The Soufan Group Morning Brief


U.S. Special Operations forces reportedly captured a suspected ISIS operative in Iraq on Tuesday, raising questions as to how the United States will deal with detainees in the fight against ISIS. Defense officials told reporters that the suspect was being interrogated in a temporary detention facility in the city of Erbil in northern Iraq. They added that the United States does not intend to hold the suspect indefinitely and that he will be handed over Iraqi or Kurdish authorities after being interrogated, but mentioned that the questioning could take weeks or months. Officials said there are no plans to establish a long-term American detention facility to hold ISIS fighters in Iraq and ruled out sending any to Guantanamo Bay. New York Times, CNN

Buzzfeed News: U.S. Special Forces Capture “Significant” ISIS Operative In Iraq
The Daily Beast: ISIS Eats Its Own, Torturing and Executing Dutch Jihadists. Or Did It?
Frontline: The Number of Children Dying for ISIS is Rising
Associated Press: IS suicide bombers hit Iraqi military compound, killing 8
FBI Director James Comey acknowledged that the FBI squandered a chance to obtain data from the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook because it had ordered Farook’s online iCloud password to be reset, causing the iPhone to become locked and preventing it from backing up to the online storage platform. Speaking in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Comey admitted “there was a mistake made in the 24 hours after the attack...that made it impossible later to cause the phone to back up to the iCloud.” However, he added that “there was no way we would have gotten everything off the phone from a backup.” New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Reuters

Reuters: New York ruling on Apple phone does not affect San Bernardino case: White House
Lawfare: Questions for Apple
Just Security: A Readers’ Guide to the Apple All Writs Act Cases
Wall Street Journal: Apple Encryption Fight Pushes Magistrate Judges Into New Legal Frontier
Guardian: Congress tells FBI that forcing Apple to unlock iPhones is 'a fool's errand'
Slate: The FBI Says It Asked the NSA to Hack the San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone. The NSA Couldn’t Do It.

Background checks: The Pentagon plans to hire private contractors to create an over $600 million computer system for a new agency to deal with background investigations. The Obama administration announced last month that it intends to create a National Background Investigations Bureau to replace OPM’s Federal Investigative Services, which was subject to a massive breach of personal data last year. Large federal defense contractors such as General Dynamics, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman are expected to bid on the contract. Reuters

Countering Violent Extremism: Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with city leaders from around the world on Tuesday to discuss how to counter violent extremism in local communities. Kerry met at the State Department in Washington with leaders from the Strong Cities Network, an initiative launched last September at the UN which seeks to empower community leaders from over 35 cities around the world to prevent young people from joining extremist organizations. The first Strong Cities Network global summit will take place in Turkey in May. ABC News

Donald Trump won eight of the eleven Republican primary contests on Super Tuesday, securing his lead in the Republican party presidential nomination. Ted Cruz won his home state of Texas, the largest state voting on Tuesday, as well as Oklahoma and Alaska. Marco Rubio won only Minnesota. On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton beat out Bernie Sanders in much of the South, winning the key states of Texas and Virginia by comfortable margins with over 60 percent of the vote. Bernie Sanders won four of the eleven states including Colorado, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and his home state, Vermont. The closest race of the night was in Massachusetts, where Hillary Clinton won by just over 1 percent of the vote. Clinton won the state easily against Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary, but faced a tough fight against Sanders in the key Super Tuesday state. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

Politico: Trump's Super Tuesday win sets off GOP alarm bells
TomDispatch: Andrew Bacevich, Donald Trump and the Remaking of America
Defense One: Where the 2016 Candidates Stand on National Security

Jordanian security forces reportedly killed several Islamist militants near the border with Syria on Tuesday. One police officer was also shot and killed in the operations which took place in the city of Irbid. Jordanian officials said that riot police and special forces targeted “fugitive outlaws” in the operations, but did not confirm if they were linked to ISIS. More than 20 suspected militants were reportedly arrested in the operation. Reuters, Associated Press

Syria: The next round of Syria peace talks has been delayed until March 9, according to UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. Mistura said on Tuesday that the delay from March 7 was needed to allow “adequate time to address logistical and practical matters.” Wall Street Journal

NPR: 5 Years On, Syria's Moderate Rebels Are Exhausted And Sidelined
Reuters: U.S. says no reports of significant Syria truce breaches in past 24 hours
Washington Post: Mapped: Russian airstrikes in Syria post-cease-fire
The Daily Beast: In the Syrian Ceasefire Shell Game, the Good Guys May Be Bad Guys

Pakistan: Two Pakistani employees of the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar were killed by a roadside bomb on Tuesday. Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a Pakistani spokesperson. The employees were members of a U.S.-sponsored anti-narcotics team that had been evaluating poppy eradication efforts in the region. New York Times, Reuters

Somalia: A roadside bomb claimed by al-Shabaab killed at least five soldiers and injured eight others outside Mogadishu on Tuesday. The attack reportedly targeted Somali and African Union security forces. This comes just two days after a twin bomb attack also claimed by al-Shabaab killed 30 people in southern Somalia. Reuters

Osama bin Laden: According to documents released by U.S. intelligence officials on Tuesday, Osama bin Laden had denounced many of the tactics currently used by ISIS. In his final years he warned against proclaiming an Islamic “caliphate” prematurely, seizing territory that would be difficult to hold, and “publishing pictures of prisoners after they were beheaded.” The documents highlight the dispute and eventual split between ISIS and Al Qaeda. Washington Post, Reuters

New York Times: Osama bin Laden Feared Wife’s Tooth Held a Tracking Device
NPR: CIA Releases New Documents Seized In 2011 Bin Laden Raid
Wall Street Journal: Bin Laden Felt Influence Wane in His Last Years

United Kingdom: The U.K. government introduced revised proposals intended to overhaul the country’s surveillance powers on Tuesday. The revised Investigatory Powers Bill includes provisions to reduce the time allotted for the review of urgent warrant applications and allows for potential monitoring of Internet usage. U.K. officials expect Parliament to debate the proposals later in March and to take a vote before summer recess. Wall Street Journal, Reuters, BBC News

ICC: Prosecutors in The Hague laid out their case against Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a Malian man accused of destroying historic Muslim shrines in Timbuktu on Tuesday. The case is the first International Criminal Court case involving Islamic extremism. New York Times

Iran: The success of President Hassan Rouhani’s allies in Friday’s Iranian elections is a potential setback for hardliners in the country’s conservative Islamic establishment. Although the final election results have yet to be released, moderate candidates reportedly won all 30 parliamentary seats in Tehran. Moderates also reportedly won approximately two-thirds of the seats on the Assembly of Experts which is tasked with choosing Supreme Leader Khamenei’s successor after his death. However, gains by moderates and reformers outside of the capital were modest, with conservatives holding many parliamentary seats. New York Times, Reuters, Washington Post

Vox: 4 reasons Iran's election is a bigger deal than you think
Guardian: Iran’s elections have given moderates a boost – but not a free hand
Washington Post: Iranians took part in an election. Guess what: Their votes mattered.
Huffington Post: Why the Iranian Elections Are a Turning Point
End Times for the Caliphate?: “The war in Syria and Iraq has produced two new de facto states in the last five years and enabled a third quasi-state greatly to expand its territory and power,” writes Patrick Cockburn in the London Review of Books. “One is the Islamic State...the second is Rojava, as the Syrian Kurds call the area they gained control of when the Syrian army largely withdrew in 2012.”

Don’t Fall for Obama’s $3 Billion Arms Buildup at Russia’s Door: “While there is no ignoring the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, to interpret these events as some kind of Russian “resurgence” is to grossly inflate the danger Russia poses to NATO and the United States,” write Lawrence Korb and Eric Goepe on Defense One. “While Russia suffered little for its war against Georgia, the annexation of Crimea proved to be an incredibly damaging move.”

Why we must close Guantanamo now: “The president should be commended for reviving the issue of Guantanamo, which has loomed over his presidency since he vowed to shut it down during his first week in office,” writes Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Washington Post. “But it’s also important to recognize, as CCR and other civil liberties and human rights groups remind us, that the protracted battle over Guantanamo’s fate has always been about more than the prison itself. It’s also about the use of torture.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Cessation of Hostilities in Syria

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