News Roundup and Notes: October 15, 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 U.S.-led coalition carried out 21 airstrikes against Islamic State militants near Kobani over Monday and Tuesday, in an intensified effort to prevent the group from “massing combat power on the Kurdish held portions” of the Syrian border town. The strikes are believed to have slowed down the advances of ISIS fighters. [Central Command]

Islamic State forces are using suicide bombers to counter Kurdish fighters defending Kobani, according to a monitoring group and local officials. [Wall Street Journal’s Asa Fitch and Felicia Schwartz]

ISIS is gaining more ground in Iraq, with fighters having surrounded one of the country’s largest air bases in Anbar province. The group has also carried out a series of bomb attacks in Baghdad, killing several people including a member of the Iraqi parliament. [CNN’s Ashley Fantz and Susanna Capelouto]

Foreign defense chiefs from 21 countries met to coordinate strategy against ISIS at Joint Base Andrews yesterday, hosted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. Speaking after the gathering, President Obama said there have been “important successes” in what he called a “long-term campaign” against the terrorist organization, but warned that “there are going to be periods of setback.” Politico’s Philip Ewing notes that the meeting concluded with “no major new announcements or shifts in strategy.” And the Washington Post discusses the “serious disagreements” that may undermine the U.S.-led coalition, including the proposal for a buffer zone along the Turkish border.

Russia and the U.S. agreed to increase intelligence sharing on ISIS, Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday after his meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Paris. [Reuters]

Obama’s counterterrorism advisor Lisa Monaco met with New York City officials yesterday to discuss coordination on terrorism threats, including those associated with ISIS and the Khorasan Group. [White House]

President Obama will take part in a videoconference with leaders of the U.K., France, Germany, and Italy today to discuss the ISIS threat, among other global crises. [The Hill’s Justin Sink]

The Obama administration’s skepticism over assisting the Syrian opposition was reportedly fueled by an internal classified CIA review that found that the agency’s previous covert programs assisting foreign forces seldom impacted the outcome of a conflict. [New York  Times’ Mark Mazzetti]

The Turkish bombing of Kurdish militants in the country’s southeast is complicating the battle against ISIS, attracting further criticism of Turkey’s reluctance to play a bigger role in fighting the Islamic State across its border. [New York Times’ Tim Arango and Sebnem Arsu]  At The Intercept, Murtaza Hussain considers that the Turkish strikes highlight “everything that’s wrong with U.S. foreign policy.” And the New York Times “Room for Debate” weighs in on whether Turkey should do more to tackle the threat of the Islamic State.

U.S. and American-trained Iraqi troops have been wounded by chemical weapons remaining from Saddam Hussein’s regime on at least six occasions between 2004 and 2011, C. J. Chivers reports for the New York Times.

The Islamic State in Iraq is redrawing borders and “fracturing Iraq’s fragile cohesion” by forcing thousands to cross militant checkpoints to carry out their everyday lives. [Wall Street Journal’s Margaret Coker]

Six leaders of the Pakistani Taliban have defected and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, a rift within militant circles which could escalate violence. [Wall Street Journal’s Safdar Dawar]

Michael Knights argues that the Islamic State “is losing,” writing in Politico Magazine that “the terrorists’ move toward Baghdad is a sign of desperation.”

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Justice Department has filed further charges against Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected ringleader of the 2012 Benghazi attack. [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt]  The new indictment confirms that sensitive and classified information was stolen from the consulate during the attack. [Fox News]

Mass internet surveillance threatens to undermine international law and is “corrosive of online privacy,” according to the UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism, in a new report to the UN General Assembly. [The Guardian’s Owen Bowcott and Spencer Ackerman]

The British Parliament’s symbolic vote in favor of recognizing Palestine is “one more sign of the frustration many people in Europe feel about the failure to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement,” according to the New York Times editorial board. Israel’s Foreign Ministry reacted to the vote yesterday, saying it could set back the peace process “by a month or even a year” by allowing Palestine to get what it wants “without making compromises.” [Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Casey and Cassell Byran-Low]

Nuclear talks between Iran and six powers will resume on Thursday in Vienna, according to the European Union spokesperson. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]  Iran’s foreign minister does not expect a breakthrough in this round of talks but hopes they will pave the way for a deal in advance of the November 24 deadline. [Asharq Al-Awsat]  However, the Russian foreign minister hinted today that the deadline for talks on Iran’s nuclear program may need to be extended. [Reuters]

Russia and Ukraine have reached an agreement in addition to last month’s Minsk Agreement, including timelines for implementation of some items, Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday. Meanwhile, separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine have reportedly continued to bombard the Donetsk airport. [Interfax-Ukraine]

A suicide attack in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal region today killed five and wounded several others; the area is a stronghold of groups linked to the Taliban. [Dawn’s Zahir Shah Sherazi]  The Taliban is also suspected of carrying out a targeted shooting in the Helmand province of Afghanistan today, which killed an Afghan official. [AP]

Houthi rebels in Yemen have taken over Hodeidah port, deploying checkpoints and have also seized control of the city’s airport, according to local officials. [Reuters]

Tunisian authorities have foiled a terrorist plot intended to kill a high-ranking politician with a car bomb, and have arrested 12 in connection to the plan. [AP]

A British man is being tried in the U.K. on terror charges in one of the first in the U.K. to involve charges linked to the civil war in Syria. [Wall Street Journal’s Alexis Flynn]

Is there a global oil war underway? Thomas L. Friedman explores the global landscape, suggesting the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are pitted against Russia and Iran, with the “trend line for petro-dictators … not so good.” [New York Times]

North and South Korea are holding high-level military talks today for the first time in seven years. [Yonhap News Agency]

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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