News Roundup and Notes: September 17, 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.

Iraq and Syria

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that he would recommend the deployment of U.S. troops on the ground should airstrikes prove insufficient for tackling the Islamic State [Reuters’ Phil Stewart]. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest addressed the General’s comments, stating that clearly he was “referring to a hypothetical scenario” and emphasized that President Obama’s “policy has not changed.” The New York Times editorial board writes that there is no way of reading General Dempsey’s comments “other than as a reversal from the firm commitment Mr. Obama made not to immerse the country in another” war.

Lawmakers indicated that legislation authorizing President Obama’s plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels against ISIS would likely pass through Congress before the end of this week [Reuters’ Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan].

Politico (Manu Raju and Seung Min Kim) reports on the clear divide among Democrats over President Obama’s strategy for tackling the Islamic State in Syria, with much of the friction focusing on the plan to equip and train Syrian rebels.

AFP reports that President Obama will meet today with generals to plan the U.S. assault on the Islamic State.

The New York Times (Michael S. Schmidt) reports that the Islamic State released a video last night supposedly threatening to kill American ground troops, should President Obama deploy them.

Nearly 50 people, including rebel fighters, were killed today in Syrian government airstrikes around the central province of Homs, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [ReutersAssociated Press].

Yesterday, militants from the Islamic State claimed that they had shot down a military aircraft belonging to the Assad regime as it flew over their stronghold in Raqqa, amid escalating clashes between Syria’s warring parties [New York Times’ Anne Bernard and Hwaida Saad].

The Iraqi national security advisor briefed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad yesterday on efforts being undertaken to tackle the Islamic State, the first briefing since the U.S. started airstrikes against the terrorist group [Reuters’ Tom Perry and Sylvia Westall].

The Iraqi Parliament has rejected two appointees for critical cabinet posts in the defense and interior ministries, indicating that the prime minister is struggling to establish a unified government [Wall Street Journal’s Matt Bradley].

The Australian government is encouraging China and Russia to give at least passive support to the international coalition formed to tackle the Islamic State [Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Blumenstein and Rob Taylor]. The Guardian provides a “world briefing” on the international coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. And David Rogers [Politico] assesses the challenges before the coalition moving forward.

The Turkish government is attempting to establish a military buffer zone along the Syrian border to curb the flow of jihadists from Turkey into Syria [Wall Street Journal’s Ayla Albayrak].

David D. Kirkpatrick [New York Times] reports on the challenges faced by the U.S. military in Iraq now fighting on the same side as–although not alongside–Shiite militias, who once posed the leading threat to American forces in the country. However, the militia groups and the U.S. maintain they will not work together against ISIS.

The United Nations panel responsible for investigating human rights violations in the Syrian civil war presented details yesterday of further atrocities committed by the Syrian government and Islamic extremists [New York Times’ Nick Cumming-Bruce].

The Associated Press reports that, according to U.S. officials, Khorasan militants were sent to Syria by al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to recruit Europeans and Americans who could attack U.S.-bound planes.

The Washington Post editorial board writes that the “story of Syria’s chemical nightmare is not yet over,” drawing attention to the production facilities not yet destroyed by the Assad regime and the evidence pointing to the regime’s responsibility for chlorine attacks earlier this year.

Martin Chulov [The Guardian] discusses the fear gripping civilians in the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa in Syria, as many believe it will be civilians who “will pay the price” in the efforts to destroy the terrorist group.

Jacob Siegel [The Daily Beast] posits that Iran may become the U.S.’s “shadow enemy” in efforts against the Islamic State in Syria.

Twelve counterterrorism thinkers explore whether President Obama’s proposed operations against the Islamic State should be classified as another “war on terror” [Politico Magazine].

Josh Gerstein [Politico] questions how “dirty” Obama is willing to get his hands in order to defeat the Islamic State.

A New York man, Mufid A. Elfgeeh, was indicted yesterday on charges of attempting to support the Islamic State [New York Times’ Michael Schmidt].

Russia and Ukraine

A senior rebel leader from Ukraine has told BBC that separatists will reject the self-rule concessions offered by Kiev to regions in the east, and will continue their calls for complete independence instead.

Ukrainian and European parliaments have ratified the political association agreement, almost ten months after the former Ukrainian president controversially rejected the deal [Kyiv Post].

James Marson and Paul Sonne [Wall Street Journal] note that developments in Ukraine—including the delay in the full implementation of the EU deal amid pressure from Russia—highlight “Kiev’s weakened position” and “Moscow’s long shadow.”

In a visit to the United States this week, Ukrainian President Petro O. Poroshenko is expected to seek military and economic assistance, reports the New York Times (Neil MacFarquhar).

The Russian defense minister said that Moscow would deploy a “full-scale” military unit on the Crimean peninsula in response to “rising foreign military presence,” according to an Interfax report [Wall Street Journal’s Andrey Ostroukh].

Surveillance, Privacy, and Technology

The Pentagon is planning a new monitoring system for contractors that work with classified government networks, in an effort to prevent Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning-style leaks in the future [Politico’s Joseph Marks].

James Bamford [New York Times] outlines his concerns over the NSA’s reported sharing of intercepted metadata and contents of communications with Israel’s secret military unit.

Israel and Palestine

The United Nations has brokered a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to work toward the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip [UN News CentreBBC].

The Israel Defense Forces have said that a mortar shell was fired into Israel from Palestine yesterday, in the first such attack since the August 26 ceasefire. Hamas has reportedly detained those responsible for the attack, demonstrating its interest in maintaining the ceasefire [Haaretz].

Former President Bill Clinton was overheard describing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “not the guy” for a peace deal in the region [Politico’s Jonathan Topaz].

Other Developments

Ahead of the first public hearing of the Select Committee on the 2012 Benghazi attack, Fox News reports on the numerous allegations of cover-up against the administration. Politico (Maggie Haberman) reports on three Democratic outside groups that are preparing to protect Hillary Clinton from any political fallout. And Erik Wemple [Washington Post] reviews the book “13 hours” in which five surviving security contractors offer a detailed account of the Benghazi attack.

Writing in Salon, a former Air Force imagery analyst with the U.S. drone program argues why using drone warfare is “more dangerous” than what the government tells the American public.

Richard Whittle [Politico Magazine] offers an inside account of the unsuccessful first American Predator mission targeting Mullah Mohammed Omar, Osama Bin Laden’s key ally.

Al-Qaeda’s new regional branch attempted to hijack a Pakistani Navy vessel earlier this month, which the militants planned to use to target U.S. navy vessels in the region, according to Pakistani security officials [Wall Street Journal’s Syed Shoaib Hasan et al.].

The Washington Post (Simon Denyer) reports on the internet-inspired jihadi acts in China, forcing the country to pressure Pakistan into suppressing the centers of terrorist training.

A senior Afghan finance officer has said that the country’s central government is almost broke, requiring an urgent bailout from the U.S. and other donors within “five or six days” [Tim Craig, Washington Post].

Qatar has agreed to expel exiled Muslim Brotherhood leaders as part of a deal with its neighbors, amid heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and other countries [The Guardian’s Ian Black].

South Korean guards have arrested a U.S. citizen who is believed to have been attempting to swim across a border river into North Korea [Associated Press].

Al Jazeera reports that forces led by the former Libyan general, Khalifa Haftar, have claimed responsibility for an air raid targeting a military base in western Libya.

Bangladesh’s Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence of the Islamist leader whose conviction for war crimes during the 1971 independence war sparked deadly protests across the country last year [Associated Press].

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