The Soufan Group Morning Brief


MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2016

On Friday, Belgian police arrested Salah Abdeslam, a French suspect in last November’s Paris attacks, as well as four others in the Molenbeek neighborhood in Brussels after an exchange of gunfire. Abdeslam is the only suspect involved in the attacks to have been taken alive by authorities. Belgian officials said that Abdeslam was planning additional attacks while he was in hiding in Brussels. Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said that investigators “have found a lot of weapons, heavy weapons,” and “a new network around him in Brussels.” During interrogations over the weekend, Abdeslam reportedly admitted that he intended to carry out a suicide bombing as part of the attacks at the Stade de France soccer stadium last November but backed out at the last minute. Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, BBC News

CNN: The inside story of the Paris attack
Newsweek: Salah Abdeslam Was Helped More by Friends Than ISIS
New York Times: In Monthslong Hunt for Salah Abdeslam, Missed Chances and High Alerts
Slate: Captured Paris Suspect Was Preparing Terrorist Attacks in Brussels
Guardian: Salah Abdeslam lawyer plans to sue over revelations of aborted suicide plan

Pentagon officials identified the U.S. Marine killed in an ISIS-led attack on an Iraqi base in northern Iraq on Saturday. Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed by a rocket attack on the military compound near Makhmur, about 70 miles from the ISIS-held city of Mosul. The news came as the Pentagon announced the deployment of Cardin’s detachment, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, into the nearby area, as the U.S. military begins preparations for a campaign to retake Mosul from ISIS in the coming months. ABC News, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, New York Times

Washington Post: Death of U.S. Marine in Iraq highlights use of troops from Navy ships in ISIS war

ISIS in Virginia: A Northern Virginia man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS on Friday. 28-year-old Joseph Hassan Farrokh was arrested last January in Richmond just before boarding the first leg of his flight overseas. According to prosecutors, Farrokh discussed his plans to travel to Syria to join ISIS with FBI informants. Farrokh faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and lifetime probation. Washington Post, Associated Press

U.S. Military: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced on Friday that President Obama intends to nominate the nation’s first female combatant commander. The Obama administration reportedly plans to nominate Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson for commander of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). Robinson current commands the Pacific Air Forces. The Hill, Huffington Post

On Saturday, a suicide attack killed four foreign tourists, including two American citizens, on Istiklal Street in Istanbul, a popular tourist and shopping destination in the heart of the city. On Sunday, Turkish authorities identified Mehmet Ozturk, a Turkish citizen with ties to ISIS, as the primary suspect in the suicide bombings. Washington Post, New York Times

Yemen: At least 55 people, including 11 civilians, have been killed in two days of fighting in Yemen, according to government officials. The clashes came despite the arrival of UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed for meetings with Houthi rebel leaders in the capital of Sanaa to discuss renewed efforts towards peace talks with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. AFP

Somalia: Kenyan forces reportedly killed 34 al-Shabab militants in two separate operations on Saturday and Sunday near the southern towns of Afmadow and Ras Kamboni. Two Kenyan soldiers were also killed in the operations against the militant group. Reuters, AFP

Iran: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that the United States is still hostile to Iran, despite the nuclear agreement struck last year. Speaking during a televised rally to mark the beginning of the Persian New Year, Khamenei criticized the implementation of the nuclear deal, saying that “the United States is severely working not to allow the deal’s results to become beneficial for the Islamic Republic” and claimed that the United States has “threatened us through other sanctions.” Reuters, Associated Press

Greece: The Greek government and EU officials struggled to put in place the resources needed to carry out a new migrant agreement between the EU and Turkey on Sunday. Processing centers on several Greek islands do not have sufficient staff or facilities to comply with the new agreement, which plans to transfer a number of migrants back to Turkey. According to the deal, Greece must construct a new asylum system including the construction of shelter and detention facilities as well as the deployment of thousands of staff, including judges, translators, and border guards on its islands. New York Times, Wall Street Journal
Owning Up to Torture: “If I had the opportunity to speak to other interrogators and intelligence professionals, I would warn them about men like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz,” writes Eric Fair in The New York Times. “I would warn them that they’ll be told to cross lines by men who would never be asked to do it themselves, and they’ll cross those lines long before they consider anything like waterboarding.”

WikiLeaks Data Show Gitmo Prisoners Don't Squeal: "By revealing information, detainees don’t improve their own chances of getting release recommendations but they do impair the chances of the detainees they implicate,” writes Emanuel Deutschmann on Newsweek. “For detainees who are assessed to have a “high,” “medium” and “low” intelligence value, the probability of getting a release recommendation decreases as the number of incriminating statements made by others about the detainee increases.”

The costs of Obama’s Syria policy are apparent to everyone but him: “Poles, Lithuanians and French drew a line between the backdown and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” writes Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post. “As for the Sunni Arabs, Turks and Israelis, it is an article of faith that Obama’s decision accelerated the catastrophe that Syria, and much of the rest of the Middle East, has become.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Capture of Paris Attacker Salah Abdelslam

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.

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