News Roundup and Notes: September 26, 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

Air and missile strikes overnight and early today, thought to have been conducted by U.S.-led coalition forces, struck oilfields and Islamic State bases in the east of Syria, according to British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights [Reuters]. The U.S. military continued to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, conducting a total of 11 strikes on Wednesday and Thursday [Central Command].

Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said yesterday that strikes against ISIS-controlled oil refineries in eastern Syria were “successful” based on an initial assessment. The Press Secretary said that the costs of the U.S. operation in Iraq and Syria are estimated between $7 million and $10 million per day. Kirby also added that the military is looking into reports of civilian casualties, but said there had been no “credible operational reporting” to sustain those allegations.

Joint Staff Director Gen. David L. Goldfein said it is “very significant” that five Arab nations joined the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, noting that “there may be no better example in how an investment in building partner capacity has paid off” [DoD News’ Jim Garamone].

The leaders of the G7 expressed their support for military action against the Islamic State yesterday and described the U.S.-led coalition as “an important contribution” to Iraqi security [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz].

The British Parliament will vote today on whether to authorize the U.K. joining airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq [BBC]. The suggested motion specifically rules out airstrikes in Syria. The BBC has a live stream of the British House of Commons debate on the issue. In The Guardian, Peter Hain argues that the U.K. cannot “stand impotently by” in the face of Islamic State barbarity, yet emphasizes the imperative of “acting carefully not bombastically.”

Turkey will discuss taking on a more active role with the international coalition against the Islamic State, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogen speaking yesterday in New York, though official sources have suggested Turkish involvement will be contingent upon the coalition making clear their position on the Assad regime [Asharq al-Awsat].

Nader Mousavizadeh [Reuters] suggests that the United States needs to “try a little humility” if it wishes to put together a successful coalition against the Islamic State. The Daily Beast (Jamie Dettmer) explores the hidden agendas of Obama’s Arab allies in the war on ISIS, suggesting that the U.S. faces the risk of becoming deeply embroiled in the “Mideast quagmire.” And Glenn Greenwald [The Intercept] suggests that American journalists have been manipulated into believing that Qatar is an avid supporter of countless terrorist organizations by a U.A.E.-funded U.S. lobbying firm.

The U.S. is conducting an average of five strikes a day in Iraq and Syria, which some Republicans have argued is too slow paced, reports The Hill (Kristina Wong).

The American campaign in Syria is expected to slow down after the high-intensity beginning this week, with foreign policy experts warning that the lack of a ground strategy could limit the chances for U.S. success [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz and Julian E. Barnes].

The strikes in Syria have caused two rebel groups to abandon their bases, amid fear that they could be targeted by the U.S., adding chaos to the conflict and potentially helping the Assad regime [Associated Press].

Ben Hubbard and Anne Barnard [New York Times] discuss the challenges facing the U.S. in maintaining the “delicate balance” between destroying the Islamic State and other groups without aiding the Syrian regime.

The Washington Post editorial board questions President Obama’s legal case for air attacks in Iraq and Syria, and argues that Congress must pass an authorization for the operation against the Islamic State.

In an op-ed for USA Today, Rep. Niki Tsongas states that “[m]ilitary action is not the solution” and argues that Congress “must have an opportunity to debate the administration’s overarching strategy.”

The National Security Network released a policy brief last week covering the strategic, legal and legislative problems and prospects of an ISIS AUMF.

In his address to the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested that Iran would be willing to be more cooperative with the West on the issue of the Islamic State if an agreement was reached in talks on Iran’s nuclear program [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman].

The Wall Street Journal (Jay Solomon) reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pledged to unify Iraq against the threat of the Islamic State.

The Iraqi Prime Minister said he has “accurate” intelligence that Islamic State militants are planning attacks on subways in the U.S. and Europe, but his claims were refuted by U.S. intelligence officials yesterday [NBC News’ Richard Esposito].

FBI Director James Comey said that the Islamic State posed a threat domestically in that the group could radicalize and train people in the U.S. through the internet [Wall Street Journal’s Brent Kendall and Jay Solomon].

The EU anti-terrorism chief has estimated that 3,000 Europeans have joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [BBC].

An Iraqi lawyer and women’s rights activist was executed by militants of the Islamic State after she had used social media to condemn the “barbaric” ISIS attacks on the northern city of Mosul [New York Times’ Nick Cumming-Bruce]. The UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned the “horrifying public execution” in a statement.

Soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have captured a rebel-held town northeast of Damascus, adding to Assad’s stronghold around the capital [Al Jazeera].

The Philippine military has said that local extremist groups are not linked to the Islamic State despite threats from local militants that they will kill two German hostages if the country maintains its support for the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq and Syria [New York Times’ Floyd Whaley].

The Malaysian authorities have apprehended three Muslim men on suspicion of planning to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State, according to a senior policy official [Associated Press].

Russia and Ukraine

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, President Petro Poroshenko promised “membership prospective in the European Union in 2020” and clarified the law on the special status to be granted to eastern European territories, which has come under significant criticism [Kyiv Post’s Anastasia Forina and Oksana Grytsenko].

A top EU official has said the bloc would consider a reworking of the recent trade pact with Ukraine, which it had previously ruled out, a move that is likely to intensify Russian pressure on Kiev [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman and Gregory L. White].

Russia and Ukraine are due to hold EU-brokered talks today on the ongoing gas dispute, with Ukraine under increasing pressure to resolve its supply crisis [Associated Press].

Afghanistan

Hundreds of Taliban insurgents have stormed an Afghan district close to the capital, killing scores of people and raising concern that the militants may capture the area, according to local officials [Reuters].

The Washington Post (Tim Craig) reports that Afghan leaders are blaming Pakistan for the surge in Taliban violence, allegations strongly denied by Pakistani officials.

Abdullah Abdullah, the runner-up in the heavily disputed Afghan presidential election, has said he would join the new government as the chief executive officer, in a notable sign of compromise [New York Times’ Declan Walsh].

Other Developments

Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation Thursday afternoon [The Hill’s Benjamin Goad].

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program may be further delayed, amid ongoing discussions between the committee and the executive over declassification of the report summary [Politico’s Josh Gerstein].

The U.S. Department of State has ordered a temporary reduction in the amount of U.S. personnel in Yemen, a step taken “out of an abundance of caution” as to the changing and unpredictable security situation in the country. Check out Just Security for Yemen expert Adam Baron on the myths of the “Yemen Model” of U.S. counterterrorism policy.

Following two days of meetings in Cairo, rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, have come to agreement that a unity government, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, would control the Gaza Strip [Al Jazeera].

Jodi Rudoren [New York Times] speculates on President Abbas’ UN speech today in New York and what he hopes to accomplish at the General Assembly.

The Washington Post (Greg Miller and Kevin Sieff) covers al-Qaeda’s sustained presence and notes that while the group remains “degraded” it is yet to be “destroyed” by the U.S.

Ryan Devereaux [The Intercept] reports on freshly released CIA documents showing how the biggest newspapers in the country assisted the agency to contain a groundbreaking exposé of cocaine trafficking by Contra proxy forces.

One of the most high profile Islamists in Britain, the radical preacher Anjem Choudary, is among the nine men arrested by police in London yesterday during an anti-terrorism raid [The Guardian’s Vikram Dodd and Josh Halliday]. Nico Hines [The Daily Beast] asks whether Thursday’s counterterrorism raids mark the “end of Londonistan,” questioning whether a crackdown on radical Islamic figures signals a change of policy in Britain.

A Nigerian schoolgirl who was among hundreds of those kidnapped in April by Boko Haram militants has been released [Wall Street Journal’s Gbenga Akingbule].

Reuters (Lin Noueihed) writes that the Egyptian administration is returning to Mubarak-era politics as it has struggled to achieve the level of democracy hoped for during protests on Cairo’s Tahrir square three years ago.

A crackdown by Chinese police forces killed more than 40 people in the Xinjiang province following a number of deadly blasts in the region [Wall Street Journal’s Chun Han Wong].

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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