News Roundup and Notes: October 2, 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. forces carried out three strikes in Syria and another five strikes in Iraq over Tuesday and Wednesday, targeting ISIS fighting positions, facilities, and vehicles. The U.K. also took part in the strikes in Iraq.

The Turkish parliament in Ankara is considering a motion today to give the government extended powers to tackle the Islamic State. This will include the power to launch incursions into Syria and Iraq and to allow foreign forces to use bases in its territory to launch attacks, reports the AP. President Recep Tayyip Erdogen’s pledge yesterday to fight the Islamic State and “other terrorist organizations” indicates the possibility of Turkey joining the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, according to Al Jazeera.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he is “totally” opposed to Arab nations engaging in air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, in an interview with the BBC.

Australia has requested that Iraq permit its military to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State, a request that the AP has learned Iraq is seriously considering. The New York Times reports on those who are questioning the benefit of Australia’s quick efforts to engage in the fight against the Islamic State.

Lebanon is increasingly finding itself caught in the middle of regional and world powers in the fight against the Islamic State, with tugs from the Syrian regime, Russia, and Iran on the one side and the U.S.-led coalition on the other, writes Sam Dagher at the Wall Street Journal.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wants Congress to vote on an authorization for military operations against ISIS, when lawmakers return to Washington in November, reports Politico’s Lauren French.

Assisting the Assad regime in de-escalating the Syrian war is “a better strategy for the U.S. than supporting the least bad jihadis,” argues Graham E. Fuller, former vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council.

Steven Simon explains why the Islamic State is not the same as al-Qaeda, noting the “deep divisions over tactics, targeting, and larger strategic goals” of the Islamic State.

Fifty percent of people approve of the way President Obama is handling the Islamic State situation, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

The OPCW-UN joint mission on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapon stockpiles has been completed and will withdraw from the country, writes the UN News Centre.

Two explosions outside a primary school in government-controlled Homs, Syria, killed at least 45 people yesterday, 41 of whom were children, Al Jazeera reports. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the attack as “an act of the utmost depravity.”

Islamic State militants reportedly beheaded seven men and three women on Tuesday in a northern Kurdish region of Syria.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants in the Philippines have threatened to kill one of two German hostages on October 17 unless their demands are met for ransom and for Germany to halt its support for the American coalition against ISIS.

A car bomb on Wednesday night in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad killed 14 and wounded 51, reports CNN.

The death toll in Iraq from acts of terrorism and violence in September was at least 1,119, as estimated by the UN body in Iraq, although it is likely that the figure is in fact much higher.

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Ukrainian and separatist forces fought for control of Donetsk airport yesterday, killing at least ten people, in the latest violation of the September ceasefire, reports Shaun Walker for The Guardian. 

The Telegraph reports on Moscow’s “distorted” accusations, with the Russian Foreign Minister alleging the discovery of 400 bodies in a mass grave outside Donetsk. However, a senior rebel leader clarified that only nine bodies had been discovered.

NATO’s new secretary general adopted a conciliatory tone toward Moscow on Wednesday. Jens Stoltenberg said “there is no contradiction between aspiring to a constructive relationship with Russia and, at the same time, being in favor of a strong NATO,” reports the Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid. Poland’s new leader also indicated a shift in policy toward the Ukraine conflict, suggesting the country would re-focus on its own security.

Lithuania has accused Russia of violating international maritime laws after apprehending a Lithuanian fishing boat last month, the latest incident of alleged Russian aggression against its neighbors. Via BBC.

AFGHANISTAN 

A Taliban suicide attack killed three people on an Afghan army bus in Kabul this morning, the latest assault since the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S.  After Wednesday’s twin attacks, the militant group said it was sending a “a clear message to the stooge government that signed the slave pact” and vowed to “step up” its attacks, reports AFP.

The U.S. handed over a base in southeastern Afghanistan to the Afghan military yesterday. The handover was part of the withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops from the country, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Hodge.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani re-opened an investigation into the Kabul Bank fraud case, acting on his campaign promise to tackle corruption. Al Jazeera has more details.

The New York Times editorial board comments on the American funding of Afghanistan’s reconstruction and other initiatives. The board writes that the Afghan government must tackle corruption “[i]f the flow of money is to keep going.”

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

President Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington yesterday, the first meeting between the two since this summer’s Gaza conflict. The leaders are said to have disagreed over negotiations with Iran and plans for East Jerusalem, however Netanyahu was reportedly optimistic about the prospect that an Arab alliance could reignite talks with Palestine.

Israel’s decision to push forward with plans for a large housing development in East Jerusalem was criticized by the White House as likely to “poison the atmosphere” with both the Palestinians and Arab governments, reports The Hill’s Peter O’Sullivan. Netanyahu reportedly rebuked U.S. criticism of the settlements in East Jerusalem, noting that the property in question was privately owned.

A UN Security Council resolution has been drafted by Palestine calling for an end to the Israeli occupation by November 2016, UN diplomats told Reuters on Wednesday.

Netanyahu has urged the UN Secretary General to postpone the investigation into the shelling of UN facilities in Gaza during the war this summer, reports Haaretz.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned over the recent scandal involving repeated breaches of White House security, after her appointment just 18 months ago, reports the Washington Post. The Hill’s Cristina Marcos notes that the man accused of jumping the White House fence and entering the building has pleaded not guilty to the charges before the District of Columbia District Court.

A new quick-reaction force of U.S. Marines was activated this week in Kuwait. The 2,300-strong force is designed to be ready to react to any security or humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes.

Newly appointed Guantánamo commander, Rear Admiral Kyle Cozad, gives a wide-ranging interview with Jason Leopold for VICE News.

Fox News reports on newly released documents that support claims that the FBI was in communication with Anwar al-Awlaki—the first U.S. citizen targeted by an American drone strike—in the years following 9/11.

The lines between the Pakistani military and Islamist militants are not as clear as they should be, suggests Reuters, highlighting indications that a recent al-Qaeda attack involved infiltration of the military.

A passenger bus attacked by a bomb on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan today killed at least 7 passengers, reports Dawn.

Seven Libyan soldiers have been killed in a double suicide bombing and fighting in Benghazi, Reuters has learned.

The International Atomic Energy Agency aims to push forward its investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Iran, writes Fredrik Dahl for Reuters 

Former Guantánamo detainee Moazzam Begg has been released from Belmarsh Prison in London. British authorities dropped the terrorism charges against him after secret intelligence material undermined the case against Begg. Via The Guardian. 

The Intercept discusses the intelligence community’s “intentionally deceptive use of the English language,” as indicated by a newly released Defense Intelligence Agency document explaining to analysts that words have different meanings than how they are commonly understood in that context.

North Korea has upgraded a rocket launch site for longer-range rockets, despite heavy sanctions by the UN for missile and nuclear tests, according to a U.S. think tank, reports 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