The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2017
TWO MEN HELD OVER LONDON UNDERGROUND BOMBING

The UK terror threat has been reduced from critical to severe following the arrest of a second man by police investigating the terrorist attack on a Tube train at Parsons Green in London last week.

Amber Rudd, the UK’s home secretary, said the arrest suggested the bomb attack on Friday was not a so-called lone wolf attack, “but it’s too early to reach any final conclusions on that.”

Detectives are continuing to question two men, aged 18 and 21; both are reportedly refugees who were fostered by the same British couple. The 21-year-old was named as Yahyah Farroukh, a Syrian refugee. He was arrested in Hounslow, west London over the weekend. The 18-year-old, who has not been publicly identified, was detained at Dover port on Friday and is understood to be an Iraqi orphan who moved to the UK when he was 15 after his parents died.

Police were searching addresses in Surrey and west London on Sunday, once the home of a couple who fostered the two men and who were decorated by the Queen for their public service. Investigators are probing whether the two men met each other through the foster parents, or whether they met each other abroad, either in Calais or elsewhere on the migrant route to Britain — or in the extremist heartlands of Syria and Iraq.

The rush hour bombing on Friday morning involved a crude device that failed to detonate properly but still resulted in injuries to 30 people. BBC News, Financial Times, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Telegraph

May rebukes Trump: On Friday, after President Trump tweeted without evidence that those responsible for the attack “were in the sights of Scotland Yard,” UK Prime Minister Theresa May criticized him, saying: “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.” Guardian
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TRUMP LAWYERS OVERHEARD TALKING RUSSIA INVESTIGATION STRATEGY AT D.C. RESTAURANT
President Trump’s legal team is wrestling with how much to cooperate with the special counsel looking into Russian election interference, an internal debate that led to an angry confrontation last week between two White House lawyers. Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to manage the response to the Russia investigation, was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the internal dispute during a lunchtime conversation with John Dowd, Trump’s personal lawyer, at a popular Washington steakhouse. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy,” a reference to White House counsel Don McGahn, and saying McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to.

After The Times contacted the White House about the situation, McGahn reportedly erupted at Cobb, chiding him for his lack of discretion. New York Times

Pentagon: Transgender service members able to re-enlist: Transgender members of the military will be able to re-enlist for service while President Donald Trump's directive barring transgender recruits is under review, the Pentagon has confirmed. CNN

Detainee at Guantanamo needs more spine surgery: Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, 56, a high-value detainee at Guantánamo, needs a second spinal cord surgery, this one on his neck, a medical procedure that his lawyers say will likely mean cancellation of next month’s war court hearing in al Iraqi’s case. He is accused of commanding the al Qaeda army in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. Miami Herald


U.S. SAYS RUSSIA ATTACKED SITE NEAR U.S.-LED COALITION IN SYRIA
The U.S. military said this weekend that Russian military forces on Saturday attacked a location in Syria where they knew troops from the U.S.-led coalition and allied Syrian rebels were operating. The strike injured several Syrian Democratic Forces troops but didn’t wound any members of the U.S.-led coalition. Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said such an incident wasn’t possible but didn’t elaborate. Wall Street Journal

FEARS THAT ROHINGYA CRISIS WILL RADICALIZE NEW GENERATION IN MYANMAR
There is a concern that both the relatively few Rohingya who have taken up arms and the broader population — hundreds of thousands of whom are crowded in camps in neighboring Bangladesh — will be exploited by international terrorism networks, bringing a localized struggle into the slipstream of global politics. New York Times

ISIS suicide bombing in Iraq: The U.S.-led coalition says several Islamic State suicide bombers have attacked one of its bases in northern Iraq, without causing any Iraqi or foreign casualties. The attack occurred in the area of the northern town of Hawija, one of the last pockets of IS control after the extremists were driven from Mosul earlier this year. Associated Press


FOUR AMERICAN COLLEGE STUDENTS ATTACKED WITH ACID IN FRANCE
Four American college students were attacked with acid by a woman on Sunday at a train station in Marseille in southern France, injuring at least two of them, according to the local police. The four American women, all in their early 20s, were in front of the Saint-Charles train station when a woman threw hydrochloric acid on them shortly before 11 a.m., the police said.

The assailant, a 41-year-old woman, was quickly arrested. The police prefecture said they were not treating the attack on the American women as a terrorist assault.

The suspect has “a psychiatric history,” a spokeswoman for the police prefecture in Marseille said. “For now, nothing suggests that this was a terrorist attack.”

Two of the women were burned, while the other two appeared to have escaped injury. New York Times

OUSTED PAKISTANI LEADER’S WIFE WINS ELECTION
The party of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif won a crucial election for the parliamentary seat he was forced to vacate, but the opposition party led by Imran Khan gained more votes than analysts expected.

Khan cut the winning margin of Sharif’s party by half, compared with the 2013 election, according to an election analyst. The swing is large enough to potentially make him a contender for power if repeated at the national election due next year. Wall Street Journal
Related:
New York Times: He’s on Wanted Posters in U.S. and Campaign Posters in Pakistan
Reuters: Pakistan Army Pushed Political Role for Militant-Linked Groups
 
TOP OP-EDS
How to read Mueller’s hand: “Although the scope of the special counsel’s investigation is vast, public reporting of his activities indicate the direction his investigation is taking and gives us a good sense of the types of charges that could result,” writes Renato Mariotti in Politico. “But most of the breathless speculation about what he will ultimately do is likely wrong—the result of a misunderstanding of how the law works, a misreading of the public evidence we’ve seen so far or wishful thinking by those who would either like to see the president driven from office or see everyone on his team exonerated.”

Reports of civilian casualties in the war against ISIS are vastly inflated: “U.S. officials care deeply about collateral damage and make every effort to investigate claims, which is why there has never been a more precise air campaign in the history of armed conflict,” writes Stephen Townsend in Foreign Policy.

What’s the U.S.’s best chance with North Korea? Russia. “Russia is not simply the spoiler it has often been described as in recent years,” writes Dmitri Trenin in the New York Times. “It plays its hand with Washington much more subtly than that — often adopting an adversarial pose, especially of late, but sometimes a cooperative one. And it has good reason to help with North Korea.”
EDITOR'S PICK
 
SOUFAN GROUP
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