News Roundup and Notes: October 7, 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 Islamic State raised its flag in eastern districts of the Syrian town of Kobani yesterday, with clashes between the militants and Kurdish fighters spreading south and west today, Al Arabiya News has learned. U.S.-led airstrikes are reported to have been conducted this morning on Kobani, where thousands of civilians have fled to the Turkish border and at least 400 people are said to have been killed during the three weeks of fighting.

U.S. military forces carried out three strikes in Syria along with partner nations over Sunday and Monday, and a further three in Iraq. The United Kingdom and Belgium participated in the strikes in Iraq.

The Pentagon has spent up to $1.1 billion on military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since mid-June, reports the AP.

Military action against ISIS is an essential component of the “long-term struggle” of tackling the terrorist organization, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday, via CNN’s Dan Merica.

President Obama’s decisions in Iraq and Syria have made the ongoing battle against ISIS harder, according to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in an interview with USA Today’s Susan Page. The White House responded to Panetta’s criticisms—which were voiced ahead of the launch of his memoir, “Worthy Fights”—with press secretary Josh Earnest stating that Obama has demonstrated “over the last several weeks his success in leading the international community to confront some of the very difficult challenges of our time.” Via The Hill’s Justin Sink.

The White House came to Joe Biden’s defense after the Vice President was forced to apologize to key allies, Turkey and the U.A.E., for comments made last week suggesting the countries fuelled extremism in Syria. The Wall Street Journal editorial board defends Biden, but writes that he should instead apologize to the Syrian and American people for failing to act sooner in Syria. Foreign Policy’s Gopal Ratnam writes that this incident highlights “the dangers of accidentally telling the truth.” Adam Taylor for the Washington Post explores the “real concerns about allies’ role in [the] rise of the Islamic State” that lie behind Biden’s comments. And the New York Times’ Mark Landler reports that Saudi Arabia is next on the list of those whom the Vice President is trying to apologize to after last week’s remarks.

NATO will defend the territorial integrity of Turkey should violence spill across the border from Syria, according to Jens Stoltenbeg, the alliance’s new secretary general, writes the Wall Street Journal. Police in Turkey have clashed with protestors in Istanbul and six other cities, during demonstrations against the Islamic State’s advance on Kobani. Via the AP.

The Dutch parliament has been occupied by Kurdish protestors, calling on more action against the Islamic State, reports Al Jazeera.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today that he hopes that Australian special troops can begin their supportive role in Iraq as soon as possible, writes the AP.

Reports that U.K. jihadists were included in a prisoner swap between the Islamic State and Turkey have been described as “credible” by U.K. officials, via the BBC.

A 19-year-old U.S. citizen was arrested at an airport in Chicago as he was allegedly attempting to go to Turkey to join the Islamic State, federal authorities said yesterday, reports Chicago Tribune.

CNN investigates how the Islamic State makes its millions, including through oil smuggling operations across the Turkish border.

The Washington Post reports on the use of water as a weapon by the Islamic State, cutting off supplies to towns resisting their rule.

Jamie Dettmer at The Daily Beast criticizes the U.S.’s pinprick approach to airstrikes against the Islamic State, as Kurds call for more shock and awe to assist in the struggle to hold Kobani.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

Syrian Guantánamo detainee, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, told a federal judge that the detention center’s force-feeding procedures are abusive and intended to discourage detainees from going on hunger strikes, reports Vice News’ Jason Leopold. Meanwhile, court documents filed by the government last Friday disclose that the use of the controversial restraint chairs have no medical purpose, contradicting earlier statements made by the military.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The White House rejected criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, with press secretary Josh Earnest describing as “odd” the leader’s anger over America’s reaction to new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, Reuters reports.

Israel has taken steps to protest the intention of the Swedish government to recognize a state of Palestine, summoning the Swedish ambassador to the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Jerusalem yesterday, the New York Times’  Isabel Kershner has learned.

Ali Jarbawi considers Palestine’s “nuclear option,” arguing in op-ed in the New York Times that until President Mahmoud Abbas “takes a tangible step toward dissolving the [Palestinian] Authority, the international community, especially Israel and America, will not take him seriously.”

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The U.K. government paid a ransom to ensure the release of a British hostage, David Bolam, from Islamist militants in Libya, Libyan sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Shi’ite militias backed by Iran have been ordered to avoid engaging in conflict with American troops in Iraq, reflective of Iran’s desire to reach a nuclear deal with the P5+1 countries before the November deadline, writes Eli Lake for The Daily Beast.

An explosion today at or near a military complex in Tehran, Iran, is being closely monitored by U.S. officials over concerns that the facility is being used to develop nuclear weapons, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will briefly step down as president in order to attend his hearing at the International Criminal Court this week, via Al Jazeera. The BBC offers details of the charges levied against the incumbent head of state.

Unarmed drones have arrived in Ukraine to assist international observers monitor the unsteady truce in the country’s east, as daily fighting continues, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Nick Shchetko. The Washington Post editorial board warns against the lifting of sanctions against Moscow, unless President Vladimir Putin takes a number of steps that would preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty.

North and South Korean navy ships exchanged warning shots close to the disputed border today, just days after the rival states agreed to engage in high-level dialogue, the New York Times reports. U.S. analysts consider the North’s surprise visit to South Korea this week and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s disappearance from public view this month as tactical moves by Pyongyang, according to Reuters’ David Brunnstrom.

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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