Iraqi forces and militias are continuing their largest offensive to date against the so-called Islamic State as they seek to retake the city of Tikrit. Iranian advisers and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are playing a key role in the campaign for the Sunni city, with reports of Iranian troops even operating artillery in the area. U.S. officials, meanwhile, have expressed surprise over the Tikrit operation, and the Pentagon has said it is not providing air support because it was not asked.
In Syria, a key U.S.-backed rebel group has collapsed after a series of defeats by an al-Qaeda affiliate. Harakat Hazm, favored by the United States as a moderate group and armed with U.S. anti-tank missiles, has now allied itself with the Islamist Shamiah Front.
The British group CAGE has posted audio of the Islamic State militant known as "Jihadi John" recounting an interrogation by a British agent in 2009. In the recording, Mohammed Emwazi describes how he condemned 9/11 and the deadly July 7, 2005, attacks on the London subway.
Mohammed Emwazi: "I looked at him face to face now, and then he looked at me, and he said, 'Mohammed?' I said, 'Yes?' He goes, 'What do you think of 7/7?' I said, 'Man, innocent people have died, man. What do you think? I think this is extremism.' He said, 'OK, what do you think of the war in Afghanistan?' I said, 'What do I think? You know, we see the news. Innocent people are getting killed.' Then he started telling me, 'What do you think of 9/11?' I told him, 'This is a wrong thing. What happened was wrong. You know, what do you want me to say? If I had the opportunity for those lives to come back, then I would make those lives come back. I think what happened is wrong.'"
Emwazi said the MI5 agent tried to put words in his mouth and warned him, "We’re going to keep a close eye on you." Cage has said constant harassment and travel bans by Britain prevented Emwazi from leading a normal life.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu testifies before Congress today in a bid to stop a nuclear deal with Iran. His visit comes as Iran, the United States and other world powers have resumed nuclear talks ahead of a March 31 deadline. Speaking before the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC Monday, Netanyahu gave a preview of today’s address.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "I plan to speak about an Iranian regime that is threatening to destroy Israel, that’s devouring country after country in the Middle East, that’s exporting terror throughout the world, and that is developing, as we speak, the capacity to make nuclear weapons—lots of them."
Classified diplomatic cables published by Al Jazeera have recently shown Netanyahu’s dire warnings about Iran are out of step with his own spy agency, the Israeli Mossad. Dozens of Democrats are expected to boycott Netanyahu’s address, which was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House.
President Obama has called on Iran to freeze sensitive nuclear activity for at least a decade as part of a nuclear deal. Speaking to Reuters, Obama also defended his relationship with Israel.
President Obama: "Under my administration, billions of dollars have gone to support Israel’s security, including the Iron Dome program that has protected them from missiles firing along their borders. The military and intelligence cooperation is unprecedented. That’s not our estimation; that’s the estimation of the Netanyahu government. And that bond is unbreakable."
Presumed Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has come under scrutiny for her exclusively using a private email address to conduct official business as secretary of state. The New York Times reports Clinton did not have a government email address during her tenure as secretary of state, and her aides failed to preserve her emails on government servers in a possible violation of federal law. Clinton’s advisers recently selected 55,000 pages of emails to provide to the State Department.
Officials in Georgia have postponed the state’s first execution of a woman in seven decades due to concerns over the execution drug. Kelly Renee Gissendaner was set to die Wednesday evening for plotting to kill her husband, even though her former boyfriend, who actually carried out the killing, will be up for parole in eight years after testifying against her. Gissendaner’s attorneys have argued she should be spared after transforming her life through religion, but the execution was only delayed because the drug, pentobarbital, appeared cloudy. Her execution was delayed last week due to extreme weather.
Venezuela has ordered the Obama administration to reduce staff at its embassy in Caracas by 80 percent amidst the worst diplomatic spat since President Nicolás Maduro’s election in 2013. Maduro has accused right-wing opponents of fomenting a coup with U.S. support. His government has given the United States 15 days to cut embassy staff from 100 to 17.
The mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, has apologized after the city claimed in a legal document 12-year-old African American Tamir Rice was to blame for his own death at the hands of police. Rice was playing with a toy gun when police fatally shot him within two seconds of their arrival. But in response to a lawsuit filed by Rice’s family, the city claimed Tamir Rice’s death was "directly and proximately caused by [his] failure ... to exercise due care to avoid injury." Mayor Frank Jackson apologized Tuesday.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson: "We are apologizing today, as a city, to the family of Tamir Rice and to the citizens of the city of Cleveland for our poor use of words and our insensitivity in the use of those words."
The news comes as the Los Angeles Police Department is facing protests for its killing of a homeless man on Skid Row, and as the Mexican government has condemned the third U.S. police killing of a Mexican citizen in the past month. Police in Santa Ana, California, killed Ernesto Javier Canepa Díaz during what they said was a robbery investigation, but few details have been released. Meanwhile, a White House task force on policing has called for a series of reforms, including increased transparency and independent probes of fatal shootings.
The trial of the so-called Flood Wall Street 11 has opened here in New York. On September 22, the day after the historic People’s Climate March, thousands of people staged a mass sit-in in Manhattan’s Financial District to protest the role of big banks and the capitalist system in climate change. More than 100 people were arrested, and 11 of them have taken the charges to court. They plan to use the necessity defense to argue their actions were justified by the urgency of corporate-fueled climate change. John Tarleton is one of the defendants.
John Tarleton: "We’ve known about this climate crisis for over a quarter of a century. Our political and economic system have completely failed to address it. And so, we believe it’s legitimate for other forms of resistance to emerge to try to create the pressure to find real solutions."
And Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in congressional history, has announced she will not seek re-election next year. Mikulski said she wanted to spend her remaining time in the Senate working for her constituents, instead of fundraising.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski: "I had to decide how I would spend my time—fighting for my job or fighting for their job? Do I spend my time raising money, or do I spend my time raising hell?"
Senator Mikulski has served in Congress since 1977, spearheading measures for fair pay and coverage of women’s preventive healthcare, and paving the way for women to wear pants on the Senate floor.