News Roundup and Notes: September 4, 2014

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

NATO summit

At the start of the NATO summit in Wales today, leaders criticized Russia for its “destabilizing” influence in Ukraine. The meeting is expected to focus on the crisis in Ukraine and the rise of the Islamic State [BBC].

President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron will seek a coalition against the Islamic State during the NATO summit. The thinking in both Washington and London is that any intervention in Iraq must not be western-led and must be at the invitation of the Iraqi government, reports The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour.

In a joint op-ed for The Times, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that their nations “will not be cowed” by “barbaric killers.” As NATO members come together in Wales, the leaders emphasized that by “working together we are stronger.” The Associated Press discusses the context of the piece.

The United Arab Emirates, which is attending the NATO meeting as an observer, has also called for a “unified effort” against extremism and radical militancy in the Middle East and other regional hubs [Associated Press].

Soner Cagaptay [Wall Street Journal] discusses how the NATO summit is a “golden opportunity” for the new Turkish Prime Minister and that the chance should be taken to “redevelop a propitious cooperation” between Turkey and NATO, the U.S. and the Europeans to tackle issues in the Middle East.

Follow The Guardian’s live blog on the NATO summit for developments over the course of the day.

Russia and Ukraine

Following a day of contradictory reports on a ceasefire agreement—and on the eve of the NATO summit—Russian President Vladimir Putin set out a seven-point plan to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The New York Times (Neil MacFarquhar) and Washington Post (Michael Birnbaum and Annie Gowen) offer more detail on Putin’s plan, which, among other things, calls for an end to all offensive operations, including Ukrainian air attacks, and endorses international monitoring and humanitarian corridors.

Outlining his recovery plan for Ukraine, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that the “first goal is to stop the Russian military aggression and to restore the sovereignty of Ukraine” [Kyiv Post].

Speaking in Estonia, President Obama condemned Russia’s “brazen assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” Meanwhile, the American ambassador to the EU told Reuters that the U.S. is considering stronger sanctions targeting Russia’s energy sector.

France has suspended the first of its two warship deliveries to Russia, following months of pressure from Western allies. Amid continuing hostilities in eastern Ukraine, French President François Hollande said that the conditions for delivery were not yet in place [France 24].

U.S. troops and soldiers from several other NATO members are due to take part in military exercises in western Ukraine this month [Wall Street Journal’s Patryk Wasilewski].

The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused Ukrainian troops of the “barbarous” killing of a Russian photojournalist and demanded an investigation [Reuters].

Despite denials from Moscow, The Guardian (Shaun Walker et al.) reports on fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops in Ilovaysk outside Donetsk.

Dutch authorities have said that a preliminary report on the investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 will be released on September 9 [Associated Press].

In an op-ed for Reuters, Edward Hadas notes how “[e]conomic explanations are inapplicable to the strategy of Vladimir Putin,” who appears to value power over prosperity.

Anatol Lieven, writing in the New York Times, outlines a “way out for Ukraine and Russia,” and argues that a political solution “can only consist of a special autonomous status for the Donbass region within Ukraine.”

Adam Taylor [Washington Post] discusses the merits of the Ukrainian President’s proposal for a defense wall along its border with Russia.

Iraq and Syria

In a statement made in Estonia yesterday, President Obama pledged that the U.S. would “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State, and emphasized that “justice would be served.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel similarly stressed that the goal of the U.S. was not merely to “contain” but to “destroy” the Islamic State [The Hill’s Martin Matishak].

Vice President Joe Biden vowed that the U.S. would follow Islamic State terrorists responsible for the beheading of two American journalists “to the gates of hell,” promising to avenge their deaths [Wall Street Journal’s Jeffrey Sparshott].

British Prime Minister David Cameron refused to rule out military action against the Islamic State, which is holding a Briton hostage. Cameron reiterated that the U.K. would not pay ransoms to terrorists [BBC].

Rep. Frank Wolf is planning to introduce a bill next week authorizing the use of military force against international terrorist groups, including ISIS and al Qaeda and its regional affiliates. At Just Security, Jennifer Daskal argues that this is “not an effective foundation upon which to protect our national security.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell criticized President Obama yesterday for failing to take the ISIS threat seriously, saying that the situation was not “manageable” [The Hill’s Alexander Bolton].

Matthew Olsen, the director of the national counter-terrorism center, said that the Islamic State is in control of a piece of land the size of Britain, commands 10,000 armed fighters, and is achieving an income of $1 million per day [The Telegraph’s Raf Sanchez].

Matt Bradley [Wall Street Journal] reports that Iraqi lawmakers presented a united front yesterday in support of more forceful U.S. intervention against insurgents of the Islamic State.

Iraqi government forces pushed back a large number of Islamic State fighters from the northern cities of Tikrit and Mosul yesterday, although fierce battles are expected to continue for days to come [Al Jazeera].

Turkey is struggling to close the “jihadist highway” that serves as the primary route for Western militants to cross into Syria, reports the Wall Street Journal (Ayla Albayrak and Joe Parkinson).

The Associated Press reports on Israel’s concerns over al Qaeda militants in Syria, who are fighting close to the Israeli border in the Golan Heights.

Reuters (Mariam Karouny) writes that the Islamic State in the northeast of Syria has built a government which is responsible for efficiently running the institutions and public services of the region, demonstrating the group’s “deeply pragmatic ability to govern.”

Josh Gerstein and David Nather [Politico] pose five questions on Obama’s strategy for tackling the Islamic State.

The Washington Post editorial board draws attention to “big holes” in Obama’s strategy for the Middle East, arguing that “[w]ithout American leadership in forging political solutions and assaulting the Islamic State’s stronghold, any strategy is doomed to fail.”

E.J. Dionne Jr. [Washington Post] calls on President Obama’s critics to “stop pretending that careful, deliberate planning is a grievous sin and acknowledge the high costs of impulsive action.”

Other Developments

Attorney General Eric Holder and DNI James Clapper have offered their explicit support to the Senate version of the USA Freedom Act, aimed at reforming the NSA’s bulk collection program [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]. At Just Security, Steve Vladeck offers his take on the Attorney General and DNI’s letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced yesterday that the terrorist group is establishing a branch in the Indian subcontinent, forcing India to place a number of provinces on alert [Reuters’ Rupam Jain Nair]. Jason Leopold [VICE] discusses the nearly hour-long video released by al Qaeda’s media arm and discovered by the SITE intelligence-monitoring group. Ishaan Tharoor [Washington Post] explores why the terrorist group is expanding into South Asia.

David E. Sanger [New York Times] discusses how Obama’s foreign policy commitments—the Asia “pivot,” the battle against the Islamic State, and the crisis in eastern Europe—are likely to upset the President’s plans for reducing the Pentagon’s budget before he leaves office in 2017.

The Justice Department will be launching a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, according to two federal law enforcement officials [Washington Post’s Sari Horwitz et al.].

Iran and the U.S. began a second round of bilateral nuclear talks in Geneva this morning [Reuters]. The Wall Street Journal (Laurence Norman) reports that a new round of talks on Iran’s nuclear program between Iran and six major world powers has been announced for September 18 in New York.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack in eastern Afghanistan this morning that killed at least 18 and injured another 130 [Al Jazeera].

If you want to receive your news directly to your inbox, sign up here for the Just Security Early Edition. For the latest information from Just Security, follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and join the conversation on Facebook. To submit news articles and notes for inclusion in our daily post, please email us at news@justsecurity.org. Don’t forget to visit The Pipeline for a preview of upcoming events and blog posts on U.S. national security. 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security