Little by Little, the Bird Makes the Nest


In the news:

The U.S. announced that 560 U.S. troops would be deployed to Iraq. The majority of soldiers will be stationed at the Qayyarah Air Base to support the military operation to retake Mosul from ISIS control.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Moscow to propose the two nations form a joint group to address the violent extremist threat in Syria. The plan outlines roles in intelligence sharing for both nations, but is contingent on Moscow putting pressure on Assad to step down.

In response to the announcement of the U.S. proposal of a Joint Implementation Group to Russia, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said he is confident Russia will continue to support him, and that U.S. intervention in Syria is both illegal and counterproductive, in contrast to Russia’s support. The full NBC interview can be found here.

The U.S. signed a military aid agreement last week with the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq to support their fight against ISIS. The deal will provide the Peshmerga units with $415 million worth of military supplies, medical equipment, and food.

The Obama administration filed a brief in response to Army Capt. Nathan Michael Smith’s complaint against the administration. Smith alleges that the war on ISIS is unconstitutional because of an absence of an authorized use of military force. The response cites congressional appropriations, policy provisions, communication with Congress, and previous authorizations of military force in its defense.

On Monday, the Guantanamo parole board cleared for release “forever prisoner” Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, captured in Pakistan on accusations of planning attacks on U.S. forces there, and Abdul Latif Nasir, an alleged Taliban commander and weapons trainer. Although the board recommended that Nasir be repatriated back to Morocco, Balzuhair received no recommendation and will likely not be returned to his native war-torn Yemen.

A secret intelligence report leaked late last week shows that the number of people travelling to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria has dropped by half from last year. Although more stringent security procedures have helped to whittle down troop numbers in the conflict zones, there has been an increase in attacks by ISIS sympathizers in their native countries.

During the Bastille Day celebrations in France on Thursday, a man driving a truck plowed through a crowd gathered on a promenade to watch the firework display in Nice, France. Eighty-four people are reported dead, ten of them children, and eighty are injured. No terrorist group has taken responsibility for the attack, but President Hollande said it was of “an undeniable terrorist nature.”

In other news out of France, the French aircraft carrier the Charles De Gaulle is slated to return to the Mediterranean to support airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

The UN has expressed concern over “a climate of pervasive impunity” in eastern Ukraine. A fifty-page report released by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights uncovered evidence that both sides are committing arbitrary killings, indiscriminate attacks on residential areas, and kidnappings.

Goran Hadzic, a Yugoslav war criminal put on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia died last week of terminal brain cancer. Hadzic was put on trial for fourteen counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but his trial was suspended due to his illness.

Following the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on Tuesday, China warned of an escalation in tensions in the South China Sea. In protest, China has deployed two aircraft to the disputed region, and allegedly blocked a Filipino vessel from accessing a contested reef.

Protests arose in South Korea after it was announced that the U.S. would be stationing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System in the south of the nation. The deal has irritated China, and North Korea warned it would retaliate.

Amnesty International laments, on the second anniversary of the Israeli military assault on the Gaza Strip, that no one has been held responsible. Over 2,250 Palestinians were killed in the fifty-one-day war, two-thirds of those civilians. Amnesty, along with several other human rights organizations, urges an end to the impunity.

Dozens of people were killed and wounded because of airstrikes in the Syrian cities of Ariha and Rastan. The main museum in Aleppo has also been damaged in the recent fighting. Since the conflict began many archeological sites in Syria have also been damaged.

ISIS confirmed that one of the organization’s top military commanders is dead. Omar the Chechen was killed several months ago during a U.S. air strike in Syria. The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS likely stalled the announcement to allow time to find his successor.

Coalition forces carried out numerous airstrikes on Tuesday in both Syria and Iraq.

Russian jets reportedly bombed a refugee camp in Syria near the Jordanian border. The camp, which is home to about 350 refugee families, was struck at noon, and most of those killed were family members of a rebel group that is fighting ISIS.

Two suicide attacks by ISIS members killed twenty-seven people in Iraq last week. ISIS has reportedly been engaging in more suicide attacks to make up for its loss of territory to coalition forces.

Five years after gaining independence, South Sudan may be on the brink of war after violence broke out in the capital. Foreign governments rushed to evacuate their citizens, and the UN expressed concern for the welfare of civilians in displaced persons camps. In the three decades of conflict, it is estimated that two million have lost their lives.

Militants in Niger are suspected to be behind the destruction of a gas pipeline. Attacks by the Niger Delta Avengers have increased in recent weeks since the breakdown of a peace agreement between the militants and the government.

Around the web:

The Weird Science of Forecasting Global Crisis. Cameron Evers writes about the methodologies used by the CIA’s Political Instability Task Force in predicting the outbreak of conflict, particularly military coups.

A Plea Against the Abusive Invocation of Self-Defence as a Response to Terrorism. In a blog post for EJIL:Talk!, Olivier Corten highlights the two major scholarly trends in combating terrorism, and shares why an expansive interpretation of self-defense is undesirable.

A Response to the Government’s Brief in Capt. Smith v. Obama. Writing for Lawfare, Bruce Ackerman shares his summary analysis of the government brief’s shortcomings.

On the blog:

International Humanitarian Law: A Primer for Professionals. Register for one of our upcoming one-day workshops. Audience members will learn to recognize and understand situations where international humanitarian law is applicable. CLE credits are available! Contact us at to apply and obtain more information.

IHL Action Campaign. Follow the work of the IHL Action Campaign, and our other youth education program updates!

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