News Roundup and Notes: October 13, 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

American-led air campaign continues. Over the weekend, the U.S. and partner nation military forces carried out a series of airstrikes targeting Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria, including around Kobani. The U.S. military also conducted multiple airdrops to resupply Iraqi forces at the request of the Iraq government. [Central Command: here and here]

Turkey will allow use of bases for Iraq and Syria operations. National security adviser Susan Rice confirmed that Turkey will allow coalition forces to use Turkish bases and territory to engage in operations inside Iraq and Syria, as well as to train the moderate Syrian opposition. Rice added that the Turkish request for a no-fly zone is not perceived “at this point as essential to the goal” of destroying ISIS. [NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd]  Turkey will host a joint U.S. Central Command-European Command planning team this week, and will continue to work alongside the U.S. military to counter the threat posed by ISIS. [DoD News]

Kurdish fighters hold off ISIS in Kobani. Kurdish fighters held off further advances by ISIS militants into the Syrian border town on Sunday, although officials said that heavy clashes continued with neither side gaining ground. [Reuters’ Ayla Jean Yackley and Saif Sameer]  Jamie Dettmer for The Daily Beast details the situation in Kobani, writing about the “stunning show of bravery” displayed by Kurdish men and women. Meanwhile, Kurdish commanders say the result of their peace process with the Turkish government will depend on the fate of Kobani and on Turkey’s response to the crisis. [New York Times’ Kirk Semple and Tim Arango]

Secretary of State John Kerry expressed deep concern for the “tragedy” in Kobani, but emphasized that the town “does not define the strategy for the coalition,” the focus of which is first on Iraq. [Al Jazeera]

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey warned of ISIS attacks in Baghdad, stating that he has “no doubt there will be days when [the Islamic State] use indirect fire into Baghdad,” in an interview with “This Week” on ABC.

ISIS militants have seized territory in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks, despite the U.S.-led air campaign, raising questions over the effectiveness of the strategy to defeat ISIS. [Wall Street Journal’s Margaret Cocker et al.]

A triple suicide attack north-east of Baghdad killed 58 people on Sunday, including members of Kurdish security forces and the police chief of the western Anbar province. [AP]  Bombings in Baghdad and the surrounding area killed at least 45 people on Saturday; Reuters provides details of the individual attacks.

The Islamic State has captured, enslaved and sold Yazidi women and children according to an Islamic State magazine published Sunday. [AP]

British hostage John Cantlie has appeared in a fourth Islamic State video released on Sunday, delivering a message under duress. [The Guardian’s Shiv Malik]

On the Sunday shows, Sen. John McCain warned that ISIS is “winning,” stating that the U.S. needs to target ISIS and the Assad regime simultaneously in order to succeed.  [CNN’s “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley]  Also on CNN, Sen. Bernie Sanders calls for more involvement from the international community against ISIS, including the Arab and Muslim world.

Iran and the U.S. are not as closely aligned in their interests in defeating the Islamic State, as defeating the Sunni militants may harm Iran’s influence over a majority Shi’ite population in parts of the Middle East, according to David Hermidas Bavand writing for Reuters.

Syrian and Iraqi exiles in Jordan believe they have a key role to play against the Islamic State, and criticize the U.S. for failing to adequately support moderate Syrian rebels. [Washington Post’s William Booth and Taylor Luck]

Joshua Hersh explores the disillusionment in a Syrian refugee camp in Atmeh, a rebel held part of Syria, in a piece for VQR.

In the U.K., prominent Islamist extremist and ISIS propagandist Anjem Choudary, is proving elusive to British authorities due to his knowledge of “where the limits of the law lie.” [Washington Post’s Griff White]

David Tafuri discusses a letter sent by the Kurdish Peshmerga to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking the U.S. to supply arms to the Kurdish forces, and detailing their ill-equipped situation, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY, AND TECHNOLOGY

FBI Director James Comey discussed the need for electronic surveillance by the government—with a court order—and the steps being taken to tackle cybercrime, in an interview with CBS News. [Scott Pelley, “60 Minutes”]

Edward Snowden said he is “confident” that the Supreme Court will find the NSA’s mass surveillance program unconstitutional, in an interview with the New Yorker on Saturday.

Jason Leopold reports on financial disclosure forms of former NSA Director Keith Alexander, which the agency previously said could not be released as the information would threaten national security. [Vice News]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

An international donor conference pledged more than $5.4 billion to reconstruct the Gaza strip in Cairo on Sunday. Secretary of State John Kerry announced an additional pledge of $212 million to Palestinians from the U.S. [Washington Post’s Carol Morello and William Booth]  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged parties to the Gaza conflict to stop the “cycle of building and destroying.” [UN News Centre]

The British parliament will hold a symbolic vote on whether to recognize Palestine as a state today, a vote which Prime Minister David Cameron said will not change British foreign policy even if there is a favorable result. [Reuters]

Israeli authorities have raided a holy site in Jerusalem in order to prevent an attack by Palestinian rioters. [AP]

The use of the “Hannibal directive” by the Israeli army during this summer’s Gaza war may constitute a war crime, according to some legal experts. [Reuters’ Maayan Lubell and Nidal Al-Mughrabi]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Vladimir Putin orders troops to withdraw. A spokesperson for the Russian President said thousands of troops along Ukraine’s border had been ordered to return to their bases. [Kyiv Post’s Julia Kukoba]  Both Russia and Ukraine appeared to be taking steps to defuse tension over the weekend, ahead of a meeting between the leaders this week [Wall Street Journal’s Nick Shchetko and Alan Cullison]

A suicide bomber targeted a NATO convoy in Kabul, Afghanistan, today, killing one civilian.  Another attack on an Afghan army patrol in the east of the country killed two civilians. [AP]  New President Ashraf Ghani’s post-inauguration actions “suggest a commitment to his reformist election agenda,” but Thomas Rutting for the Afghanistan Analysts Network questions how he will fare “when he starts running into the first sustained signs of resistance.”

James Risen’s new book. In “Pay Any Price,” to be published on Tuesday, the New York Times reporter “sets out to portray the many seamy sides of the war on terror during the past 13 years,” according to Thomas E. Ricks’ review.  The New York Times has an extract from Risen’s book that documents how billions of American dollars earmarked for Baghdad ended up in a Lebanon bunker.

An independent review of the Secret Service after the disclosure of a number of recent security breaches will be led by four former senior government officials, who will submit their findings and recommendations to the White House by December 15. [AP]

A two-year-long criminal investigation into a batch of automatic-rifle silencers has exposed a number of Pentagon secrets, with questions over whether the weapons were purchased as part of an authorized mission or a “rogue operation.” [Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock]

Iran nuclear talks may be extended past the November 24 deadline if no deal can be reached, according to a senior Iranian negotiator speaking on Friday. [AP]

Fighting between rival factions in western Libya killed at least 23 people yesterday. [AP] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon travelled to Libya to support the reconciliation process, urging an end to the fighting. [UN News Centre]

A bomb attack hit a senior policeman’s car in Mogadishu earlier today, one day after suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked a café in Somalia’s capital killing 13 people. [Reuters]

Germany is probing over 200 individuals suspected of supporting Islamic extremism, according to the country’s justice minister. [Wall Street Journal’s Todd Buell]

South Sudan is teetering on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe as it struggles to cope with more than nine months of conflict, warns aid agencies. [The Guardian’s Clar Ni Chonghaile]

27 hostages held captive for months by Boko Haram were released on Saturday, according to Cameroonian officials. [Wall Street Journal’s Emmanuel Tumanjong]

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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