News Roundup and Notes: October 6, 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. military forces carried out three strikes in Syria and a further six strikes in Iraq over the weekend, as part of the expanded air campaign against the Islamic State. The U.S. sent attack helicopters into Iraq on Sunday, the first deployment of low-flying aircraft to the region in “a sign that the security situation in Iraq’s Anbar province is deteriorating,” reports McClatchy DC. Previously, the American operation against ISIS had been limited to fast-moving aircraft and drones.

The government of Netherlands has authorized military force against ISIS in Iraq. The White House welcomed the decision, which will see Netherlands joining airstrikes in Iraq. Around 130 Dutch military personnel will also be deployed to assist the training of Iraqi Security Forces, via AFP.

A former French intelligence officer who defected to al-Qaeda was among the targets of the initial American strikes in Syria, according to sources. The former officer is believed to have escaped the assault, which the administration has acknowledged was aimed at members of the Khorasan Group, reports McClatchy DC’s Mitchell Prothero.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated Khorasan Group “may still be working on an effort to attack the United States or our allies, and looking to do it very, very soon,” according to FBI Director James Comey who spoke on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” with Scott Pelley yesterday.

The U.S.-led campaign in northern Syria has failed to halt Islamic State fighters from closing in on the Turkish border city of Kobani, according to Kurdish fighters, reports The Guardian. Kurdish fighters in Kobani vowed today not to abandon efforts to defend the border town, despite being attacked from three sides, Reuters reports.

The Wall Street Journal also covers the limited effect of the airstrikes, which, given the lack of pressure on the ground, have not been successful in breaking the grip of the extremist militants.

Fierce clashes in Iraq’s Anbar province continue between Islamic State militants and Iraqi troops backed by Sunni fighters, via Al Jazeera.

Insurgents from the Syrian al-Qaeda wing, the Nusra Front, clashed with the Shi’ite group Hezbollah in eastern Lebanon yesterday, after the Nusra Front launched a major attack. At least 16 militants from the Nusra Front were killed, Reuters reports.

The Navy announced the first casualty in the campaign against ISIS on Friday, a U.S. Marine who was part of a unit supporting operations in Iraq and Syria, and who went missing after an aircraft accident, The Hill’s Ben Kamisar reports.

British humanitarian aid worker Alan Henning has been killed by the Islamic State; a video depicting his beheading was released on Friday night. The beheading was strongly condemned by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama—both vowing to defeat the militant group—as well as the UN Security Council. The video of Henning’s murder ended with a threat to the life of U.S. citizen Abdul-Rahman Kassig, known as Peter Kassig before his conversion to Islam [BBC].

U.S. intelligence officials believe the Islamic State is still holding up to 20 hostages, including at least two Americans. The group is using the beheading of hostages to make up for military losses, as part of its continuing propaganda war, reports the AP’s Lara Jakes.

Vice President Biden apologized to Turkey and the U.A.E. this weekend, in an attempt to clarify comments last week that suggested the countries had fuelled the rise of Islamic extremists in Syria. The Vice President’s comments attracted strong criticism from Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan and the U.A.E.’s Foreign Ministry. The Washington Post’s Liz Sly has more details.

On the Sunday shows, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that U.S. ground troops should not be ruled out in the fight against ISIS. And Sen. Lindsey Graham argued that ground troops were needed as “aerial bombardment” alone could not “destroy” the terrorist organization.

The New York Times discusses the disagreement over the President’s war powers between Obama and Sen. Tim Kaine, who is described as “an unlikely leader in the fight between Congress and the White House” on this issue.

Former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Fordcautions against alienating moderate Syrian rebels, suggesting that America’s current approach risks undermining the moderate opposition.

The former chief of the U.K.’s defense staff, General Sir David Richards, has called for “western boots on the ground” to be deployed in a supporting role against the Islamic State, writes Nicholas Watt at The Guardian.

The Guardian editorial board cautions against using special forces to rescue western hostages held by ISIS, especially in the absence of “perfect or near-perfect intelligence.”

Michael M. Tanchum and Halil M. Karaveli suggest the lessons Turkey should take from “Pakistan’s sponsorship of the Taliban” in how to deal with the Islamic State, in an op-ed for the New York Times.

Andrew J. Bacevich writes that “America’s war for the Greater Middle East will end in failure,” even if the U.S. succeeds in defeating the Islamic State, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post.

The Washington Post discusses Qatar’s “friends with everyone” approach. While the government has begun to crack down on financial support to al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels and the Islamic State, the authorities have not halted support for other Islamist groups in the region that have been labeled by several states as terrorists.

Militants from the Islamic State have been using ammunition with origins in the U.S. and China, according to a private arms-tracking organization, writes the New York Times’ C. J. Chivers.

Reuters explains the origins of Australian jihadists fighting in Iraq and Syria, the majority of whom have come from a “tight-knit criminal gang culture,” unlike the “alienated and jobless” fighters coming from Europe.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

A federal judge has ordered the public release of 28 videos showing the force-feeding of a Syrian hunger striker at Guantánamo, despite the national security concerns cited by the government, reports Politico’s Josh Gerstein. The hearing to consider Abu Wa’el Dhiab’s legal challenge continues today, when U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler will hear from two doctors who will testify about Dhiab’s treatment. Via Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg.

Eric L. Lewis explores why corporations are able to assert religious rights while Muslim detainees at Guantánamo Bay are not offered the same legal protections, in an op-ed for the New York Times.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described militant Islam as a “malignancy that’s growing and spreading.” Speaking on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Netanyahu also spoke about his “quite good” relationship with President Obama and warned against the threat of a nuclear Iran.

A Lebanese soldier was wounded by Israeli gunfire on Sunday near the border between the two countries after Israeli forces opened fire, reports the AP.

The Economist describes the situation in Gaza following this summer’s 50 day war as a “sea of despair,” noting the number of Palestinians now becoming boat people, desperate to leave the region.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Five militants, including a senior Uzbek commander, were killed by a suspected U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region yesterday, reports Reuters.

Somali and African Union forces succeeded yesterday in reclaiming Baraawe, a port town in southern Somalia formerly used by al-Shabaab militants to bring arms and fighters into Somalia. Reuters has more details.

The Washington Post editorial board tackles the question of U.S. funding for war against the Islamic State, Ebola, and other “justified initiatives,” suggesting that “Congress should follow the recommendation of the National Defense Panel and restore the defense budget to the levels [Robert Gates] recommended in 2011.”

China and Russia have been “flexing” their military muscle in an increasing number of dangerous encounters with U.S. military aircraft in the Pacific, reports the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock.

NATO’s new secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, signaled he wants constructive relations with Russia, despite its increasing presence in eastern European countries.

Niger vowed on Saturday to retain its presence in Mali, despite an attack on peacekeeping forces killing nine of its soldiers, reports the AP.

Shi’ite Houthi rebels are in control of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, after taking control of most state buildings, including the airport and central bank, reports the Washington Post.

The New York Times editorial board discusses the need for the U.S. to reign in Egyptian military aid, suggesting that while cooperation between the two countries is in the interest of both, the “onus is on Cairo” to earn the aid package.

Newly inaugurated Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has permitted the return of Times correspondent, Matthew Rosenberg, effective immediately, the New York Times reports.

Iranian journalist Yeganeh Salehi, detained in Iran since July, has been released on bail. Her husband, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, remains imprisoned.

Michael Meyer comments on “Kenya’s dubious day in court,” speculating as to whether President Uhuru Kenyatta will appear before the ICC on Wednesday.

British citizen David Bolam has been released after being held hostage by Libyan militants for five months, writes The Guardian. The Washington Post discusses the Libyan parliament’s relocation out of Tripoli and into the eastern town of Tobruk.

An AP Analysis explores President Obama’s shift toward deepening security ties with Asia, but notes that the crisis in the Middle East “has undermined hopes of making Asia the heart of U.S. foreign policy.”

A surprise visit on Saturday by the highest level delegation to ever come from North Korea to the South was described as a “small but meaningful step” for relations between the two countries by a senior South Korean official, reports the Wall Street Journal. Gordon G Chang for The Daily Beast explores rumors that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been toppled from his position.

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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