News Roundup and Notes: October 20, 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

Turkey will allow Iraqi Kurdish troops to cross its border into Syria to assist in the fight against the Islamic State in Kobani, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said today. [BBC]

U.S. drops arms and aid near Kobani. Military forces carried out airdrops to resupply Kurdish forces in the Syrian border town, delivering weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq. [Central Command]  The escalation in U.S. support of local forces is likely to anger Turkey, although Ankara was given advance notice of the plan. [Reuters’ Arshad Mohammed and Tom Perry]

Renewed fighting took hold of Kobani over the weekend, as ISIS militants fired dozens of mortar shells at Kurdish fighters, while the American-led coalition targeted Islamic State targets, including oil infrastructure. Coalition airstrikes also took place southeast of the Syrian city of Dayr Az Zawr, damaging an ISIS oil refinery. [Wall Street Journal’s Rory Jones]

The U.S. has conducted more than 135 airstrikes against ISIS in Kobani.  Initial assessments suggest the strikes have slowed down the militants’ advances, although the security situation “remains fragile.” [Central Command]

Recent strikes in Syria have killed 10 civilians, according to a monitoring group, although a Central Command spokesperson said there is “no evidence at this time to corroborate claims of civilian casualties.” [Reuters]

The U.S. has stepped up operations in Iraq, carrying out 10 strikes in the country over the weekend, including in the Anbar province, where ISIS militants have made significant advances. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes]

At least 21 people were killed at a funeral yesterday in Baghdad when a suicide bomber detonated outside a Shi’ite house of worship. [Al Jazeera]

A former Egyptian parliamentary candidate was killed while conducting a suicide attack fighting for ISIS in Iraq. [TNN]

The Iraqi parliament selected seven new cabinet ministers on Saturday, a move commended by the State Department as an “important step in the long-term campaign to defeat the Islamic State.” The newly selected interior minister is an affiliate of an Iranian-backed paramilitary group with responsibility for an important security ministry, sparking concerns over Shi’ite-Sunni relations as the country grapples with sectarianism. [Washington Post’s Loveday Morris]

The American strategy against ISIS is “having the desired effects,” but will require “strategic patience,” according to Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command. Austin also said Iraq remains the focus currently, with the efforts in Syria “being done primarily to shape the conditions in Iraq.” [DoD News]

Secretary of State John Kerry will build support among Asian leaders for the fight against ISIS, among other global crises, during a visit to Indonesia today. [Associated Press]

Australia has reached an agreement on a legal framework with Iraq, enabling the country to deploy its special forces to support Iraqi forces against the Islamic State. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Turkey should not be the only state pressured to provide boots on the ground in Syria, and “peace, security and stability in Syria cannot be established with the Assad regime in power,” argues senior Turkish official Ibrahim Kalin at the Wall Street Journal.

The Iranian government vowed to provide military assistance to the Lebanese army and Hezbollah yesterday in order to combat “terrorists” in the region. [AP]

The UN Security Council called for a “common effort” among governments and institutions to stamp out the Islamic State in a statement released on Friday. [UN News Centre]

Large quantities of foreign humanitarian aid, meant for Syrian civilians, have fallen into the hands of the Islamic State; Jamie Dettmer explores the consequences of international relief reaching ISIS-controlled areas. [The Daily Beast]

Denmark has adopted a radical response to the threat of returning jihadists from Syria; not one returned fighter has been imprisoned and “returnees” are provided free psychological counseling and offered assistance finding work. [Washington Post’s Antony Faiola and Souad Mkhennet]

Christopher Dickey argues that arming insurgencies does in fact work, despite a CIA report covered by the New York Times last week. [The Daily Beast]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Pro-Russian rebels were responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, according to a German foreign intelligence service review. [Der Spiegel]

Russia and Ukraine have reached an initial agreement on the price for natural gas supplies, raising hopes for a final deal that could resolve the dispute. [Wall Street Journal’s Nick Shchetko]

The U.S. should “add defensive military aid, including weapons, to [its] support of Ukraine,” argue Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin and ranking member James Inhofe. [Washington Post]

Ben Judah explores “Putin’s coup,” noting that the Russian leader has used the crisis in Ukraine to “consolidate his dictatorship.” [Politico Magazine]

IRAN

The White House appears resolute to avoid a Congressional vote on any potential agreement on a nuclear accord with Iran, reports David E. Sanger at the New York Times.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will stay on in her role leading nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 even if no accord is reached by the Nov. 24 deadline. [Reuters]

The West must avoid being “duped” by Iran’s recent, softer approach, argues Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who writes that should no agreement be made by the November deadline, the negotiations “must not be considered a failure.” [New York Times]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Obama administration is debating whether to revert to the Bush-era interpretation of the Convention Against Torture’s ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” as not applying to CIA and military facilities outside U.S. borders, reports the New York Times’ Charlie Savage.

The possible defeat of Sen. Mark Udall in the Colorado senate race could leave a gap in efforts to reform NSA surveillance, civil liberties advocates fear. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

Following the recent capture of two top members of Afghanistan’s Haqqani network, the Taliban has accused the U.S. of being behind the arrests, asserting that the men were not picked up in Afghanistan but in the Gulf. [Voice of America’s Ayaz Gul]

The death toll continues to rise in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where 75 people have been killed in five days amid clashes between pro-government militias and rival armed groups. [Al Jazeera]  The Egyptian and Sudanese governments will coordinate to support the Libyan military against Islamist militants in the hopes of restoring stability to their neighboring country. [Asharq Al-Awsat]

Clashes between Shi’ite Houthi rebels and al-Qaeda militants in the central region of Rada, Yemen, have killed more than 20 Houthis. [AFP and Al Arabiya]  Houthi fighters continued to push further south in Ibb province yesterday, taking over the town of Yarim. Meanwhile, the country’s newly appointed prime minister, Yemen’s ambassador to the UN, flew back to Yemen yesterday to take up his post [Al Jazeera]

A ceasefire between the Nigerian military and terrorist group Boko Haram will reportedly enable the release of the 200 remaining schoolgirls who were abducted in April, with government officials saying it aimed to secure their release as early as Monday or Tuesday. However, fresh attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants killed dozens of people over the weekend despite the ceasefire agreement. [Reuters’ Lanre Ola]

Several army checkpoints in the east and south of Afghanistan were attacked yesterday, resulting in the deaths of at least four troops, according to officials. [AP]

Five suspected Islamist bombers were killed by Kenyan and Somali soldiers on Saturday as they attempted to cross the country in a car full of suicide vests and explosives. [AP]

Suspected militants from the ADF, a Ugandan rebel group, raided a prison in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, releasing almost 400 prisoners, according to military sources. [Al Jazeera America]  The UN envoy in the DRC has called for “decisive joint military actions” by the Congolese army and UN peacekeepers to halt the ADF’s “reign of terror.” [UN News Centre]

U.S. policy on nuclear nonproliferation is an “invisible success story,” in part because success often involves “states’ tacit decisions not to start nuclear weapons programs,” suggests Nick Miller at the Washington Post.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board draws attention to the “revealing” nature of the British Parliament’s vote on the statehood of Palestine, arguing that it indicates “the extent of their anti-Israel leanings.”

France is ill-prepared to handle a mounting terrorist threat within its own territory and the “grinding pace” of the legal system is out of step with “the fast moving realities of the antiterrorism fight,” write Noemie Bisserbe and Stacy Meichtry. [Wall Street Journal]

If you want to receive your news directly to your inbox, sign up here for the Just Security Early Edition. For the latest information from Just Security, follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and join the conversation on Facebook. To submit news articles and notes for inclusion in our daily post, please email us at news@justsecurity.org. Don’t forget to visit The Pipeline for a preview of upcoming events and blog posts on U.S. national security. 

Filed under:
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