The Soufan Group Morning Brief



43-year-old Hassan Guleed, a Somali national, testified before the war court at Guantanamo Bay on Thursday to support claims by one of the defendants in the 9/11 attacks case that electronic devices were hidden inside his cell to torment him with noises and vibrations. Guleed told the judge that he was subject to “mental torture” while held captive in Guantanamo’s Camp 7, the most secretive area of the military prison. Guleed claimed that he was subject to intentional vibrations, noises, and smells while detained in his cell. Reuters, AP, Miami Herald

Lawyers in the case of the five 9/11 suspects postponed the testimony of Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee reportedly waterboarded by the CIA under its post 9/11 interrogation program, until at least July. Abu Zubaydah has not been seen in public since his capture by the CIA in 2002. Miami Herald

The State Department released its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism 2015” on Thursday. It found that the world experienced a 13 percent decline in terrorist attacks and a 14 percent drop in resulting fatalities in 2015 from the year before. It is the first time since 2012 that there has been a decline in these numbers. The report also identified Iran as the top state sponsor of terrorism and labeled ISIS “the greatest threat globally.” CNN, ABC, BBC

The Atlantic: The World’s Most Prolific Terrorists: The Taliban
Associated Press: US: Global Terror Attacks Dip; Iran Still Main State Sponsor
LA Times: Terrorist attacks show biggest decline in a decade; but let's wait before celebrating

Gitmo: Mohamedou Slahi, the author of the bestselling memoir Guantánamo Diary, appeared before the Periodic Review Board at Guantanamo Bay on Thursday. One of Slahi’s lawyers, Theresa Duncan, told the board that “despite all the US government has done to him, Mohamedou has made clear that he holds no grudge against anyone at Guantánamo.” Slahi was allegedly tortured during interrogations at the military prison. Guardian, Wall Street Journal, New York Times

Minnesota ISIS trial: After 17 days of testimony, a jury entered deliberations in the case of three young Somali-Americans who allegedly attempted to leave the country to join ISIS. Research from the Center on National Security at Fordham Law found that the number of people indicted for attempting to travel or assist others in leaving the country to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria has declined since February. BBC

NYPD counterterrorism: Belgium’s interior minister met with NYPD officials and counterterrorism specialists on Thursday. Jan Jambon, who has been criticized for the intelligence lapses that led up to the Brussels bombings more than two months ago, expressed admiration for the department’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, technology, and bomb-sniffing dogs within its counterterrorism unit. New York Times

The Iraqi military operation to retake the ISIS-held city of Fallujah began to stall on Thursday, as Iraqi forces met stiff resistance from ISIS fighters. ISIS has controlled the city for over two years and has built an extensive network of tunnels and fortifications inside the city. Airstrikes have also been limited, as over 50,000 civilians, including an estimated 20,000 children, remain trapped inside the city. CBS

Wall Street Journal: The Militia Commander Beating Back ISIS in Iraq Makes the U.S. Nervous

Yemen: Yemeni security forces foiled an attack by Al Qaeda militants on the local administrative headquarters in the city of Mukalla on Thursday. Security forces found a car full of explosives after receiving intelligence about an imminent attack. Reuters

Germany: German police arrested three Syrian men who were allegedly planning a terror attack in Dusseldorf on behalf of ISIS. The terrorist cell reportedly included an experienced bomb maker and was planning an attack on Dusseldorf’s old town using suicide vests and guns. CNN

Belgium: A top Belgian official told reporters that as many as 100 returned ISIS fighters may be planning terror attacks in Belgium. While meeting with NYPD counterterrorism officials in New York, Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon said that he does not “have precise information about a current attack.” NBC
What kind of commander in chief would Hillary Clinton be?: “Clinton, unlike Trump, has an extensive foreign policy record to examine based on her four-year tenure as secretary of state, which can help us understand how she might operate as commander in chief,” writes Peter Bergen on “It is this record as both hawk and dove that suggests some of the contours of what a Clinton foreign policy would look like. Yet what is also very clear from her record is that Hillary Clinton is now and presumably would continue to be as president a hawk who is also willing to negotiate.”

With Washington looking the other way, Iran fills a void in Iraq: “If there is one regional player that gained the most from America’s gamble in Iraq, it is Iran,” writes Mohamad Bazzi on Reuters. “Today, the Iranian regime is comfortable taking a lead role in shaping the military operations of its Iraqi allies. There is no one to restrain Tehran, and the rise of Islamic State, which views Shi’ites as apostates, threatens the interests of Iran and all Iraqi Shi’ite factions.”

The Islamic State feeds off Western Islamophobia: “Skeptical analysts argue that many current messaging strategies against the Islamic State are backfiring — and that polarizing politicians such as Trump have amplified the jihadists’ impact and been their best recruiting tool. Islamophobia helps the jihadists by fueling their narrative about embattled Muslims,” writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. “It creates a sense of wounded community — a shared identity of having been wronged, which prompts violent revenge.”

Spycast: The Commander: An Interview with Gen. David Petraeus

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Geopolitics of Oil

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