News Roundup and Notes: October 3, 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 U.S., along with the U.A.E., continued to target ISIS positions in Syria over Wednesday and Thursday. Separately, the U.S. and the U.K. carried out further airstrikes in Iraq, destroying ISIS facilities and vehicles.

Australia has committed to join airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq. The Australian government will also send around 200 Special Forces advisers to Iraq to assist local forces, but will not take part in combat operations, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pledged that his country would do everything it can to prevent the Kurdish border town of Kobani from falling to the Islamic State, reports Asharq Al-Awsat. The Turkish parliament voted yesterday to expand military operations in Iraq and Syria, and to permit foreign forces to launch attacks from Turkish territory, via BBC

Iran may be a viable ally for the U.S. in efforts against the Islamic State, suggests Roger Cohen, who argues that the Islamic Republic is a “serious and stable power in an unstable region.”

Vice President Biden said that Americans “face no existential threat … to our way of life or our ultimate security” from extremist terrorism, adding that the U.S. is capable of dealing with the threat posed by ISIS, via The Hill’s Justin Sink.

Former President George W. Bush told Fox News that the U.S. has learned its “lesson” that Iraqi forces are not ready to provide for their security, in light of the new war against the Islamic State.

Islamic State militants pressed their offensive on two strategic towns in Syria and Iraq yesterday, causing those defending the towns to call on more U.S.-led airstrikes to assist them, witnesses told the Washington PostAl Jazeera provides more details of the on-going assault in Iraq’s Anbar province.

5,500 people are estimated to have been killed in Iraq since the Islamic State began its offensive in June, reports the New York Times.

Three Americans are fighting against the Islamic State alongside Kurdish forces in northern Syria, a spokesperson for the Kurdish unit told CNN on Thursday.

Protests erupted yesterday in the Syrian city of Homs, demanding the ouster of the provincial governor, over the double bombing of an elementary school on Wednesday that killed over 40 children, reports the New York Times.

The New York Times editorial board discusses the “fundamental” savagery of the Islamic State, recognizing that “[w]e have not seen the last of its horrors.”

Mohammed Alaa Ghanem warns that “anti-U.S. sentiment has risen in western Syria,” and that U.S. airstrikes must be complemented “in both word and deed” with strong support for moderate Syrian rebels, in an op-ed for the Washington Post. The Economist similarly questions whether the American-led strikes in Syria are “creating a Sunni backlash.”

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the Justice Department’s request to hold a closed hearing on the force-feeding of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, reports Josh Gerstein for Politico.

The plan to transfer six Guantánamo Bay detainees to Uruguay is coming under increasing criticism in the country, the AP has learned.

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Russia could end up holding territory in eastern Ukraine long-term, much like what took place after the Russian conflict with Georgia in 2008, according to NATO’s senior military officer, reports The Hill’s Martin Matishak

Shelling in the center of Donetsk killed a Swiss Red Cross worker, amid further violations of the shaky September ceasefire, AFP reports.

Hundreds of Estonians have joined a volunteer army since the escalation of the Ukrainian conflict, “a sign of how Russia’s newly aggressive foreign policy is rattling people across Eastern Europe,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to reassure investors at a banking conference yesterday, amid concerns over the effect of Western sanctions on Moscow’s economy. The Wall Street Journal has more details.

AFGHANISTAN

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said that “Afghan forces have the capacity to withstand the fight internally,” even with the recent “uptick” in Taliban attacks, via DoD News.

The Economist considers that President Obama has “dangerously reduced the military help America owes Afghanistan” and warns against repeating the mistakes made in hastily withdrawing from Iraq.

British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged support for Afghanistan’s new unity government, during a surprise visit to Kabul today, making him the first of the world leaders to meet President Ashraf Ghani, reports the AP.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The plan for Gaza’s reconstruction risks putting the UN in charge of a sustained Israeli blockade of the area, according to senior international officials and NGOs, reports Peter Beaumont for The Guardian.

The EU said today that Israel’s plans for new settlements in East Jerusalem put Israel’s relations with the bloc at risk and constitute a threat to peace, reports Reuters.

The New York Times editorial board questions Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “strange course” in approving almost 3,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem, which it argues “will make it harder, maybe impossible, to reach a two-state solution with the Palestinians.”

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a FOIA lawsuit in order to obtain the CIA inspector general’s report on the Senate spying incident, via The Hill’s Julian Hattem.

Retired special agent Joseph Clancy will serve as acting director of the Secret Service, following Julia Pierson’s resignation, until a permanent replacement is found, reports the Washington Post’s David Nakamura.

The U.S. announced yesterday that it has partially lifted the arms embargo on Vietnam, a policy shift intended to strength the country’s maritime abilities against a more “assertive” China, writes Michael R. Gordon for the New York Times.

Former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta blames the Obama administration for miscalculations ranging from Syria to Afghanistan, in a forthcoming memoir, obtained by The Daily Beast.

The Washington Post editorial board warns the Obama administration against making “further concessions in order to complete a long-term deal” with Iran, in advance of the November deadline.

James Bamford, author of several books on the NSA, offers an account of his time as an NSA whistleblower at The Intercept.

A man has been indicted in a U.S. District Court on one count of false statement over claims that he contacted a terror suspect linked to al-Shabaab, reports Amy Forliti at the AP.

Glenn Greenwald suggests that the U.S. has “long been devoted to tyranny” in Egypt and the surrounding region, writing that American media coverage of the Arab Spring, specifically in Tarhir Square, “let Americans feel good about cheering for democracy in the region while ignoring their government’s central role in suppressing it.”

A series of suicide attacks in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi yesterday left over 40 soldiers dead, amid clashes over a key air base in the city, via Al JazeeraReuters has learned that the country’s “runaway parliament” has taken refuge at a holiday resort in Tobruk after losing control of the capital, Tripoli, last month.

A new video purports to show Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, refuting claims from the Nigerian military that he had been killed, AFP reports.

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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