The Soufan Group Morning Brief

FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 2016

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he plans to continue to provide military support to the Syrian government, claiming that Russian warplanes could redeploy to the country on short notice. Putin said that “Russia is capable of boosting its numbers of its presence in Syria literally in a few hours, depending on the situation, and use the full power of our capabilities.” He added that Russia will continue its fight against terrorism in Syria, as Russian forces have continued their efforts to help take back the historic city of Palmyra from ISIS control. Wall Street Journal, Reuters, New York Times, Washington Post

Huffington Post: Russia Isn’t Really Withdrawing From Syria
BBC News: Syria conflict: Kurds declare federal system
CNN: Japanese journalist missing in Syria appears in video
TIME: Putin’s Wily Syria Tactics Pay Off
Bloomberg: Putin Says Russia Made Room for Syria Talks, Forces Can Return
On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry formally declared that ISIS has committed genocide against Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims and other ethnic and religious groups in the Middle East. In a statement Kerry largely concurred with a unanimous resolution by the House of Representatives passed on Monday. The new label does not create any legal obligation for the United States to take further action against ISIS, but Kerry stressed that “we must hold the perpetrators accountable,” and added that “naming these crimes is important, but what is essential is to stop them.” Washington Post, Reuters

Terror trial: An Arizona jury found Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem guilty of charges related to his role in planning a terrorist attack against a cartoon contest depicting the prophet Muhammad in Texas last year. Kareem was convicted of conspiring to provide material support to ISIS, of making false statements to the FBI, and of illegally possessing and transporting firearms. This is the second time a jury has convicted a terror suspect in the United States related to ISIS. Kareem faces up to 45 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 27. New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal

ISIS in Rochester: New York’s Western District Court Judge Elizabeth Wolford sentenced 32-year-old Mufid Elfgeeh to to 22 and a half years in prison for attempting to recruit fighters to join ISIS in Syria. The Yemen-born pizza shop owner pleaded guilty in December to charges of attempting to provide material support to ISIS. This is the longest sentence handed out to date for an American convicted of supporting ISIS. Reuters, Associated Press

California stabbings: On Thursday, FBI investigators uncovered evidence that suggests a student at the University of California at Merced who allegedly stabbed four people in an attack last November was inspired by ISIS. A press release from RBI Sacramento said that 18-year-old Faisal Mohammad “may have self-radicalized and drawn inspiration from terrorist propaganda.” Mohammad was shot and killed by a campus police officer at the scene. ABC News, Washington Post

ISIS defector: A 26-year-old American who surrendered to Kurdish forces on Monday after defecting from ISIS spoke with news reporters about his decision to join the extremist group on Thursday. Mohamad Jamal Khweis said he was “not thinking straight” when he left the United States to join ISIS and that he could not see himself “living in such an environment.” The Justice Department is reportedly planning to file charges against Khweis. CBS News, ABC News

The Daily Beast: American ISIS Fighter Had Mystery Gal Pal

Gitmo: Two professors have put forth a proposal to turn Guantanamo Bay into a marine conservation area and international peace park in an effort to further improve relations between the United States and Cuba. James Kraska, a professor of ocean law and policy at the U.S. Naval War College, and Joe Roman, a biologist at the University of Vermont, co-wrote the proposal which was published Thursday in the journal ‘Science.’ Guardian, Christian Science Monitor

Science: Reboot Gitmo for U.S.-Cuba research diplomacy
New Yorker: Guantánamo: From Prison to Marine Conservation Peace Park?

Hassan Aboud, a successful and inspirational ISIS commander, reportedly died on Thursday of wounds sustained in a battle near Aleppo approximately two weeks ago. Aboud was notorious for allegedly organizing an assassination campaign against other more moderate rebel leaders he had fought alongside before he defected to ISIS in 2014. New York Times

Afghanistan: At least 12 American service members will not face criminal charges for their role in last October’s airstrike that destroyed a Doctors Without Borders hospital and killed 42 civilians in Afghanistan. However, the military personnel will face administrative punishments that could be career-ending for some officers, according to Pentagon officials. The Pentagon is expected to soon release a redacted copy of its comprehensive investigation of the airstrike in the coming weeks. New York Times
ABC News

Yemen: Saudi Arabia announced that it will scale back coalition military operations against Houthi rebels in Yemen on Thursday, according to a military spokesman. The Saudi-led coalition plans to leave only “small” teams of troops on the ground to “equip, train, and advise” Yemeni forces. However, the coalition plans to continue air support operations. BBC News, Guardian

Nigeria: Cameroonian soldiers killed 20 Boko Haram militants on Wednesday during an operation in northern Nigeria, about six miles from the Cameroon border. A military spokesman said forces freed 12 hostages and seized supplies and munitions, including armored vehicles. Reuters

BBC News: Cameroon sentences 89 Boko Haram fighters to death

Germany: A German court sentenced a former intelligence employee to eight years in prison on charges of treason and breach of official secrets on Thursday. The man, identified only as Markus R., was accused of selling over 200 secret documents to the CIA between 2008 and 2012. Among the documents was a file that contained the identities of thousands of German intelligence agents, including those undercover abroad. Reuters, Deutsche Welle, Associated Press

NBC News: Germany Closes Diplomatic Buildings in Turkey After 'Terror Attack' Tip-Off

France: French authorities claim to have thwarted an imminent terrorist attack on Paris, after they arrested four suspects on Wednesday. French intelligence services are questioning the suspects who are believed to be linked to ISIS. CBS News, Bloomberg
Europe Doesn’t Owe Migrants Fairness: “International law stipulates that they had a right to asylum if they had a well-founded fear of persecution, but they did not have the right to choose the place of asylum,” writes James Traub on Foreign Policy. “If Europe is to survive both as a coherent institution and as an embodiment of the liberal values of the Enlightenment, it will do so only by resisting the universalism of the left as much as the nativism of the right.”

Does Trump mean what he says about Muslims?: “Why does Trump continually gin up fear concerning Muslims? It helps him win GOP voters,” writes Dean Obeidallah on “But let's just assume that Trump believes that one in four Muslims around the world are violent jihadis, then why is it that Trump does business with so many Muslims?”

The Dangerous Allure of a Syrian Partition: “It is by no means the ideal solution: It would mean acquiescing to President Bashar al-Assad’s savagery over strident opposition objections, require still more internal displacement by way of sectarian relocation, and perhaps concede territory to the Islamic State,” writes Jonathan Stevenson in The New York Times. “Partition, or a loose confederation, might not even end the civil war and the accompanying humanitarian catastrophe. It would notionally leave intact an Assad-run statelet against which the Islamic State could continue to rally support.”

Global Dispatches: How the Islamic State Came to Libya

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: What Omar al-Shishani Leaves Behind

The Center on National Security at Fordham Law will host a full-day conference “Hindsight: Reflections on 15 years of The War On Terror” on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. To RSVP, click here.

The Center on National Security at Fordham Law is seeking an intern to start immediately and work until July 2016. To apply, click here.

Center on National Security
Fordham University School of Law
150 W. 62nd St. 7th Floor
New York, NY 10023 US
Copyright © 2016 Center on National Security, All rights reserved.