March 27th, 2015

  • The crashing of the Germanwings Airbus has beenrevealed to be an intentional act of mass murder by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, whose deeper motivations are as yet unknown.
  • The UN approved 1000 more peacekeepers for the mission in the Central African Republic.
  • As Boko Haram retreats from the advances of coalition forces in the region, it is using hundreds as human shields.
  • Nigeria’s two main presidential candidates have signed an agreement to prevent violence ahead of the elections.
  • Chad has sentenced seven former policemen to life in prison for acts of torture they committed under the rule of former president Hissene Habre, currently in Senegal awaiting trial for war crimes.
  • Hezbollah is preparing a major offensive against the Islamic State.
  • The Nusra Front, the branch of Al Qaeda fighting in Syria, has been quietly consolidating its power while the focus remains on its rival, the Islamic State.
  • The Pentagon dropped 60,000 anti-Islamic State leaflets over Raqqa – they featured a gory illustration depicting the group putting new recruits into a meat grinder.
  • The US is in direct talks with Syria over the whereabouts of missing freelance journalist Austin Tice.
  • Amnesty International has leveled accusations of war crimes against Hamas and other armed groups during the summer’s war in Gaza, saying they showed “flagrant disregard” for civilian life. This follows a similar set of claims the organization made about Israel’s actions in the same war back in November.
  • Israel denies the reports that it spied on US closed-door negotiations with Iran.
  • Saudi Arabia has begun airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen, with Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain participating. Countries across the region are prepared to send troops as part of a ground assault.
  • The intervention came quickly on the heels of a longPolitico piece by Adam Baron warning that external involvement in Yemen by Saudi Arabia or someone else would be a truly terrible idea.
  • Yemen’s president fled on Wednesday, reappearing late on Thursday in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
  • Hayes Brown offers some background to what has happened in Yemen this week.
  • Iona Craig analyzes Yemen’s regional rivalries.
  • A power vacuum in Yemen could be to Al Qaeda’sadvantage.
  • A map of Yemen’s ongoing upheaval, from the New York Times.
  • The US began a campaign of airstrikes against Tikrit, Iraq. Shi’ite militias fighting the Islamic State for control of Tikrit are put in the awkward position of rejecting US assistance and benefiting from it. Some of the Iranian-backed militias are now boycotting the fight for Tikrit.
  • Keeping track of US weapons in Iraq is becoming more and more difficult.
  • A woman named Farkhunda, accused by an angry Kabul mob of burning the Koran, was beaten and stoned to death and her body burned. Her brutal murder has become a rallying cry for women’s rights activists, who in a historic move carried her coffin to its final resting place.
  • US troop levels will remain at 9800 in Afghanistan through the end of 2015, instead of being cut to 5500. Details of the 2016 troop levels are TBA.
  • Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s visit to the United States highlighted his extensive connections with American officials and the national security establishment.
  • Pakistani military courts have now been granted the power to try civilians accused of terrorism, a worrisome expansion of their authority following the Taliban school massacre.
  • Pakistani forces have begun an offensive for control of Tirah Valley.
  • Seymour Hersh returns to My Lai.
  • The leader of the new Thai military junta says Thailand is democratic, but also said he would “probably just execute” journalists who did not report the truth.
  • Powerful Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskiy hasresigned his post as governor of Dnipropetrovsk after a disagreement with President Poroshenko over the ownership of state oil companies. Kolomoyskiy has financed pro-Kyiv militias fighting the separatists in the east.
  • Mikhail Vanin, the Russian ambassador to Denmark,threatened the Scandinavian country’s naval forces with nuclear missiles if they joined NATO’s missile defense system.
  • Russia hosted a conference in St. Petersburg for European and American fringe right-wing groups, a move meant to reach out to potential allies. Vladimir Putin has been courting the support of such groups, including bolstering Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
  • Scholars suggest that today’s modern dictators (with specific reference to one Vladimir Putin) prefer to minimize their use of repression by force and exert their control with tools of propaganda and censorship.
  • Freelance journalist Sergei Ilchenko has been detainedfor a week and charged with extremism in the separatist Transdniester region of Moldova.
  • In Mexico, it is six months since 43 teachers college students disappeared, presumed killed by a local drug gang with police involvement.
  • Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been charged with desertion.
  • An Army National Guardsman was arrested in Illinois on suspicion of attempting to travel to Libya and join the Islamic State. His cousin was arrested on suspicion of plotting an attack on a military base.
  • A new report on the FBI’s development in dealing with terrorism after 9/11 details progress made but points out shortcomings in areas like analysis and development of informants.
  • The head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, who remains known only as Mike, will be removed from his post after an influential nine year tenure.
  • The AP reports that special forces troops deploying overseas have requested to use Palantir’s battlefield intelligence system, but have instead been pressured to use the flawed military system known as the Distributed Common Ground System.
  • At Rolling Stone, Janet Reitman asks why three kids from Chicago wanted to join the Islamic State.
  • The Intercept profiles Guantánamo prisoner Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi, imprisoned since 2002 and on hunger strike since 2013.
  • A federal judge ruled that the government must release images of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • A fascinating piece at Boston Magazine explores one FBI agent’s dogged investigation of a woman he suspected of perpetrating war crimes during the Rwandan genocide.

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