News Roundup and Notes: October 17, 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 has been forced to withdraw from most parts of Kobani, a Kurdish commander told the BBC.

The U.S. continued to carry out airstrikes around the Syrian border town, conducting 14 strikes over Wednesday and Thursday, with initial assessments suggesting the operation has slowed down the Islamic State’s advances. [Central Command]

ISIS militants targeted Baghdad in a series of car bombs yesterday, killing dozens of people, in an intensified campaign of violence against the Iraqi capital. [The Guardian’s Catherine James and Luke Harding]  Iraqi officials are worried that the recent gains made by the militant group in Anbar province will provide a base to launch a full-scale assault on the outskirts of Baghdad. [Washington Post’s Loveday Morris]

The Treasury Department has announced further sanctions against individuals for involvement in or support of the Syrian regime. 

Britain will join the U.S.-led program to train the Syrian moderate opposition, said U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Winning]  Hammond also said that U.K. jihadists who travel to Iraq or Syria to join extremist groups might be tried for treason on the basis of disloyalty to the Crown. [BBC

Islamic State militants claiming European nationality vow to “avenge every drop of blood spilt” by the U.S.-led coalition and one day fly their black flag over the White House, in a newly released video. [Washington Post’s Antony Faiola]  The top U.S. army commander in Europe expressed concern yesterday over the “acceleration” of the recruitment of Europeans by ISIS. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Iraqi military pilots who have defected to the Islamic State are training militants in three captured fighter jets, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights today, adding that it was the first time the group had taken to the air. [Reuters]

The State Department has warned American businesses in North Africa of the heightened risk of targeted retaliation by militants over the military campaign against the Islamic State, which may threaten the private sector and civilians. [Fox News’ Catherine Herridge]

Alan Cowell explores the plight of the Kurds, once again embroiled “between foes” and facing “a murderous threat” just across the Turkish border. [New York Times]  The Economist questions why Turkey chose now to strike against the PKK.  

Sophie Cousins interviews a former Swiss army sergeant who has joined Christian forces on the front lines fighting the Islamic State in the Kurdish region of northern Syria. [Deutsche Welle]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler has granted the Obama administration a 30-day delay in the release of force-feeding videotapes of Syrian Guantánamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab. [The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman]

The use of female soldiers to escort Guantánamo detainees around the high-value Camp 7 facility is causing problems over religious sensitivity issues. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

The Economist covers the strong opposition to the idea of relocating any Guantánamo captives to a maximum-security military prison in Kansas.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israel and Palestine to reach a two-state solution, while speaking at a State Department reception for Eid al-Adha yesterday. Kerry linked the need to obtain a peaceful resolution to the conflict with the struggle against extremist groups in the Middle East, such as the Islamic State, stating that the conflict “was a cause of recruitment and of street anger.” Haaretz has more details.   

In light of the British vote on Palestinian statehood, Philip Stephens writes that Israel “is losing its friends in the world,” noting the opposition in Europe to Israel’s plans for settlement expansion. [Financial Times]

Should countries recognize a Palestinian state? The New York Times’ “Room for Debate” weighs in on the question.

The Israeli military will investigate claims that soldiers killed a Palestinian teenager during a clash in a village in the West Bank on Thursday night. [New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

The Russian and Ukrainian leaders met with key EU leaders on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe summit in Milan yesterday, but little progress appeared to be made on resolving differences over the crisis in eastern Ukraine and the natural gas dispute. [Reuters’ Andreas Rinke and Crispian Balmer]  However, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the leaders had a “really positive” discussion that amounted to a “step ahead” on finding a resolution to the conflict. [Deutsche Welle]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The U.S. military may deploy selected Reserve units to assist with the Ebola mission in West Africa, following authorization from President Obama yesterday. [Military.com’s Bryant Jordan]

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report “sidesteps” the responsibility of former President George W. Bush and his aides with respect to the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. [McClatchy DC’s Jonathan S. Landay et al.]

The “post-Snowden pendulum” which has resulted in Google and Apple offering fully encrypted devices has “gone too far,” according to FBI Director James B. Comey, who hinted that the administration may seek legislation forcing companies to offer a way for the government to unlock devices. [New York Times’ David E. Sanger and Matt Apuzzo]

New members of the UN Security Council were voted in yesterday, with the five non-permanent seats given to Venezuela, Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand and Spain. Turkey lost out to the latter two in its bid to represent the West. [BBC]

A Yemeni citizen is suing the German government for allegedly permitting the U.S. to use a German air base to conduct lethal drone strikes in Yemen. [AP’s Frank Jordans]

“Wild card” factors such as the plunge in global energy prices and the rise of ISIS are having an impact on efforts to constrain Iran’s nuclear program, according to U.S. and European officials, reports Jay Solomon at the Wall Street Journal.

The Dawn editorial board considers the recent split in the Pakistani Taliban, writing that the gains of the Islamic State were “always going to have repercussions for the militant complex in Pakistan.”

Declan Walsh offers a detailed background to the two Haqqani Network leaders reported to be in Afghan custody yesterday. [New York Times]

The UN-backed Cambodian tribunal opened its first genocide case today against Cambodia’s 1970s Khmer Rouge regime. [AP]

Uganda is to begin buying weapons for South Sudan’s government under a joint military accord signed this week, raising concern over an escalation of fighting in the country between the government and rebel forces. [Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Bariyo]

Three peacekeepers from a joint UN-African Union force were killed in the Darfur region of Sudan in an attack by gunmen yesterday. [AP]

Ugandan ADF rebels are suspected of being behind a deadly attack in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo overnight which killed 26 people. [Al Jazeera America]

Erin Cunningham covers the “rogue” Libyan general Khalifa Hifter’s months-long campaign intended to “liberate” Benghazi. [Washington Post]

The Washington Post editorial board writes that a “narrowly focused U.S. engagement” has assisted in the disintegration of Yemen, arguing that “interventions that ignore the need to create functioning political systems” open the door to failed states.

The war veteran accused of jumping the White House perimeter fence and entering the building with a knife last month is facing further charges under a federal grand jury indictment. [Reuters]

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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