News Roundup and Notes: October 10, 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

Battle for Kobani continues. The U.S.-led coalition intensified airstrikes against the Islamic State in the area, carrying out 19 strikes near Kobani on Wednesday and Thursday. [Wall Street Journal’s Ayla Albayrak]  The group has been pushed back as a result of the stepped up airstrikes, according to a senior local official. [BBC]  Amid continuing fighting, ISIS militants shelled a Syrian border crossing with Turkey earlier this morning in an attempt to cut off Kobani [Associated Press].

A buffer zone between Syria and Turkey? The Turkish proposal is “proving deeply divisive” in Washington, where many see the creation of a buffer zone as likely to lead to a direct clash with the Syrian regime, even though Turkey has proposed the plan in mainly humanitarian terms. [New York Times’ Tim Arango and Ceylan Yeginsu]

The U.S. seeks assistance from Turkey. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the U.S. wants access to a Turkish military air base near the Syrian border as well as Turkish assistance to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. [AP]  Special envoy John Allen held talks with senior Turkish officials in Ankara yesterday to discuss possible cooperation between the two countries in the effort to defeat ISIS. A joint military planning team will also visit Ankara next week “to follow up in military-to-military channels.” [State Department]

Fresh clashes erupted in Turkey over the situation in Kobani, killing ten people, including two policemen. [Hurriyet Daily News]  Turkey is making a “dangerous bet” in its approach to the situation and “simply can’t afford to keep regime change in Syria at the top of its foreign policy agenda,” argues Sinan UIgen at the New York Times.

U.S. airstrikes last month aimed at the Khorasan Group killed only one or two key militants, according to U.S. officials who are still concerned that the group is planning attacks against the U.S. and Europe. [AP’s Ken Dilanian]

President Obama approved strikes in Syria at a time when the coalition of partner nations was still unclear, according to current and former administration officials. [Reuters’ Phil Stewart et al.]

American-led strikes are not slowing down the Assad regime, which has made advances north of Aleppo, while the coalition focuses on tackling the Islamic State. [The Guardian’s Ian Black and Mona Mahmood].

President Obama repeatedly stalled on the Syria strategy, despite officials advocating the arming of moderate Syrian rebels and other courses of action, according to a Reuters special report.

The Syrian military has the ability to threaten American warplanes, but Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that the regime’s approach “from an air defense perspective, has been passive” thus far. [Politico’s Philip Ewing]

The Islamic State is threatening to overtake the Iraqi province of Anbar, which would threaten Baghdad and lose the government’s control of the Haditha Dam. [Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham]  In order to stem extremism in the country, the new Iraqi government is making a concerted effort to decentralize power away from Baghdad and into local and provincial governments. [AP]

The Iraqi government should retake Mosul within the next year, according to the U.S. envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State, Gen. John Allen, but questions have been raised over whether the U.S. will be able to assist in this urban campaign with airstrikes alone [Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe].

EU ministers have agreed to strengthen border checks of people entering the region in order to prevent European jihadists returning from Syria unhindered. [Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Dalton]

Finnish authorities have detained three nationals suspected of “murder for terrorist purposes” with a foreign armed organization. [Wall Street Journal’s Juhana Rossi]

Uruguay has accepted its first small group of Syrian refugees from Lebanon who were greeted on arrival by President Jose Mujica. [BBC]

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY, AND TECHNOLOGY

FBI’s secret National Security Letters. In an appeal against a decision last year that found that NSLs with non-disclosure rules violated the First Amendment, government lawyers argued yesterday that the FBI would lose “an extremely useful tool” in counterterrosim investigations if the ban on NSLs is upheld. [The Intercept’s Cora Currier]

The Senate should pass NSA reforms when it returns following the midterm elections, argued House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte yesterday. [The Hill’s Mario Trujillo]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

Force-feeding Guantánamo hunger strikers. Judge Gladys Kessler has ordered the government to “complete the previously ordered redactions” to the force-feeding tapes by October 17, as part of the legal challenge to the practice brought on behalf of  Syrian detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab. [Al Jazeera America’s D. Parvaz].

The White House is considering options that would enable President Obama to shut down the detention center, including by overruling the congressional ban on the transfer of detainees to the U.S. [Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee and Jess Bravin]

Estonia has agreed to take in one Guantánamo detainee, reports Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg.

IRAN

Sunni militants in Pakistan stepped up attacks on Iranian border posts this week, using tactics similar to those employed by the Islamic State. [New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink]

The Iranian government believes itself to be under attack by ISIS and is making arrests to try and counter the perceived threat. [The Daily Beast’s Jassem Al Salami]

Nuclear talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna this week have not resulted in a breakthrough on investigations into suspected atomic research by Iran, though the talks will continue, according to an IAEA statement. [Asharq Al-Awsat]

An explosion at a military facility in Tehran on Sunday raises questions about whether it was accidental or the result of sabotage. [New York Times’ David E. Sanger]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A suspected U.S. drone strike in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan yesterday was the fifth consecutive strike in the last five days, killing at least four people. [Dawn’s Zahir Shah Sherazi]  Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made an “unprecedented” visit to troops in the North Waziristan region on Thursday, in what is perceived to be an act to boost morale and quell speculation about friction between the government and military. [Dawn’s Mateen Haider]

The U.S. military investigation into Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance in 2009 is completed; the report by Brig. Gen. Kenneth Dahl is being reviewed by commanders but will not be released. [San Antonio Express-News’ Sig Christenson]

A report to Congress on authorized disclosures to the media of classified intelligence is classified and exempt from disclosure under the FOIA, according to the NSA, which Steven Aftergood argues is “close to being a contradiction in terms.” [FAS’ Secrecy News]

Shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. With neighboring regions worried about the Donbas area “becoming a largely ungoverned swathe of land,” The Economist considers whether we will witness another “Somalia scenario.”

Israel contradicts itself by criticizing the Palestinian reconciliation government in public forums but cooperating with it behind closed doors, argues Barak Ravid for Haaretz.

Two suicide bombings in Yemen left almost 70 people dead yesterday, with many Shi’ite Houthi rebels among those targeted. [AP]  The bombings have added to concerns that Sunni extremists, including al-Qaeda linked groups, are mobilizing against the Houthi rebels who took over Sana’a last month. [New York Times’ Shuaib Almosawa and Kareem Fahim]

A UN peacekeeper was killed in the Central African Republic yesterday in an attack on a UN convoy in the capital, Bangui. [AP]  Clashes have broken out in Bangui; the fiercest religious violence in the country since the UN took over peacekeeping duties in September. [BBC]

The U.S. envoy to South Sudan and Sudan encouraged the UN to enforce sanctions against individuals accused of hindering peace in South Sudan yesterday. [AP]

Lebanon has succeeded in being the Arab “state that didn’t fail,” despite 15 years of civil war, argues The Economist; however given the current unsettled state of the region, “its surprising resilience is now under strain.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not attend a memorial event yesterday, continuing his month long absence from the public eye. [Wall Street Journal’s Alastair Gale and Jeyup S. Kwaak]  Adam Taylor analyses the implications of North Korea’s apparent admission of the existence of its labor camps earlier this week.

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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