute, which, according to U.N. rules, means that it is bound by the ‘obligation not to defeat the object and purpose of the treaty,’ ” writes Ben Taub in the New Yorker. “But, because Syria never actually ratified the document, the International Criminal Court has no independent authority to investigate or prosecute crimes that take place within Syrian territory.”

When did we stop caring about mass murder?: “More mass graves are discovered in Iraqi and Syrian territory formerly held by the mass murderers known as Islamic State, and the news no longer shocks anyone,” writes Andrew Nagorski on Reuters. “After the horrors of the Holocaust, we were supposed to live by the credo ‘Never Forget,’ a phrase meant to apply both to past mass killings and to preventing similar actions in the future, whatever the body counts. That future is now, and we are not living up to that pledge. We are not even close.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Iran Tests the U.S. in the Persian Gulf

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