News Roundup and Notes: September 25, 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

U.S.-led airstrikes overnight targeted Islamic State-held oil refineries in eastern Syria, aimed at cutting off the group’s key source of revenue [U.S. Central Command]. The strikes, carried out with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., reportedly killed nearly 20 people, including at least 14 militants [Associated Press].

The U.S. military continued to target ISIS in Iraq, with the total number of airstrikes in the country now at 198 [U.S. Central Command]. French air forces also conducted strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq this morning. Follow The Guardian’s live thread for the latest developments.

American strikes in Syria against the al-Qaeda-linked Khorasan Group killed a senior operative of the terrorist organization, although U.S. intelligence has not confirmed whether the operative killed was group leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung et al.]. Mark Mazzetti [New York Times] provides more information about the Khorasan Group—the “terror cell that avoided the spotlight”—and its leader.

The discussions between the U.S. and Saudi’s King Abdullah earlier this month were pivotal in assembling an Arab coalition to support the American-led air campaign in Syria, according to U.S. and Gulf officials [Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes].

The campaign of airstrikes may have disrupted the planning of terror attacks against U.S. or Western targets for the time being, according to the FBI and DHS [Associated Press].

British Prime Minister David Cameron has recalled parliament for a vote tomorrow on whether the U.K. should join strikes in Iraq [The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour]. The Dutch government has announced it will deploy F-16 fighter jets to fight alongside the U.S. in Iraq [Reuters]. France is considering whether to join the airstrikes in Syria, with top military officials meeting today to discuss whether the operations planned in Iraq are sufficient to counter the Islamic State [Associated Press]. [Check out Ryan Goodman’s post at Just Security on the states unwilling to join strikes in Syria on the basis of international law concerns.]

Addressing the UN General Assembly yesterday, President Obama vowed that the U.S. alongside allies would dismantle the Islamic State’s “network of death,” and called on the world to join the effort [New York Times’ Mark Lander].

Josh Gerstein [Politico] discusses Obama’s “exceptional” address which had “little talk of America’s duty to solve the world’s problems” in an effort to avoid the U.S. appearing a “moral hegemon.” Meanwhile, Carrie Budoff Brown [Politico] notes the “ghost[ly]” parallels between Obama’s “network of death” and his predecessor George W. Bush’s “axis of evil.”

The Washington Post editorial board reports that should President Obama act how his two UN speeches suggested, then there “could begin [a] shift [in] the momentum” back toward the active promotion of democracy globally.

Speaking at the UN, Qatar’s leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, urged world leaders to meet the threat posed by the Syrian regime, indicating that the war against terrorism could not succeed in the context of an oppressive regime [Reuters].

In the first direct bilateral talks between the two nations since Iran’s 1979 revolution, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met yesterday in New York to discuss the Islamic State [BBC].

Somini Sengupta [New York Times] reports that speeches from world leaders at the UN General Assembly so far indicate the “delicacy” of international efforts to tackle the Islamic State.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to respond to the “unprecedented” flow of foreign terrorist fighters yesterday, particularly those associated with the Islamic State, the al-Nusra Front, and other al-Qaeda derivatives [UN News CentreBBC]. The New York Times editorial board describes as “significant” the Security Council’s focus on action against cross border extremism, and emphasizes “adherence to the rule of law and human rights” in any counterterrorism strategy.

The White House has said it does not intend to send Islamic State prisoners to Guantánamo Bay, should any come to be held by the United States [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg].

The U.S. Treasury Department has designated 11 men and one entity as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, said to be providing financial and other support to extremists groups, including the Islamic State.

Hilary Clinton downplayed past disagreements with President Obama on the question of Syria on Wednesday, expressing her support for the “very robust response” [CNN’s Dan Mercia]. A former senior advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod, said yesterday that that he believes that as a senator, the President would have wanted a congressional vote on the airstrikes in Syria [MSNBC].

Islamic State fighters continued to advance in Syria’s Kurdish region near the Turkish border, despite the strikes in Syria, reports Reuters (Kinda Makieh and Jonny Hogg). However, the Wall Street Journal (Ayla Albayrak) reports that Kurdish forces have stalled the Islamic State advance on the city of Kobani, resulting in hundreds of Kurdish refugees crossing tentatively back into Syria from Turkey.

Algerian terrorist group, Jund al-Khilafa, posted a video purporting to show the beheading of kidnapped French tourist Herve Gourdel yesterday, which was ostensibly committed in protest of France’s airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, French President Francois Hollande described the killing as a “cruel and cowardly act” [Associated Press; BBC].

Al-Qaeda-linked militants in the Philippines have threatened to kill two German hostages unless the country stops supporting U.S. operations against the Islamic State [Reuters’ Sarah Toms].

Militants from the Islamic State have blown up the Green Church in Tikrit, an important historic site from early Christianity [New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick].

Rita Katz [Reuters] discusses the Islamic State’s real and “most perfect” safe haven, social media, arguing that the international community must destroy “the online caliphate.”

The Wall Street Journal (Matt Bradley and Ghassan Adnan) discusses the threat posed to the American strategy against the Islamic State by diplomatic relations between Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Syrian President Assad, and Iran’s leadership.

Bernard E. Trainor [Washington Post] writes that the struggle against the Islamic State is at its core a “local matter,” and that achieving peaceful stability is no more than a “chimera.”

Russia and Ukraine

In an address to the UN General Assembly yesterday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk urged the international community not to ease sanctions against Russia until Ukraine reclaims control of territory in the east as well as the Crimean peninsula [Associated Press].

The sanctions war with Russia is affecting the Lithuanian economy, reports Jack Ewing [New York Times].

Other Developments

Eight suspected militants were killed in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region yesterday morning, in a suspected U.S. drone strike [CNN’s Sophia Saifi and Jason Hanna].

Jonathan Hafetz [New York Times] argues that those facing trial before a military commission at Guantánamo should not face the death penalty if found guilty, writing that to execute those who suffered “brutal torture” at the camp “would make a mockery of the rule of law.”

The New York Times (Michael R. Gordon) reports that a security pact authorizing the presence of U.S. personnel in Afghanistan post-2014 will be signed after the new president is inaugurated this coming Monday, according to a senior State Department official. Adam Taylor [Washington Post] discusses the “long list” of international leaders that have been “ungrateful” for U.S. support, the latest of which being outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

British authorities arrested nine men suspected of terrorism related activities today, in an ongoing operation against extremist Islamists in the country [Financial Times’ Sam Jones].

Islamic extremists in Nigeria and Cameroon have reportedly surrendered in their hundreds, following a recent successful military onslaught against the insurgents that killed several militant commanders [Associated Press].

The Associated Press discusses Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s presence at the UN General Assembly, noting that today’s address will be “watched closely” by world leaders.

William Booth [Washington Post] speculates about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ address to the UN tomorrow, suggesting it may be a “signal speech” of “what is to come.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is using the UN gathering to ask the Security Council P5 to make a “gentleman’s agreement” not to veto resolutions aimed at halting mass atrocities, reports Al Jazeera America.

Sweden has declared Edward Snowden as one of the winners of a national human rights award for his disclosure of secret state surveillance programs [Al Jazeera].

Indonesia is facing an increasing threat from extremism as support for the Islamic State grows in the country, reports the Washington Post (Ishaan Tharoor).

The International Criminal Court is opening a second investigation in the Central African Republic, with respect to atrocities committed during fighting since 2012.

Vietnam’s Foreign Minister said the country would welcome an end to the U.S. arms embargo, but played down notions that it would intensify its naval dispute with China [Reuters].

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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