News Roundup and Notes: October 8, 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 battle for Kobani. The intensified U.S.-led airstrikes around the Syrian border town have assisted Kurdish fighters in halting the advances of Islamic State fighters, although fighting continues on the ground. [BBC]

Both the U.S. and Turkey have asked the other to counter the Islamic State’s gains in Kobani, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning yesterday that “airstrikes won’t do it” and that Kobani was “about to fall.” [Wall Street Journal’s Ayla Albayrak]  Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also told ABC News that he is “fearful that Kobani will fall.”

Kurdish protestors in Turkey are angered by the perceived inaction of the government in defending Kobani, with at least 12 people killed in clashes between police and protestors. [BBC]  A number of senior U.S. officials also spoke out over the country’s unwillingness to take more steps to tackle the Islamic State threat. [New York Times’ Mark Landler et al.]

Strikes in Iraq and Syria continue. Over Monday and Tuesday the U.S., along with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., carried out nine strikes in Syria, including around Kobani. A further four airstrikes were conducted against ISIS targets in Iraq by U.S. and Belgian forces. [Central CommandThe Wall Street Journal has a breakdown of the strikes carried out since August 8 by the numbers, including targets and locations. And the New York Times offers a visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria.

Canada to join operations in Iraq. The House of Commons voted in favor of launching a combat mission in Iraq, joining the U.S.-led operation against the Islamic State. [National Post]

Are the airstrikes working? There are no signs that American-led strikes are slowing down ISIS fighters, according to analysts, reports NBC News. The Washington Post editorial board writes that the operation “is failing to achieve the minimal aim of stopping the expansion of the Islamic State” and considers the limitations that define the
American campaign. The Wall Street Journal editorial board also explores the “holes in Obama’s strategy,” as demonstrated by the events in Kobani.

The risk of Iraq’s Anbar province falling to the Islamic State is raising fears over the safety of Baghdad, Anbar having been a crucial buffer zone between ISIS and the capital. [Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy and Ali A. Nabhan]

The Syrian government has four chemical weapons facilities that it previously failed to disclose, UN special envoy Sigrid Kaag told the Security Council. [CNN’s Lorenzo Ferrigno et al]

Rebels from the Free Syrian Army have seized a Russian-Syrian secret facility close to the Israeli border, which fighters say was used as a covert intelligence collection base. [The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin and Eli Lake]

In the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, the Islamic State has released 11 non-negotiable rules for journalists “who wish to continue working in the governorate.” [Syria Deeply]

Western governments are financing investigators who are seeking evidence for any future prosecutions for war crimes in Syria, with local lawyers and law students having been recruited for the task. [New York Times’ Marlise Simons]

The FBI has appealed to the public to assist in identifying U.S. citizens who have travelled abroad to join jihadist groups, including an Islamic State member with a North American accent who has appeared in an online video. [ABC News]

British authorities arrested four men over a suspected terror plot to be carried out in the U.K., one of whom is believed to have links to the Islamic State. [The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill et al].

“Will [President] Obama repeat history and commit ground troops,” turning the operation in Syria into a second Vietnam War, asks Fredrik Logevall and Gordon M. Goldstein. [New York Times]

Steve Rose at The Guardian discusses the “high-tech media jihad” of the Islamic State and asks what can be done to tackle the “ISIS propaganda war.”

Why does the Islamic State behead its victims? Robert A. Pape et al. at Politico Magazine seek to dispel the common misperception that the motive behind it is just to intimidate the West.

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY, and TECHNOLOGY

Twitter filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department yesterday, arguing that the limitations on what it can disclose about federal surveillance violates its rights protected by the First Amendment. [Ars Technica’s David Kravets]

The NSA Civil Liberties and Privacy Office has released a report outlining the privacy protections around the collections of signal intelligence under Executive Order 12333, which The Hill’s Mario Trujillo says “casts little new information.”

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

The methods used to force-feed Guantánamo inmates pose health risks to the detainees, according to medical testimony on the second day of the legal challenge brought by Syrian detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab against the practice. [The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman]

A Guantánamo war court judge has ruled against a request from Abd al Rahim al Nashiri’s attorney for the suspected USS Cole bomber to have an MRI scan to detect “organic brain damage.” [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Two Israeli soldiers were wounded in a Hezbollah attack along the Israel-Lebanon border yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick]  The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon has urged maximum restraint from both sides. [UN News Centre]

Israeli authorities clashed with Palestinian protestors today close to a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem [AP]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Two suspected U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killed at least 10 alleged Taliban militants yesterday in the North Waziristan tribal region. [Dawn]

Leon Panetta’s memoir. The former Pentagon and CIA leader restated his criticism of President Obama, particularly on mistakes made in Iraq and Syria, in a series of interviews yesterday, including with CNN, Fox News, and Yahoo News.

CIA torture report. The Justice Department clarified on Tuesday that it was wrong to have previously told a federal judge that the CIA did not have a full copy of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the agency’s post-9/11 interrogation methods, citing a “miscommunication” at the agency. [Josh Gerstein, Politico]

A new set of challenges faces the Secret Service as 60% of threats to President Obama are now made online, raising concerns that the agency has not adequately adapted to the social-media landscape. [Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin]  Thomas L. Friedman questions the recent breakdowns in Secret Service protection, placing some blame on the “nation’s political class.”

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the ICC. At a landmark hearing, Kenyatta insists the charges of crimes against humanity are politically motivated and is asking for the case to be thrown out. [BBC]

Iran and the P5+1 will hold multilateral and bilateral nuclear talks this week in Vienna, said Iran’s foreign ministry. [Reuters]  Iran is still researching nuclear arms, having moved its most sensitive research to a new location in Tehran in “recent months,” according to Iranian dissidents. [AP]

The OSCE is unable to effectively monitor the Ukraine ceasefire due to insufficient resources or staff on the ground, according to Kyiv Post’s Oleg Sukhov.

A U.K. High Court has quashed a decision granting immunity from prosecution for torture to the son of the King of Bahrain, owing to his royal status. [The Guardian’s Owen Boycott]

Al-Qaeda militants attacked security and government buildings in southern Yemen today, killing at least four soldiers. [Reuters]  Houthi rebels, in control of Yemen’s capital, rejected the president’s choice for a new prime minister yesterday, raising concerns that a UN-brokered peace deal may collapse [AP]

A UN peacekeeper was killed yesterday in northern Mali by a rocket attack on a joint UN-French military base; Islamist insurgents are suspected to be behind the attack. [Reuters]

Indian and Pakistani military exchanged heavy fire across the border in Kashmir for the third night, which has led to tens of thousands fleeing their homes on both sides. [AP]

The New York Times considers Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s firm grip on power, despite the country’s fragile stability.

North Korea has admitted to the existence of its labor camps for the first time, in response to a damning UN human rights report on the country earlier this year. [AP]

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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