Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Sitrep - Feb 24, 2016

A truck bomb targeting a barracks in the Turkish capital of Ankara killed 28 people February 18. Turkish officials immediately blamed Kurdish militants, and two Kurdish groups eventually issued competing claims of responsibility. Meanwhile, Turkish artillery continues to target Kurdish positions in northern Syria.

The explosions are part of a long internecine conflict between Turkey and Kurdish separatists, exacerbated by the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars. Turkey’s strategy is to avoid conflict with Damascus and the Islamic State, preferring to prosecute its fight with the Kurds first. However, Turkish grand strategy suggests its reticent engagement with the region’s conflicts could be changing.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron finalised a deal with Brussels over the relationship between Britain and the supranational bloc. Among other new provisions, the British business community will be better protected from many new laws in the EU. Eurosceptic forces in the UK say the deal is insufficient, while Mr Cameron is selling the deal as helping the UK in new ways.

The UK will conduct a referendum in June on remaining inside the EU. Supporters of both sides are organising their arguments and this new deal will provide fodder for both. However the relevance of the EU as an institution is diminishing for the UK and much of Europe, so it is unclear what impact an “out” vote will have on the overall British economy should it transpire.

NSA systems administrator Edward Snowden told media he was willing to return to the US for a “fair trial with a jury” to face accusations he committed treason by releasing classified intelligence documents in 2013. No official response from the US Justice Department has been offered.

The privacy debate reinvigorated recently reignited in a spat between Apple and the FBI over the latter’s access to iPhones. The FBI wants data held on a terrorist’s device, but Apple is pushing back claiming the request amounts to a “backdoor” for all phones. Both sides are concerned about the rise in encryption and weakening of law enforcement in the wake of Mr Snowden’s disclosures.

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