News Roundup and Notes: September 19, 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

The Senate voted 78-22 to approve President Barack Obama’s plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, one day after the House voted in favor of the measure [MSNBC’s Aliyah Frumin]. President Obama thanked congressional leaders “for the speed and seriousness with which they approached this urgent issue.”

The New York Times (Michael R. Gordon et al.) reports on the challenges ahead for the U.S. in rolling back the gains made by the Islamic State in Mosul, Falluja, and other areas, and notes that the Pentagon is more willing than the White House to accept that more Special Operations forces will be required on the ground.

Craig Whitlock [Washington Post] writes that the “awkward and uneasy relationship” between President Obama and U.S. military leaders is coming under further strain due to disagreements over how to tackle the Islamic State.

Mark Landler [New York Times] explores the administration’s “extremely narrow definition of combat” as part of an expanded campaign against ISIS, one that has been “rejected by virtually every military expert.”

Legal experts believe that Congress’ inaction over the administration’s reliance on previous congressional authorizations for airstrikes against the Islamic State could create a precedent for stronger executive war-making powers [New York Times’ Charlie Savage].

French President François Hollande pledged to join the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIS yesterday, with the first French airstrike destroying an ISIS military logistics warehouse in north-east Iraq earlier today [France 24’s Joseph Bamat].

The Islamic State released another video last night, purporting to show British photojournalist John Cantlie delivering a propaganda message on behalf of the group [The Guardian’s Ian Cobain and Shiv Malik]. The New York Times (Alan Cowell) discusses the message being sent to Britain by the Islamic State in recent videos, namely that it must not contemplate engaging in another “far-flung campaign as junior partners to America.”

A Kurdish city in northern Syria has been besieged by Islamic State fighters, prompting calls for assistance from Kurds in neighboring Turkey to prevent the group’s advance [Al Jazeera].

The New York Times (Kirk Semple) reports on Iraq’s new plans to use regional “homegrown” forces to tackle the Islamic State.

Two deadly suicide attacks along with 12 mortar rounds in Baghdad killed at least 23 people and wounded 56 yesterday, according to security forces [Al Jazeera].

The Australian parliament has been put on security alert after intelligence showed ISIS supporters may be planning an attack on lawmakers [Bloomberg’s David Stringer and Edward Johnson].

Andrew Finkel [Reuters] reports on Turkey’s unwillingness to commit its assistance in tackling the threat of the Islamic State, writing that the government has long resented the “curse of strategic significance.”

Russia and Ukraine

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told Congress yesterday that his forces required further assistance to counter Russian aggression, including “more military equipment–both non-lethal and lethal” [Kyiv Post]. Despite Poroshenko’s request, the White House maintained its refusal to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine, instead announcing a new $53 million aid package covering security assistance and humanitarian aid [Wall Street Journal’s Philip Shishkin and Jeffrey Sparshott]. However, following a meeting with Obama, Poroshenko said that he was “satisfied” with the assistance offered by the U.S. [The Hill’s Justin Sink].

The rival sides in the eastern Ukraine conflict are due to meet in Minsk today, two weeks after the European-brokered ceasefire was agreed and implemented [AFP’s Tatiana Kalinovskaya with Tanya Willmer].

Oleg Sukhov [Kyiv Post] discusses the concessions offered by President Poroshenko as part of the ceasefire agreement with Russia and separatists rebels, which have come under serious attack from Poroshenko’s supporters and opponents.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski is calling for the “nearly impossible” change in UN Security Council rules to limit Moscow’s vote on actions in the region [New York Times’ Rick Lyman].

Other Developments

The Washington Post (Dan Lamothe) reports on a new “trove” of declassified CIA articles from its in-house journal, released yesterday, which provide a glimpse into the agency’s perspectives on issues ranging from al-Qaeda to public relations crises.

Speaking at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington, D.C. yesterday, CIA Director John Brennan expressed frustration with the Senate and the media, criticizing “the narratives … floating around the media” [The Guardian; MSNBC]. Dan Froomkin [The Intercept] writes that Brennan “carefully parsed” his earlier statements on the CIA-Senate hacking scandal.

Also speaking at the summit, DNI James Clapper said that he misspoke but did not lie about the NSA’s mass collection of data at a Senate hearing last year [CBS].

A U.S. official on the team negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program said members were “not very optimistic” about reaching a breakthrough in talks in New York, although bilateral discussions on Thursday had been “constructive” [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman].

Stephanie Clifford [New York Times] covers the closing arguments in the New York terrorism-financing case against Arab Bank, which has been accused of knowingly handling terrorist-linked transactions by victims of terror attacks in Israel.

Ghaffar Hussain [CNN] explains why al-Qaeda’s expansion into South Asia will fail, accusing the group of “panicking” as the Islamic State dominates.

A roadside bomb killed five UN peacekeepers and wounded several others in northern Mali on Thursday [Associated Press].

The Daily Beast (Thomas Seibert) reports on the recent decision of the Turkish government to host members of the Muslim Brotherhood who have been labeled “terrorists” in their home countries.

Heavy fighting between Shiite rebels and Sunni militias in Yemen has prompted foreign airlines to halt flights into the country’s main international airport in Sanaa [Associated Press].

Amnesty International released a new report on Thursday accusing the Nigerian police and military of engaging in routine torture on women, men, and children as young as 12.

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